Destinations

Active holidays: Beginners will warm to Isle of Wight

How do you know if you’re any good at adventure sports until you try? For clients who aren’t sure and may be nervous about booking, say, a windsurfing trip to the Canary Islands, it may be prudent to suggest they try a nibble before biting off more than they can chew. And for a bite-sized portion of adrenaline sports, you could do worse than go to the Isle of Wight.

Granted, it’s not as glamorous as the Canaries, but the Isle of Wight is fast gaining a reputation as an ideal playground for adventure sports beginners. With its expansive sandy beaches and mellow swells, the island provides perfect conditions for surfing, sailing, kite-surfing and windsurfing.

The north of the island is the best place for beginners. Southwesterly winds and smooth waters mean many novice windsurfers find themselves able to stand up straight away. Ryde Sands is a good place to start. It has a gently sloping, sandy beach, where you can go a long way out and still touch the bottom.

Once you have progressed from being an absolute beginner, it’s only a short drive to beaches on the south coast, where you’ll find more challenging swells. Brook beach is particularly good for intermediates, while nearby Fields and Compton beaches attract surfers and kiters all year round. Wightwater Adventure Watersports has more than 20 years’ experience and offers courses in surfing, body-boarding and windsurfing, catering for beginners and advanced boarders.

But you don’t have to get wet to enjoy yourself here. The Isle of Wight is also a hot spot for mountain biking, with more than 200 miles of trails. Whether you’re after a speedy single track through the trees, undulating coastal paths or something gentler, there are plenty of tracks to choose from – and all of them come in spectacular surroundings.

Clients that want a higher perspective should try paragliding. Demand for the activity has grown hugely in the past 10 years, and thanks to its thermal wind patterns, the island is becoming a favourite with paragliders looking to earn their wings.

The High Adventure Paragliding School has been teaching beginners since 1981 and is located in the grounds of a 25-room hotel, which also caters for families.

As with surfing, there is an abundance of good flying days owing to the low-pressure weather systems over the island – conditions you can often struggle to find on the mainland – and a choice of 12 launch sights within a 10-mile radius. Indeed, if the weather is not up to scratch in one place, you will only ever need to drive for 30 minutes to reach a better spot – as is the case with many of the sports on offer here.

IOW active hols off road cycling 240306Testimony to the Isle of Wight’s place on the extreme sports map is White Air – the annual adventure sports festival, which takes place this year on October 26-29.

Now in its ninth year, the event attracts some of the best board and BMX riders, mountain-bikers, skaters and adrenaline junkies in the world. What’s more, it’s the perfect place for spectators to get stuck in, with taster sessions available for many of the sports on display.

Getting to the Isle of Wight is cheap and easy, with Wightlink Ferries – the sponsor of White Air – operating regular services to and from Portsmouth, Lymington and Southsea. The journey takes about 35 minutes on the regular boat and as little as 15 minutes on the high-speed catamarans, if clients leave their car at home.

Wightlink marketing director Janet Saville said: “The island is well known for sailing, but not many people realise just how good it is for extreme sports.

“The weather is also a lot better than on mainland Britain.”

Maybe it’s time more people gave the Isle of Wight a try.

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