Volcanos, Cactus and Leche Leches

Updated: Aug 23

It was time to leave again. The English winter doing its best attempt to get rid of me, so a winter session with some good waves and favourable weather seemed like a good idea. Despite the fact that the price of taking a surfboard on a plane is more expensive than the seat itself. Four and a half hours later I was looking down on on the martian-like volcanic and desolate landscape of Fuerteventura, the land of 'strong fortune', here's hoping that applies to the waves. Stepping off the plane to twenty plus degrees, with a strong onshore wind, blowing out all waves on the east coast, it was a good start.

Waiting in line at the car rental agency, eagerly anticipating what mighty stallion will be presented to explore the rugged and unforgiving terrain. Here it is, a Fiat 500. Small and nimble to avoid those side swiping winds or light and agile enough to navigate the rocky off-road paths to the coast, well that's what I told myself. The sun now setting and with the howling winds, surfing will have to wait.

Pulling out of the airport and joining the coastal highway, pockets of civilisation opened up to vast, rocky desert. The odd shack dotted between black volcanic rock and fields of cactus. The sun was shifting to make room for an ominous grey mass rolling in from the Atlantic, five minutes later and the heavens opened. The sky was black now, heavy rain relentlessly beating down on the windscreen, visibility reduced to a few metres. At least it isn't cold. Thirty more minutes of navigating the winding roads, and reckless locals, we arrive at the cabin, just south of the northern fishing town of Majanicho. A last minute surf forecast for the morning was in order before an early night.

The sound of heavy rain on the roof was gone when I opened my eyes, glancing outside and seeing a cloudless sky with the trees hardly swaying in the breeze. We had a tip off that Punta Helena will be working, a reef break in the town of Corralejo. Only a twenty minute drive, chucking the boards on top and headed east until we hit the one and only highway of the island which hugs the east coast all the way down to Morro Jable in the far south. Pulling up to the car park, we weren't the only ones to receive the tip off.

I sure wish someone had told me, or if I had even bothered to do the smallest bit of research, that reef boots are pretty important here. It was probably one of those passing dismissals that I regularly give thinking I'd 'probably be fine'. That first painful walk out across the sharp, volcanic rock sea bed which makes up most of the breaks in Fuerteventura, every step a harsh reminder of how stupid I am. Eventually making it deep enough to paddle, another equally harsh reminder presented itself as I struggled to endure the long paddle to the break; never go without surfing for four months ever again.

The paddle in turned out even worse than entering, the tide was lower and the walk longer. Only this time I had to contend with waves breaking over my head, standing ankle deep on unforgiving volcanic rock. Making it back to the car with minimal bleeding and only two chipped fins, it was time to head into town to try a local favourite. Cafe con leche is coffee with milk, but a leche leche, is with a generous helping of condensed milk at the bottom of the glass before the coffee and milk. Pretty much making the perfect cup of coffee, and at only $1.10 each, it probably can't harm to have four at a time.

Surfed out by midday, the rest of the day was spent exploring and finding a more quiet and off the grid surf spot. The wind, however, did not approve of that plan. Mornings are your best shot of a gentle breeze for clean surf, because as soon as the afternoon rolls around, you better seek that shelter. Starting at the northern tip of the island at Majanicho, a small town with not much happening, also happens to harbour a couple of good breaks; Inside and Outside. These spots hold up well when a big swell wrecks all the other spots in the north shore, making it an unwanted popular spot. Today was not the day as the wind was sweeping in from the north, blowing everything out.

We continued west, at this point realising another surf wasn't going to happen, but might as well explore the coast and scope out potential. We left the sealed road and really put the Fiat 500 through its paces. Feeling every bump and exposed stone in the ground, being overtaken by every 4x4, who all in turn laughed at us. The first break on the off road adventure was El Hierro, divided into two breaks; La Derecha de los Alemanes (German Right) and La Izquierda, which works best with mid-size swells, but not today. The journey took us deeper west, until we hit the cool little lighthouse of Tostón. A quick stop here before continuing south to the town of El Cotillo.

News of a huge storm battering the nearby islands of Tenerife meant one thing; a huge swell coming this way. Turns out, waves of 40ft don't make much chance of a surf on this island. When the swell hit the north west of the island, it meant one place was going to score; the east coast. Being a Sunday, as well as the fact that the rest of the island was blown out, it meant every damn surfer on the island was also headed for the east coast. El Burro, the donkey, has two spots; a chilled beginner beach break and a fast reef break. The spot is nestled in the middle of the Corralejo National Park, an endless vista of sand dunes and empty beaches, apart from the single concrete behemoth of yet another high rise hotel. They could have at least made it look like a Jawa sandcrawler to fit the aesthetic.

The A-frame setup of El Burro's reef break is a heavily competitive lineup, with an endless fight for the very small takeoff point. The right hander barrels if you're lucky, only on a good day though, otherwise a very short close out on super shallow reef. If you somehow snag a left, be ready for the steep and unforgiving takeoff, if you stick it you've got a fun and good ride ahead. We stayed at this spot for two days, scoring the best waves of the trip.

The last day arrived, and there was no surf, and it rained, a lot, just to make sure I'm prepared for the return to the English winter. Exhausted, with permanent noodle arms, slashed up feet and broken fins, it was probably a good thing the trip came to an end. For the same price as a flight to mainland Spain, but with some African flavour thrown in and high class waves with little crowds, I'll be seeing you soon Fuertaventura, and I'll be bringing boots next time.