Seven Windsurfing Wonders of the World
With 8,000 miles of coastline encircling a landmass nearly the size of the United States, Australia is a windsurfer's dream. The best action on the continent, though, is on the west coast. And thanks to the thermal conditions in the Australian interiorwhich pull in strong, reliable sea breezes from the Indian Oceanthe coastlines around Perth is particularly good.
The prime windsurfing season here runs from October to November, with continued good sailing through February. Winds are usually offshore in the morning with a cool onshore wind blowing in the afternoon, averaging 18-25 knots in the Perth area with even windier conditions to the north and south.
Perth's Swan River is an excellent choice for flatwater sailing. Being rather shallow, it's a good choice for novices learning to waterstart with enough wind to satisfy stronger sailors. A good place to put in is Pelican Point on the north bank of the river near the University of Western Australia. Pelican Point Windsurfing (01161.8938.61830) operates a windsurfing school here and also offers trips out to the nearby Keeling Islands. For chop jumpers, Leighton Beach, just north of Fremantle, is the most popular ocean site close to Perth. Typical summer conditions are onshore with 18-25+ knot winds, with ideal swells for "bump and jump" sailing on small boards.
A couple of offshore islands shield Perth from the largest swells traveling across the Indian Ocean. For serious wavesailing, therefore, you've got to venture north or south for any serious wavesailing. About one hour north of Perth/Freemantle is the small fishing town of Lancelin. The winds are stronger here than in Perth and reefs that produce solid 6-10 foot waves much of the year.
Lancelin doesn't offer many amenities but there are shops where you can buy spares and rent a basic rig. Be aware that once you leave Lancelin things get desolate quickly. Don't venture into the hinterlands without reliable transport, and plenty of water and fuel.
Further north, about five hours from Perth, the fishing town of Geraldton (pop. 25,000) is a popular boardsailing center with reliable southwesterly seabreezes from 15 to 25+ knots. Good sites exist all along the coast here. Geraldton's hot spots are the lighthouse at Point Mooreusually the windiest spot in Geraldton&3151;and St. Georges Beach, a good choice for all skill levels. Sunset Beach at the northern end of Geraldton offers excellent wave riding when there's a big swell. Typically Sunset Beach conditions are side, side-onshore with good bump and jump conditions near the shore, and head high surf out on the reefs when a swell is running.
Sail West (P.O. Box 1459, Geraldton, Western Australia 6530. 01161.8996.41722. www.wn.com.au/sailwest.sailwest.htm) offers one-to-four-week windsurfing packages on Australia's west coast. A one-week package with lodging in Perth and Geraldton, rental car, and equipment costs AUS$475-$535 per person based on double occupancy.
To the south of Perth, the territory is fairly wild and rugged. Head south if you're feeling adventurous and want true big wave action. At Margaret River you can regularly find mast-high swells and strong onshore winds. Margaret River is ideal for surfing in the morning, and wave riding when the wind picks up in the afternoon. However, don't even think about sailing here unless you're very good. The tremendous swells and rocky outcrops here have claimed several lives. If you intend to sail here it's a good idea to spend some time watching the locals first. There are many other similar sites along the south coast between Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, about three hours south of Perth, but most are experts only.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication