Sardinia offers conditions for all levels of windsurfer and every sort of water state from waves to flat water, all served with a healthy slice of Italian style. RRD’s International Marketing & Team manager, Matteo Guazzoni, gives us a guide to the island and why it is a favoured base for their distributor meeting.
Words Matteo Guazzoni // Photos Julien Leleu & Roberta Pala
(Originally published in the April 2019 issue)
Sardinia lies in the Mediterranean Sea, nestled in the NW corner between Italy and France. Whilst its sister island Corsica belongs to the French, Sardinia is as Italian as it gets. The landscape is some of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean with incredible rock structures surrounding hundreds of small bays and inlets. Throughout history Sardinia has played a role in just about every European war, changing hands numerous times, and perhaps it is this that gives it that extra magic. Stretching out over 250 km from north to south, it takes around 3-4 hours to drive the length of the island, but there is over 1,800 km of coastline to explore, making it a watersports paradise. Add to that the famous Mistral wind that blows from France in the north and you have a windsurfer’s dream. For that reason, we at RRD decided that it was the perfect host for our annual distributor meeting.
“ It’s a good spot for all level of riders.”
The chosen spot was Porto Pollo and visiting during the early summer of 2018. Located in the north of Sardinia, it is one of the windiest parts of the island and features nice flat water with wind coming from the left, offering the perfect test ground to try all the latest gear. The whole event was hosted by the ‘MB Surf Center’, which is one of the biggest and most professional windsurf and kite centres in Italy. The ‘MB Surf Center’ is a great place to windsurf in the company of family and friends as everything you need is right there, so no wasted hours driving. It’s a good spot for all level of riders, but is definitely also a spot where you can go to learn windsurfing also. The windsurf / kite school is packed full of the most up to date equipment and caters for everyone from absolute beginners to advanced riders.
The main purpose of our distributor meeting is to get everyone involved with the brand together in one place to show the new products, discuss and plan the upcoming year and, most importantly, get time on the water together playing with all the shiny new kit, it’s a tough gig I know!
RRD has a huge portfolio of products as it covers 5 disciplines (windsurf, kitesurf, SUP, surf, wetsuits and accessories), so it’s a busy week! Every day is dedicated to one discipline, with a product presentation in the morning and then testing in the afternoon. From the point of view of windsurfing this year, the most exciting additions of course were definitely the foils. All the distributors were dying to get them on the water and understand how they could be effective in the market. The wind was really on our side as we had 4 days of 10-15 knots, which is absolutely perfect for foiling, and a couple more days with stronger wind that allowed us to get pretty much the entire range on the water; good times! Porto Pollo is one of the most popular windsurf spots in Sardinia as it is situated where the Mistral wind gets stronger as it accelerates between Sardinia and Corsica. A small sand road that connects the mainland with a small island (Isola dei Gabbiani) creates 2 windsurfing spots. On the right is the main windsurf spot, with perfect flat water, so great not only for learning but also for all freestyle/freeride/freerace disciplines. All the windsurf schools are based in this area because it’s a brilliant environment to get people into the sport. Upwind and to the left of the road is a more onshore wind with choppy conditions, good for jumping when the wind gets stronger. Slightly further upwind there is an area which is dedicated to kiting with nice side-shore wind and some good chop.
The best conditions in Porto Pollo come when the Mistral (NW wind) kicks in. Normally it gets stronger from spring until July and then picks up again in the autumn. Depending on the intensity of the low pressure it can be very strong wind with days of 30 knots and more, but there are also plenty of lighter days with 15-20 knots. There’s nearly always a breeze coming from the NW or SE, so it’s rare that you can’t get on the water.
Porto Pollo is recommended for anyone who likes flat water to choppy conditions. Foil, freeride, race, freestyle, freestyle/wave are all well catered for. There’s a good variety of wind speeds, so if you are coming for a long time you definitely need to bring all your sail sizes, but if it’s a short trip ( 4 to 5 days), you can check the wind forecast and select what you need and save weight as normally Windguru gets it right for short-term forecasting.
During the summer months of July and August Porto Pollo gets very crowded. The north of Sardinia is well known for being one of the nicest spots for both windsurfers and non-windsurfers, so that’s why so many people like to spend their holidays there. Nearby are many beautiful beaches and they can easily be reached by bike, so perfect for those that like a slow-paced break.
The Mistral is normally not the warmest of winds; it feels fresh when it blows. So you need a 5/3 to 4/3 mm wetsuit if you visit Sardinia during the winter, while from spring until the end of June and autumn, a long leg / short arm wetsuit is what you need. During July and August you can easily use just a shorty.
“ Mini Capo, a perfect down-the-line wave, very fast and offering a vertical wall, it’s often compared to Ho’okipa.”
In the north, within 50 km of Porto Pollo, there are 2 wave spots next to each other called Cala Pischina and Marina delle Rose. Both offer great wave riding conditions with side-shore wind from the left, and work when the Mistral wind is strong. When it’s good, you can find winds of 20-25 knots and 2-3 metre waves.
