Escaping the monotony of city life, I visited the Island of Tiree (very close to the better known and more popular Isle of Skye), in Scotland on a press run for Backpacker Magazine. The island is tranquil, plenty of space and clean air and a little bit of insanity thrown in. The PWA tour visited the Island of Tiree in Scotland to settle the Wave Sailing World title and conclude an astonishing season of competition. Surfing in Scotland was not something I ever thought would be on my bucket list, but boy was it an experience to remember!
Getting to the island was all part of the adventure. Arriving at the airport in Glasgow we were in for a little shock; the plane that awaited us was a 15 seater Loganair aircraft. Squashed into our little seats the Co-pilot briefed us on safety and we took off.
The plane, it emerged, wasn’t to be the last of Tiree’s authentic takes on transport! From the taxi service that needs to be booked a day in advance, to bicycles that can pull buggies in tow. With only one road circumnavigating the island, taking the “coast road” was not only the most scenic route, it was the only route!
Arriving at our B&B, Balephetrish House, we were welcomed with an open door. We found a lovely note telling us to make ourselves at home. With stunning views over Balephetrish Bay from our bedroom window, a big hearty fry-up every morning served with a smile and a chat, our host, Iain went out of his way to ensure our stay was enjoyable.
We checked in to the event HQ in Crossapol, and discovered plenty of bleached blondies registering for the tournament, we decided to explore the island on foot and leave the bronzed beauties to do what they do best…chill! With a little of map of the island in hand, we made our way around to all the cute little gift shops and purchased some scrumptious homemade chocolate in “Chocolates and Charms” in Heylipol!
We were invited back to HQ for the opening dinner ceremony that night. It was quite a surreal experience mingling with the top 50 surfers in the world. We were entertained by two contrasting locals. Colin pleased the crowd by belting out tunes on the bagpipes, while Bob who had been growing his dreadlocks for a mind boggling 13 years was our DJ for the night! The night continued into the wee hours in the islands most frequented pub, The Lodge.
Due to “poor” surfing conditions the next day (beautiful calm water, sunshine and a light breeze), no windsurfing was to take place so we set out to explore the island. However, every time we set foot on the road, a local resident would insist on picking us up. It was during these miniscule journeys away from the magnificent beaches, mouth watering sea food and peaceful walks where I discovered the true beauty of Tiree; its people. While meandering along the well trodden country roads and not knowing a soul, everyone kept smiling at us and waving. The odd van full of guys honked their horn in our direction. Happy days!
With the wind picking up slightly on Monday, Go Fast energy drinks gave $750 to an unofficial freestyle super session to entice all the surfers back into the water. Not to be left out, we hit the water too, but on the other side of the island. Our morning was dedicated to Coasteering which up until this point was a sport I had never heard of. This involves scrambling along the rocks, jumping into the water, been bashed around and pounded back onto the rocks, climbing through caves and up through holes. As bizarre as this may sound it was unbelievable fun.
The highlight of day was cliff jumping. Perching ourselves at the cliff edge, shivering from both the cold and the nerves, we plunged into the water. The next time we went much higher. At 30 feet above the water, my stomach was churning at the thought of the fall and my mind spinning at the thought of whacking my head off the rocks at the other side. I knew I would hate myself for not doing it so I plumped up the courage and down I went along with a little bit of my sanity!
That evening we got to see first hand the amazing talents of these windsurfers. As the sun set below the lodge creating this delightful orange glow across the water, we sat on the beach for almost two hours mesmerized by the speed they were gliding across the water, the tricky jumps and one handed back loops they were pulling out of nowhere. The whole setting was utterly beautiful.
Chatting to them afterwards on the beach, I loved how down to earth they all are. Although he missed out on the overall world title to Kauli Seadi, Josh Angulo from Cape Verde will remain a champion in my eyes. In the many times we talked, he was charming and charismatic, and talking to other surfers, it appeared he had left a lasting impression on them too.
I returned home with a smile on my face; praise for Scottish hospitality and without doubt a new found passion for windsurfing!