When the Urnersee gets angry, there are no half measures: it gets angry, indeed! Sunday 20 October 2019, the Swiss lake was swept by a South Foehn, with gusts up to 48-50 knots. As usual on these occasions, the spot was crowded with many riders ready to experience a day of pure adrenaline. We were there, and for us it was a full day of windsurfing, spent in good company.
Windsurfing, session report: Isleten, Urnersee, South Foehn - 20/10/2019
On Sunday we returned to the Urnersee, which, with the precision of a Swiss lake ...., exactly one year after the memorable session of October 2018 (read report), granted another highly windy day.
With my friend Adriano we leave from Monza about at 8.00, and at customs in Chiasso we also gather with Marco. Purchased the motorway vignette (which we always recommend to pay by credit card, in order to avoid being victims of the usual Swiss imprecision of customs officers, with exchange rates .....) we enter the Swiss confederation pointing towards the Gotthard tunnel. On the southern slope of the Alps, the sirocco low pressure is responsible of a heavy rain day (even more, on our way back).
After the Gotthard Tunnel, instead, as always happens in these situations, weather becomes nicer and nicer, and, at times, sunny. Air temperature 23-24 degrees (thanks to the Foehn thermal effect)
Driving along the coast of the lake from South to North, from Seedorf to Isleten, we begin to examine the situation in the various spots, immediately noticing some significant signs in front of Isleten Seegarten spot. In the first spots, south of the lake (read spot review), the wind appears gusty, strong, but still acceptable, with a choppy but not impossible water surface.
Arriving at the main spot of Isleten (at the restaurant Seegarten), instead the wind appears well spreaded, but very strong, and it sprays the lake surface (Isleten's anemometer reaches up to 48 knots and the water spray washes the parking lot in front of the Seegarten Restaurant), with a very sized chop of about one meter. Here we also meet our friend Paolo Prete, a "Zurich guy" from Rome .... (who had launched the session proposal in the Waterwind forum), recently gone to Brandon Bay, Ireland. Together we decide what to do.
Marco remains to try Isleten main spot immediately, while we prefer to go first to try the southernmost spot of Isleten, near the marina (in the review, called Isleten spot 1).
I rig the Ezzy Elite 3.7 2016 (I have no smaller sails), which I combine with the Tabou Da Curve 80 TE 2016, set as trhruster. Adriano comes out with 4.2 (his smallest sail) and with a Fanatic 79 quad; Paolo comes out with a Severne 3.7 with a 85 liter Novenove thruster board. 5/4 wetsuit for me, and neoprene cap (but the conditions are still quite comfortable).
In short, the session in the southernmost spot has not been satisfying. In front of the spot beach, the wind is often relatively weak and unstable, making it difficult to exit (and even return with small equipment). At 100 meters from the shore, the wind enters quite well, but even here it is really strong, and increases more and more in intensity going towards Fluelen, the village on the opposite shore. In many moments, my 3.7 is great, with crazy accelerations in bursts. The water level is chopped (already too much, for my taste), but not impossible.
After an hour here, noticing that in front of the Isleten main spot in the North the wind no longer nebulizes the lake surface (the anemometer now marks gusts at only 39 knots ...), we decide to move to the main leeward spot. And here, the show is staged!
We go out, all three of us, at around 14.00 again with the same equipment, starting from the windward beach, facing the lawn. In few words, it was a very demanding exit from the physical point of view (the undersigned has resisted in the water no more than an hour and a half), but full of adrenaline. The wind here is strong and spreaded over the whole lake. With the 3.7 I am correctly powered only in the lulls .... The gusts are real nice, from which I have always defend myself by sailing close-hauled a lot. Contrary to what I thought, therefore, after the first rides I find myself very upwind. In the water, I say to myself: "today, it is better just to jibe"! Yeah, but if jibing near the shore is still reasonable, jibing offshore, both due to the violence of the wind and the overpowering, and to the really rough water level, is a almost impossible (at least for me). As for the water level, here, in fact, the chop is much more formed, offshore, but also quite messy (only leeward at the river beach, the waves are a little more regular - see video).
Jumping on this chop, given the speed, is frequent, with even good high jumps, also considering that, once in the air, the sail, even if small, due to the strong wind, acts as a wing. In the water, we meet each other several times with Adriano and Paolo. When I begin to understand that forces are beginning to fail, I start thinking about re-entry.
Back on the ground, I go to take some photos and videos of the crazy people who have gone out at the torrent beach, including the ever-present local Balz Muller. Enjoy the photo and video galleries at the end of the article.
The show in front of this beach is always exciting. I notice small sails (even 3.0), and many, however, overpowered. Despite the difficulties of the session, many show remarkable technical skills, with jibes at full speed, jumps, and forward loops. Maybe, next time I'll come out from this beach too, which, at least near the shore, seems to have a more regular and interesting water level.
At about 17.00, after a nice sandwich, we leave, and we fall back into the torrential rain that awaits us south of the Gotthard. But the pleasant chat with Adriano, as always, makes the journey, of almost two hours to go home, quicker.
To close the chronicle of this day, some reflections. I believe that there are more beautiful spots and conditions than those encountered at the Urnersee. A nice Peler at Lake Garda, or a proper session in Sardinia, at Coudouliere or at Gruissan (not to mention other spots around the world) are unmatched, such as wind quality and water level. I also believe that, if you want to manage the South Foehn decently to the Urnersee, and, like me, you weigh 70 kgs, you must have a sail of 3.0-3.4 square meters, and a board of 70 liters. But if there's nothing better around, or if you live nearby, and you want to spend a day, thinking to be at Pozo Izquierdo, you can come to the Urnersee. Perhaps the conditions are more enjoyable when the foehn on this lake does not exceed 30 knots. But we never happened to find those conditions, so far! Ah, Ah, Ah!
Hang loose. Fabio
Click here, to enjoy the slidegallery of the afternoon at the downwind spot (torrent beach).
Click here, to enjoy the slidegallery of the morning at the upwind spot.
A short selection of photos of the day
The video of the day