What did you do last summer? Irish youth sailor Finn Mellon, swapped his school-books for the sun and wind of the Canary Islands. Read on as he gives us an insight into his travels.
Words Finn Mellon // Photos John Carter
Originally published within the October ’17 edition.
Every summer the PWA Wave World Tour heads to two of the Canary Islands, Gran Canaria and Tenerife. As well as the stars getting to compete for the title, we also get to see the future windsurfing stars in the junior competition that runs alongside the men and women. There are 3 age categories for both the boys and girls, 13 and under, 14 to 16 and 16 to 18 years old and sailors from places such as France, Hawaii, Germany, Spain, Japan and Canada! The junior competition is a fantastic experience for all young sailors, it allows juniors to showcase their talent and compete for the junior world title and has already produced sailors that are right up there in the men’s main event with the likes of Alessio Stillrich, Moritz Mauch, and Marc Pare and many others. To compete you need to be able to jump and wave ride but what is most essential is to be able to confidently sail in strong winds.
Coming from Ireland, a place where I am one of the very few juniors who windsurf, it is a massive change to arrive in Pozo and see lots of young kids sailing and the standard of junior sailing in the Canary Islands is very high. You can clearly see the advantage the consistent wind and warm water provides to the younger sailors like Marino Gil Gherardi who lives right beside the water in Pozo. Marino is only 14 years old and is already busting out big forwards and back loops and wave moves like clean 360’s. Fourteen years old and already competing and winning heats in the men’s main event, crazy!!
For the last 4 years I have been lucky enough to travel to Tenerife every summer to train my onshore sailing and to compete in the junior PWA competition. I first went when I was 14 years old, I flew by myself and stayed with Alesky Gayda, Ben Page and Jony Price, which was an experience in itself! It has been a great experience allowing me to travel, learn to cook and also to look after myself from a young age. The windsurf community is so open and welcoming; Pozo and El Medano are both very safe and easy places to live, even at the age of 14. Over the years I have made some great friends and new travel buddies which makes returning every year a little bit easier.
Spending time with the best
The run up to the events is always great fun as you get to sail with all the top guys. It is inspiring to see what can be done in what a lot of the time are quite unremarkable conditions. Coming from Brandon Bay I am used to having 8 miles of very uncrowded sandy beach break waves to myself with only a few locals and the odd visitor, so adjusting to a lineup with over 50 world class sailors all fighting for the same small wave is something I am still working on! I have now spent over 10 weeks in Cabezo and Pozo and being such small places with friendly people it is not long before your comparing pancakes with Jaeger Stone or playing pool with Victor Fernandez. Being able to call some of the top sailors your friends is pretty epic.
This year I had my ‘Leaving Cert’, similar to English A level exams, until mid June. Then as soon as I had finished I began to pack my bags for 6 weeks in the Canary Islands. Within 48 hours of my last exam I was on a plane to Gran Canaria. This year being my last year in the juniors I decided I would do the junior competition in Pozo having only ever competed in Tenerife previously. Pozo is far different to any sailing I have ever experienced before, at home I usually sail cross off wave sailing but in Pozo it is almost bolt onshore and there is usually little swell. But it is one of the few places you can sail on a sail smaller than 4.0 everyday for a month. I stayed with Julian Salmonn, Gustav Häggström and Felix Spencer; it is great fun to stay with people of the same interests and similar ages. We usually all sailed together so that was great motivation to improve my sailing with some very talented sailors.
My aim for Pozo was to improve my onshore sailing, I did not have expectations to win the juniors comp as I knew my onshore sailing was not my strong point, unlike many of the other juniors who predominantly sail onshore. The competition period for me was pretty tricky as I only had a 3.6 and 4.0 sail due to my 2018 sails getting stuck in Spanish customs for nearly 3 weeks! My first heat I was underpowered on my 4.0 and my second completely stacked on my 3.6! It wasn’t how I had planned to go out but competition does not always go as you want it too. On the plus, I feel I have learnt more about competition sailing and especially in a place like Pozo, positives which I hope I can use to help me in the big league again soon!