One thing we have in abundance on our great little island is wind. We have plenty of wind. It makes the country a veritable Mecca for kitesurfers from around the world.
While you might be cursing the wind every time you get on to your bicycle, the wind is against you in the morning and against you on your way home in the evening, for some a good gusty day is the equivalent of a good swell that sends surfers running for their boards, dropping whatever it is they’re doing to head for the beach. Those are Ireland’s kitesurfers, you could say they are cousins to the surfers. They are definitely a breed more suited to our shores.
You can’t deny that the sport of kitesurfing has really ‘taken off’ in this country in recent years. What was once a rare and unusual sight has become common place on all of Ireland’s coastlines. Take a stroll on a windy day along the Dublin coast or out to Sandymount and the sky is dotted with kites, girls and boys in wetsuits taking flight over the choppy waves of the Irish Sea. The same scene can be found across the country, you can see that kitesurfing has in some ways found a natural home in Ireland.
One man who’s been there since the beginning is Francois Colussi. Originally from northern France, Francois began kitesurfing in Brittany back in 1997. It was a revelation for Francoise – “I was used to wind surfing and for me kitesurfing was amazing it allowed me to be absolutely free, I wasn’t tied to a heavy wind surf and sail, I was flying over the waves,” he tells me in a very thick French accent.
Francois found himself in Ireland - “there’s always a girl in the story,” he tells me, and here he found a home. The plentiful wind as well as the unspoilt nature, wide expanses of beaches seemed to Francois the perfect place to pursue his passion for the sport.
Since then his business, a supplier and focal point for the kitesurfing community Pure Magic has gone from strength to strength. “You can get all the equipment for under 2000 euros,” says Francois “After that the wind is free. Ireland has some of the best beaches in the world, it’s like the place is designed for kitesurfing. But not only the sea, there’s plenty of lakes and with the wind they give you a perfect location for kite surfing”. If you don’t want to invest in the equipment yourself, there are lots providers around the country offering Kitesurfing lessons for all levels and abilities and is a very affordable activity for most budgets.
As the sport itself has grown so has the community and all that surrounds it. Just as a surfing community has its own identity, meeting points, music and culture, so does the kitesurfing community. The community has grown to such an extent that the time to give them their own festival came too.
The Battle for the Bay, which took place in Dublin earlier this year, is one of the biggest kitesurfing events in Europe has been firmly established itself as the go-to festival for those who like to soar over the waves on the East coast and is already in its 9th year. More recently however, The Battle for the Lake, already in its 5th year, has brought the kitesurfing festival experience to the West. Battle for Lake is a 3 day festival taking place from 25 – 27 October on Achill Island, Co. Mayo and a great way to celebrate the end of the Summer... or the start of the Autumn!
The festival caters for all ages, all family members whether they kitesurf or not. “It’s really about enjoying the landscape, appreciating the wilds of Achill Island which really is an extraordinary place,” Francois says. For the music lovers there’s plenty on offer as well with a variety of home grown acts such as the Dublin based, gypsy jazz band and The Eskies. Galway’s very own 5-piece multi-instrumentalist Indie/ Folk band, Amazing Apples will also be rocking Achill stage alongside former All Ireland Talent Show contestant and electronic synthesised fiddle player Daithí. The line-up for the weekend also includes the likes of The Pale, Beef Supreme, The Witch Trails and many more.
“There is something for everyone there,” Francois says, “Music, food, dancing, there’s even a sheep show and sheep shearing competition. We’re very much supported by the locals, they love the festival and are extremely welcoming and involved. The location is so special, the first time I went to Achill, for me, coming from France, it was like landing on another planet.”
You might be worried about heading west as the weather closes in, but the forecast is for clement weather and September is usually a mild month for us, we’re overdue our ‘Indian Summer’. “The festival is not weather dependent, we actually want the wind, that’s what we’re there for. It’s really all about getting out and enjoying the landscape and the weather, no matter how it is, we are tough. It’s a very wholesome way to enjoy yourself,” says Francois.
Entry for Friday and Saturday costs €25 per day and weekend tickets for only €40. Camping is in close proximity to the lake at only €6 per person/night. Entry on Sunday is FREE.
Tickets available from Pure Magic stores or theticketfairy.com
Camping must be booked separately through http://www.achillcamping.com/
For ideas to help plan your next Kitesurfing break http://www.discoverireland.ie/ #thisisLIVING