To escape Dutch winter and put on a trial my location independence, I decided to relocate for a month in Tarifa, Spain, known as “the European kitesurf Mecca” for a simple reason: it’s windy as hell!
I left with 3 goals in mind:
- Kite surfing
- Meeting people
Tarifa in winter is a lovely beach town, extremely international and with a relaxed vibe.
Let me repeat it: in winter. All the people I spoke with (mainly locals) were telling me about “the transformation” that happens each summer, when hordes of tourists arrive, the prices of go up, people get rude and the beachfront is so crowded with kites that is even difficult to find space to water-start.
February is the quietest month here, many places are actually closed and after few days of going out the “faces started sounding”, as they say in Spanish when someone looks familiar (“tu cara me suena”).
Wednesday is concert at La Pentolaccia. Thursday the same band is at La Cueva. Friday live music at Bienestar, a chiringuito (bar) on the beach.
I found Tarifa a very special place. It’s a village, with the local very international crowd and the village dynamics, but at the same time with the an always changing part of the population made by tourists on a 1-2 weeks holiday. Going out Spanish time means most of the time meeting at 9.30pm for a caña (beer) and tapeo (eating tapas) and then hop from one bar to another.
I found a great place, ECO Center, where I could get Yoga classes and compensate the adrenaline and excitement of kite surfing with some relaxation. There I tried Kundalini Yoga and got an introductory class to QiGong, the Chinese form of medicine based on the study of the energy flows in the body.
And talking about energy… they say Tarifa is an energetically unique place in the World, that attracts & affects people (especially women). I could not find more information on this, but it’s enough looking at a map to see how special is this place. A stretch in between 2 oceans, with a massive water & air clash. Here the roar of the oceans and the whirling of the wind never ceases, the power of the elements is defeating.
Wind… locals hate it, almost everyone else is here for it. Especially the strong Levante, coming from East, it’s said to drive people locos (crazy) and some get headache if it stays for more than a couple of days!
For less than 300eur, I got myself a comfortable little room for a month perfectly located in the center of the town, with a bed and a desk where I could work. The house with big enough to be shared with the family and everything worked out just great!
Kaiti, the host, is a friendly German girl and her son, Maxi, a 15 years old professional kite surfer… add Cheo, a Cuban man listening and singing traditional Cuban music, and you see why I fitted in easily.
I got my accommodation through AirBnb, the online platform where people can rent their unused room/apartment/house/castle/whatever, and it worked out great!
In 1 month I had 13 good days of kite surfing (for Geg & the statistics: 8 “9m” and 5 “12m” days) in 6 different beaches, couple of days I arrived at the beach when wind was gone, and couple of more times the wind and/or the waves were too strong. Yes, Tarifa is the European kitesurf Mecca!!
There are waves, flat water, locations for each wind condition and always people around.
The power of immersion, focusing on an activity for a month like advocate in The Spin-Off Project, paid of.
First of all, I became really fast in pumping the kite (mainly because I always had to borrow the pump by people waiting), and wearing the wetsuit is no longer a martial art practice.
Possibly as a consequence of that, I’m much more comfy in the water too! Now I’m only afraid of waves if they’re higher than 3 meters, and I could land my first transition jump (that for people in Tarifa is like telling to a Dutchmen “Hey, I can drive my bike one-handed!”) and my first 360°, that only works when I’m riding left (this is more like “Hey, I learnt how to fix a flat tire, but only if it’s the front wheel!”).
Overall, kite surfing is a lot of fun and a great great activity. I feel addicted more than ever.
Even with no ambitions and knowing my limits, I enjoy it big time and it’s magic to just be in the water, with the wind, a blue sky and stunning sunset…. Seems like the perfect complement to an Internet-based work!
[Many thanks to the friend-photographer Sito Leitor for the pictures!]
Not only I could work, but for some aspects I could work better. I could alternate some hours of fully-focused, productive work, with a great outdoor energizing activity. And then back for another productive session.
