By the time we reached surf house on the outskirts of Corralejo on a sunny Sunday, I’d worked out that it had been over 6 years since I’d last surfed, and even on that occasion my attempted catching of waves somewhere outside of Sydney only lasted for a single day. Now very much older, slightly rounder, with limbs not quite so flexible and dragging along a very apprehensive girlfriend, it was time to join the guys at Planet Surf Camps to re-educate myself and learn how to surf Fuerteventura.

The road to Fuerteventura

It’s a funny thing how one minute you can be enviously reading a friends blog about their surf camp experience in Mexico, whilst simultaneously reading a book about surfing in the UK (Grey Skies, Green Waves: A Surfer’s Journey Around The UK and Ireland),only to have an email detailing an opportunity to undertake your own surf camp experience drop into your inbox – Tip of the hat to the guys at @epicgapyear for the referral.

In short, the email was responded to with much haste on my part, and I was soon booked in for a Fuerteventura surf camp experience.

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Arrival at the Surf House

Ah the surf house, I loved this place. Essentially it is a hostel, but an awesome one at that. Bean bags litter the main garden area and terraces, providing perfect spots to slump down and read or catch a few ZZZ’s. If you’re feeling slightly more energetic there’s a small pool, a pool table and a ping pong table in the garden. The garden also hosts a sizeable grill for BBQ’s, and in the basement there is a kind of chill out/TV room.

In the kitchen there are two cooking areas including stoves, oven, toasty maker and all the necessary cutlery to cook and eat your own food. No meal are provided in the surf house, so it’s up to you to either cook you’re own food, arrange a BBQ with fellow guests, or go eat out. If you choose to cook for yourselves, there’s are a couple of giant fridges and cupboards to store your food, and pretty much everything you need can be purchased from the HiperDino supermarket, just 5 mins walk away.  The kitchen is probably the most popular area of the surf house … the strength of the (free) wifi signal may have some small part to play in that.

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The staff at the house were great.  Outside of their normal duties, they also helped set up a BBQ one evening for all those staying at the house, and throughout the week they organised yoga up on the roof. Come evening time they would often show us around a few of their favourite night spots in town and share their own travel stories over a cocktail or two.

On occasions they also joined in with our surf lessons (if there is space), so essentially it was like having a couple of extra, knowledgeable, house mates and fellow surfers. I had a lot of time for the all the staff we met at camp.  They were really good to Esther and I, and made us feel very welcome and comfortable.

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As mentioned we arrived on a Sunday in late April, a day on which no surfing lessons were scheduled. As such the surf house was pretty much empty save for a single member of staff to check us into our dorm room. The two girls who we were to share our room with were out somewhere exploring, and so after dropping our bags, putting on the obligatory board shorts + flip flops and quickly having a look around the rest of the surf house, we decided to set foot outside and go for a walk too.

In truth we didn’t make it far on that first Sunday, simply over the road from the surf house to a small shopping mall where we could purchase a few groceries, and then to a bar selling ice cold glasses of beer at prices that could not be ignored. Sunday was a lazy day, finished off with a few hi’s and handshakes as we met a few fellow surfers back at the surf house an on the way to bed.

The Surfing

And so to the surfing, and the beginning of 5 days of waves, wetsuits and wipe-outs.

Lesson times are varied, and will depend on the tides. Out first lesson took place at 10am, but the next day we didn’t surf until 4pm. Between the hours of 8-8 Monday to Friday I wouldn’t go booking another other tours or excursions . Lesson times for the following say are posted on a board in the kitchen area.

surf house with board detailing lesson times

As it had been a while for me, and the gf was nervous about the whole idea of surfing, the two of us were put into the beginners group with a friendly and enthusiastic surf coach by the name of Marco. Half Italian and half Swiss, we and everyone we spoke to, found Marco to be a great coach for newbie surfers, and we had a lot of fun getting to know him as the week went on.  On that first day he first fitted us for a wetsuit each, and instructed us on loading our boards onto the van that would take us to the beach.  Your wetsuit is YOUR wetsuit if you know what I mean – it’s yours for the week, so you have to remember your number. I was assigned a very effeminate blue number in size Medium … good thing those suits are stretchy!

