I’M lying back on a wooden bench watching a profusion of kites bob up and down, almost in tune to the strains of Damian Marley on the sound system.
With a fabulous ‘superfood smoothie’ in my hand – the so called ‘magic maca’ served up at the new iZumo! juice bar – I’m about as chilled as could possibly be in Andalucia in July.
Welcome to Valdevaqueros, a beach bar/restaurant/all-round-hip-lifestyle venue, where anybody who wants to understand the unique Tarifa vibe needs to visit.
Also serving as the home of Mistral’s watersports centre and the launch pad of half of the world’s best kitesurfers, this is a place where you can literally spend hours watching the world go by.
“While it used to be just for sporty types, the majority of people come here now because it is super-hip,” explains Mistral boss Chris Ziaja.
“It’s Mojitos from 3pm but it creates a great atmosphere and it is surprising how many people end up renting out paddle surfs or taking a kitesurf lesson.”
It is certainly the spot to take up this fun, high-adrenaline sport, with current world leader Liam Whaley learning and basing himself here when not touring the world competing.
I gave it a go last year and while the 40-knot winds wreaked havoc with my classes – I’ll admit I let the kite go in a panic and almost lost it as it half blew to Morocco – I still had a fantastic time.
But equally, it is a great place to just take the waters, have lunch or an afternoon drink at the achingly hip Tumbao beach bar.
The restaurant is great, serving fresh food every day, while the new Burger bar serves up incredible patties.
There is some accommodation at the side and there is even a clothes shop Graffiti, the very epitome of cool, while its new neighbour iZumo! adds to the mix.
Opened by Daniela Di Placido this summer, she has been serving up juices around the world for nearly a decade.
“They are mostly dairy free and I have a big range of minerals and vitamins I add to the drinks, which are great on the stomach.”
The story behind Valdevaqueros began over three decades ago when British adventurer Peter Whaley made an unscheduled stop off en route from his home in Ibiza to a holiday in Morocco.
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 nearby hotel) – the shack rented out windsurfs and sold clothes from his wife Terese’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.
“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 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 soon to become one of Andalucia’s hippest 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 and brought in an architect,” explains James, who is very much still the life and soul of the Hurricane – and its nearby sister hotel Punta Sur.
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 four hotels – The Hurricane, Punta Sur, Valdevaqueros (100% Fun was sold five years ago) and a new hotel recently opened in Jericoacoara, Brazil, appropriately also a kitesurfing hotspot.
“Called Hurricane Jeri it is the first stylish five star hotel there 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.
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