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El Yaque, Margarita

09:45 21st February 2012 by Letitia Hristodorescu
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Margarita is a truly beautiful and unique island situated in the southern Carribean, off the coast of Venezuela. The windsurfing hot spot of El Yaque is on the south-east coast, close to the airport. This place should not just be renowned as a freestyle mecca, but as a great holiday destination offering world class windsurfing conditions and an array of other varied and interesting attractions.

Fact File

Windy Season The season is from November to May but the windiest time is March.
Water Temp In Summer 22 degrees plus.
Wet Suit? Bikinis only!
Average Wind Speed Force 3 to 6, building as the day progresses.
Flight Time (From UK) 9hrs from the UK.
How To Get There

I travelled courtesy of Club Margarita on their package trip which includes flights, bed and breakfast accomodation, airport transfers, instruction and kit hire. I flew with First Choice Airways who fly direct from London to Porlamar. Flight time is around 9 hours and once at the airport I was met by a representative from Club Margarita who accompanied me on a 10 minute car ride to the resort at El Yaque.

Their centre is open from the beginning of November through to March /April. Prices range between £1000 and £1400 for a 14 night stay (that’s approximately 1400-2000 euro). The cheapest time to go is at the beginning of the season in November.

Go to clubvass.com for more info or phone  01920 484121.

Update: Unfortunately, Club Vass no longer operates in Margarita, contact Sportif (link www.sportif.travel) for accommodation, flights and rental and tuition bookings. Tel  01273 844919.

How The Wind Works

The wind in Margarita is hailed as providing some of the best conditions that you’ll find over the winter months. I visited at the end of November and enjoyed 4 out of 14 days of planing wind and the remaining days verging on a modest Force 3. I am however reliably informed that the trade winds steadily increase in both force and consistency throughout the winter towards spring.

It was recommended to me that the best time of year to visit would be the end of March where I am told the wind is stronger and the crowds have generally decreased.

As a general rule the wind is lighter in the morning and builds at lunchtime and remains for the afternoon. For this reason the morning suits beginners well with the more proficient taking to the water at lunchtime.

Throughout winter the wind blows mostly at Force 3 -6. Most resident windsurfers have a quiver of a 4.7, 5.3 and 5.7 and your most commonly used sail will probably be the latter depending on your ability and preference.

The Sailing Spots

The main windsurfing beach is directly in front of Club Margarita and runs for about 500 yards to your right until the fishing jetty at the end. Kitesurfers are prohibited from using this beach until after 5pm which keeps the stress levels down!

What’s a typical day with Club Margarita?

Once you have recovered from jet lag, a typical day will involve a lazy and big breakfast served from about 7.45 – 10am followed by a 20 second stroll down to the centre.

The centre opens around 9.30am and the centre manager, Benny, can be found in the office, pen and white board in hand setting out the day’s conditions and coaching.

Water State

Both the water and air temperatures are particularly warm! The first time you dip into

the sea you would be forgiven for thinking that you had stepped into a luke warm bath. For this reason you will only need a pair of boardies and a rash vest for sun protection and can definitely leave the wetsuit at home!

As the local talent is proof in itself, Margarita is an awesome freestyle venue. The water is flat with small chop and is perfect for all levels, from total beginner, to learning to carve gybe to perfecting those switch stance cana bravas!

One of the most appealing aspects of windsurfing here is that the water is shallow for 400 metres which means should you stay on the inside you will always fall off in waist deep water. This is particularly useful when learning manoeuvres as you can just hop off your board and beach start again! Venturing further towards the outside the water state does get choppier providing some nice jump /trick ramps. Whilst I was there I even saw a couple of the pros doing back loops out the back.

Instruction And Kit Hire

The centre boasts an impressive collection of 2006 Fanatic boards and Gaastra sails. With the boards there is everything from the beginner variety through to freeride, the freestyle skates, freestyle/wave to full on wave boards. You really are spoilt for choice at the amount of new and good kit on offer. The same can also be said of the quiver of sails which go from 4m to 8m.

