This is our self-proclaimed year of trying new things and learning new skills. So when Silvaplana Tourism rang us up with an invitation to try out windsurfing on their lake, we could not refuse.
We are scheduled to meet our windsurfing instructor at the Silvaplana Windsurfcenter at 10 AM. The Upper Engadine is not exactly around the corner. So this means that we need to leave home bright and early on this sunny July morning...
The drive across the Julier Pass and into this valley of lakes is spectacular. The sun is hitting the deep blue and calm Lake Silvaplana. While I am focusing on the winding roads, Mamiko's smartphone camera is rolling.
Silvaplana is a top place to learn windsurfing in Switzerland
At the entrance to the windsurfing center, a signpost reads: HIGHEST SURFSCHOOL - 1790 METRES ABOVE SEA LEVEL. We must be in the right place!
Our instructor, Diego, is a local from the town of Pontresina. He has started windsurfing five years ago - under some of the hardest conditions. "There are three types of winds here at Lake Silvaplana: a northern wind, the wind coming across the Julier Pass, and the southern Maloja wind."
The Maloja wind is a thermal wind which appears from the direction of Milan around midday. Since the mountains bordering Lake Silvaplana on two sides create a fairly narrow funnel, the wind naturally picks up force. This creates perfect conditions for windsurfing on Lake Silvaplana.
A rule of thumb states that from the moment Lake Silvaplana shows a turquoise line near Sils, it takes another ten minutes for the Maloja to hit the surf center.
There is already a turquoise line, and our class has only just begun!
Given the rapid change of conditions, Diego swiftly moves on to the practical part of our windsurfing class. We each get equipped with a wetsuit and our own board. Following his instructions, we learn how to strap the mast onto the board. And during a dry exercise, we learn how to steer the board by lifting or lowering the sail.
We wiped out, courtesy of the Maloja wind!
By the time we enter the frigid, 13-degree lake water, the Maloja is in full swing and waves are hitting the shore. The first challenge is to fight the wind and paddle away from the shore just far enough to stand up.
Then comes the part where you are balancing on both legs, with the board parallel to the shore. So far, so good. The third step involves grabbing a hold of the up-haul rope in order to pull the sail of of the water.
And nine out of ten times, there is no fourth step. This would be the moment where the wind hits the sail and moves the board in the intended direction...
In this short time, I just could not come to grips with the Maloja, though.
I crashed over and over again, swallowing some of that refreshing lake water. Someone once told me that learning to windsurf is akin to "falling 1000 times yet trying just one more time." They were right!
During this recommendable windsurfing class, I did experience a couple of highlights. Once, I actually slid across the water for three seconds! Props to Dario for providing one-on-one advice to make this happen.
Mamiko is doing slightly better. She takes advantage of our teacher's offer to surf her board out and away from the shore. From there, she gets onto the board and moves towards the shore in the direction of the Maloja wind. She manages a few more seconds compared to me...
This windsurfing experience was savage, to put it in windsurfing terms!
After the class, I feel completely exhausted and frankly, a bit demotivated. But then again, I am just a few hours into a skill that takes a lifetime to master. And Diego confirmed that we did extremely well given that persistent Maloja Wind...
Then, a much deserved lunch at Restaurant Mulets
Just a brief walk across the lakeside campground is Restaurant Mulets. It is known for fresh - and refreshing - dishes, such as pizokel with bacon and pizzas from the wood-burning stove.
I cannot resist a crunchy pizza - "Bufala & Crudo" with parma ham is a given! Mamiko's choice: linguine pasta with black tiger shrimp, pistachio crumbs and vegetable stripes on a lemon and herb sauce.
Restaurant Mulets in Silvaplana is not only a delicious place to eat, it is also a great vantage point to watch the kite-surfing action.
On this sunny day, we notice hundreds of colorful kites on the lake. A quick look on the website of the Silvaplana Windsurfcenter confirms: they offer beginner classes for kitesurfing, too!