When I set out to do a interview section for the blog, I immediately thought in Hugo Miravalles. At his school I took my first steps on windsurfing and there is probably where I spent more time in the water. He’s Asturian and has lived in Tarifa for many years, from where he runs the school Laduna, Located in Punta Paloma.

Hugo has traveled all over the world, competed, trained alongside the best windsurfers on the circuit, but above all he enjoys Windsurfing as a few. Undoubtedly, it is one of the references of Windsurf in Tarifa.

Here you can find our chat about his story and his preferences as a rider, we also talk about Tarifa and finally about his thoughts as an instructor and how he runs his windsurfing school. I invite you to have a look to his web site and to see the many options you can find at Laduna. Thanks for reading it, I hope you enjoy this interview!!!

The first steps

How it all started? How did you get to Windsurf and to Tarifa? Tell us a little about your story.

HM – Well, in the world of windsurfing I started through my father. When I was 6 years old he bought a windsurf gear and wherever we were going on vacation, he was carrying his giant board on top of the car. I also started to do a course in a swamp called Trasona, in Asturias. Which nowadays functions as a high performance training center of canoeing. The school was owned by a young guy from Gijón, who had the gear there to teach the courses and every time he had classes on weekends he took me with him.

I, with my 6 years, wanted to get on the board too. What happens is that at that time there were no sails for children and the gear was giant. However, I always found a way to get a board to paddle or do things. As soon as I could grab a boom, even if I stayed above the head, I always did it and tried to go with my father.
Then, at age 8, my father got a slightly smaller sail and bought me a gear. A Ten Cate Beacher board that could measure about 3.80m with a 4m Bic sail, that was the smallest sail at the moment, they were called ” Tormentines “.

The north

We began to move in different areas between Asturias and Leon (areas in the north of Spain). We went a lot to Barrios de Luna which is a swamp right on the Cantabrian mountain range, where it usually blow thermal winds and it is protected from everywhere. There I remember to be a lot of times lying on the board. Crying, until my father came to take me out, because the wind was rising and I couldn’t hold the sail. We used to sleep in tents, I have very good memories of that time. We also started going to the sea, to the area of ​​Rodiles and the lagoon of Misiego. There I started to hook on the harness and improving a little.

Going south…

Subscribe to the blogThen we decided to come to the area of ​​Andalusia because there was windier. We were in Huelva and Matalascañas, until, when I was about 12 or 13 years old, we arrived for the first time to Tarifa. It was at that moment when we started to sail with short boards and to buy more modern material and everything began to evolve. From there, we used to come every summer to Tarifa, sometimes during easter too.

And that’s when I started to improve and to compare myself with other windsurfers. There was also some guys my age as Victor Diaz and it all started to make sense, of course he was already super hooked on the sport. From 8 to 13-14 I went all weekends to the beach and, also, all summer to windsurfing, was my maximum addiction.

From 15 I left it a bit and started to surf, because my father did not sail very much and of course, you need a car to be able to windsurf. I did a lot of surfing until 21, then I could finally have a car and I decided to go back to the old gear and come to Tarifa to see what happens. I met a lot of people I knew and I stayed all summer working in different schools. And so, while I was studying, I spent summers in Tarifa. When I realized it, I had spent 4 or 5 seasons here, and then, when I graduated in 2007, I decided to start my own company.

We started with a Kite school and only one board for windsurfing initiation, we were gradually evolving until we can find what Laduna is today, with gear for rental, Windsurf, Kite, SUP classes, a little bit of everything.

Hugo the windsurfer

The first one is easy, slalom, freeride, wave o freestyle? :-)

Hugo Miravalles - waveHM – Well, if we talk about windsurfing types I prefer waves, no doubt. Wave riding is one of the things I like the most, and surfing is one of my favorite sports. I also practiced a lot of Slalom, since Tarifa has unequaled conditions to practice this discipline.

Riders from all over the world come to live here, world cup riders, so you can improve a lot sailing with people of the top world ranking. I spent several years training with them and a couple of them competing as well. I participated in championships of France and Spain.

