Flo Jung reports from behind the scenes as the Gunsails team explore Fuerteventura during their annual photo shoot and gives us a mini guide to some of its main windsurfing spots.
Words Flo Jung // Photos Pierre Bouras
Windsurfing photo shoots would be a simple task, if they didn’t depend on the weather. Wind, waves, sun and perfect water colours are the requirements and if one of these is missing, it becomes difficult to create an inspiring image. Maui is the popular destination for a large number of brand shoots because it delivers all of the above variables most of the time. But it isn’t exactly around the corner from Europe and travelling with an entire product range, which often weighs more than 400 kg, can be a hassle.
My sponsors, Gunsails, have adopted a slightly different strategy in recent years for their photo shoots. With a small but efficient team of 4-5 people we can be flexible on location and timing with more of a ‘hit and run’ type approach to guarantee success. We have visited locations like Tarifa, Mauritius and South Africa in the last 3 years to create a fresh look with different perspectives. Of course it doesn’t always go to plan. For example, last year in South Africa we urgently needed pictures of an onshore wave sail and it was the day before our departure. The conditions were anything but inviting. Mast high waves with light onshore winds and a strong current. After a wipeout, where I lost my gear, I noticed a strange film on the water. On closer inspection, I saw a dead whale close to the rocks and attracting the attention of some great white sharks. These kind of experiences lead to improved swimming skills but also show the risks of trying to always get the shot!
For our 2019 photo shoot I was given the task of organization. With most of our team in Fuerteventura for the annual PWA competition at the end of July and the island offering good wind statistics and weather at that time of year, it seemed a fit too good to pass up. After arriving in Fuerteventura with 22 rigs, we went directly from the airport to a secret spot south of Costa Calma. We found freeride conditions with gusty 20-40 knot winds. Flying Dutchman Ben van der Steen pulled his brand new GS-R slalom sail out of the bag and was the first to jump into the water. Unfortunately though a gnarly shorebreak took a liking to his brand new sail and destroyed it with a merciless crunch. After less than 1 minute his session was over and unfortunately without a single photo! We quickly changed location to the lagoon in Risco del Paso to grab some shots on our 7.0m freeride sails while around us sailors were having fun on their 3.7 wave sails! You could see the “survival look” on the faces of most of our team riders as they tried to hold on for the sake of the camera!
The start of our shoot was anything but ‘plain sailing’, it was time to instigate some German efficiency! A plan was made and everyone in the team was given tasks from sandwich making to checking the weather forecasts, sorting out the cars and rigging as many sails as possible in order to make use of every available minute. The work started at sunrise and lasted late into the night. The combination of wind and waves is extremely rare on Fuerteventura in July so we set the highest priority on wave pictures, followed by freestyle, racing and freeride. Typically we’d sail for 6 hours per day with 3 sessions at different spots. Then, while we rested, the work for our photographer and filmmaker Pierre Bouras really started – selecting photos and videos, editing them and uploading them to dropbox while only having about 3 to 4 hours of sleep to recover before shooting started again the next day. Slowly however, all our efforts started to reap rewards.
Or goal was at least 3-4 good images of each sail from different perspectives, such as land, water or drone. For sails, vertical light must be avoided in order to prevent shading, so it’s necessary to shoot in the morning or evening light. Before each session there’s a short briefing to ensure the desired result, for instance when shooting race sails it’s important to keep the sail sheeted in and locked down to look good and riders need to have gybe shots well planned when sailing at speed with only a few centimetres between them.
After 3 windy days we finally could tick all the boxes of each sail. It’s rewarding working together as a team for one goal instead of competing against each other in heats or races. Thanks to foil boards and our new efficient “Bow sail” we could even start working with only 10 knots of wind and that extended our wind range of being productive. The only thing missing was some proper wave shots. On our last day we headed to Glass beach in search of surf. Even though the forecast looked anything but good, a local assured us waves were on their way. We waited patiently and sure enough by the afternoon, lines started to break over the shallow reef. Pierre decided to jump in for some water shots; I had a really good session with our 4 batten ‘Seal’ sail with nice turns, goiters and airs right in front of Pierre’s lens. Frenchman Yann Dupont went a step further and accidentally went right over him, Pierre luckily getting away with just a few bruises. After three intensive hours we went a few kilometres further south to a spot called “Puerto Lajas”. In a small bay we found really good jumping conditions until the sun finally melted into the ocean. All in all, a very productive day at the office.
“All in all, a very productive day at the office.”
After a week of non-stop shooting, the 1TB hard disk with several thousand pictures and videos was full. Even though Fuerteventura has fewer palm trees than Maui and the waves are not quite as powerful, we were happy with our performance. The end result was a product of a team that gave everything to complete a photo shoot in just one week. It was a real challenge, especially when conditions didn’t always play ball, but the key is discipline and using creativity to adapt to the elements. Behind every picture is a story and I hope that I’ve been able to give an insight into ours.
“The key is discipline and using creativity to adapt to the elements.”
EL BURRO / GLASS BEACH
A well known point break south of Corralejo with wind from the left and side to side-offshore down-the-line wave riding conditions. Popular from April to September, it’s a short but very clean wave which runs over the shallow lava reef. Just south of it is a small sandy beach where you can easily enter the water.
A world-class reef break allowing up to 6 turns with north winds and north swell. At the southern end of the bay you can find perfect jumping conditions, especially with NE winds.
El Cotillo is the beach of the fishing village with the same name in the northwest of the island. Works with NNE trade winds and requires NW swell. The wave can be very powerful and can destroy masts. It’s good to take a slightly bigger sail as the wind is less in the break than on the shore.
A perfect spot to go full speed on flat water, it is located 10 minutes north of Costa Calma and you can park right next to the water. The water gets deep quite quick and winds are offshore, so it is more for advanced riders. Matas Blanca doesn’t work with every trade wind. If the wind comes too far north, the spot won’t work, while 1. 5 km further south at Sotavento, people are flying over the water. North to East winds, which tend to blow in winter, are strongest in the morning.
The famous World Cup beach and its windy waters are located south of Costa Calma at the René Egli windsurf centre. Nearby mountains accelerate the NE trade wind making it a very reliable spot. Mostly flat water and cross-offshore wind, though can pick up waves too.
RISCO DEL PASO
Located at the southern end of the lagoon of Sotavento with more sheltered conditions for beginners and improvers.