Kitesurfing and SUP in Tiree

Statistically the sunniest and windiest place in the UK, famous for waves, clear waters, white sandy beaches. Why Had I never been to this place? It pretty much ticks all the right boxes. I made the trip up in October. Storm Brian was battering the UK and I had no idea if the ferry would even make it to Tiree. After a hectic drive up, it was calm in Oban and the crossing was smooth. We arrived after dark and blindly followed the sat nav to the cottage.

The next morning we headed out to explore out surroundings. First towards Sandaig, then Kenavara on the South West tip and into Balephuil bay. The Tiree Wave Classic windsurf event was here for the day so it was busy on the water. Not the best weather in the aftermath of the storms. The dog was in his element though. That evening I went back to Balephuil and had a kite session downwind of the windsurf competition. Nice small waves and cross on conditions made for a great session.

We woke up to rain. We had a slow start – still catching up on sleep after the effort to get up here. A drive around to Balevullin and walk in the drizzle. Saw a couple of sea otters. The beach was stunning but the rain made shots look dull. That evening we ventured out for a surf, if its wet anyway you might as well wear a wetsuit.

Another day and finally some sunshine. This time we decided to climb up Kenavara and enjoy the views! That evening it was back to Balephuil for a surf.

The next day we headed east on the island to Gott Bay. It was drizzling again with sunny spells. The water was pretty flat with lil waves coming through. Initially I went to kitesurf, but after feeling the wind decided on the SUP. I needed to put in some time to get used to the low volume.

That evening we met up with Duncan and Polly from Ceabhar – although closed for business for the season, we got to chat and sample some of Duncan’s beers. Highly recommended.

The wind was definitely back. On recommendation from the night before I headed to The Maze. There was no one else out but the conditions looked good so I went for it. A great spot, with some solid waves.

That afternoon the wind died off completely and we went for a big walk taking in the sights and checking out Soroby Bay.

The kiting and monster walk had tired me out. It was a slow start, but the sun was shining so we headed to Balevullin. I really wanted to kite here. I got out but the wind was slightly too cross, meaning that whilst it was windy outside, there was no wind on the wave. After cruising about for a bit I came back in and swapped for the SUP. Staying out till sunset.

The wind was back and I was desperate to find a beach with cross shore waveriding conditions. We checked out Balephetrish Bay which looked great with big waves breaking on the reefs offshore. However the conditions didnt look solid enough and it would be a long swim if anything went wrong.

In the end it was back to the Maze for another solo session. The enclosed nature of the bay and the cross on conditions made this a much safer option. This time the waves were monster big creating towers of white water. I had some good ones, and got put through the spin cycle a couple times.

The last full day! After a walk around the jetty in Scarinish and taking some shots we saw some kites up in nearby Gott Bay. We headed over to see Duncan, Polly and a group of friends from the NE all out kitesurfing. It was windy – people were dropping down to small kites. I suited up and joined them! Despite the waves being ankle biters and a few squalls coming through, it was a pretty fun session. The lower consequence compared to the previous days outing at the Maze meant you could be more aggressive and not worry too much.

On the way out for some beers and chat with the kitesurfers I noticed that finally we could see stars after a week of cloudy nights. I took a quick shot!

After a fun night, all that was left was to pack up and mission home! The first section from Oban past Lochs Awe and Lomond was stunning.

Tiree is well worth a visit for anyone into kiting/surfing/sup.

Learning to Paraglide in Algodonales

This trip was one of the really good ones! I have wanted to get into paragliding for years after seeing friends get into it and also working with a couple of major PG companies. After someone suggested a summer break somewhere, I threw learning to fly in as an idea. People jumped on it and we got it organised. Rob at FlySpain put a course together for us. We had around 10 days, in the blistering heat of Andalucia in August, to get through a jam packed course.

Arrival

Arrival day didnt count really – it was pretty much dedicated to meeting our instructor Fred, TI Theo, some basic paperwork, and sorting out kit ready for the next morning.

Day 1 – Basic ground handling

We headed down to lake Bornos. It was hot by 9am and we were not there to go swimming. A gear demo, harness set up and a run through the basics. Daily checks, flight checks, and forward launches to start with. The 15 years of kiting really paid off at this point – knowing what a wing looks like, and having plenty of experience sorting bridles really pay off. The feel for controlling the wing, and being accustomed to the power made it all quite easy. Next up some reverse launches – this is even more like kiting, and makes a lot of sense. As it is the technique you actually use most of the time too it was good to get these nailed. After a long morning running in the heat it was back for a lil siesta.


That evening we went to Cuatro Mojones – a site with gentle hills in various different directions allowing you to use it in various wind directions. We worked on forward launches and hops and flaring to land. After a while the wind picked up so we had to give up.

Day 2 – First basic flights

An early morning start and back to Cuatro Mojones. We got our first basic flights from lower down the hill and worked our way up. It was hot, but we had loads of water with us, plenty of enthusiasm and we wanted to progress. First basic flights went well! The running back up the hill was brutal!

By early afternoon we were tired! A stop at the resevoir at Zahara for a swim was much needed! That evening we returned to Cuatro and did a few more short flights.

