Reflections on Tiree
A trip to Tiree always starts with the journey getting there. A long drive to Oban that culminates winding the small roads of loch Lomond before travelling along the banks of loch Etive. As you come in towards Oban you can see seals playing in the calm waters enjoying the sun.
The landscape in incredibly beautiful and very dramatic while Oban oozes both the charm of a small fishing village as well as the drama of industry as the Caledonian Macbryne ferry eases its way in to dock… a smooth and quick transition before it sets sail once again with multiple intrepid kitesurfers on board. Destination Tiree!
On the whole people are not quite sure what they should expect from a holiday on Tiree, or even if they are going to survive the extreme wind and waves that Tiree so often presents. Not only that but having embarked on a journey so far North how cold will it be!?
It’s a stunning journey heading out to the islands and you follow a fairly land locked route sailing up the sound of Mull. Waterfalls cascade down from the highgrounds and crash in to the sea. A few beautiful houses can be seen from the ferry, but these islands are very lightly populated and its more a case of watching out for wildlife like whales, seals and dolphins.
Once you arrive to Tiree you find yourself on a low lying island just 9 miles long. There are a handful of beaches that are sandy and you can find them on each side of the island giving you a variety of choices for places to ride no matter what the wind direction. You can pick your beaches for smaller or larger swell!
I come to Tiree to run adventure kitesurfing holidays initially to bring individual kiters together to unite in one group and create a comradeship. Often multiple days are forecasted with a minimum of 30mph and it is so exciting to go share the shred. I offer coaching to really optimize your time on the water.
This year we ran two trips. One for crazy adults and the other for families with really young children.
As you can imagine the first trip was sold out, but the second on one family were crazy enough to join us. In return they got 1:1 coaching and I got to ride!
There are so many moments from the trip that Id like to share, but I’ll pick my favourite from each week.
In the Action week for adults the dawn raid stands out far in my mind….
A dubious wind forecast for 2 days ensured we were up at 5.30am for a dawn raid with wind forecasted for 22mph. We convoyed to Gott Bay still shrouded by darkness. Our headlights lit up a myriad of frogs as they happily leaped along the road. We swerved to miss then and our tyres sent puddles high high up along the field edges. The light rain fell like specks of gold in the full beam. At the beach a glimmer of light came in to the sky, but it was the headlights that provided enough light to be able to rig up our 7m-9m kites. Gav hit the water first before the clock struck 7am and the rest of the crew were out moments later. We rode for 2 glorious hours over head high waves and jumping like a misfits. Al darkslided across the flat water between the waves but there was a slim chance of unhooking for the s bend crew. Sue charged through the waves for her second time ever and Tim contentedly snoozed from the safety of his van. Paul threw down his front rolls while Craig and Ed went for hangtime magic. Finn my son conducted the show from the beach and Chris was on hand to catch the kites. When the wind dropped at the flick of a switch we piled back in to the beach ready for coffee & bacon sandwiches at the Cobbled Cow cafe.
During the no wind periods the crew bought any missing pieces of kit from Wild Diamond. Broken fins were replaced and a little bit of extra neoprene was added to Ed’s collection. We hired surfboards from Blackhouse Watersports and took our own paddle boards to Balephuil. The sun shone down and we had so much water time through surfing, paddleboarding, wetsuitless swimming and kitesurfing that a day never went past without feeling all the E’s… energized / exhilarated / exhausted. A cold beer or glass of wine were often sunk to finish each day.
Coaching on Tiree is by far the most challenging, but often the most rewarding too. It is not easy to push the freestyle limits up here, so we have to adapt to the conditions and embrace each day. When the wind hits around 20mph its time to go go go on the unhooked tricks, but while its pumping 30mph its time to nail those darkslides. When it hits 35mph lets beat the Woo PB’s and slash some waves on waveboards. When the wind drops a Jo Wilson Kitesurfing Coaching Holiday wouldn’t be a Jo Wilson Coaching Holiday without the obligatory beach circuits, random runs or lengthy stretches too!!
The friendships, laughter, sessions and banter are endless! Card games in the evenings to debates over poppadum’s and mango chutney! Seriously, Tiree is a place that EVERY kitesurfer with a sense of adventure should visit and embrace!!
The family holiday was ace! Where could be better for children then an unpolluted island, with almost no traffic & noise. There are no roundabouts, traffic lights and barely even a phone signal. There are rock pools, huge natural sand pits, cows, birds, sheep, tractors, diggers, calls from seals and a daily airplane. You can put your baby down for their nap without fear of them over heating or you can let your toddler run wild and free with the wind on their backs on the beach. There is no concerns of sunburn or over heating and the holiday houses are ready for us. They are so well insulated and warm at the end of each day, perfect for making the children sleepy after their bath!
Tom, Sav and Barney were the only family to book on to this first ever Family Friendly Kitesurfing Holiday and they were lucky enough to each score 1:1 coaching all week.
Sav is an inspiration and Tom a charger! Baby Barney is a 4 month old legend happy to sleep in the van or pram so Sav and Tom could build confidence, rebuild fitness and nail all their tricks.
In almost 3 weeks there were a handful of days with no wind, but on the whole we were dealt an incredible hand. The air temperature did not drop below 14 degrees and the water temperature was pretty warm to. Sav, Tom, Chris and I swam around a little island with no wetsuits and seals popped their heads out metres from us to see what was going on. You could happily be in your flip flops on the beach and a 5mm wetsuit on the water. Tiree really is the sunniest British Isle and we managed 3 bbq’s in 3 weeks.
As we arrived to the ferry port on the last day there was a completely different vibe from on the way out. The guarded barriers of people were broken down, eye contact was made at every opportunity and we settled in to seats next to each other on the ferry. Whether part of the Jo Wilson Coaching Holidays or independently travelling we were all united!! We had all had thrived, not survived on Tiree and all had our tales to tell! The glorious ferry journey back past the waterfalls and unpopulated islands was full of chatter and laughter – friends now who will remember this trip forever!
Next year we hope to spend both September and half of October on the island running a Wild & Windy Tiree Series of kitesurfing holidays to include the Freestyle Coaching Weeks, Tough on Tiree Weeks for wave junkies & family friendly weeks too. There is arguably no better place to be in Autumn and we hope to see you there next year!!