Aruba is blessed for windsurfers and kite surfers… during the recent 21st Aruba Hi-Winds competition from June 29 through July 2, the island in the Southern Caribbean proved to have excellent facilities for both water sports, and in fact on the same spot! That spot is the beach at Fisherman’s Huts, a bay just a stone’s throw away from the famous high rise hotels like the Westin (former Wyndham), the Holiday Inn, and the square-built double layer hotel The Mill, recognizable by the giant Dutch windmill along the road to the California Lighthouse at the north-western tip of the island.
That’s where most of the action took place in an astonishing good harmony between the 80 windsurfing participants and the 20 wind enthusiasts on the kites, one of the largest registrations the organizers had seen for quite a long time and the widest variety of participants in both disciplines. Surfers from as far as Hungary, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Venezuela, and Colombia traveled to the most western island of the Dutch ABCs to compete. They came to enjoy the ever-windy shores and also the great atmosphere created by a small but efficiently working team that once again excelled in making the right and quick decisions on the spot, guaranteeing a smoothly running event.
After the welcome party on Thursday the kite competition kicked off with freestyle heats at Boca Grandi on the other side of the island where the real dare devils pushed it to the limit at above 20 knots of wind and huge waves. The windsurfers were hitting the water for the first slalom competition at the Huts. Gusts up to and above 30 knots brought spectacular views and crashes at the marks.
On the weekend the breathtaking jumps and stunts of the freestyle windsurfers thrilled the large numbers of spectators on the beach during the day. The “expression sessions” of the kite surfers got many “ooohs” and “aaahs” in an amazing sunset fairy tale setting. At night local bands like Sonic Lab and The Islanders took over. A huge new built stage in the center of the beach was a feast for the eye, both day and night.
Most kite surfers originated from Aruba. A big group of participants of the two neighboring islands, Bonaire and Curacao, found their way to the event and, as it soon turned out, the Bonaire windsurfers dominated the competition as expected. At the end, the owners of the NB sails ran off with most freestyle and long distance titles. At the men overall however it was Venezuela, in the person of Alexis Carache who took the win. The Curacao group came over with a rather young and inexperienced group but proudly scored top honors three times.
The prize giving Ceremony at MoomBa Beach rounded off the event, which sometimes was quite exhausting due to the strong but enjoyable winds.
The voice of Master of Ceremonies Evert Bongers again was in the air like it often was during the competition days. Bongers has participated in the Hi-Winds from the beginning, first as a competitor, later as a volunteer and for many years since as the voice over the beach and beyond. The jack-of-all-trades also has been seen as a token vendor and the calculator of the final results.
Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award-winning free-lance photojournalist on Curacao.