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Loading the boards onto the van doesn’t take long, and also acts as a bit of a warm up, but you will probably notice that certain people are more eager to help with this than others. It’s the same with taking to boards off the van at the end of the day and washing the wetsuits, some people are either a little too precious to help, or purposely sly off so they can be first in the shower. It’s a shame, because it’s a bit disrespectful to everyone else learning and the coaches like Marco, but it happens on most tours/courses to be fair. I remember it happening with my group driving around Fraiser Island in a 4×4. All I can say is, help out as best you can and your surf coach will thank you for it. Marco did with us.  Anyway, van loaded with boards, wetsuits, cords and surfers, it’s off to the beach.

surf van loaded with boards on the roof

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The transfer from the surf house to the beginners beach takes around 30 minutes, but it’s an enjoyable ride.  The journeys allows you to take in a bit of the Fuerteventuran landscape, and gives you some time to meet and chat to your fellow newbie surfers.  On our first journey to the beach, we discovered that 2 of the others in the van were actually our dorm mates (they were up and out of bed well before us!), and of @Travellettes fame – Hi Sophie, hi Kathi.  Seriously, bloggers are EVERYWHERE!

As beginners, our van was driven to a friendly looking beach town called Cotillo, on the north eastern coast (intermediates surfed a reef location elsewhere on the Island). For the majority, the long stretch of sand at Cotillo was near empty, in the water was another matter though. I figured that arriving almost between seasons (winter for the biggest waves, and summer for the heat) would see Esther an I as two of very few newbie surfers in the water, but in reality, our surf class was always one of at least 2 groups of 5+ people in the water at Cotillo, plus the locals.

Surfing Cotillo beach

Each of the 5 days lessons began with obviously unloading the boards from the van and carrying then down to the beach. That was always hard work in itself, owing to the wind (hint – Fuerteventura is windy!), but that ‘exercise’ would always be followed by an intensive warm up, readying us for the waves.

On the very first day we were given a detailed run through by Marco of the technique for first catching a wave, and the progressively making it to a point where we could stand up on a board and ride a wave to shore. This might have been the 4th or 5th time I’d been taken through such a lesson, but to my surprise Marco detailed an almost entirely new way to stand up on the board. A new challenge!

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From there on in it was a combination of timing and arm strength. Time it right, paddle hard enough and press up to a point where you could bring you back leg up onto the board and then swing your leading leg around 180 degrees to the front of the board, and you’d be surfing to some degree. Bending you knees and looking where you were going also helped.

Lessons were easy going, which was prefect for us. If we wanted a break we took a break, whereas if we wanted a bit more tuition from Marco he was only too happy to oblige.  Esther found this setup especially helpful, it wasn’t too regimented and there weren’t any additional pressures to do anything that she was uncomfortable with.  In kind I appreciated that Marco was easy on her when she wanted a break, but there to help out when she felt she was ready for another couple of waves.

Later in the week, as more people arrived in the surf house and the numbers in our beginners group increased, another coach named Gala joined Marco in tutoring us. She was just a helpful and fun in her coaching, although she did love a hard run across the sand for a warm up. My ageing knees did not always thank her for that.

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Door to door, lessons lasted around 4 ours per day. This equalled around 2.5-3 hours in the water, which was plenty to be honest.

On route back to the surf house, having packed the boards back onto the van roof and having somehow stripped the soaking, salty, sandy wetsuits from our bodies, Marco would quite often take us to a little French bakery for a much needed piece of cake and a coffee. Well earned if you ask me.

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French bakery Cotillo

street art Cotillo

Back at the surf house we would unload the surf boards and store them back in the garage, before giving the wetsuits a quick wash and hanging them out to dry. The afternoon/evening was then ours to do with as we please.

Come the next day, it would be time to pack up the van and hit the beach all over again … unless the next day was a Saturday, or Sunday.

Weekends – i.e. non surf days

Come the weekend and no surf lessons are scheduled.  Typically Saturdays and Sundays are arrival/departure days, but if you should find yourself in Corralejo over a weekend, there is still plenty to do.

