For some twenty years, Christian Wunderlin from Aargau travelled the world as a surf instructor. He spent the last five years living and working on the island of Tenerife before returning to Switzerland. But, as well as lovely memories, Tenerife is still an integral part of his professional life: having set up his company “stonesurf”, Christian offers guided surf travel to the island he once called home.
A surf station in the Fricktal in the Swiss canton of Aargau? And why not?! Inspired by many years of travel to every corner of the world, during which he often worked as a surf instructor, Christian Wunderlin decided to open his surf station “stonesurf” in Stein situated by the Swiss border with Germany. His “sea” is now the Rhine. Christian offers stand up paddling (SUP) tours and windsurfing courses. And those who wish to test their acquired skills in the (real) sea can join Christian on the surf trips he organises to Tenerife. Having lived there until fairly recently, he knows the island like the back of his hand.
Christian and his wife, Maya, returned to his native Stein in 2015, with their cat from Egypt and the dog they adopted on Tenerife in tow. It was clear to Christian that his passion and his profession would continue to be one and the same. To that end, the former insurance expert who discovered surfing at a relatively late age set up his own surf station. He was 25 when a friend introduced him to the sport. "I was instantly enthralled by it,” he explains. From then on, Christian spent every weekend surfing on one of Switzerland’s lakes. He also changed his travel habits: rather than book beach holidays and city trips he opted for surfing destinations. "At some point I realised I was no longer happy working in an office and needed a career change. So I trained as a windsurfing instructor first, then as a kitesurfing instructor and finally as an SUP instructor. Thereafter, my journey could begin.”
Water sports and hiking paradise
Christian and his wife originally planned to stay on Tenerife for a year. They ended up staying for five. "Tenerife was ideal for us from the outset," Christian says. As part of the EU’s Canary Island’s Special Zone, Tenerife is part of the EU, but lies outside the Community zone in terms of taxes and customs duty. This has the advantage that to get a work permit is relatively straightforward and the cost of living is considerably lower than in the EU itself – however, salaries are lower too. "We wouldn’t have minded spending more time in Mauritius, for instance, but working there is not that simple. What is more, it is a long way away from friends and family in Switzerland. Being on Tenerife meant we could fly home for a few days from time to time."
But now to the key criteria: the northeast trade wind and the waves make Tenerife an ideal year-round hotspot for all kinds of water sports – from windsurfing and kitesurfing to surfboarding. Other plus factors: Christian’s passion is the water, whereas Maya loves nature and the mountains. "Tenerife has both; it is a slice of paradise for water sports enthusiasts and hikers alike." The weather and vegetation on the island are also all-encompassing: rain is common in the north, making this part of the island nice and green. The south, by contrast, is very warm and dry, and the weather is almost always good. The “Barranco del Infierno” (Hell’s Gorge) in the southwest of Tenerife is one of the best-known hiking tours on the island. It is also one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canary Islands.
"Enchanted" island: La Gomera
Christian centred his life in the south of Tenerife – at the super surf spot “El Médano” where almost daily winds delight kite- and windsurfers. Situated a good twelve miles from there are the tourist areas “Playa de las Américas” and “Los Cristianos” that are practically windless. Instead, there are great opportunities for surfing, even though most of the surfing spots tend to be in the north of the island.
Situated a good 25 miles off the coast of Tenerife, the volcanic island of La Gomera is a wonderful place to visit and easily reachable by ferry. The sea between Tenerife and La Gomera is especially deep, which is why whales are at home in these waters. "You can often spot pilot whales in this area – a truly special experience,” Christian Wunderlin raves. He also loves the national park on La Gomera, which he describes as possessing something “enchanting”. Even if Christian is more the active type and less of a sun worshipper, when he lived on Tenerife, he did occasionally spend time on the beaches, including on the mile-long Playa de las Teresitas in the municipality of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Needless to say, his visits to the famous “Siam Park” water park, nota bene without children, were purely for business purposes and had nothing to do with the waterslides or the huge wave pool. After all, he had to inspect the artificial wave that is also available for rent.
The indoor pool in winter – or back to Tenerife
Christian describes the lifestyle on Tenerife as "very comfortable". "The infrastructure is excellent, and practically everything in El Médano is centred on sport, which worked well for me. There is always something going on." That being said, there are also opportunities and places to retreat to. Christian’s tip for those not keen on hotels in tourist resorts: rent a finca outside town. That is what he did: "We lived near Adeje and enjoyed magnificent views of the southern coast. It was breathtaking, especially at night when all the lights were switched on."
After years of travelling the world, and having spent five years on lovely Tenerife, Christian and Maya felt the desire to return home. "Switzerland is where I can set up something of my own, which would have been difficult to do abroad," he says. So, these days, he offers courses on the Rhine in summer, and in an indoor swimming pool in winter! "When in the pool, we do surf fitness on the SUP or SUP yoga, for instance." Anyone who wants to be outdoors on their board in winter, too, can book a surfing holiday in Tenerife with Christian. Travel is organised according to individual preferences: everything is possible, from simple backpacker’s accommodation to five-star hotels, be it individual or group bookings. Windsurfing, kitesurfing and surfing courses, SUP safaris, hikes and all sorts of other sports activities are part and parcel of the offer. Whatever the activity, having Christian as a guide means being in the presence of an expert who knows every corner, every current and every gust of wind on Tenerife. It doesn’t get better than that!
Three tips on Tenerife
El Médano: There is no better place for wind- and kitesurfing. Almost daily wind makes this a year-round choice spot for gliding across the water.
El Refugio in La Escalona (open from October through May): Situated at about 3000 feet (940 m) above sea level, this mountain finca is run by a Swiss chef and his Austrian partner, and offers magnificent views of the island’s southern coast. The restaurant with a guesthouse is an ideal starting point for spectacular mountain hikes. (Barranco del Rey, El Topo 34, La Escalona/Vilaflor, Tenerife, www.el-refugio.com)
Nationalpark El Teide: An absolute “must-see” on Tenerife! The largest national park of the Canary Islands offers a unique landscape full of craters and cooled lava streams around the Teide volcano that rises to over 12,000 feet (3718 m). (Provinz Santa Cruz de Tenerife: http://www.mapama.gob.es/es/red-parques-nacionales/nuestros-parques/teide/)
More information about stonesurf: www.stonesurf.ch