Curaçao, former Dutch Caribbean colony of the Netherlands Antilles, may be known for spectacular underwater dive sites as much as its eponymous blue liqueur, but there are plenty of seafaring activities to do on the surface of its cerulean waters as well -- a popular one being windsurfing.
Finding a place to learn to windsurf is easy; there’s only one perfect natural harbor to do so: Spaanse Water, just south of the island's capital, Willemstad. There, just one operation, aptly named Windsurfing Curaçao, offers lessons. Chances are if you’re trying to book through a tour company or hotel, they will direct you to them since they provide everything from the tip of the mast to the bottom of the daggerboard -- all parts of a windsurf board that you’ll learn about when you get out onto the water. They offer private ($63 per person), two-person ($58 per person), and group ($49 per person) lessons, all of which include equipment.
Here's a rundown of what to expect once you arrive:
Get Your Bearings
The only other component needed for windsurfing is, of course, wind. Fortunately, Spaanse Water -- named after the Dutch word for “Spanish” -- is renowned for its fairly consistent, year-round westerly winds. It was here that Spaniards landed in Curaçao in 1499, but there are little remnants of their presence. Today, the seaside region is home to the historic Fort Beekenburg to the south, built by the Dutch in 1703 to protect the harbor, as well as the houses of Dutch celebrities and athletes, and several resorts and yacht clubs.
Windsurfing follows the same principles of sailing, except on a board built for one. Forward momentum is powered by the force of wind captured by the sail, and it’s a windsurfer's job to direct the flow of wind in order to maneuver across the water in a desired direction.
Harnessing the wind -- without falling into the water -- is a true balancing act, made easier with the larger surface area of a wider board. As you learn techniques from your instructor, be mindful of foot placement, upright back posture, and a straight leading arm as you hold the boom. When switching directions, walk the board 180 degrees before holding the mast, position your feet, and then maneuver the other way with the boom. It’s all easier read than done, but it will be all explained by your instructor, and you’ll have plenty of time to practice in a easy natural harbor.
Avoid the Sea Urchins
When practicing your maneuvers around the windsurf board, make sure you take it slowly. While it may get easier over time inside the protected cove, be prepared for much stronger wind gusts beyond the small peninsula on the eastern end. If you don’t have your technique down, you’ll most likely be pushed to the western end of the cove, full of spiky sea urchins. If this happens, don’t worry, you can be towed back to safety with a motorized rubber raft.
Practice Makes Perfect (but just in case it doesn't...)
The Windsurfing Curaçao operation in Spaanse Water isn’t far from the resorts in the Willemstad area, so if you want to continue windsurfing practice, it’s relatively easy to go back on other days during your stay on the island. However, if after one lesson you've decided that windsurfing may not be your thing, here are some other activities for which the area is known:
- Stand-Up Paddleboarding: SUP Curaçao offers tours of the mangroves of Spaanse Water
- ATV Riding: Tour operators like Prins ATV Tours and Eric’s ATV Adventures are both based in Willemstad
- Scuba Diving: With many spectacular dive sites around the island, there are numerous dive shops to bring you there, like Caribbean Sea Sports based in Willemstad, and GO WEST Diving in Westpunt