Why Madeira? Because in the peak summer season you will be the only one on the water! We only saw two other windsurfers in our two week stay in August. That would tell you that the island is not renowned for its windsurfing and the high cliffs of Madeira make a lot of beaches unsailable unless you’re on big kit and prepared to sail offshore. However, we did find some serious (all-be-it mast breaking) wave potential!
how to get there
Charter flights run direct from all major European hubs and are your best option. Scheduled flights do run but are often not direct and usually incur heavy excess baggage charges. I flew from my hometown of Bristol in the UK with Airtours for £315 return. (From London, it was £40 cheaper). My equipment, weighing in at 70kgs, cost £30 return. This is standard with most tour operators and I would suggest phoning the reservations department for the airline and book it on. Windsurfers get the best deal, as you pay the same price for a complete windsurfer as a surfboard. If you can pack two boards in one bag it passes as one board bag, so is a very economical way of taking your kit abroad.
Please note: You can’t rent any equipment in Madeira. There is also no windsurfing shop so take everything plus spares.
Current Quotes for 1-2wks (flight only) in September '06 are:
Bristol -> Funchal, Portugal -> £69 return
Bournemouth -> Funchal, Portugal -> £89 return
Birmingham -> Funchal, Portugal -> £119 return
how the wind works
Northerly to North-easterly trade winds blow, with very good reliability. During the month of August 75% of the days were force 5 and above. The island is like one giant mountain so wind doesn’t really flow over it at all rather it is squeezed around the outside and accelerated at these points so only certain beaches get the wind in a certain direction. A Force 4 north-easterly will usually produce a Force 7 at Canico (see below). The wind is very dependant on cloud cover. If it is cloudy then the wind is much lighter, and when the sun appears the wind fills in again (that quickly). This can be explained by very strong wind high up not reaching ground level without the aid of mixing with the heat from the sun.
The wind is very similar to that in the UK during the winter season. Madeira is very lucky to be in the path of most of the North Atlantic storms which often don’t go down as far as the Canaries. But as the storms pass, the weather can change very rapidly. Waves can build from 4-8ft in a matter of hours and the wind may swing round 360 degrees over a 24 hour period. This is the best time for surfing and wave sailing, but conditions are very technical and only for the very experienced with lots of time to drive from beach to beach to find the spot that is working. The weather, in terms of air temp & sunshine, is still very pleasant in the winter so it’s not a bad time to come if you want some full on wave action without freezing your knackers off!
Wind driven swells are standard for the summer months with an average wave height of 2m. Any of the flat water venues were often so gusty that sailing was far from enjoyable and very frustrating. This is not a freestyle friendly venue.