At the end, I didn’t buy any website this month but I easily managed mine, launched new services, got some freelancing work done and moved steps forward in the new WebFlip Cowboys adventure.
I think I found a god formula to meet people everywhere I go. It’s repeating over and over: I go to a place, and I work out my social life.
People arrive in Tarifa for many reasons – the wind being an obvious one, watching some 20.000 birds per year migrating to Africa another one.
Before-crisis this was an ornithological important area. Birds are still migrating, but there’re no money left to study them!
I met happy people here, and few a bit lost ones, the “30-something, dunno what to do with life, I’ll go to kite surf in Tarifa” type (me?).
It was good meeting Kai, a German dude that wasn’t happy in Koln and moved to Spain. From Madrid, he moved more and more towards Tarifa, where he’s now a kite surf instructor and online contractor.
Or Blanca, ornithologist from Madrid living here and passionate about outdoor activities.
Or Miguel, an architect from Madrid that “thanks to the crisis”, he said, lost his job and could move to an happier life kite teaching here.
Or Kasia, Polish kite-addicted and uber-wind-talker 🙂
In Seville I also met a good deal of people: Italians on search of the next excuse to be abroad, or locals teaching me Andalú language.
Meeting people is the best part of any travel, for me.
The packing list
My luggage had enough to keep me decent (and a little more).
Here is the list, * indicates unused items:
- 2 kites (12m and 9m)
- Long wetsuit
- Impact vest
- Water boots*
- Water gloves*
- Beach poncho
- 2 swimming trunk*
- 3 pairs of socks
- Running gear
- Training pants
- 4 underwear
- 4 t-shirts
- 2 shirts
- 1 long sleeves t-shirt
- 2 jumpers/sweaters
- 2 jeans
- 1 zip-off pants
- 1 short pants*
- Travel towel
- 2 pairs of shoes
- e-Book reader
- GPS navigator
- Scottevest Travel Jacket/Vest
The Cadiz area is said to be the most depressed of Europe. Most of the people around where in fact receiving the paro, the Spanish unemployment benefit that last up to 2 years!
While such a high unemployment rate is terrible, it keeps living costs down.
I got pretty surprise at the local supermarket, Mercadona, discovering how much food a 20eur bill can provide you!
Same for bars and restaurants: breakfast with cappuccino and tostada (grilled bread with tomato & oil) for 2eur, small beer for 1.30eur, tapas for 1.50/2eur each.
I reckon a 50% lower prices than expensive Amsterdam (hence my daily “why am I living in Amsterdam?” mantra).
What didn’t work
My Credit Card
I was so happy that I could book a car for 1 month for 104eur via Rentalcars , that even checking the small prints in the rental agreement I missed that only Visa and Mastercard credit cards were accepted.
So when I showed up at Malaga Airport with my fantastic American Express GOLD card, I hit a full stop.
No car and no support for me. Not even cash money and my charming smile could change a thing: great start of the adventure!
After considering what to do, I solved renting a kite-mobile for 4x the original price.
There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, remember to bring a Mastercard!!
There’s basically no Salsa in Tarifa, which is a pity but I took it as a detox. One Saturday, on abstinence crisis, I drove 80Km to dance 3 songs and get harassed by an old lady.
I partially recovered in Seville, but probably missed out in Malaga.
I was excited about exploring Andalucia, crossing the stretch and have one day in Tanger, Morocco. But eventually, I became slave of the wind and avoided any planning that could make me skip kiteable days. So I had a fun weekend in Seville (fantastic place btw!), stopped to shitty Gibraltar on the way back and spent last days in Malaga.
No Morocco this time!
Next time, Daniele…
- Don’t forget the VISA card in the drawer.
- Don’t rent a car at all, drive down the van and look like a real surfer!
- Essaouira or Cape Town?
Just don’t ask Google: