SPORT & NATURE

Surf's up!

People and places on the island of wind

text and pictures by Pietro Porcella


Wind and sea are its protaganists. Favourable climactic conditions have allowed this sport to develop in Sardinia, where it has found its natural habitat.

img Sardinia combines optimum requirements for windsurf racing and acrobatics in Italy due to its geographical formation and exposure to wind and waves. These combine to make it one of the most favoured regions in Europe. It consequently provides the highest number of winners in national competitions. This is not parochialism, but a fact proven by results achieved.

The most popular windsurfing schools were originally in Lake Garda, but now, Porto Pollo (near Palau, on the northern coast of Sardinia) is breaking all attendance records. New centres have opened this year in the province of Oristano, at Chia, and at Cagliari.

img In the Italian Funboard Circuit classification and PBA Italian Open, there are usually 5 or 6 Sardinians in the top ten. Ironically (or owing to the chronic difficulties in getting sponsors), we have never had a professional world cup race in Sardinia or a Sardinian windsurfer who regularly competes in the PBA World Tour. Sergio Angiuli tried but with much conviction, and now prefers to dedicate himself to the running of the surf club in Chia, the "Club Mistral Chia Laguna".

Let's make a brief tour of the Sardinian coast in search of the best sites and some Sardinian champions.

We start in the north, in Platamona (very good when the Mistral is blowing) and Stintino (good also with an easterly Levant). People from nearby Sassari have founded several groups in these spots.

img Roberto Tavazzi is the most famous windsurfer from Sassari, both in the national field (very good in slalom and wave), and as a popular instructor at the "Windsurfing Centre Stintino" at La Pelosa beach. One step below is Riccardo Sieni, a strongman of German appearance and Sardinian heart and Giorgio Polano, wave rider with origins in basketball. Still in the north another athlete of national value is Gianni Occhioni from Palau, who grew up in the windiest and safest location for windsurfing, the famous Porto Polo (6 km north of Palau). When the Mistral is very strong, all the windsurfers from the north coast go to do wave at Marina delle Rose in Lu Littarroni (surfpoint on the Costa Paradiso near Vignola, 40 km from Porto Polo).

In Alghero the pioneer Roberto Sanna waits for the Libeccio wind (from the south-west) to go to Le Bombarde beach, while in Olbia and San Teodoro, the de Candia brothers, local heros, prefer the north wind, (the Tramontana) or the Sirocco to make the most of the waves. If you should see anyone looping, you can be sure it is Nardo de Candia.

Porto Polo, 6km north of Palau, remains however the "surfspot" par excellence in northern Sardinia. The wave paradises in the region of Oristano are: Capo Mannu (near Putzu Idu) and Funtana Meiga. The windsurfers from Oristano, lead by Giangi Chiesura and Eddy Piana, compete in great numbers in regattas. But while there are lots of good athletes and (good waves from San Giovanni Sinis to Su Pallosu), there are not any well-known champions. You need to go south to Cagliari to find the national windsurfing capital.

In Cagliari there are two very well equipped and spacious clubs ("Windsurfing Club" and "Yacht Club"), and a third new one at the far end of Poetto ("Vela Club Quartu"). The sea is windy and inviting, and situated at the town's edge..It is only natural that this should be the breeding ground of unequalled champions, with three "number 1's" capable of winning any race in Italy.

img The idol is Gigi Barrella, who is unmatcheable even for the other two champions, Antonello Ciabatti and Sergio Angiuli. Barella can rightly be considered the biggest Sardinian windsurfer of all time for both continuity and consistence of his uncountable national titles in 13 years of competition, culminating in last year's European title. Antonello Ciabatti is the most eclectic and complete, and has won various national funboard titles. Sergio Angiuli is physically the best-equipped for the world cup challenge, being the youngest and most motivated.

Still in the top ten, there are Cico Natale, Stefano Sanna, and also Davide Calatri, Stefano Cecere, Piero Gessa, Andrea Busanca and Manuel Argiolas. There are, in addition, over 20 more young and very young challengers capable of getting into the top ten in every competition.

Having seen the champions, why not have a look at the best place for a world cup in Sardinia? This is difficult to answer because there are two equally important factors to consider:
1) The presence of clean wind of over 10 knots for slalom and course or of regular waves for wave.
2) The provision of necessary facilities and accommodation.

You need to be able to put up 80 athletes, each with 5 or 6 boards and 12 assebled sails, judges with boats, TV crew, stage with sound system and large structures for compiling results and an international press office.

img Having travelled the world for 15 years as a journalist and commentator specialised in windsurfing, and having visited hundreds of places where international competitions were being held, I would recommend Porto Pollo. I have never seen a double bay with such a perfect semi-circular formation and where the wind enters with such regularity as at Porto Pollo. It is a natural stadium for windsurfing. No matter where the wind is blowing from, it is always the perfect place for a professional world cup, where it is possible for TV cameras to cover everything from land, and the audience can follow the action with ease from the beach, listening to a qualified commentator. The principle problem would be to guarantee logistic provisions for the athletes, and for the three local clubs to find the 100 million Lire cash for the prizes requested by the PBA.

Or maybe Chia would be a better choice, which has equally suitable scenery and where, when meteorological and maritime conditions are at their best, all three disciplines of the World Tour can take place? Yes, but when do these conditions occur? Often during the year, when the Levant or the southerly winds blow. Chia is also the most famous place for competitions because it is here that the well-known Chia Classic Invitational competition takes place, the major Italian competition. Go to La Spiagga del Giudeo at Easter at you won't regret it.

The most committed prefer the Oristano area because, when a strong Mistral blows in Capo Mannu, you can ride the biggest waves in the Mediterranean (3-5 metres) with a perfectly oblique wind. Or, for a site better equipped logistically, you can go further south to Funtana Meiga in Sinis. But would Oristano withstand the impact of such an overwhelming and demanding crowd as that of the World Tour? There would surely be enormous problems of communications and transport unless you only want to do wave.

img If you consider Platamona and Stintino, first-rate "surf spots", advantageous because the town is a stone's throw away, could they become a "stadium" with 20-30,000 spectators on the beach, as in Scheveningen in the Netherlands or in Sylt in Germany? Cagliari certainly wouldn't agree. It has the biggest club in Italy (the "Windsurfing Club", Cagliari), a prevailing Mistral, and Poetto beach which can take up to 100,000 spectators, so it should be considered the number one "surf spot" for slalom and course.

Obviously the imagination can run wild, thinking about the future. But times are changing and both Cagliari and Porto Pollo have already applied for the PBA World Tour in 1996. The time for a Sardinian World Cup is drawing nearer, and with it the financial returns from publicity and TV distribution rights which are sent by PBA to 72 countries around the world.

Will we manage to stage the world cup in Sardinia? Who knows? One thing is for sure: the locations and champions "made in Sardinia" are being discovered and appreciated more than ever around the world. Let's commit ourselves to developing these gifts of nature and prepare ourselves to play a top role in Europe with this sport.

Recommended centres for learning or improving your windsurfing:

Porto Pollo
Sporting Club Sardinia
Giorgio Bevacqua
tel/fax 0789-704001 or  0337-367806

Oristano
Naturavventura
Giangi Chiesura
tel/fax 0783-70642  or 0330-803386

Domus de Maria (Chia)
Club Mistral
Sergio Angiuli
tel/fax 070-9230316

Cagliari
Media Fun
Pietro Porcella
tel/fax 070-803244 or 0337-815666



Versione Italiana