My wife loves windsurfing in Bonaire. She’s the one who suggests the vacation each year. I say (I really say this) “we could take a non-windsurfing vacation.” I swear I actually say that. And she always replies “I want to windsurf in Bonaire.”
What’s not to like? We rent a casita right next to the windsurfing beach, take a waterfront yoga class before breakfast, then drift on over to the ABK clinic to see old friends, make new ones, and get better at windsurfing in 80 degree crystal clear thigh deep water. It’s sweet.
The wind was uncharacteristically light…three seven meter days, one six (or mad pump to a plane on a five), but with ABK they have more sailing exercises for you to do nonplaning than you can shake a stick at, so we were on the water every day. Between the guided windsurfing (which you can bail on and freesail, or take a rest and go snorkeling or shopping or get a massage) and the friend making (we have new buds in Vancouver, San Francisco, and ten blocks away in NYC amongst others) we’ve resolved to always ABK it in the future. It’s just too good not to.
How did we sail? Where did we eat? How were the digs? How were the instructors? Does Caesar really take the sail off his board, throw it into the air and catch it? Read on, pilgrim:
Sally worked on her planing jibes when the wind was up. Nonplaning she was also a jibe machine, with pivots, switchstance exits, clew first jibes, and linked them all together in some tricky S turns. Also refining her short board tack, and she learned a trick beach start dubbed “The Mallin”, named for Long Island windsurfer Robert Mallin. There is an aerial component!
Me planing I worked on duck tacks (never got close to hitting one, but progressed from “not a prayer” to “it may happen.” Wildly optimistic, I think this is the year. Also did some stay-in-the-straps duckjibes and duck 360’s (thank you Derek Rijff).
Nonplaning…did you know that there are eight (EIGHT!) nonplaning upwind 360’s? There are! For the uninitiated, an upwind 360 starts out as a helitack entry (rounding up to backwinded) followed by a backwinded pivot jibe. Here are the eight versions:
Regular (nose first, mast first)
Fin first duck
Clew first duck
Clew first Fin First
Clew first fin first duck
Andy Brandt says there may be a ninth…I believe with a double duck at the end of one of the clew first versions, but I was so dizzy after the eight that I called it a day. Also got some tips on donkey jibes from Radar Tom, and some seditious duck tack advice from Brendan (not in 100% alignment with Guru Brandt. I love it when this happens, like back when Andy and Dasher would dispute the placement of molecules for a planing jibe. Miniscule yet helpful.) We are grateful for all of the instructors’ advice.
Digs (aka Accomodations)
We stayed at Sorobon, right on Lac Bay, and next to the windsurfing beach. It’s rustic (very rustic) but oh so convenient. If you require lux (ie a door to the bathroom) stay at the Bellafonte, an easy eight minute drive from the beach.)
Windsurfing equipment rental
ABK partners with Jibe City so we went with them (lovely Fanatic, JP and F2 boards, Severne sails. ) Great service, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mentioned Windsurf Place just down the beach, which in our experience has been just as good. There’s no mistake to make booking gear in Bonaire other than to not book in advance.
This never gets old. The video below is not a select from a bunch of failed attempts. I was down the beach when I saw a rig 20 feet in the air, which he caught. Ran down with my phone just in time to shoot him doing it again. It’s impossible to be consistent at this, right? It must be. But he’s consistent. Caesar has a whole raft of sail handling tricks, but this one is always the show stopper.
There’s a new star on Bonaire: La Cantina. For foodies. The menu is a little complicated, but the help helps and the meal is worth it. It’s where Appetite used to be. Will go there twice on our next trip! We also hit Cappricio…still outstanding, still with the great wines at whatever price you want to pay. Oh yes, seriously good food. We skipped two of our usual favorites…At Sea and Mona Lisa…in favor of being lazy and eating at Sorobon (in retrospect we should have gone out, though Sorobon’s food is decent) and the ABK group barbeque.
It was our tenth trip there. We’re already looking forward to next year.
(Top: Sally displays her trademark form. Bottom: Hail Caesar.)