Exploration of the rest of Furteventura over the weekends is common. Hiring a car isn’t too difficult or expensive, and the roads are in good shape.  There are also a number of tours you could book yourself onto, both inside and outside of Corralejo.  Had the opportunity presented itself, I would have quite liked to have explored the sand dunes just outside of Corralejo but alas time did not allow.  Obviously water based tours such as kayaking or windsurfing tours are also fairly popular, or there’s always the water park and bell tower lookout point, which are both minutes from the surf house.

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Corralejo

If you’re not in a tour mood and simply want the weekend (or evenings) to explore Corralejo itself, obviously that is not a problem.  A 10 minute walk from the surf house and Corralejo has any number of shops, restaurants and bars. The Main Street is especially popular with bars and restaurants catering to Brits abroad – beer, football, ruby and Sunday roasts, but if you explore past Main Street and head towards the harbour, there are some lovely little squares where dinning takes place outdoors and to the backdrop if traditional Spanish music. Along the sea front, there are also a number of cool little bars serving delicious cocktails and tapas.

I’ve watched an English footy game whilst travelling before, so I am on no way judging if you go for a curry and then watch a game come the evening, but I would also say that checking out the more local type areas of Corralejo are well worth it too. Agua Bar and Bar Na Na are two little establishments worth checking out along the harbour front, and if you like Tapas there is a restaurant called Pincha Cabra which our planet surf hosts took a whole group of us to one evening for a rather large and tasty meal Hopefully they would do the same for you too if you were to head to surf camp with them.

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Shopping in town was a bit hit and miss we found. There’s plenty of shops, but apart from the surf outlets there wasn’t a lot to make me get my wallet out and hand over my trusty credit card. Running from Tuesday-Friday there is also a small market operating at the top of Main Street, but again this was nothing special in my opinion, just knock off handbags and t-shirts.

The logistics

So you’ve read this review and decided you want to go surf Fuerteventura for yourself.  Good!  But how do you even get there?

Chances are you’re going to fly to Fuerteventura, we didn’t meet anyone who came by boat or otherwise.

From the airport, the surf house is a 30 minute transfer if you purchase a shuttle ticket, or if you choose to a local bus (it’s actually 2 buses you’ll need to get), it’ll probably take you an hour.

Whilst the shuttle is a couple of euro more, I’d argue it’s worth the extra as it drops you pretty much directly outside the surf house, and getting the local bus will also involve changing buses and then walking with your luggage from wherever you get dropped off to the surf house.  The shuttle makes it a lot simpler, and Planet Surf will send you a link for the shuttle once you’ve booked.

Once at the surf camp, most things you’ll need are on your door step really.  The Hiperdino supermarket is literally across the road.  The town centre and its bars are a 10-15 minute walk away.  The surf house, whilst on the outskirts of town in a quieter area, is still very close to everything you might need.

Prices

An array of prices for a Fuerteventura surf camp can be found on the Planet Surf price page.  But essentially, to take a trip on the same basis as our own – 7 nights accommodation at the surf house and 20 hours worth of surf lessons – the price at time of writing (May 2015) is €249.00 per person.

Should only some of your group wish to surf, I believe it is possible to just pay for a bed and not surf.  Exact prices for this should be discussed with Planet Surf.

There are also alternative accommodations you could choose to stay at if you don’t fancy the surf house for whatever reason, but again these are best discussed with Planet Surf.

Extras

Obviously within that cost above and the others quoted on the Planet Surf website, flights, transfers, food, drink and shopping etc are not covered.

  • Flights – Ryanair, Easyjet and BA all fly from the UK to Fuerteventura.  Obviously prices depend on when you book.  Our flights were £150.00 per person with BA from Heathrow.  It’s worth doing a bit of research on Skyscanner to find the best prices.
  • Transfers – As mentioned above, a direct transfer is probably your best option to get to and from the surf house.  A return ticket booked online in advanced costs €13.59.
  • Food and Drink – A large beer is only €1.50 for starters!  Eating out in the evenings set us back around €15.00 per person for a starter, main and drink. We didn’t eat anything fancy though.  Shopping at the supermarket and cooking at the surf house is obviously much cheaper.
  • Shopping – New board shorts cost around €30.00, I didn’t buy anything else so cant really comment too much here.