Day 3 – Theory and the first real flight

The hard work in the previous two days was showing! Luckily for us it was a morning sat in the air con and doing some theory, and going over the information learnt in the last few days. Then the EP multiple choice test – which we all breezed through! Now we were officially onto the next stage of the course – CP!

The first step here was to cover some new theory. Next up we switched our wings from the school ground handling wings, to much newer ones. Then things became much more real as we covered reserves and added those to our harnesses. That evening we would make our first real soaring flight in the evening at Lijar Levante. It was a pretty epic fist flight in amazing sunset conditions. We celebrated with some G+Ts.

Day 4 – Morning flight from Lijar, Sunset flight at El Bosque

The G+Ts got out of hand the night before. We headed back up to Lijar Levante, but the conditions were not as good as the night before – it would be more of a top to bottom than the night before. It was still a solid flight.

After that we moved down to El Bosque. It was pretty windy so we had a picnic and watched the hang gliders take off and fly. It looked terrifying! As the wind died later that afternoon we moved to the take off and made our preparations. It turned out to be another magical flight!

Day 5 – Ronda la Vieja

This spot was super fun! We got to see Fred and Theo fly a bit more and show us how it was done. Then we had the whole ridge to ourselves to play around for a bit. This was a great spot with the landing not too far from take off. It was super easy to take photos at this location so I made the most of it!

Day 6 – Theory exams then El Bosque

The weather meant no flying in the morning, so we did some theory and got through another exam. After lunch we headed down to El Bosque – the wind was very light though and a little inconsistent. It turned out to be a top to bottom – not ideal, but a beautiful spot and plenty to look at.

Day 7 – Canette La Real

A bit of a road trip to somewhere different! The wind was a little light to start with. We did a couple of top to bottom flights in the morning, struggling to find the lift to stay up. It does not take too long to get picked up and head back up here. After a break for lunch and a cool drink we headed back for an evening session. The wind had picked up and there was some more thermal activity. We soared the ridge for an hour before we were told to come down! An epic day!

Day 8 – Final exam + Lijar Poniente

The final exam – after this we were officially club pilots! With conditions not being ideal for any of the spots we had flown before, we headed up to Lijar again but this time to the Poniente take off. The conditions looked great! The trouble with this site is that the landing is more complicated, but once we had scoped that out it was all good. We had loads of flight time and sharing the air with lots of other pilots.

Day 9 – Parawaiting

A leisurely start to the day followed by a trip to El Bosque to see if the wind would play ball. Unfortunately it did not. We spent a few hours chilling and watching the conditions but it was not to be. A day without flying on the whole trip was not so bad. It was Friday night and Paella night!

Departure Day

A day off – spent wandering round town, hopping from bar to bar sipping coffees then moving onto beers and tapas. A snooze in the sun and before you know it – time to head to the airport.


If you are looking to get into paragliding – give the guys at Flyspain a shout. They sorted us out and we couldn’t have been happier! They know what they are doing and their location is ideal.

Waun Fach

The warmest weekend of the year was maybe not the best time to go climb Waun Fach – the highest point in the Black Mountains. My thinking was that beaches, lakes and rivers would be heaving. I am pretty certain that was the case from what I have heard. The walk starts with a long steep climb with only a couple of brief flat or downhill sections until you get to the top and walk along the ridge.

We packed loads of water, some sandwiches, layered on the SPF 50 and headed up. The walk was nice and quiet – only bumping into a few people in hours of climbing. Exactly what I was hoping for. The views were spectacular. Wild horses were grazing round pools of water. We watched gliders take off from the valley below then circling above making the most of the thermals.

It looked like it is often very boggy up there so summer is the best time to head up if you can stand the heat. There is not a lot of shade about. Good climb – and nice to visit one of the less popular spots in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Tête de Ferret

After a week based in Morzine and bashing piste in Avoriaz I was up for something different. Spring is the time for backcountry touring and a day trip to Switzerland sounded great. An early start – me almost forgetting my boots, an hour or so in the car then we got to our spot. There has not been the best snowfall in the alps, and as such there was basically no snow at the bottom. It was a scramble up a dry river bed of glacial moraine to the snow line before we could even think about skinning. It was pretty warm too! The first steps were some classic adventure boarding, walking over rocks to join up the strips of snow. Before long it was classic spring touring conditions.

As we climbed and the sun got higher in the sky it got a lot hotter. I was down to a base layer, with my neck and face covered to protect from the harsh sun. It felt like I was sweating out all the booze and indulgent food that goes with a week of chalet life. The valley was stunning with loads of terrain to ride and some exposed blue ice to our right on the way up. We climbed for a couple of hours before hearing one of the team had a binding failure. It was a solid hours climb to the top from where we were. We left him and sped off.

This is where the climb got a lot more technical. Suddenly being the person in the group with the worst technique, least fitness and heaviest backpack became very obvious. As is often the case with climbs, the hardest bit was right at the end when you are most tired. After a tricky section (read horrific quick succession of kick turns on a steep slope) it was time to put on the crampons and finish!

