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John Carter makes a welcome trip back to Fuerteventura with the Starboard team, exploring the south of the island and enjoying the Fuerte’ vibes!

Words and Photos: John Carter.

After many consecutive years of travelling to Fuerteventura prior to Covid, it was such a strange feeling when all out of the blue, I had a two-year break from the normal routine. The PWA event at the René Egli centre was such a stalwart event in the competition calendar that you could bet your last dollar that it would take place every summer. The turquoise waters of Sotavento were the battle grounds of so many epic slalom and freestyle showdowns and with the reliable trades and sunny weather almost guaranteed you could always rely on Fuerte’ to deliver the goods for epic competitions.

Personally, I reckon I have been to Fuerteventura more than fifty times since I started out in windsurf photography. In fact, one of my first ever shoots back in the day, was with Rich Foster and Corky Kirkham in 1989. I remember receiving a hand-written letter from Rich through the post inviting me on an all expenses trip to shoot him. Little did I know I would be sleeping on the floor, or in board bags under the stars and eating lentils, but that was all part of the fun of the early missions.

With travel opening up in 2022 and finally a few jobs coming my way, I was over the moon to receive an invitation from Starboard to do a race, freeride and wave photo shoot the week after the PWA event in Cape Verde, where we would be based in the René Egli centre (www.rene-egli.com) and the Hotel Meliá in Sotavento, down in the south of Fuerteventura. Bring it on!


We had a small but very prestigious crew for the shoot that consisted of Matteo Iachino, Lena Erdil, Sarah-Quita Offringa, Nico Prien and Bjorn and Liam Dunkerbeck. What a cast of stars, characters and incredible windsurfing talent to work with!

Arriving on the island brought memories flooding back. Gazing down on the volcanic landscape bathed in the light of the setting sun as the plane landed, reminded me of the barren beauty this island has to offer. There is something reassuring about returning to familiar territory and Fuerteventura felt like the perfect place to kick start my travel routine again.

It is about a 50 km transfer to the south of the island where the René Egli centre and the four-star Hotel Meliá Fuerteventura are located and the journey takes you right down the island through its volcanic interior. The road eventually hits the coast just before Sotavento and glimpses of the calm turquoise water were enough to bring back memories of the beautiful beaches on this stretch of the island. The Meliá is where the crew and sailors normally stay during the PWA event and it has an awesome unique location in its own right on the beach at Sotavento. The hotel obviously had a tough time through the pandemic, but had ridden the storm and was now back close to full occupancy. Mostly sheltered from the wind, the hotel provides a perfect sanctuary if partners and kids want to escape the elements while you are out on the water.

The René Egli centre is a few hundred metres up the beach from the Meliá, which makes them perfect partners if you are on a windsurfing holiday. The centre dates back to 1984 and is kitted out with the latest Starboard, Severne and JP equipment and holds courses for all levels by qualified instructors as well as rental options. The wind statistics down in this part of Fuerteventura are almost unbelievable as the prevailing northeast trade winds accelerate between the local mountains. Yep, this is without doubt an iconic windsurfing location and has always been one of the favourite venues on the PWA tour amongst the sailors. Hosting us were the team at the René Egli centre, who were super helpful through the week and all passionate windsurfers themselves.


Despite being slightly out of season at the start of March, the forecast was excellent with wind predicted at anything from 15 to 35 knots throughout the week. Without wasting any time we strapped up the boards and hit the water for the evening session, everyone hungry to blow off the cobwebs after the travel to Fuerteventura. After over two years away from this amazing location it was awesome to be back shooting windsurfing. Sarah-Quita is always so much fun to work with and was in high spirits. Her skill on any type of equipment is incredible. Her first session was on the new Starboard Kode and she was soon planing around, throwing jumps and busting out tricks, all with her joyous Aruban smile. With a decent session under our belts, we headed back to the Meliá, ready to hit the buffet!


The next day was forecast as the windiest of the trip, with gusts expected over 30 knots. This was set to be a classic slalom day, so it was time for Bjorn, Matteo and Nico to take centre stage alongside Lena and Sarah-Quita. As expected, Fuerteventura did not disappoint and all the crew had a blast flying around in the strong winds. Although it may look flat in the pictures, I can assure you that once you get out a few hundred metres from the beach, the conditions can be pretty choppy and it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Bjorn and Matteo were both well powered on 6.2m slalom sails and drag racing around, just like their battles on the PWA world tour. There were plenty of other boards to shoot and we just about managed to tick all the boxes after a very long and productive day on the water. Sarah-Quita even managed to squeeze in a decent session on the new Ignite freestyle board. After switching her focus to waves, it is easy to forget that she is pretty much unbeaten in her freestyle career, especially here in Fuerteventura. She was throwing down some of the toughest tricks in the book and making them look easy. By the time we were done, the Hotel Meliá buffet was calling again! Plus I felt that a few beers might be in order too!


