Destination Oman : Monsoon

What does Middle East windsurfing conjure up in the your minds of you all, probably very little as we read this article sitting in our air-conditioned houses with sweltering blistering temperatures outside? Well, the reality is that right on our doorstep, we have some of the finest, in fact World Class, windsurfing conditions that have not yet been internationally recognized. I’m referring to Oman, with its unique Arabian traditions and kindhearted people. To sum this up, and I’m sure some of you readers will agree with me – Oman can be considered as the real ‘Arabia’ that we read about in our school geography lessons all those years back.

However Oman’s best kept secret is that during the Northern hemisphere summer months, when the rest of Arabia is sweltering,  – along the Indian Ocean coast has a relatively refreshing climate we have temperatures in the mid to high 20’s.

The coastline has typically blue skies, crystal clear waters and an rich abundance of rich marine life, along with; some dramatic coastline and Omani traditions that have not changed in centuries. Well, w What is Oman’s secret?  It’s the strong seasonal Khareef monsoon southerly winds that blow up the coast that turn this otherwise hot, dusty and inhospitable desolate landscape into an adventure playground for hardcore water-sport enthusiasts. Nature’s weather patterns have blessed us by allowing these seasonal monsoon winds to catch the edge of Oman’s Eastern coastline. These strong seasonal winds combined with swells that originate several thousand Km’s away and , combined pound into with some isolated point break reefs, providee  the recipefor  for a unique setting for one of nature’s finest ocean water-sport play arenas.  OK, let’s begin my story.

1st Day of Ramadan – August 2011: I’d Just come in from an early morning kayak paddling session with some of the guys. Hey, a great way to celebrate the first day of Ramadan! Quick brekkie combined with my routine daily iPAD check for emails and a casual glance at this week’s Oman weather forecast before I head to the office.  Hang on here…. this can’t be right as I stare dazed at the screen? The Windguru forecast (www.windguru.cz) for the Oman Indian ocean coast was showing 3 stars (which is super windy) for the next 9 days…. This forecast can’t be right surely? OK, Giles – calm down.

Let’s take a minute here and check two other metrological forecasts. Yup, I’m right as I re-confirm that not only is the wind blowing 30+ knots SSW direction, but the swell is going to be big, peaking to 3.7m with 11 second wave periods from Friday onwards…..Wow !! – Readers, this combination powerful fusion of wind, direction and swell does not synergize synthesize together that often, especially on a weekend! To summarize, this meant that we were lined up for some excellent windsurfing wave conditions for the complete next week. I smiled, grabbed my laptop, mug of coffee and headed to the office.

En route to Jebel Ali – I’m stuck on a SZR traffic jam (yes, it was an accident on the first day of Ramadan). I immediately rang Rob, summarized to him the weather stats with the same level of excitement that my daughter had when we first took her to Wild Wadi.  “Rob, trust me mate- these windsurf conditions don’t stack up like this very often – you need to get some time off!”  Rob, an experienced Scottish wave sailor, had never previously sailed this the point-break I had in mind, but had heard me crap on about it relentlessly one time at the Barasti. He was skeptical, as we both got duped last season, where whichever beach or even country I turned up at the wind died! I even dragged 50kg’s of windsurf gear last year to Sri Lanka for some windsurf wave action at Aragum Bay, only to get duped duped by the wind gods. My reputation, with stories of ‘supposed’ classic Oman hardcore windsurf wave-sailing conditions, were was starting to ebb away at meat me, and I was starting to get gain the reputation notoriety around town as the guy not to do trips with. I was jinxed !!!

Anyway, I had successfully convinced Rob to make the wind-safari trip – and we’d agreed to depart Dubai super early Friday morning and meet en-route to Oman. The next 48 hours was spent organizing a myriad array of windsurf kit, food, ice and cold beer. I’d just received by FEDEX the previous day a new smaller size Ezzy Wave Panther sail – and with the predicted strong wind forecast this sail was going to be required big time. Next job – book some leave from work, set the out of office email replies, feed the cat, pack the 4WD and fuel up. Oh yes, nearly forgot the telephoto lens & GoPro.

