Trip to Israel Provides Some Good Windsurfing

By Alan V. Oppenheim

(note: This article appeared in the New England Sailboard Journal in 1990. Some of the details about facilities, and of course, politics, may have changed, but not the basic details about conditions and sites)

An important part of planning any extended business trip is scouting for windsurfing possibilities. So last summer, when I was planning a trip to Israel that would include five days in the resort town of Elat, and having heard from my (non-windsurfing) Israeli friends that it blows 20-30 knots every day in Elat, I hoped to schedule some high wind sailing.

Elat is at the southern end of the Negev Desert, so I imagined strong and reliable thermals every day. But having been skunked in many places where it supposedly blows every day, I attempted to do some advance research to learn about conditions, sailing sites and equipment availability.

I called various magazines and NESJ hoping to find an article about sailing in Israel but I came up with nothing. Now that I'm back from the trip, I'd like to pass along what I learned to others.

According to local sources, the three primary places for windsurfing are the Tel Aviv beaches, the Sea of Galilee, and Elat. My impression is that the winds are generally light in Tel Aviv, although one day while I was waiting for wind on the beach at Elat, I was told it was blowing 30 knots in Tel Aviv. (Sound familiar? All you need to do is change names and I'm sure you've been there.) Reliable sources also claim that the Sea of Galilee is great in July and August and that's it. My own experience on this trip was limited to Elat.

Elat is at the southern end of Israel on the Gulf of Aqaba. One major beach is the so-called North beach at the northern end of the gulf. The other is Coral Beach which runs north and south along the coastline. Contrary to my visions of thermal winds pumping into the desert, the effect is just the opposite.

Elat is at the end of a valley with two mountain ranges converging, and consequently the primary wind is is due to weather systems in the north of Israel. These generate an air flow which then funnels down through the desert between the mountains, and the result is that the best wind is in the morning and later in the afternoon, since any thermal tends to cancel the prevailing wind.

The North Beach has a string of shacks for renting boats, water rides of various kinds and windsurfing equipment, all relatively tacky looking (no pun intended). The wind is offshore and also somewhat in the lee of the hotels. The windsurfing concession claims to have high performance equipment for rent but it's not in good shape.

Coral Beach has two windsurfing rental concessions and is also the base for the Club Med windsurfing facility; Club Med is just across the road. It also has a major scuba diving facility with a magnificent reef just off the beach and other prime diving spots are easily reached by boat and arranged through the diving concession.

Coral Beach's diving and windsurfing facilities are managed through Aquasport (Coral Beach, PO Box 300, 88102 Elat, Israel). Within walking distance are accommodations ranging from expensive hotels to the Aqua Club Hostel ($10 per night for a single in a four-bed room).

The prevailing wind at Coral Beach is sideshore and unobstructed 50 yards or so out from the beach, so the sailing is basically reaching back and forth between Israel and Jordan, perhaps five miles across. Getting too far into Jordanian waters isn't a good idea, though, especially if you're an Israeli.

I talked with and rented from only one of the windsurfing concessions at Aquasport, run by Walter Dumbrowsky. The boards were in fair condition and the sails were in good condition. The boards ranged from a few custom boards in the 8'8" to 10' range on up to long boards. The rental rates with Walter are $8/hour or $140/week for unlimited use with a 20 percent discount if you bring your own sails.

Here's what I believe is an objective assessment by Walter of wind conditions throughout the year. As he put it, it's not in anyone's interest to give exaggerated reports. According to Walter, it's extremely rare to have a day when the wind is not at least in the range of 10-15 knots throughout the year. There can be a string of 20-plus days, but don't count on it.

The most often used sail in a quiver is around 5.4 meters and a 4 meter sail comes out of moth balls possibly five or six times a year. September, October and November are usually the best months and in general the wind tends to be strongest during a full moon. Throughout the year, the wind is usually best in the morning (northeast), dies down in the early afternoon and then picks up again later from the northwest.

Walter also offered some of his own theories for predicting good wind conditions, and many you'll recognize as similar to your own:

Elat is a beautiful place with sun 361 days a year. It rains about 4 days a year, and then only briefly. The sun is hot, the air is dry and the water is warm. There is a nice combination of windsurfing on the windy days and doing lots of other fun things---scuba diving, sun bathing, sightseeing in the desert---on the light wind days.

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