As featured previously in Windsurf Magazine, both Lena and Nico work remotely and it was interesting to witness, that even after a tough day on the water, they were both straight back to the computers to keep on top of the daily workload. Lena and Matteo were also both keen to maintain their training schedules while on this trip and both hit the gym most days either before or after sailing. You have to be pretty dedicated to hit the gym after a long day on the water I’d say, especially when that first icy cold beer is being cracked open. Lena is very organized with lists and a timetable for each day all mapped out…pretty much the opposite of yours truly! She is currently on a full-time mission preparing her campaign for the Olympics, so her gym sessions were paramount on top of all the time on the water.

Nico is the brand manager at Starboard and also has one of the biggest windsurfing YouTube channels worldwide, with over 39,000 subscribers! Needless to say he is one of the guys that is always busy, both on and off the water, but his passion for windsurfing is always evident and it comes across in his content.


With plenty of freeride, foil and slalom action nailed down at the René Egli Centre, our next quest was to go in search of waves. There was a decent swell predicted that could wrap right down as far as Sotavento, so we had plenty of options available. Bjorn reckoned he knew a spot to the south of Sotavento that could serve up a mixture of jumping and wave riding action. We managed to score a reasonable session, but were hindered by the cliffs behind us blocking the wind. I could see waves pluming much further down the beach, but we were all set up and it was too far away to move, so we stayed put.

The next day the swell was a touch bigger and our last chance for waves, so we had made a plan to head up north. I still had something niggling me about those waves I had spotted downwind the day before and suggested a very quick trip back there just to check it out. The nearest we could get to the spot was about half a mile away on the roadside, and all we could see was the spray from the surf hidden by the dunes in the foreground. Was this asking too much for the whole crew to rig up and walk half a mile on a hunch? I was keen, but needed some volunteers. Finally, Matteo and Liam were convinced and they rigged while I dragged my camera gear across the dunes. The rest of the crew were waiting by the roadside for our spot check, although the vibe I got from the team was that they were hungry to head north.

Down at the beach we were greeted by turquoise logo-high waves, feathered by a decent offshore wind. I was not one hundred percent sure how good it actually was. It was either totally firing, or just that tad too offshore to make it hard work to catch a wave. We left the rest of the crew on standby while Liam and Matteo went in to test the water. Matteo is obviously known for his skills as a slalom sailor, but he is also a pretty decent surfer and loves wave sailing also.

After the first wave or two to get into the groove, Liam and Matteo were soon trading carves and airs on the beautiful turquoise smooth waves. The wind right on the inside was a touch light, but on the wave and out the back, the boys were well powered. It was going off! Unfortunately by the time our message had got through to the rest of the team via a dodgy phone signal, they had already set off for the north. So now we were stuck in a dilemma. As it was totally firing, we decided to stay for another forty minutes and then go catch up with the rest of the crew. Ironically the conditions just kept improving and by the time we had to go, we had to drag ourselves away. Matteo and Liam were trading waves on a pristine logo high peak, perfect for big airs, goiters and carving turns. At the same time there were plenty of wipeouts, so the boys were pretty exhausted after this power hour of sailing. Matteo reckoned it was the best ever wave sailing he had scored in the Canary Islands and Liam was also pumped up from the session. At least we had scored this spot, even though it was short lived.

An hour later we made it to the spot up north to be greeted by about twenty other sailors, and a few wing foilers, surfers and kitesurfers thrown in for good measure. The conditions were pretty decent despite the crowds, so our whole crew went for another session, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as what we had left behind. One of the good old mottos of windsurfing trips sprung to mind – ‘Never leave wind and waves!’


Our last day was what I would describe as classic Fuerteventura. The sun was shining, the wind was a perfect 25 knots and the sea state at low tide was pretty flat, making for extra clear water colours. We spent the day shooting foiling, slalom and freestyle, all in awesome conditions.

You could tell Bjorn was really enjoying the sailing and it was awesome to witness that his enthusiasm for blasting around is still as strong as ever after so many years of windsurfing. Fuerteventura for sure is one of his old stomping grounds where he fought for many titles and he knows these waters and conditions as well as anyone. It was also cool to see Bjorn able to share his passion for windsurfing with Liam throughout the trip. Liam is carving his own path more and more these days and is becoming recognized on the merit of his own skills and not just being the son of Bjorn.


With hopefully enough shots in the bag after a week of hard work and fun, it was time to pack up and prepare to head home. It was great to return to Fuerteventura after a few years away and also nice to share the company of the riders, who were all very professional and worked hard, but made the job fun at the same time. As usual Sotavento delivered amazing conditions, but that is not really surprising from one of the windiest spots on the planet!

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