It is very beautiful, but since it takes a lot of time and it is also a lot of money to move from here to there, I couldn’t combine it with school and family so I left it. But hey, I keep sailing a lot in Slalom and, of course, in waves, that’s what I do most.
I also practice Freeride due to the school and for some brands that come here to test the sails, so I sail with them to test the gear. What I don’t do is Freestyle, that is a long way off, it is extremely difficult. My wife, Maria Jose, started with Freestyle and then hooked up to waves, but I do three or four badly done moves, I will never get into the Freestyle hehehe

What do you like the most about windsurfing?

HM – All of it!! The first thing is that every day is different, you never find the same conditions. Therefore, when practicing moves or riding waves, you are always learning, no matter what level you have.

As I usually explain to my students. There’re good days and bad days since you learn until you are an expert and that capacity for continuous learning is the thing that I like the most, you never get tired. It is like life itself, you have to know how to deal with bad days and enjoy good days. Maybe that’s one of the things that attracts me the most from windsurfing.

Hugo Miravalles

Also the capacity to travel, being able to sail in different places and especially the difficulty, in comparison with the Kite for example, that also I practice it, but much less than the Windsurf. I feel a little boring Kitesurfing, in Windsurf it seems that you never touch the bottom, you are always learning and you always have good and very strong feelings.

I know that you are an athlete and you like other disciplines (kite, mountain biking, hiking), which one do you choose the first?

HM – Yes, I practice a lot of sport. What discipline do I choose? The truth is that it goes a bit depending on the conditions of each day. There are very good days for Surfing, good days for Windsurfing, very good days for cycling. The bike is more a complement, I like it a lot because I do dowhill and enduro. Also lots of road cycling to be in shape for those days that are good to windsurf. If I have to choose with which to stay … where there is a good session of Surf tubes or Windsurf with giant waves, I would stay with either of these two.

What is your best move and which one has cost you more to get it?

HM – Mmmmm … in terms of moves I remember that the one that cost me the most was the Air Gibe, the Volcano. I spent a whole summer until I got it right, until I nailed it. It was also the move with which I smashed my knee in 2000 and I almost got rid from sports for ever. Luckily, thanks to a very good operation and rehabilitation I recovered, but it is an injury that I suffer until today, I have my knee is shattered since that. That was probably the one that cost me the most.

Also the Shove it is a move that I love, super nice, and I never got to control it at all. I had a time when I went to Brazil, to Jeri, that I got it, but here in Tarifa it costs me a great job unless there are waves, but outside the wave, jumping a Shove it or a Shaka are moves that some times I got them, but I could not do it very easily.

In fact, I don’t like falling too much, I’m one of those windsurfers who don’t like falling off the board, I like to sail and not to fall. Maybe that’s why I don’t like Freestyle, because you are all the time falling. I think that I also have that feeling because of the skateboarding, I fell all my life doing it and I’m not looking for this any more. In Windsurf I like to sail all the time, the tricks I like to practice are those that allow me to do that, don’t fall, I have them very well trained.

I think windsurfing is a very demanding sport for everyone, regardless the level you have there is always something to learn. Do you agree? What do you still have to learn?

HM – Yes well, as I said it before .. I have everything to learn, me and any World Cup rider.

I’m lucky to know great windsurfing champions. All those you can imagine, I could chat with them or sail with them and, for example, I can talk about Robby Naish and how in every session he has in Hokipa you can see him just like when he was 20.

Hugo Miravalles

You know, with the same face of enjoyment when you finish a good aerial or when you catch a great wave or when you leave the water after a good session. You are continuously learning things. I always say the same thing, just now I’m beginning to understand the gybe and it starts to make sense to me. It is so, every move you make, any jump, you will always learn something because it is always different, these are the most beautiful things.

I have learned a lot in my Slalom stage, it was something that I did not know very thoroughly and you can learn a lot about the design of the sails, the masts, the fins, the boards, the gear, you learn a lot. At the end it is a technology that is continually progressing, so you learn a lot. At a sailing level, there are many hours in which you share a lot, different techniques that you use to practice different moves. Windsurfing is a sport in which you share a lot among all.

You have experienced the great evolution of materials in recent years. Where do you think this evolution is more noticeable when you sail?

HM – You notice it absolutely in everything, really. Now everything is much simpler, rigging the sails, their adjustment, or the facility to plan or make moves with the new boards, to surf or to turn. The sails are also lighter, very easy to rig them at the first try. In the old times you had to play with them, pulling the uphaul or the downhaul to see how it performs well, now is easier. All the gear as a whole thing has evolved a lot and continues to evolve, but especially the initiation gear. Now since you start until you are an intermediate windsurfer (planning, waterstarting or start to jump), it is much faster than before.