My thoughts on surfing

Full disclosure, I worked with Planet Surf Camps on this trip. They provided bed and lesson for my girlfriend and I in return for my opinions, so here they are.

The set up

Surfing – it’s harder than I remembered, and can be quite frustrating, especially compared to other board sports such as snowboarding where timing isn’t so key. I wish in all honesty that I’d worked on my arm strength a little more before heading to surf Furteventura, but that said I still very very much enjoyed learning to surf all over again, and thoroughly enjoyed those waves I did catch. Those I wiped out on and as a result consumed what can only be an unhealthy amount if sea water, I did not enjoy so much.

I won’t lie that I sometimes found the midday lessons a bit frustrating in that, it didn’t always leave you enough time to do anything of real note before or after the lesson, but I cannot realistically or fairly direct that frustration at anyone can I?!  Lesson times are based around the tides, so if midday is the best/safest time to go surfing, and I’m in Fuerteventura to surf, then that’s when I should really be surfing.  Whilst I believe routine is healthy, at surf camp you have to be slightly more flexible and react to the conditions.  It might take you (me) out of your comfort zone a little, but that’s not such a bad thing from time to time.

… Plus surfing at sunset is pretty special.

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Surfing as a couple

Surfing as a couple was in the end really quite easy. Upon arrival at the surf house I honestly though it would just be my girlfriend and I in a room. As it turned out we where to be in bunkbeds and sharing a room with two other guest. Lucky for me my girlfriend is pretty easy going, and we were soon over not having our own room and enjoying the company of our roommates. Truth be told, our room got very warm at night, so to share a bed with another warm body might not have been the nicest anyway. Having my own space to sweat and fidget in was probably better.

From experience I know that other backpackers and travellers sometimes don’t like to/fear talking to and socializing with couples.  I get it, you don’t want couples being all lovey-dovey right in your face, or having a domestic whilst you’re trying to eat dinner, but we’re not all bad honestly.  Lucky for us everyone in the surf house at the time of our visit was cool enough to give us a chance, and we all got on really well.  Obviously this part of the surf camp experience cannot be guaranteed, but if the crowd we met were anything to go by, guests at the house tend to me super chilled and friendly.  There were no dramas, arguments or craziness.  Everyone respected the house rules and each other.

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Room (rooms) for improvement?

A few  things we noted that might have improved our surf camp experience as a whole (not just from a couple point of view), mostly revolved around the room.  As mentioned previous, I thought I’d booked us our own room, but these area’s for improvement have nothing to do with sharing a room, they’re around the rooms themselves.  For instance, whilst there was plenty of storage space in the rooms, it was not secure space.  Lockers would have been cool and taking padlocks would be advised for any future guest, and this could be better advertised on the website and upon booking confirmation.  I wasn’t suspicious of any of our form-mates, but things like this just save drama and potentially lengthy insurance claims.  Also, the rooms were non AC and non fan, and as a result they got blimmin’ hot at night … and that was in April.  During the summer months I imagine guest must resort to opening the doors to get some kind of airflow, but at the same time they would also allow mosquitoes a free ticket to a buffet of surfers.  Suffering bites is to be expected when travelling warmer climates, but a simple mesh on the windows might be the answer here.

Would I book again?

I’m really clutching at straws here for area’s our surf Fuerteventura experience that could have been better or improved upon.  Honestly, it all went really rather smoothly and was enjoyable throughout.  I guess the ultimate question would be whether I would do it all again and spend my hard earned money on another surf camp experience with Planet Surf.

In short, yes I would.

I might venture to one of the other canary islands, France or Spain to see somewhere new, but I would not hesitate to go surfing with Planet surf again.  I won’t pretend that surfing is my new favourite board sports, snowboard still holds that title, but if I ever wanted to get back in the water I’d have no reservations about booking with Planet Surf again.  We had a great time, and would like to thank all the staff for their hospitality and help with this trip.

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