With a window for a holiday coming up I tend to spend a lot of time looking at Windguru or Windy to try and figure out where the best place to go will be. In this situation, the North West of Spain (Galicia) was looking quite promising.
With that decided, it was time to get some flights and looking online we managed to book a couple of tickets from Zurich to Santiago de Compostela at a reasonable price flying with Vueling. It took some further phone calls to arrange our excess baggage through Vueling customer service.
Booking last minute to follow the wind does not usually leave much time to pack. This means getting Windsurfing, Kitesurfing and SUP gear all ready to fly last minute is a bit of a challenge. How much goes in what bag, are the bags underweight, what problems will we have at check-in? All these issues lead to some stress until that moment you drop everything off at the oversized baggage counter and the holiday can finally begin. Luckily on this trip, everything went smoothly and before we knew it we were picking up our rental car in Santiago de Compostela and finding our way to our first overnight stay in A Coruna.
It felt really great to walk on the beach in A Coruna and breath in the salty air. The first evening in A Coruna was spent checking weather forecasts and deciding where to go to the next day.
To cut a long story short, we were not lucky with conditions in Galicia. We discovered an amazing coastline with beautiful villages and a huge potential for windsurfing, but unfortunately for us, the forecasted wind never materialised. We will definitely go back again, but on this trip, we made a tactical decision after a couple of days to head south to Portugal. The Portuguese coastline benefits from the Nortada effect which thermally accelerates any northerly airflow in the region.
Having been there once before, I knew that Viana do Castelo was not far away and benefited from the Nortada. Recently a PWA Slalom and Freestyle event had absolutely ballistic conditions here so it felt like a safe bet to cut our losses and head there.
Viana do Castelo
Arriving in Viana to find many kites in the sky we immediately felt we made the right choice. We rented a kitesurf and windsurf locker on the beach from the Viana Beach Centre and then went to get something to eat and get a good nights sleep for a promising forecast the next day.
Viana is a bustling harbour town on the north of Portugal. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in the town and finding something to eat for pretty much every taste is easily possible. The town is on the north side of the Limia estuary and the beach Windsurfing/Kitesurfing area is on the southern side of the Estuary. There is one bridge to get across, but you will need a car to get around unless you leave your gear (or rent) at one of the beach centres. There is also a water taxi from the town across the estuary to the beach areas.
As already mentioned, Viana benefits from the Nortada. If the weather is sunny any northerly airflow will be strengthened providing perfect cross to cross off-shore wind at the northern end of the Praia de Cabedelo. The further south on the beach you go the more side shore the wind gets. The wind can be a little gusty on the first day of a Nortada, but as the days go on it tends to get stronger and more consistent. In the time we were there I was sailing 4.7 and 5.3 on my 85-litre wave board and my Partner used everything from a 6m to a 10m kite.
As the wind gets stronger (or there is a swell running) the waves get larger the further down the beach you go. Right up by the Harbour wall, the waves are usually (depending on swell direction) somewhat smaller and they increase in size as you travel south along the beach. This provides a great possibility for people to start out sailing waves and as they feel more confident they can move further down the beach.
The shelter of the harbour wall provides really flat water (but somewhat gusty winds if you are a windsurfer) if you stay right at the north end of the beach. As you venture out past the shelter of the wall you start to get more of a rolling swell which is good for practising small jumps.
The Viana Beach Centre provides tuition in Windsurfing, Kitesurfing and Surfing and we were pretty impressed with the set up that they had there. There is also another water sports centre attached to the Feel Viana Hotel a little further south on the beach. At the time of writing we have not yet gotten to stay there (although we do plan to go back)
The Viana Beach Centre has equipment from Duotone (Kites and Windsurf Sails) and Fanatic (Windsurf Boards and SUPS). The Feel Viana centre has mainly JP and Neil Pryde equipment with Cabrinha Kites. Both locations also have surf shops where you can pick up anything you may have forgotten or broken.
Viana is great, it offers windsurfers and kitesurfers who travel together the opportunity to share time on the water. (not always easy) We really enjoyed the atmosphere (and the food) around the Beach Centre in Viana. The storage facilities were great and saved the long walk over the boardwalks with our equipment each day. It is definitely a place we plan on going back to.
Nearest Airport: Porto Portugal, although Santiago de Compostela is also possible.
Accommodation: If you can get a room there it’s hard to beat the location of the Feel Viana hotel. (but will be staying there in 2020) We were too last minute to stay there and stayed instead in the Absolute Design Hotel and Hotel do Parque. (booking over booking.com last minute) Both hotels were of acceptable quality, but the Hotel do Parque was starting to look a little tired. Absolute Design Hotel is in the middle of the Town and Parking may sometimes be a problem.
Kitesurf or Windsurf: Both.
Wind/Kite Surf Schools: Viana Beach Centre or Feel Viana
Car Rental: We rented from the airport in Santiago de Compostela and although it was further away than Porto, car rental at the time of visiting and writing did seem to be cheaper from the Spanish Airport.
Wind: Prevailing wind in Summer is the Nortada can blow 20 to 40 knots side shore from the right. With more days of strong wind or with any swell from a westerly direction it can get quite decent waves.