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Poole is one of the most popular locations on the south coast of the UK for all levels of windsurfers and watersports enthusiasts. Poole local, Timo Mullen, guides us around its stunning harbour and beaches.


Timo Mullen – “Poole is home to Europe’s largest natural harbour, with an area of approximately 36 square kilometres to blast on – freeride heaven! Being a major town, which is also very touristy, it is a brilliant place to live as a windsurfer as having the open sea on the other side of Sandbanks as well as the salt water harbour, you are kind of spoiled rotten for choices of where to go sailing. When freestyle was huge, Poole was a real hotspot and we were always in the harbour trying to nail the latest tricks. Slalom blasting is amazing also in the harbour and more recently wind foiling and winging. Though when foiling you have to remember the water is quite shallow in the harbour. There are plenty of places where you can stand up, making it also ideal for beginners. It is a special location, suiting so many styles and levels of windsurfer in such a small area.


My theory, particularly in the summer, is that the water in the harbour is three of four degrees warmer than the sea just over the road at Sandbanks. In the summer in Poole all the wave sailing beaches are normally flat, so on a windy westerly or southwesterly day, I prefer to sail on the flat water in the harbour than the flat water on the sea. The water is warmer and the wind is actually a bit cleaner. There can actually be more ramps when there is short chop. I love sailing in the harbour. I grew up sailing on a lough in Northern Ireland that had similar conditions to Poole, so I feel quite at home sailing there.

For learning any new watersport, the harbour is the perfect place. Like I said, you can stand up most of the time, the wind is clean and you will always get blown onto a shore if you get in trouble, which is unlikely. I definitely would not have progressed so quickly with windsurf foiling or winging had it not been for the harbour. It is a super safe place to sail and always side-shore somewhere in the harbour with flat water.


It does not matter which way the wind is blowing in the harbour; even easterlies are quite good. In the space of half a mile, you can launch in almost every single wind direction, be it from the Sandbanks end or the Evening Hill end, either of those two launch spots cover you for every direction.

For normal windsurfing, on a standard freeride board with a fin of 35 cm or so, you can much windsurf at most states of the tide in the harbour. Obviously the higher tides the better, with mid to high tide the best. For windsurf foiling you just have to walk out a little way until it is deep enough for your foil. My favourite place to launch is at the bottom of Evening Hill. That is best in a westerly, northwesterly, southwesterly and even a northerly. It covers most wind directions. The Sandbanks side of the harbour is good for launching in a southerly, southwesterly or westerly.


On a classic windy weekend there can be over fifty windsurfers, a load of kiters and half a dozen wing foilers out on the water; windsurfing would still be the main wind sport in Poole. There are all levels of windsurfer on the water – slalom guys, blasting guys, freestylers and beginners. There are quite a few windsurfing schools around the harbour also, again with all levels catered for. You can also rent out high-level windsurfing equipment from the schools. People will come down from London and rent a board and sail for a blast. It is a safe sanctuary for all abilities of windsurfing and it covers everyone. My kids learnt to windsurf in Poole Harbour and I was happy with that because I knew they were completely safe the whole time.


Windsurf foiling has really opened up the harbour a lot more. Normally we would have stayed in the one spot drag racing on race or freeride gear on a close reach. We did not really go upwind or downwind. We just sailed across the harbour and back. Now with windsurf foiling we all tend to explore the harbour a little bit more. We will go around Brownsea Island, which is great fun. The wind is a bit gusty in some areas, but you are on the foil the whole time, so it does not really matter. We all got into trying to beat the record to sail round the island for a while, which I think Guy Cribb still holds.

There are so many different spots and parts of the harbour to explore. I was out on my boat not so long ago and spotted twenty windsurfers at a different spot. There is a spot called Hamworthy where a lot of the racers hang out. It is a little bit deeper there and works in more tides for the big fins.


Poole Harbour can get quite busy with boats, but there are not really any other major hazards. You need to be careful in the main shipping channel when the tide is ebbing, as there is a lot of water flowing out, but generally you don’t windsurf anywhere near the shipping channel anyway. And if you do get into trouble you will be well covered as the RNLI headquarters is based in Poole, with a lifeboat station in the harbour and you can actually eat, drink and stay at the RNLI college in Poole harbour, which is right on the waterfront and even get a tour round the facilities, with all profits going to a very worthy cause, especially for a windsurfer!


