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Windsurfing the Great Barrier Reef


SHQ's Tasmanian Team Rider Izaak Perkins was up in Cairns, QLD for the Australian Slalom Nationals. In the lead up to the event he teamed up with Al to explore a remote outer reef that only a handful have ever sailed. They scored crystal blue, flat water stretching to the horizon. 

Have a read of Al's article on the session.

“As winter rolls in the south, holiday makers escape the cold and head north to the tourist town of Cairns – the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. This year with the Australian Slalom and Freestyle Titles being held at Green Island a good chunk of the windsurfing population did the same.

Locky and I were lucky enough to grow up in Cairns and both learned to windsurf on Green Island, which is the area’s windsurfing hotspot. I decided to sneak home for a few days between my university exams and have a bit of a ‘study break’.

The Southeasterly trades blow consistently between 15-25 knots this time of year and turn what is normally the domain of scuba divers and fishermen into an enormous windsurfing playground. Up there a bit of local knowledge goes a long way, and is the key to the untapped expanses of the outer Great Barrier Reef.

In the days leading up to the event we commandeered the family boat and headed out to explore with two of Australia’s fastest young windsurfers – Izaak Perkins and Locky McDermott, both of whom had just escaped the freezing Tasmania winter and were frothing to get some sailing."



“Coming from Tasmania's freezing weather and 5/4mm wetsuits. I arrived in Cairns to a welcoming 27 degrees, crystal clear water and boardies. All ready, for the following week of the Australian Slalom Nationals.

After a session on Green Island, local guru Cam McLeod offered to take me to a spot that only about half a dozen people have ever windsurfed, another 20km out to sea.

When we arrived the scene was amazing with about 15km of flat water along the edge of the reef, a little white sand cay and the most crystal blue water I’ve ever seen! It was exactly like those shots you would see in a magazine - so remote and tropical, a serious culture shock from Tassie!"



“After picking up Izaak from Green Island, we arrived at the spot. With a solid 20 knots + and incredible blue water over a white sandy bottom, the rigging lines were quickly thrown overboard. It was challenging rigging our 6.4 EVO V’s in the water to say the least! But soon enough were out blasting on our JP Slalom boards.

I was initially apprehensive of the water depths and kept an eye out for any stray coral but quickly I realised there was absolutely nothing in my way. The powerful sail picked me up and sent me flying up along the reef.

On and on it went. I couldn’t believe that this spot has been in my back yard and I had only now just been able to jump on some gear and have THE longest run of my life!

About 15 minutes later and still on the same tack I reach the end of the reef, greeted by another smaller sand cay (later I’m told it has only formed in the last 12 months). I jibe, and start to head back only to realise the larger cay I had started from and the boat where Al had been snapping photos were totally out of sight!

Surprisingly un-phased by this fact I stick to margin of the reef and follow it like a never ending runway! Soon I can see Izaak’s mast, the boat and our starting point.”


Alastair added: "It was great to the see the potential of this place and Izaak and Locky loving the conditions. Occasionally it was a bit frustrating though as they sped off totally out of sight making it difficult to get any photos!

After a few hours we moved down inside of the sand cay where there was a section of mirror flat water, where locals like Cam have done some very fast speeds. Unfortunately though the clouds came over a ruined any chances of getting some awesome photos, so we decided to call it quits and head back in.

You sort of forget how far out in the ocean you are until you start the journey home. As you leave the protection of the reef, and are greeted with vicious, tightly spaced chop mixed in with a running swell – then you remember. The fact that these reefs are so far out and hard to get to are probably why the windsurfing potential has gone totally under the radar for so long. Arriving back into shore is always a relief especially when the conversations are along the lines of “that is the wettest I’ve ever been in a boat!”


Thanks to Cam for getting us out there – I know he wished he could have been sailing as well but was out of action due to an encounter with a stingray a few days earlier…"

Sailors: Izaak Perkins, Locky McDermott

Photos: Al McLeod | |

For the rest of the pictures and the feature article check it out here.

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