Cala Pischina is probably the best known spot in the north of Sardinia. Situated 35-40 min drive from Porto Pollo, the wind direction is usually side or side-onshore. The wind really needs to be strong enough for 4.7 for the waves to properly form. This is a more difficult spot as there is not really a clear exit channel, the currents are strong, the wind is side-on, but often at the end of the wind cycle the wind turns more side-shore and that is when conditions become more fun. You have to be careful because the waves break in front of rocks, so any errors in judgement can have big consequences. It can definitely be useful to wear wetsuit boots or shoes!
Marina delle Rose is located a few miles west of Cala Pischina. This spot is a bit easier, or at least until the waves are big. Entry into the water is much more comfortable, with an easy launch from a white sand beach. There are rocks about but they are clearly visible, so it’s easy to avoid trouble. Normally this spot is best at the beginning of the Mistral cycle when the waves are a bit smaller, under 2 metres, otherwise the currents become too strong. The wind is side / side-on, and it is a great spot for wave riding and jumping. Very popular also with kitesurfers, it is a playground for everyone. You can find all strengths of wind, but the most fun conditions are with sails from 4.7 to 4.5 because the waves remain manageable.
The best wave riding and also the most famous spot in Sardinia is Capo Mannu. It is a 3 hour drive from Porto Pollo, but worth the effort when it’s good. Renowned throughout the world, it is arguably the best spot in the whole of Italy and is located on the west coast of Sardinia, about halfway down the island. On the best days you can find real quality, with steep and fast waves. The best conditions are found with winds of 15-20 knots and wave heights around 3 metres. On larger days and a short drive down the coast, is a better spot known as Mini Capo, a perfect down-the-line wave, very fast and offering a vertical wall, it’s often compared to Ho’okipa. Both spots are frequented by both windsurfers and surfers, with Mini Capo being particularly popular with surfers. Sharing waves can get complicated at times with the surfers, so sail with respect.
Both these spots are recommended more for experts. Getting in and out of the water is particularly complicated as both spots have tricky launches off rocks. The wind direction must be strictly northwest (Mistral), otherwise no side-off and no party!
There are plenty of other spots relatively near to Porto Pollo that are absolutely worth visiting because of their natural beauty, such as the Islands of Spargi, Caprera and Maddalena. Otherwise if driving to the north coast there are some wilder beaches like Rena Majore and Badesi which are also good surf spots.
If the wind doesn’t blow there is still loads to do. Perhaps the most famous attractions are tombs of the giants. These are monuments made up of collective burials dating back to the Nuragic age (2000 BC) and are found scattered throughout the whole of Sardinia. There are more than 300 of these rock sculptures, but the most famous ones are Li Lolghi and Coddu Vecchju, located near Arzachena, around a 20 minute drive from Porto Pollo.
For more natural beauty the La Maddalena Archipelago are a group of 62 islands found in the north east of Sardinia. Among the most important are La Maddalena, Caprera, Santo Stefano, Budelli, Santa Maria, Razzoli and Spargi, with many more smaller ones and a total coastline of over 180 km. Popular for boat cruises, it is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the whole of Europe. The area managed as a national park since 1994, so be sure to have the correct permissions if you want to go exploring. The islands are also renowned historically with Caprera being known for having hosted Garibaldi during his exile and Santo Stefano was a US submarine base during the war.
Also worth a visit is ‘Agriristochic Resort Li Espi’ which is at the frontier of rural tourism and located only 1000 meters from the beaches of Porto Pollo. It’s a hotel and restaurant geared towards a holiday surrounded by nature, with a special eye to good food, wellness and sport. The views over the Bocche di Bonifacio and the La Maddalena archipelago are priceless, as are the sunsets between the olive trees, junipers and myrtle, with the constant Mistral wind keeping the summer temperatures tolerable.
For those that are looking for something more cosmopolitan, the towns of Porto Cervo and Port Rotondo offer a whole host of restaurants, shops and nightlife. Here you can mix it up with the higher classes as they moor their yachts in the harbours, or for something more laid back, you can find traditional Italian restaurants hidden on the back streets. Porto Cervo particularly attracts the big names and its quite possible you will find yourselves shopping next to a movie star.
Whether you are looking for flat water blasting, perfect wave riding, or just want to enjoy some spectacular scenery, Sardinia has it all and much more. If you have a million pound yacht I can thoroughly recommend setting sail for the second largest island in the Mediterranean. If you don’t, then relax, EasyJet have direct flights and a visit to Sardinia is well worth the price of a ticket.
“If the wind doesn’t blow there is still loads to do.”
If you want to know more about windsurfing at Porto Pollo, then check out:
MB-PRO CENTER / WINDSURF VILLAGE, PORTO POLLO, SARDINIA, ITALY.