IT was during an unscheduled stop off en route from his home in Ibiza to a holiday in southern Morocco that Peter Whaley first came across Tarifa.
A keen windsurfer, he unwittingly found himself on the windiest beach in Europe and had the vision to launch a business there.
It was 1984 and he had soon found a partner (an Australian board maker Barry Pussell) to help him open the coast’s first rental business.
Named 100% Fun (now a successful hotel) – the shack sold windsurfs and clothes from his wife Therese’s successful fashion label Graffiti Ibiza.
“It was a low key launch and we had no idea how well it was going to go,” explains Peter today over a beer in his buzzing Ibiza-style beach club Valdevaqueros.
“What we did have was a great board maker and fantastic, totally Spanish-made clothes.”
It was the spark to launch the wind revolution on the Costa de la Luz, an industry that now brings in tens of millions of euros every year.
But, Peter quickly realised that in order to keep the growing number of surfers happy they needed to offer accommodation, so the following year he and his brother Michael, a builder, bought an old ruined 12-room hostal on the beach just up the road.
A third brother James, a film director and producer from London, was also soon involved.
A big figure in the film business – as well as the manager of Adam and the Ants – it was little surprise that the Hurricane Hotel was to become one of Andalucia’s hippest and most successful places to stay.
“I convinced my brothers that we would never make enough money from 12 rooms, so we obtained permission from the town hall to build an extra 23,” explains James, who is very much still the life and soul of the Hurricane – and nearby Punta Sur hotel – today. “An architect from Ibiza was also drafted in.”
Over lunch at the Hurricane, he continues: “Once opened we converted the bricklayers into our staff, some becoming cooks, others waiters, others receptionists or gardeners.
“I explained to the builders that making a cake was as easy as making cement. All you had to do was throw the right ingredients into a mixer and stick it in the oven at the right temperature for the appropriate amount of time,” he continues.
As the local restaurants back then were basic, at best, the brothers installed a herb garden and started to plant and grow their own vegetables.
As James had lived in Italy he got a friend to send rucula, or rocket seeds, and the coast’s best restaurant was also born.
“It just grew and grew organically,” explains Peter, who still spends half the year in Ibiza, where he has a farmhouse. “But now we think we have just the right ingredients to continue to be successful for years to come.”
Nowadays the group comprises three hotels – The Hurricane, Punta Sur and Valdevaqueros (100% Fun was sold five years ago) – as well as a beach club, which is shared with international windsurf and kitesurf company Mistral.
A beach bar/restaurant Tumbao has easily become one of the most fashionable places to hang out in Andalucia, with its distinct laid back Ibiza-style vibe.
The next door Graffiti clothes shop is the epitome of cool, stylish light colours and revealing lines.
But that is not where the empire ends, for James has business interests in London and nearby Vejer, while he and Peter have just opened a five star hotel in the north of Brazil.
“Called Hurricane Jeri it is the first stylish five star hotel in Jericoacoara and we believe in winter a lot of the cool northern European crowd will choose to go there,” explains Peter.
Given his previous eye for business, it is probably very likely to be the case.