WORDS - Mark Shinn
INTRO - Mark Shinn reflects on the fact there's no place like home, especially when it's hot, windy and the waves are up!
I'm not a great believer in fate, nor of some over seeing deity. For sure there are elements of life that are outside of our control, but I prefer to consider them to be random happenings. It seems to me that most things that happens to us are the result of actions of our own or someone else. I made a conscious decision some years ago to focus all of my energies on kiteboarding and it seemed one of those random happenings meant I was reasonably good at it and could develop it to be my job. But I didn't become a professional by accident and it always upsets me when, upon hearing what I do for a living, people comment 'how lucky you are'. I have undoubtedly been fortunate in that I've enjoyed many years participating and being paid to do what I would have been doing anyway, but I fail to see where luck comes into it.
Having said that it's not been without its costs. I keep a fairly accurate travel diary and, looking over it one New Year some time back, I realised that I hadn't spent more than 14 days in any one country during that year. I'm not going to moan about the hassle of travelling with equipment, or the joys of living out of a suitcase because I'm sure they're 'hardships' that a lot of people would be happy to suffer. The one slight regret I've had in the last years though is the lack of time I've spent at home in Tenerife. I chose to live here long before kiteboarding even popped up on my radar and have recently started to remember the reasons that made me pack my bags and move here in the first place (particularly when trying to re-establish the blood circulation in my fingers after an especially cold session in Holland).
These things in mind I made the decision a few months ago to get back to my roots and spend the majority of my time at home in Tenerife. I've now been here since the beginning of November and life is good. A lot of people ask me why I chose Tenerife out of all the Canary Islands when Gran Canaria is probably windier, Fuerteventura has better waves and Lanzarote is arguably more attractive. In fact a lot of people ask me why I came to the Canary Islands at all?
Top of the list of priorities was year round sun and warm water in Europe. Next was the obvious necessity of copious amounts of wind and waves and, last but not least, I wanted to live somewhere that felt civilized. For me, Tenerife offered the best combination of these factors. I've said over the years that should I find somewhere I like more then I would move on but, having travelled for ten years, I've pretty much given up that search now and am quite sure I'll be here till I've no more interest in the sun and warm weather, ie: I'm not planning on moving in the near future!
I've seen a lot of changes in the island, in particular where I live in the village of El Medano. All the reasons I came here for are still valid but I've realised that the island has so much more to offer. For all the sports I've dabbled in over the last years downhill biking, surfing, SUP, skateboarding, climbing, paragliding, windsurfing, mountain walking - you can find near perfect conditions for all.
However, there's no doubt that the number of low cost airlines and flights coming into Tenerife has made it both easy and cheap to get out here and I've noticed a huge increase in the amount of 'forecast' tourism in the islands now; people watching for a good period and then taking a cheap last minute flight for a couple of days on the water. Well anyway, this wasn't supposed to be an article for the Canary Islands Tourism board, so I should move on to other things.
It has been a busy period in kiting. Andy Yates is PKRA World Freestyle champion, which is amazing in his first full year, so congrats to him. Rob Douglas set a new speed record of 55.65 knots in a piece of water about the same size as my bath tub and Lewis Crathern has been back in the news after jumping Brighton Pier. It's probably good that there's so much happening to keep people entertained because the weather around most of Europe seems to be pretty cold right now. Maybe next time I write this I'll be talking about Lewis jumping land based monuments with a snowkite.
I usually write my column at this time of year sat on a plane on my way home to the UK to spend the festive season with my family. Unfortunately the weather gods conspired against me and Gatwick has been closed. All flights are cancelled. It has been a terrible year for air travel. The Volcanic Ash cloud, the French ATC strike, then the Spanish ATC strike and now the bad weather. 2010 was a good year to dial back on travelling. It's really a shame about not being able to get home today. I guess I'll have to go for a quick session instead as it's 25 knots, the waves are over-head and it's 25 degrees outside right now. In this case you could say that I am lucky!
Find more on Mark and his boards at: www.shinnworld.com
This column is in issue #49
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