Poole harbour is a beautiful location and also just a great place to hang out on a nice summer’s day, so it is an awesome place for all the family. Sandbanks is one of the most expensive real estate areas in the world, with some amazing houses, but also has some really nice cafes which are not too expensive.


Windsurfing in Poole is quite unique due to the proximity of the harbour to the seaside beaches.  In the winter a lot of the local beaches can get very good for wave sailing, with the most popular local beaches being Sandbanks and Branksome Dene Chine. Sandbanks works in a south, southwesterly (side-shore), north-northeast and northeast wind. Conditions are generally safe, as the waves never really get too big or powerful. There is a huge beach car park and plenty of nearby coffee shops and cafes.

Branksome Dene Chine is probably the most popular windsurfing beach in Poole, largely down to the fact in a southwest wind it is perfect side-shore and the wind is usually clean in that direction.  The waves in winter can get good, but never really get over logo high and are relatively safe. In the summer it is a very popular option rather than the harbour as it is still flat water and suitable for most levels.  The car park is big, with again coffee shops and cafes nearby.

To the south of Sandbanks are the stunning coastal beaches of Studland Bay, just a short ride across Poole Harbour on the chain ferry to the Isle of Purbeck. Studland Bay beach is a lesser-known, but still very popular spot for windsurfing. It is extremely safe as the bay is very protected from swell (unless the wind has any east in it). Launch from either Shell Bay on the Poole Harbour side or from the seaside at Knoll Beach, a National Trust owned beach and car park. Ideal wind directions for Knoll Beach are south, southwest and westerly. When the wind swings round to have any east in it, Knoll Beach can produce some fun waves to play in, nothing radical, but the localised wind swell can make for some great jumping conditions, northeast wind is best but anything from north through to southeast is still good. Best tides are low tide on the push for waves, and any tide for normal blasting. For Shell Bay any wind with north in it will work well and it works best at high tide. There is a year-round National Trust Café at Knoll Beach, with plenty of pubs and restaurants nearby.


The oldest windsurfing shop is Poole Harbour Watersports, who are Starboard / Severne dealers and also do hire and tuition, then there is H2O Sports who are the Fanatic/ Duotone guys. There are also lots of surf shops for clothing and flips flops, such as Fluid which is on the harbour at the Sandbanks end.”

Poole Harbour Watersports

“Poole is one of the best areas in the UK for windsurfing, from your first time on a board right through to advanced windsurfing, there’s something for everyone, it also has the backdrop of the gorgeous views that Poole has to offer. The Poole Harbour Bay (sometimes referred to as Whitley Lake) is the perfect place to learn watersports as it is almost entirely knee to waist deep water making it extremely safe, as you can hop off and stand up whenever you need to. There is parking right the way round the bay providing exceptionally easy access to the water. The flat friendly sea state and shallow waters mean that this part of the harbour also lends itself well to intermediate windsurfers looking to progress their skills. It is not hard to see why all the Poole Harbour watersports’ schools operate in this bay.

The magical thing about Poole is that you have this amazing area for the earlier stages of windsurfing and then just over the road is Sandbanks beach – a beautiful golden beach front with some really good coastal/wave sailing working in a whole range of wind directions due to the way the beach curves round.

My personal favourite spot in Poole has got to be Branksome Dean Chine; this is where I learnt to windsurf on the sea and where I started to wave sail. In our prevailing direction (southwest), the breeze is cross-shore and when the tide starts going out a real nice wave starts to form so Branksome Dean is very commonly the go-to spot.

Whatever the wind direction, there will always be somewhere to windsurf in Poole, the list of cool unique picturesque spots is almost never ending – Hamworthy park is another noteworthy spot – good clean wind and grass to rig on and deeper water. Further afield you can find awesome spots like Southbourne, Avon Beach and specifically Kimmeridge Bay, which is said to be world class on its day.” – Oscar Shaw.

www.pooleharbour.co.uk / 01202 700503

H2O Sports

“Poole’s been on the map for windsurfing since the sport began. Shops have come and gone like the tides, but the windsurfers remain! The inshore, safe and shallow waters of Poole Harbour offer multiple locations to windsurf for nearly all prevailing wind directions. The most popular being Whitley Lake adjacent to Sandbanks, then the coastal side offers golden sandy beaches with bump and jump to some decent swell in the right conditions. K-Bay, Ringsted and Overcombe are all in striking distance for waves, so there is something for everyone! Poole is the mecca of UK windsurfing!”- James Mekin-Hewitt.

www.h2o-sports.co.uk / 01202 733744

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