Colombia, terms such as drug cartels, guerrilla and terrorist fighting for land shoots involuntarily through the head and beads of sweat on the forehead, normally that would have been the case also with me when I was planning my trip to the north of the fourth-largest and second most populous country in South America. Ever since my first attempt at a trip to Colombia failed four years ago because of my expired passport, I started the research about the Bolivarian spot and my motivation increased with expanded knowledge about the country and several e-mails of some Colombian friends. Colombia travelers told me exclusively positive, very positive.
Now I am sitting at last in one of the Avianca air taxis towards Bogotá, left and right next to me the almost 280 km / h takeoff speed of the Airbus A 320 pressed Gollito Estredo and Diony Guadagnino into their seats. The two are invited from the Nautica Velero Windsurf Center as star guests for a Colombian national windsurfing contest to the north of Colombia, to Puerto Velero in direct catchment area of the city Barranquilla. The two had already been at the Tripp four years ago, when they extended their planned four day trip by a good three weeks, which fueled the curiosity to this spot only further.
Prior to our arrival in Barranquilla we still had a few hours stay in Bogotá, a rather cold stay. With all the research on the windsurfing spots, hazards, safety, population and geography of Colombia I completely overlooked the situation of the capital. The fact that the ten degrees outside temperature came from normal weather and not a temporary phenomenon and that the city of Bogota with its more than 8 million inhabitants is situated at the extraordinary altitude of 2640 meters above sea level, I found out at the Wifi Hotspots at Bogota Airport. Five hours of Bogotá and another one hour flight later we finally arrived in Barranquilla, industrial city, the headquarters of the Avianca Airlines and birthplace of Colombia's most famous world star, Shakira. Ray Emiliani and Carlos Gomez, owner of the Nautica Velero Center waited already for us and several hundred kilos of luggage, since Diony and Gollito should perform in all three disciplines of windsurfing, freestyle, wave and slalom. Could the spot really be so perfect for freestyle and slalom and offer good waves at the same time ? It would still take a night before I could finally convince me of it.
But first we took the 35 minutes drive over colombian highways, heading Puerto Colombia, a little town close to Barranquilla and only a few kilometers away from our Windsurfspot of the next days. One big difference to Colombia´s neighbor Venezuela caught my attention immediately, caused by the much higher prices for gasoline, the colombian people live with much less traffic on their roads. After a good breakfast and full of motivation at the following morning we could head to Puerto Velero, and I got the first glimpse of this part of Colombia in daylight. Colorful houses, even more colored buses, which, it seemed to me, each minute passed at bus stops, and after the toll for using the Autopista, we turned into the big bay of Puerto Velero. Already at the first sight of the spot the potential of this windswept patch of earth was visible. A huge flat water bay where the wind blows offshore, not even 150 meters away the Wavespot where some nice Waves were already breaking, waiting that one of the still very few Colombian Windsurfers starts to take his turns into them or use them as ramps for some decent Big Airs. Despite the good 3 million inhabitants of Barranquilla, windsurfing is still almost completely unknown, and the extremely high wind potential only makes perhaps a dozen wind sport enthusiasts happy. The partly lack of infrastructure, the electricity is produced by local generators and fresh water in barrels only disturbed us little, mass tourism and overcrowding you won´t have to fear that way. Especially after the extremely warm welcome of the entire Colombian windsurfing community, which was waiting already at the Windsurf place for their stars Diony and Gollito to shake hands, to be photographed with them and, above all, for a short time later, measure, after the official registration for the contest and the skippers meeting, on the water with them, too.
Even though the slalom races in front of the eyes of the national press, which were won by the Venezuelan Pro´s the fun on the water was visible and increased when Guadagnino and above all Worldchampion Estredo performed some of their latest Freestyle Moves right onto the Beach, almost onto the feet of the spectators on the beach, also contributed to an extremely relaxed atmosphere, which should continue in the evening in a stylish beach bar Puerto Colombia's. Only the ever increasing swell, which sent a 2 meter wave after wave against the rocks of the beach, made us a little nervous, since we haven´t had the right conditions at Puerto Velero´s Wave Spot yet.
Already at the early morning Spotcheck of the following day it was all over again. There was no wind moving the watersurface, which lay once again under a grey, clowdy sky. Exactly during our stay in Colombia the biggest Low Pressure zone in the entire year decided to take course straight to northern Colombia and stay there for a while. Despite the weather the atmosphere was still great and thewindspeeds still were sufficient for Slalom Racing and one or the other Freestyle demonstration by Worldchampion Estredo and all in front of some spectacular Landscapes. Hills coloured red by the sandstones, where one or the other Mansion could be seen inbetween the woods, a few fishermen with their small boats cruising into the Lagoon and behind the Slalom field, to once they got ashore hang their almost empty nets onto the Cabanas to dry.
But what about the waves ? How excellent the Spot can be for Freestyle and Slalom we could see already, but actually we came to Puerto Velero to see its quality in all three Windsurf disciplines. At late afternoon the first little waves managed to roll onto the Beach, which in most parts is covered with driftwood, leftovers from the last bigger swells, of Puerto Velero´s Wavespot, located only a short walk away from the Nautica Velero Windsurf Center. Diony was the first to hit the water with his 5,0 sail, he was the one waiting for the swell to arrive all day long. I can´t remember how many times he told me about the great wave conditions the last time he went to Puerto Velero in the past weeks. Even if the wind was just strong enough for his Freestyle Board, he managed to produce some massive spray off the faces, which started to build up steeper and bigger each couple of minutes, while Estredo decided to lift his Freestyle Moves into the second floor. The few Colombian Windsurfers who shared the Waves with Guadagnino and Estredo quickly chose to get back to the Beach, join the crowds there and follow the Show of the two Venezuelan Top Riders. Rarely they get to see Windsurfing at this Level on their Homespot, yet. Once the two Pros put their Gear onto the Beach for a little rest, the Colombian locals ran into the sea to catapult themselves into forward and backward rotations and even Airchachos. The goal to push the Windsurfsport in Colombia by inviting the two Top Sailors surely has been achieved by Carlos Gomez and Ray Emiliani
After a succesful and windy day we finally headed for the first time to Barranquilla City. The Colombians call the industrial City one of the most unattractive of the country. Even more I was surprised about the infrastructure, how clean the City was, the countless Shopping Malls and the organization of the City which haven´t seen in any other latin american city before. After so many positive impressions I started to ask myself how my next Trips to Cali, Medellin and, above all, Cartagena might be. Certainly it has not been the last time that I visited this country, this I knew already at my Arrival to Bogota. Especially Cartagena, only one hour drive from Barranquilla, which is called one of the most historic and beautiful southamerican city, will be visited in the very near future.
The fact that Gollito Estredo won the Slalom Event in front of Diony Guadagnino ( In Freestyle only colombian citizens were allowed to compete) didn´t really matter in the end, what we kept in our minds was a, despite the not ideal weather conditions, great Stay in Colombia.
Travel to Barranquilla
You can fly in to Bogotá from almost all important international Airports, from Bogota diverse Airlines take off heading Barranquilla and Cartagena of Santa Marta. Windsurf Equipment is no problem but better check the different rates for sportsgear
In Columbia you pay in Peso, in some parts also the US Dollar is accepted, which otherwise can be changed in some of the countless Money Exchange offices
Wind Center and Accomodation
For Accomodation, Equipment Rental and Storage, Car Rental and /or Transfers get your Infos from Carlos Gomez and Ray Emiliani
The windiest time at the colombian North Coast between Barranquilla and Cartagena is from January until May
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