Bonaire Windriders

World Champion Robby Naish competing in a wave sailing event at Sylt, Germany. Photo: Hoch Zwei / Wikimedia Commons
Bonaire Windriders: A windsurfer with modern gear tilts the rig and carves the board to perform a planing jibe (downwind turn). Photo: Merryfrankster at English Wikipedia
A windsurfer with modern gear tilts the rig and carves the board to perform a planing jibe (downwind turn). Photo: Merryfrankster at English Wikipedia

 

Some people have hobbies; other people have obsessions.

My obsession for over 20 years has been windsurfing. At the center of my obsession is the hunger for hard, steady wind, the kind that speckles the waters so beautifully around Bonaire.

If life, as Hemingway wrote, is a movable feast, then Bonaire is a sun worshipper’s buffet. It’s difficult to imagine a better place to learn windsurfing or to pursue one’s obsession.

Windsurfers were once a curiosity—not quite a surfer, but not exactly a sailor either.  But now, vehicles stacked with windsurfing boards are often seen along roads leading to the waters all around Bonaire.

After the death of my parents in 1987, I went looking for something. I wasn’t sure what. I considered yachting, but no one in what was left of my family was interested in that. I remembered seeing windsurfers in the Caribbean in 1988, so I proceeded to take lessons from a pro. It was an ‘ah-ha!’ experience: almost instantly, I was stone skipping across the water. Before long, I was addicted to the activity and kept at it.

There are times on Bonaire when the water sighs without a ripple, exhaling as though it needs to rest. At other times the wave action can be incredible. When color saturates the sky and the water, you feel as though you are part of a brochure advertising holidays in the Caribbean.

Windsurfing on Bonaire with the wind in my face and hair, I feel totally free, unencumbered by life’s restrictions.  I enjoy flying over the waves and breaking through the silky waters. Bonaire offers exhilarating sailing.

Bonaire Windriders: One man and his dog take to the waters in Bonaire
One man and his dog take to the waters in Bonaire

Inching my way outward to where deep swells started to rise, I let several waves pass then, as the last wave of the set surged behind me, sailed onto it and felt the water push my board along.

The water’s surface was smooth until I made a turn that suddenly sent spray flying. Time stopped.  There was only the top of a wave above me, as I peered at it from below. I thought about squaring my board and meeting it at exactly the right moment, just as the wave pitched forward.

As my legs shook nervously, I became airborne, my board carving an arc through the sky. I slid out in front of the broken wave, and begin sailing again.

Windsurfing is a great life lesson because it teaches a person to have patience with everything and everybody, including oneself.

Is it worth it to ride the wind in Bonaire? Listening to the wind-driven athletes whom I spoke with, the question seems ridiculous. One enthusiast said: “Riding a wave here is something you can’t describe—here, windsurfing isn’t just a sport, it’s an art.”

And indeed it is for those lucky enough to find their way to one of the most beautiful locales on Earth.  Enjoy and plan on returning soon.

 

Bonaire Windriders: World Champion Robby Naish competing in a wave sailing event at Sylt, Germany. Photo: Hoch Zwei / Wikimedia Commons
World Champion Robby Naish competing in a wave sailing event at Sylt, Germany. Photo: Hoch Zwei / Wikimedia Commons

 

ADVICE FROM AN EXPERT: 
Steven Del Sesto has been windsurfing for over four decades, since learning how on the Potomac River near his childhood home of Alexandria, Virginia.  Del Sesto has focused on the activity since moving to the Caribbean 30 years ago. I recently asked him for specific windsurfing advice.

“Bonaire is a wonderful place to windsurf. Few places in the world can equal the water found here. I’ve windsurfed in Europe and Hawaii, but I prefer Bonaire.

BONAIRE WINDSURF PLACE:
Located at Lac Bay in the area known as Sorobon on the windward side of Bonaire, Bonaire Windsurf Place (BWP) is a locally owned and operated windsurfing shop. The water here is shallow and warm with steady trade winds, making it ideal for catching some wind in your sails. BWP offers an entire windsurfing package, including accommodations at Sonrisa, a partner resort.

For more information, email: [email protected] place.com or Tel. + (599) 717-2288

 

Joe Zentner is a freelance writer and long-time windsurfing enthusiast. Articles written by him have appeared in various publications including All At Sea.

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