Do you have a person that you like to follow? Because of how he or she sails or because of what you can learn from him/her?

HM – You learn from everyone. From students who come to initiation class to professional world champions. You are always learning and they always have something new to tell you.

I like to follow a lot of people from Maui, Hawaii. Especially I have a person who does many sports like me. His name is Niccolo Porcela and also his brother Francisco, I was lucky to meet them when we were there. They are traveling all the time, not only doing Windsurf or Kitesurf.

Tarifa

You may be interested in – Windsurf in Tarifa

You have traveled and you know many spots, some of them very famous (Maui, Cape Town, Mauritius) Why Tarifa?

HM – First thing is that Tarifa is in Europe, in Spain, the country of which I am. Tarifa also gathers a little of everything. You can do everything, it is close to big cities, it is perfect for biking, perfect for flying (paragliding), you can surf too, you can sail, there are people from all over the world and also, because I have my business here, of which I live. I thought about living in different places I’ve been, but the comforts you have in Europe you don’t have them on an island or any other famous spot. Yes, there are places that are ok and have better conditions or better life than here, but you are not in your country.

How do you see the evolution of Tarifa in recent years? Now it isn’t the mecca for the “mad” windsurfers anymore and it changed to be a massive tourist destination. Do you think the kite has had anything to do with it?

HM – Tarifa has changed, since I came here, has changed a lot. One of the things that has made it change is Kitesurfing. It has become a privileged destination. People come from all over the world, it’s windy every day and it’s very safe. There are people all year, yes it has changed so much.

The growth of professional riders living here has also been seen again. Years ago almost all the top guys lived in Tarifa and have moved to places with better waves or better conditions. However, for Slalom, all the strong riders of the world come here to train. As the Dutchman Ben van der Steen (NED57), Ludivic Jossin (E12) and several others who have been living in this area for years because the conditions we have are great.

At the tourist level, of course, it becomes trending. There are surfers, the people come to see, there are local party and good atmosphere at night. It’s a bit like California in America. Everyone wants to go there because of the atmosphere, the good ambience over there. You have who come to sail and who come to see what’s going on. I see it ok and very positive.

What do you think about the security risk represented by the massification of Tarifa in August? Shouldn’t be necessary to think about establishing Kite / Wind, Schools / Free Sailing areas, or similar?

HM – Yes, in August it is massified. Everything is crowded, roads, restaurants, gas stations, the beach. Kitesurfing? It’s a bit the level of culture and knowledge people has. It happened the same with Ski and Snow in its day.

Nowadays people begin to have a little more care to know what they have in their hands. I speak about Kitesurfers and Windsurfers, both have to know where they can get in and where not.

Hugo Miravalles

There are areas in Tarifa, of course there are. The problem is people respecting them. Turning this into a police state, with people on the beach stopping you would be crazy too. Now it’s crazy. But especially with the professionals who are working on the beach, we are trying to generate an atmosphere of respect and care for each other. It is true that August becomes a little bit out of control.

There are people who don’t have the level, nor the desire to learn, nor anything, that breaks that little control that we get to have the rest of the months. For that cases should be the public authorities who should control it.

This year we created an association and tried to do something. It seems that it has improved a little bit in terms of security. So much remains to be done and isn’t only in the hands of beach professionals, it’s also in the hands of the administrations.

What is the best time to visit this spot thinking about weather, wind conditions, overcrowding, etc.?

HM – I really like June, September and October, I would definitely put those ones. Then in March, April and May is also fine although still a bit cold. No doubt June seems incredible to me.

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Laduna

Tell me about your school Laduna.

HM – La Duna was born in 2007, always had different names and was a bit of a mess. In fact, La Duna has been called that way since last year, until then it was called Volare School. We are located next to the beach of Valdevaqueros. It’s an incredible spot, especially for Freeride or intermediate and initiation levels.

It is very protected from the waves when the west wind comes (Poniente). When the east wind comes (Levante) take us to the beach of Punta Paloma, towards La Duna, so we are protected in both winds, it is a paradisiacal place. Also in front of the beach there is a lagoon to teach children or for the first steps. It’s spectacular, very very good.

What are the advantages of school learning versus just jumping in the water. Or being taught by a colleague who “knows a lot”?