It’s early Friday morning, and while most of Dubai was sleeping off their Thursday night fun, we head off on our 700Km journey to another land.  Six hours later we had travelled out of the UAE Hatta border, into Oman and along the picturesque coast to Sur. Next stop would be the Indian Ocean. We had driven through scorching outside temperatures peaking at around 50DegC around Muscat. Now, as we drove closer to the coast, my car temperature dial starting rapidly falling 35Deg…31…26. Half an hour later, I engage the 4WD, and we pull up onto the point break headland, and I’m suddenly speechless…

As I look down on to the water in front of the point break, what lay ahead of us was a crystal blue ocean, textbook waves forming and peaking out back on the outer reef, spray being thrown off the back of the clean waves and uninterrupted 3m swell lines travelling what must be 300m left across the beach. All this combined with a strong 25+ Knot cross shore wind. Rob’s Jeep suddenly screeched to a grinding halt alongside me and we looked at each other through the window and smiled knowing that the conditions had all come together as I was raving about three days ago. The internet weather forecast prediction algorithms had computed correctly. I have travelled this coastline in the search for classic wave-sailing conditions over the last six years, and today was  unmistakeably going to be classic.

A race to the water.

We park up below the headland, to get whatever reprise we can from the howling wind and sand being blasted into our faces. We throw the camping gear behind a small dune, I pull my JP wave board out of the car, and start to rig my 4.2m Ezzy sail. Today will be windsurfing in World Class conditions – period.

The 2 hour session on the water lived up to expectations. We shared the spot with a few kiter friends and three other wave-sailors I’ve known from Masirah over the years. Rob sussed out the wave line up well considering he had never sailed this break before, and was pulling off some great cutbacks.

The evening session produced some classic and memorable sailing.  We both headed upwind to the outer reef up at the point, and lined up some good size swells out back.

Windsurfing in waves requires patience, preciseion timing and being able to read the swell lines accurately. One mistake when riding big waves can be costly (as I found out with a fractured rib recently and broken mast on Masirah Island). However, today it seemed that the lines of swell jacking up from out back were un-relentless. As the evening sunset approached, the wind had dropped off slightly and the tide turned in our favour. The swell got bigger and cleaner. I do a variety of action sports, but there is not one single sport that gives me the adrenalin rush of riding down a sheer vertical 12 ft wall of water that forms like a rolled out velvet carpet in front of you. Every maneuver is lightning fast, no time to hesitate, as you hit the bottom of the wave, look to the right and see a massive wall of water perfectly formed high up above you feathering at the top – as though it is saying “ I dare you to meet me up here” . So, in a split second without hesitating, I carve my board hard, drop the rig down, push the rail hard and BANG –I meet the  vertical wave at the peak, smack it hard with the nose of my board and as we kiss, I drive the board and rig back down the wave again. I repeat this same down the line maneuver time and time again until I’m 300M downwind and close to shore. I see Rob on occasions hitting the wave set in front of me, and he and his rig virtually disappearing as he makes these slashing bottom turns. Windsurfing in waves is simply the best sport when it all comes together, and I honestly feel privileged to experience this feeling.

Out on the main break, it’s not possible to take photos from the beach, so I head out again with my GoPro camera (www.gopro.com). All windsurf photos taken in this article were taken of the final smaller wave section of the break, closer into shore. As dusk falls and the wind begins to reduce, we head back to shore the beach – fully content with the session.

Some of the guys are collecting wood for the fire, and after I lay board on the beach, next stop is to reach into the cool box and pull that can pull.

Saturday’s session starts early. A group of us had woken early as the wind had started to howl, and we were back on the water by mid morning. After some coffee & muesli, I popped a 600mg Brufen to help me last what is likely going to be another mammoth session. The upper body fatigue from a fully powered up wave-sailing session requires some good fitness levels, especially when you’re unhooked and riding down what must be 300m sections. 

Our Oman Ramadan wave session will remain engrained in my mind forever, and the spot truly lived proved itself up as to some having World Class conditions. I’ve been windsurfing for over 25 years, and been fortunate enough to sail many of the prime spots around the World. To summarize, there are only around a dozen or so World Class wave sailing spots, and I feel privileged to have sailed our local spot that came up to par. As the season draws to a close once again, we contemplate the next destination, whether it be Yemen, Tiree, Baja or NW Australia.  Stay tuned.

Writer’s profile & More

Windsurfing is ideally a lifestyle sport, not just a hobby. Although this is hard to maintain living in Dubai with family and a demanding job – there is a lasting passion. Most of my life decisions have been carved out through this great sport (including emigrating to W. Australia, my Australian wife, child and home).The older I get, the more I feel I want to put something back into this great sport for the wider  community. We need to motivate kids and those ‘40 something’ adults who used to windsurf back in the hey-day and gave up because of work, family commitments etc.

Dubai and UAE is an ideal place to learn windsurfing, especially for kids. Our sport is safe, unique, challenging and very much alive and I want you to share these same experiences.

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