When I heard that they were planning to leave in 30 minutes I thought to myself why not it’s just three hours of sailing...
Long distance windsurfing is certainly not something everyone will take part in during their life but it might just be that at some point or another we've all thought "I wonder how long it will take to get from here to ..." and then the day dreaming commences. Well for a few hardy souls out there the day dreams form into a reality and before they know it they are stepping onto their board, kitted up to the hilt with safety gear and on their way through a torrent of aches, pains and blisters. Yet it is the satisfaction of not only making a dream a reality but, in most cases, achieving that dream which inspires those who go for it to take the plunge into the unknown. This is exactly how Ethan Westera, who at the age of 17, took to the open ocean and windsurfed around Aruba alone whilst his grandfather chased him by car along the cliff tops.
Read on to hear Ethan's story and for 5 top tips if you fancy going the distance.
My day of the trip started by going to the church from 7:30 till 9:00 am. At 9.01 I called my dad and asked him if his friends with their sailboats were still planning to sail around Aruba. When I heard that they were planning to leave in 30 minutes I thought to myself why not it’s just three hours of sailing...
So I went back home got my gear, and went directly to the beach. Rigged my 8.6 Ga-Sails Vapor sail, got my 117 litre Starboard Isonic and screwed my 46cm f-hot fin on my board. The wind was looking pretty light, but the wind direction was promising. When I finished setting up all my gear my dad and I went through the Aruba map to see what would be the fastest way around the island, and he gave me a camelbak loaded up with water, some rope, extra harness lines and a red hand flare so that I could raise the alarm if something happened. I also had my phone in my camelbak that was recording my whole trip with an app called endomondo and my Grandpa decided to follow me with his car on land during my trip, so that I could feel safe (I didn’t see him my whole trip around Aruba).
After 10 minutes of preparation I stretched and went on to the water. We started around 10 o’clock in the morning...
The worst part of the trip was definitely the upwind! It took me more than 2 hours to get to the point of the island. During those 2 hours I was thinking to myself what did I get into.
I will definitely be doing this trip more often and hope to break the record from Bjorn Dunkerbeck in the future.
The problem was that the wind was to light, because of that I couldn’t sail close to shore where the current is less. I needed to sail further out where the wind was stronger and of course the current was stronger. I was getting mad on my upwind, because the sailboats that I have started with where so far in front that I couldn’t see them any more. During the upwind I made a few small changes with my gear, I shifted my boom higher, moved my harness lines a bit to the back and shortened them up a bit. I tried to sail my upwind in a stance that I sail with my RS:X equipment. When I finally got to the most upwind point I was mentally and physically drained. My feet had blisters because of my footstraps and and my soles were hurting because of the pressure you put on your board with your back foot. The point of the Island was where the windsurfing got real. NO MORE JOKES.
This was the first time that I got really scared windsurfing, it wasn’t because of the place. It was thinking of what happens if my mast breaks, I'm dead, (something like that) even though I never broke a mast from GA (Gaastra) because they are the best. The point was scary because it was flat onshore, the swell, the waves, the chop didn’t have any pattern to it, it was just super messy. I was all over the place; up, down, left, right. Haha! I had never sailed in such conditions before.
When I passed the point it was all downwind from there. I had the swell and the current helping me and I managed to reach a max speed of 77.7 km/h. Which is not bad with my 8.6 Vapor and my 117 liter iSonic. When I was near the western most point (the other side of the island) I began to see the sailboats again. Then I knew that I was almost at the finish line.
As I passed the western point I felt like I was sailing in heaven. It was all so flat, just the way I liked it, but it wasn’t over yet. I knew that it would be a drag race to see if a sailboat or a windsurfer would get to the finish first. I still don’t know who won but it was pretty damn close. When I crossed the finish I sat on my board and drank all the water I had left and took a moment to just re-think what I had just done. I sailed around Aruba with my windsurfing gear. I couldn’t believe it!
It was a great experience, it felt like a never ending windsurfing marathon. I windsurfed around Aruba in 3 hours and 30 minutes with a distance of 112.2 km and I will definitely be doing this trip more often and hope to break the record from Bjorn Dunkerbeck in the future. Other than that I don’t have any other challenges on my mind except graduating from school and of course getting ready for PWA Costa Brava!
Fancy setting out on your own long distance windsurf trip? Well we wouldn't advise you to go it alone like Ethan but if you do then here are a few vital tips from his experience.
1 - My no.1 recommendation to people that love doing long distance windsurfing, or want to give it a try, is to have lots of water with them. It is surprising how much you really need.
2 - Obviously you want to tune your gear for the maximum speed but often speed sacrifices comfort and in long distance windsurfing your top speed is the combination of comfort and fast tuning. So for me I really focused on rigging for comfort, more so than for speed.
3 - SPARES: Take extra rope, a UJ and a cellphone with enough battery in it
4 - It's easy to lose your thoughts to 'what if's', I had it quite bad at the top of the upwind leg, especially when things get uncomfortable and a bit scary but the best thing is to just talk yourself into being calm and positive, think about how your mental state was when you set-off and what it will be like when you reach the finish.
5 - Don't forget to enjoy it and have fun.