HM – The great advantages of learning in a professional school, above all, the gear. The lessons you’re receiving  are highly tested and perfected. The instructors will explain you what you have to know so you don’t make mistakes. Especially that ones that can hurt you.

But the gear above all, each person is given his own gear, depending on their weight, wind conditions, etc. You will always go with the perfect one.

In Windsurf 50% of your learning and fun is the gear. If you do not have the right one, no matter what level you have, you have many options to fail and not be able to enjoy the sport at all.

Hugo Miravalles

The easiest and the hardest to teach. Why?

HM – The easiest thing I would say is initiation, the first class. Everyone has a great success, goes back and forth, so the feeling of evolution is incredible. At first you do not know anything, you feel like a dizzy duck on the board. Then you starts balancing with the sail and you see you evolve fast, so that is quite easy to teach.

The hardest? It’s difficult for me to teach the planing. Because it depends a lot on the feelings of the rider and not so much on the technique. It depends on the rider to have some feelings about how to make the sail pull and push on the board.
The technique is relatively easy, but it needs some skill as well. Maybe that lesson about planing is the one that costs me the most. I can also tell you that there are people who don’t need it. As soon as you give them the right gear to plan, they do it. But there are other ones that cost them a lot. Undoubtedly that is the most complicated part.

Ohhh and the gybe! The gybe also needs a lot of skill. Now that I think about it, I do not know if I don’t put gybing before planing. But for sure between that two you have the biggest difficulty.

What do you think is the key move. That one everyone should try to learn as soon as possible to enjoy windsurfing?

HM – The key move to enjoy this sport is clear. I think everyone thinks the same, it’s the waterstart. Knowing how to get out from the water allows you to sail with smaller boards, bigger sails and will allow you to start planing because the material will run. The waterstart is the key move in this sport.

How long does someone need to start to windsurf decently?

HM – The time to learn to windsurf perfectly depends a lot on the skill of the people. I have had students who learned to plan in 4 days, hooked to the harness, with a short board and doing waterstart. Very skillful people who starts and gets it. An average? I would say that a year with today’s gear and practicing on weekends. Spending time, in a year you can get to plan and start gybing and that stuff.

But of course, windsurfing is 80% practice and 20% instruction. Practice is as important as instruction, you can’t do anything practicing all the time or having lessons every day. 80/20, that is the relationship that I establish.

¿It’s expensive learning to windsurfing?

HM – No, I do not consider it expensive. A 5 day course that allows you to be able to rent material and move around for yourself costs 250 euros. I do not consider it expensive, for learning a sport during 5 days. I do not find it expensive at all.

Then it’s like everything, for second hand gear you can find all prices. But for 500 euros or 1000 euros you can get a gear to start. There are boards for 100 euros, very cheap. Of course you won’t be at the top performance, they are old boards, but you can sail. If you want to windsurf you can do it.

Perhaps the most complicated thing about windsurfing is not money. It’s the ability to transport the gear, you need a car to transport everything, a garage to keep the gear in your house, etc.

Hugo Miravalles

If you are starting is a little more complex. Unless you live on the beach or work with a club, like us, and have your stuff there.

How do you choose your instructors? Is there any training you have to have to be an instructor?

HM – With the instructors I always have a face to face first. I don’t usually hire people online even if they send me their resumes, unless they are recommended by someone I know. Just listening to them or seeing a little bit what they do I can have an idea. Actually most of my instructors are taught by me. It’s me who is at the beginning teaching them my way of doing things.

I have a special way of teaching. Different from most of the training courses you can find around the world. I want them to teach how I think it is the right way. If they are people who can express themselves in a correct way, who speak well and are nice to people is enough for me. The rest of it, what’s taught in the class, is a very technical thing and I coach them all the way on how they have to teach. Unless they are very experienced. In that case, I can help them as much as they help me with techniques they have.

What can you tell us in general about the level of schools in Tarifa?

HM – Look, there are few professional schools that are really dedicated to teaching Windsurfing, but there are very good instructors. Please consider that Tarifa is one of the best places in the world to windsurf. So people who come here or live here are people who dedicate themselves exclusively to it and spend time on it. After what I’ve seen going around the globe, Tarifa is undoubtedly one the best places to learn.

A final message for our blog readers

Interview to Hugo Miravalles
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