The instructors at the centre (Benny, Colin and Ollie) are all level 5 qualified and also awesome sailors and have the expertise to teach any level. Instruction takes the form of 2 hours a day / 6 days per week which includes on and off water coaching and video feedback.

Taking advantage of the coaching and windsurfing you then have all day to enjoy the conditions until the centre closes at 5.30pm . This coincides conveniently with happy hour which opens at the bar next to the centre (and in fact every bar on the beach) from 5 – 7pm where you can get any number of cocktails for less than a pound and where the beer is even cheaper! I would however add a word of warning that the booze out here is comparatively stronger than its English equivalent so pace yourself and remember to eat if you want to last the duration! (Ashamedly on my first day I was witnessed staggering back to my hotel at 7.30pm after one to many mohitos!). Dinner is then available in any number of restaurants followed by more drinking and dancing at either Gabi’s, Havanna or Los Piratas until the very early hours – which seems a good point to segue into a review of the Nightlife out here…

Accommodation

As well as Club Margarita, there is Club Mistral and Vela Margarita. Most windsurfers book through an agent like Sportif who then organise kit hire & instruction but you can take your own kit & book direct with the hotels if you wish.

Hotels on the beach:

El Yaque Beach Hotel,
El Yaque Paradise

Hotels within metres of the beach:

Hotel California
Hotel Atti
Hotel Casa Rita (5mins from beach & relatively cheap)

Rentals:

Las Brisas
El Yaque Club has luxury rentals with staff and a laundry service from around $700 per week. Perfect!

Isle de CocheHotel Coche Paradise is 8km offshore of El Yaque. It’s not as windy as El Yaque so most sailors tend to stay on the island for just a few days to experience the pancake flat water due to the wind being offshore. You and your kit go by boat from the harbour in El Yaque. Some El Yaque hotels & windsurf centres have a deal with the Hotel Coche so you can stay on the island and take their kit with you. Definitely worth a visit for a few days of peace & quiet and flat water!

Finally, don’t even think about sailing over there from El Yaque. If the sharks don’t get you, the windsurf instructors will!

Food

Should you wish for a quiet night there are plenty of good restaurants which serve a variety of cuisine, including latino and Caribbean flavour food. As regards price you can generally eat out for between £5 and £10 depending on your food of choice. For the budget windsurfer (which includes myself) I often ate at Gerry’s restaurant where I could have cheap pasta and generous Cuba Libras for £5 a night! Another good option is Gabbi’s Grill which has a barbeque every night with fresh fish and meat.

Nightlife

The nightlife can be as low key or loco as you choose to make it. Most evenings throughout your stay Club Margarita organises social events with the team of instructors which can mean meeting for drinks, dinner or any other number of activities.

There are numerous drinking dens and even a pole to try out your sexy dancing at Havannas if you’re drunk or brave enough!

Bored Of Windsurfing

Should you get fed up with windsurfing (?!?) or the wind is light on a particular day there are plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy.

Have a go at kitesurfing with Margarita Xtreme. This club is run in conjunction with Club Margarita by the very cool and funny Murray Sampson who boasts a 100% success guarantee rate! Murray heads a highly qualified and experienced team of instructors with a variety of packages at reasonable rates.

Alternatively, there is surfing, diving and snorkelling, quad biking, horse riding, and go-kiting amongst other things which will all keep you occupied!

And for the explorer there is also a variety of unique trips which again are organised through Club Margarita. This includes everything from visiting Isla de Coche, through rain forests and Angel Falls, all in all pretty spectacular. Admittedly on my visit I didn’t do any of these things as I was there to windsurf but the options are always available.

Hot Tips

Currency top tip

At the time I was there the exchange rate was 2900 Bolivares to the Pound. It has now gone up considerably. You should take US dollars with you and these can then be exchanged either at the airport, in the main town of Porlamar or at the Bureau De Change at Hotel California in El Yaque. This will however incur a commission charge of 8%.

Conclusion

I would like to thank Jort, Bryony, Junior, Marie, Mariecel, Renaldo and everyone else in El Yaque for all the laughter and fun and a truly great trip.

Tourist

The tourist was….

Lucy Robson, K195

Sponsors: JP, Neil Pryde and Bluecrush.

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