Hayling Island’s connection with windsurfing is a long and fruitful one. When young Peter Chilvers attached a freely rotating mast and sail to a makeshift board in 1958 he set in motion a chain of events that still resonates today. Back then Pete’s chosen windsurfing area was close to Fishery Creek – these days you can find windsurfers out having a blast anywhere there’s watery access.
West Beachlands continues to be the most popular launch option – due in part to waves that rumble across the sand bar at the mouth of Langstone Harbour (at certain times of year). When swells disappear the sand bank provides a shallow and flat low tide sailing area – during summer months this can resemble windsurfing locations of much warmer climes. It’s a very different story during winter…
‘Esso Beach’, as it’s commonly referred to by windsurfers, is located next to the oyster beds on the island’s Langstone Harbour flank. Look for the Esso petrol station (hence the nickname) and it’s directly behind. A high tide spot Esso Beach is mellower than sailing off the seafront as a shingle bank blocks the majority of chop making the water flatter. A haven for beginners, intermediates and freestylers Esso Beach can get quite busy – especially during windy summer weekends. Parking can therefore be found across the road – although courtesy should be extended to residents. Crossing the busy main road (with kit) shouldn’t be undertaken without care.
Members of Hayling Island Sailing Club have access to Chichester Harbour windsurfing and Northney Marina slipway still attracts a few sailors for high tide sessions.
Back on the seafront and windsurfing to the left of the Inn On The Beach should be avoided as this is a designated swimming area – marked by a line of yellow buoys. Kitesurfers launch from the beach in front of Hayling Island Golf Club and due care should be given when riders are blasting back and forth. Knowing rules of the road is important but in all cases simply stay out of harm’s way and harmony will remain.
The biggest factor to be aware of when windsurfing on Hayling – in fact, when practicing any form of water sport – is tide. Tide dictates how big shore break will be and how choppy open water sea states are. Those not confident in their abilities should avoid higher waters and seek shelter in the harbours. Experienced riders will no doubt relish full on conditions when gales swing in, however.
Windsurfing Key facts
- Launching from West Beachlands is free – car park charges (March-October) being the only mandatory fee
- Kitesurfers utilise the beach in front of Hayling Island Golf Club – care and courtesy should be taken/given to other water users
- Avoid the swimming area to the right of the Inn On The Beach
- Understand and have up to date info on tides – if you’re unsure then speak to one of the locals about launching
- Esso Beach, located next to the Oyster Beds (in Langstone Harbour), is a good secondary windsurf launch spot at high tide – be aware of crowds in summer.
- Northney Marina slipway and Hayling Island Sailing Club are other options – although a launch fee or membership is required for the sailing club
- The local windsurf (and watersports) shop is Andy Biggs located in West Town – here you’ll find everything you need for getting afloat