At the summit it was pretty windy. The temperature went from +25 to -10. We quickly put all our layers on and transitioned back to snowboard mode. This was not the picnic spot I had been hoping for. A few quick snaps and it was time to get back on it. Barely 10 minutes later we were ready to ride down. I couldn’t feel my fingers. The very top was icey, but after than it was fun spring snow.

We soon got back to where we had split up. Back in the sun and away from the wind. I threw the drone up to grab some quick shots before cruising down the rest of the valley. It was fun carving down and making slushy turns lower down. Towards the bottom is was more about finding a route on what little snow was left. The last section was a hike back out over the moraine. It was hot. My feet were on fire in my snowboard boots. I put them in a stream to cool down

Down by the Wye

After three weeks on the road and a 16 hour drive home on Friday, Saturday was a write off. I was barely functioning, I even had to walk round the supermarket twice as I forgot to pick up anything useful. Sunday was different – the sun was shining and and it was time to get back outside and go explore. We headed down to the river and walked for a couple of hours before turning back. I snapped as I went and got the drone out briefly. It felt nice to go straight into summer after three weeks in the mountains.

Cascade Sur Bayard

I have been to Chatel a lot. I have spent a good bit of time there in winter, but this spring it was really not very wintery down in the valley. Staying with Paul and Fi from the Rider Social in Chapelle d’Abondance I had time to kill so went for a hike to stretch the legs. I saw a sign for “La Cascade” so followed the signs and soon enough came across the waterfall. It was hard to miss. The walk goes up the steep hillside following the stream. There are a bunch of smaller waterfalls further up the hill. Once you get further up the trees thin out offering views across the valley.

TSA x TREELINE Hip Jam

I just spent the week at the TSA x TREELINE Shred Week in Morzine. On Thursday they held their hip jam at Avoriaz. There was about 30 riders entered including a bunch of top UK and local riders entered. I took a load of stills during the first round where there was the full 30 riders. Then after a BBQ break, I fired up the drone for the final. Check out the video and some photo picks.

Sunset Foiling in Sandbanks

After a windless Ozone demo day in Poole harbour I was sunburnt and pretty much set on just grabbing dinner early and hitting the road home. I was convinced to stroll down to the sea front for a final wind check. There was more breeze than I expected! It felt pretty steady too so we made the call to suit up and get in there! It was classic 12-15m foil kite and foil board weather. My first foil session since late October. I waded in and got up and going first time – always a good feeling!

The sun was going down, and Sandbanks was looking phenomenal – you couldnt help but smile! It was all going so well – then I felt a familiar tingle in my calf muscle. I hopped off the board and seconds later it happened – my calf locked up. Cramp is a nightmare at the best of times, let alone in deep water. Once it passed I hopped on the board and cruised back to shore. That was the end of my session.

It all looked so good I had to limp to the van, grab the drone and the camera and grab some shots! Check out the video and photos below. I hope we get a lot more sessions like this!

Snowkiting in Hardangervidda, Norway

Hardangervidda is Europe’s largest mountain plateau. We were based in Geilo and drove half an hour up the valley to Haugastol then into Hardangervidda. The area is vast – covering over 2000 miles. A popular spot for those training for expeditions. Once you see the place it is easy to understand why. We got up there and it was windy! Really quite windy, and we were low on small kites having expected light breezes. I went out on a 9m Frenzy – on the verge of too much power, but good enough. We cruised about all morning, finding our snowlegs and getting used to the terrain.

You get warm fast snowkiting, however if it is windy you get cold real fast once you stop. We sat and lunched in the car. We decided to try round the corner at another spot to see if it was a little less gusty. Within 2 minutes of moving it became apparent we had a flat wheel. The rental car had no spare. Not ideal on a mountain pass on a Sunday afternoon with barely any internet. After a load of phone calls and trying to find someone we had arranged for the car to be towed. I figured I would just go kiting.

The wind had mellowed, I found some nice terrain to play on and it was all good. The rest of the group had arrived and joined in. I cruised back towards the road to see how the car situation was going. There was no car. I checked my phone only to find a couple of missed calls and a text saying they had been towed back down the hill and that hopefully I would find a lift down. Luckily I did.

The next day there was only a light breeze forecast. We headed back up onto the plateau only to be met by no wind. After waiting around for a bit and a few false starts it kicked in suddenly. I went from unable to get the kite in the sky to hanging on in a few minutes. It was fun to use the kite to climb the hills, then pack down and ride back down.

This aerial shot shows how much space there is to ride!

Here is a quick edit from those two days of snowkiting

Norway is a cool place. It feels so different to France or Austria. The people were nice. Everywhere seemed pretty tidy. The Hardangervidda plateau is the best snowkite spot I have come across in many ways. There is no doubt I will be back – despite the whole £7 a beer issue.

Red Bull Ragnarok

This is what we were in Norway for. It is a pretty big kite event by anyones standards with 350 racers. I did not enter – endurance events are not my thing! I had hoped to capture some great drone shots but that turned out to be a nightmare. It was too windy to start with. The main issue was all the radio interference caused by all the beacons, trackers, radios etc. I almost lost the drone twice before I called it a day.

Read my Red Bull Ragnarok report on Ozone UK.