Words and pics: Tez Plavenieks
2002 was the last time I set foot on the volcanic island of Lanzarote. As the plane hurtled towards the Arrecife airport runway I remember gazing down through a cloudless sky and spotting the island’s reefs, points and offshore bombies all pulsing with juice.
At the time I didn’t realise that being able to see defined lines of swell from that height meant Lanza was pumping. It was only when my travelling/surfing buddy and I dropped down the steady incline towards Famara beach, having picked up our hire car, that we realised just how big it was.
For the majority of our stay the status quo remained and we spent our days seeking shelter and waves that wouldn’t wallop us! My return visit was extremely different. With our seven month daughter Molly in tow and grandparents, we were searching for a family holiday with a bit of SUP thrown in for good measure.
With the focus on family time rather than brine time, this would be a chance to unwind, introduce Molly to her first overseas experience and give Fi (my wife) a bit of a break before returning to work.
Mr SUP Lanzarote
At the suggestion of Rob Small (Crantock, Cornwall based Fanatic rider) I messaged Christian Diaz of SUP Lanzarote before jetting off. Christian is Mr SUP on ‘the rock’. He introduced stand up to the island and set up one of the first stand up paddle board schools, based out of the Sands Hotel.
Having taught, coached and guided many Lanza visitors in the ways of stand up, he has now stepped away, slightly, from the school. Instead he can be found searching out those heavy Lanzarote waves or scoring full power windsurfing sessions and spending time with his own family.
Graciously, Christian offered to hook us up with some Fanatic SUP kit, which would see us right throughout the entirety of our trip. That forecast during my 2002 visit was hectic to say the least – the Hawaii of Europe sure living up to its name.
With Magicseaweed only calling for 1ft swell this time around, I was dubious as to whether we would score any juice. The infamous NE trade wind of Costa Teguise wasn’t showing any sign of switching on for windsurfing shenanigans either.
Upon arrival at our hotel – H10 Lanzarote Gardens – the day was cloudy and on the cooler side (although certainly not as chilly as freezing Blighty that we’d just left behind). Within the space of two hours, however, the sun had started to peek from behind the clouds and the weather looked more promising.
Our first port of call was Las Cucharas beach, the main stretch of sand in Costa Teguise. A two minute walk from our hotel led to the seafront, where a plethora of bars, restaurants, watersports set ups and beach sellers flank a well-groomed promenade.
The sea was millpond flat, with just a small swell breaking on the reef (where the main windsurfing action takes place) next to the northern breakwater. My wife and inlaws suggested that I should head off for a flatty. Well, who was I to disagree?
Cruising around on the glass, I was pleasantly surprised to be out on the water just a few short hours into our trip. Even more surprising was the fact the small swell on the upwind reef was actually rideable – in a glidey kind of way.
Upon returning to the beach, my daughter was contentedly playing in the sand with grandpa. With Molly happy, it was chance for Fi to have her turn in the hazy sun. And then it was time to seek refreshments…
Time for juice
Following another flat water SUP day (with the odd small bump), Christian Diaz messaged me and asked if I fancied joining him for a dawn session at one of the east coast breaks just along from Costa Teguise. Heading north the following morning with a promise of swell I was excited but dubious with such a sketchy forecast. Christian, however, assured me that the size didn’t matter as much as the long period – somewhere would be working.
He wasn’t wrong! Much to my pleasant surprise we scored a sweet session as the sun was coming up with only three of us in. Chris explained that most surfers would be at the headline north coast spots, meaning we had our break all to ourselves. Having gorged on meaty Atlantic waves, it was time to head back for breakfast and family time.
Later that day we decided to check out what was happening on ‘the other side’ and it was here that Fi got her chance to tackle some Lanza juice. Although not super big (the swell having dissipated), the waves were extremely long, well-formed and peeling, which allow for some cracking rides. Needless to say, Fi was stoked.
Following another day of fun surf (this would prove to be the last as the waves were dying), and a steadily building temperature, the wind decided to switch on and the last two days were spent windsurfing in Costa Teguise. We could have chosen the downwind SUP option, which can be awesome with these conditions, but having driven about the island more than expected we opted to take the easy option and stay close to base.
Worth noting is that even when it’s blowing dogs off chains in Costa Teguise, there’s still the opportunity to slide a few walls. The wind pushes juice into the bay and the reef to the left, especially at mid-tide, can chuck up a fun (but very shallow) left. The wind blows side-offshore, so the wave is fairly sheltered and a few decent rides can be had. It’s worth spotting the reef obstacles though and not leaving it too late with the tide – the spot turns into a rock garden with spiny urchins ready to stab chicken feet. Worth wearing booties for sure!
Before long our time in Lanza had come to an end and we were sorry to leave. For a cheap family SUP holiday destination, with almost guaranteed swell (at least some of the time), flat water options, tidal lagoons and the added option of windy sports (if you’re into this), Lanzarote, and in fact the whole Canary Islands chain, is hard to beat. Just a short hop from the UK, a four hour flight will have you in warmer weather during winter in no time.
A short hop
For anyone thinking of heading here purely to paddle surf, it’s worth keeping in mind that most breaks are reef in nature. That means entries and exits can be tricky and there’s a risk of bouncing off jagged lava in some places. However, there are plenty of locations, such as Famara, that are less scary for newbie surfers – at least with small swells.
With a good exchange rate and surprisingly cheap local prices – even in tourist hotspots – Lanzarote is great for families looking to escape for a few weeks. If you’re into stand up paddling then you’ll definitely be in the right spot.
Huge thanks must go to Christian Diaz of SUP Lanzarote who helped out massively with this trip. A true gent, always happy to pass on his wealth of knowledge regarding waves and the island, he’s definitely someone you should tap up before heading out to the ‘the rock’. You can find out more about Christian by visiting suplanzarote.com