The strong winds that blow so reliantly off Tarifa promptly turned from a menace into an asset when the first group of water sports enthusiasts discovered them over twenty years ago.
Once the waters, and winds, of Tarifa had been explored, word spread like wildfire among the world's windsurfing fraternity. Within no time they came in their thousands to test the clear waters and powerful winds for themselves-and they were convinced. The wide, sandy beaches soon attained legendary status among surfers and the old town provided the backdrop for what was to become an enduring beach and hippie culture.
At 36¼° north latitude and 5¼° 36' west longitude, Tarifa lies at the beginning of the Atlantic coastline of Andalucía, the Costa de la Luz. Atmospheric conditions here are ideal as the winds that are funnelled through the Straits of Gibraltar are not only powerful but also highly reliable.
The swift changes in air pressure, from the high Levante to the low Poniente, that occur in summer and winter, can make windsurfing a rather extreme experience at times.
Under these conditions, the sea turns to boiling froth and spray, with gusts tough enough to tear masts and sails-and delight the most experienced of windsurfers. Beginners are encouraged to take to the water in autumn, when conditions are gentler and there is more space for them to practise.
By spring, however, they will have to share the waves again, as international windsurf championships in speed, slalom and wave categories-as well as the rapidly growing fly-surfing competitions-make this Europe's windsurfing capital once more.