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Southend Windsurf Guide

Southend-on-Sea is situated on the Thames Estuary, it has four main windsurfing area’s. East beach in the east then heading west, Thorpe Bay, Chalkwell beach and Canvey Island being the furthest west, a distance of approx. 8 miles. It is possible to sail from most of this coastline but these spots have become the most popular.

East Beach1.East beach- Situated in Shoeburyness, adjacent to the Army firing range on Foulness Island to the east and facing south east. It has a huge car park of it’s own and plenty of grass rigging area. This beach is extremely popular in a north east blow and can attract a couple of hundred short boards on a good day, slalom or bump and jump boards being the most popular. The only drawback is that it only has 5 hours sailing per tide. The tide goes out for about a mile and the bottom is flat hard sand for this distance, it produces amazing flat water sailing at the beginning and end of the tides. Amenities: Beach Cafe, toilets and coast guard station.

Thorpe Bay2. Thorpe Bay- Situated approx. 3 miles west, in front of the Thorpe Bay Yacht Club with good parking, large grass rigging area and facing south. Popular in winds from west round to east, it has about 7 hours of sailing per tide and as the bottom is flat and almost the same depth water for about a mile out in the estuary it also gives great flat water sailing either side of the tide. Mostly slalom or bump and jump boards but like East beach can be extremely rough at high tide in a southerly blow. Amenities: None for half a mile.

Chalkwell Beach3. Chalkwell beach- Situated a further 4 miles to the west, past Southend pier, at the western most point of Southend promenade. It has reasonable amount of parking right next to the rigging green leased to the Chalkwell Windsurfing Club by Southend Council. Approx. 3.5 hours after high tide, a unique occurrence takes place that makes Chalkwell the most popular beach, the mighty Ray exposes a speed sailors paradise. The southern home of the B.W.A. speed competitions, the Ray is a stretch of water that runs parallel to Southend sea front about a 3/4 of a mile out in the Thames Estuary approx. 1/4 of a mile wide and over 3 miles from where it starts at the head of Southend pier in the east to where it goes between Canvey Island and Leigh-on-Sea in the west. The Kent coastline is about 7 miles to the south and approx. 1/4 mile of flat sand bank between the Thames proper and the Ray. For a full 3 miles on the Ray’s southern side the water is mirror flat in any wind with south in it. It is about 2 mtrs deep at low tide, spring tides make it less and neaps more, the tides vary by about 1.5 mtrs. Although almost straight for the whole distance, about 1/2 way along it bends 30 degrees to the south heading for the pier head and the deep water of the Thames. The pier is 1.25 mile long and the longest in the world. The Ray’s banks are exposed for about 5 hours per tide and although it can be sailed in any wind direction, northerly’s are usually very gusty.

Leigh Creek4.Leigh creek- As the tide comes in and starts to flood the Ray’s banks from the east, Leigh creek becomes deep enough to sail running from the Ray to Leigh old town, a distance of about a mile and about the same angle as the eastern end of the Ray. It’s much narrower than the ray but it produces phenomenal flat water blasting in the right wind direction for extra hour or so, by which time the beach at Chalkwell is flooding and with a bit of local knowledge can be sailed back to. Boards used include bump and jump, slalom and speed needles. Amenities: Beach kiosk, toilets and rigging green.

5.Canvey Island- Situated to the west and south of Chalkwell, the island’s beaches are right on the deep water of the Thames as the estuary narrows considerably here. The island, being below sea level, is protected by a substantial sea wall and barriers. The main beach faces south east parallel to the Thames. Wave boards are the most common here due to the shallower banks off the beach suddenly meeting the deep water of the Thames. Large swells are produced a few hundred yards out testified for the extremely talented local wave sailors. Also a westerly wind against the incoming tide has the same effect as in the Gorge due to the strong current of the Thames. Amenities: Beach Cafe, toilets, parking and rigging green.

Many thanks to Chalkwell Windsurfing Club for this guide. Please visit www.chalkwellwindsurfing.org for more details of their club.

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