What makes the perfect windsurfing spot?
Obviously, a body of water with as long a fetch as possible. (Fetch is the distance wind or wave can travel without physical interference.) But then you also must have vehicular access and a place to rig your equipment. Also, not all launches are created equal in all wind directions. Here are the best on the local launches...
LAKES IN THE SOUTHEAST
"There are numerous spots in Alabama to windsurf. I used to live in Northeast Alabama and sailed on Lake Guntersville. Check out the North Alabama Boarding Club site if you are interested."
- Lake Monticello
LAKES IN THE SOUTHEAST
Clarks Hill Lake (Lake Thurmond)
Scott's Ferry Landing
1 and 1/3 miles north of Thurmond Dam on S.C. side off US Hwy. 28. This Corps of Engineers maintained area is a little-used boat ramp that is THE premier windsurfing spot for all cold front winds from S.W. to N-NW. Security patrolled, parking, good rigging area, and easy boat ramp launch Be here on the next lake wind advisory day, and you'll see a dozen fanatics or so shredding the chop with abandon.
It's a left turn (when going north) 4.5 miles north of the Hwy 221 and 28 intersection. (Hwy 221 is the road that goes across the Thurmond Dam.) From that intersection, as you go north, you will pass Scotts Ferry Landing, Modoc Shores, and Modoc Campground in that order. NONE OF THESE ARE IT. Then the next landmark is Hwy 23 coming in from the right, and just past it is the cute little Modoc Post Office. About 100 yards further is the left turn at Bussey's Store that leads to Modoc Ramp. There is no sign marking the road to Modoc Ramp , so you must follow these directions carefully -- you'll be fine. Go straight to the end for the windsurfing area. Excellent parking and rigging areas. Long fetch on N.W. and S.W., maybe not so good on due W.
The endpoint of this residential area, about 5 miles further north on Hwy. 28 above Thurmond Dam in S.C. Good N - N.E. sailing but more difficult rigging and inadequate launch arrangements.
Lake Springs (Center Point)
excellent site in all categories for N to less-common easterly winds, that is, when the park is open. $2 fee per car to enter. Lake Springs Recreation Area is a turn off Hwy. 221, one mile west of Thurmond Dam (or about 2 miles west of the Hwy 28/ 221 intersection). It's also 4 miles east of Pollards Corner. A big sign on the highway clearly marks it.
Columbia's big lake has a broad, wide-open fetch -- 5 miles plus on the prevalent W-NW cold front winds. That is almost twice as long as it can be found at Clarks Hill. It doesn't mean the wind is harder, but it definitely produces waves bigger in breadth and height. I've sailed in legitimate, consistent 4 footers there. I've sailed Murray and Clark Hill on the same day in 20-25 knots, and it is two different experiences. (Don't know why, but the water is noticeably colder in Murray, too.)
Lake Dr. N (Hwy. 6) about three miles N of Lexington, 20 minutes from downtown Columbia. On W or N.W. wind, super-convenient in most categories: secure parking, grassy rigging, bathrooms, phones, but the rocky rip-rap launch is a pain. However, authorities added concrete stairs with a rail just for windsurfers to make it a little easier.
The easiest way to Monticello if traveling on I 20 would be. Exit 215, which is the first exit east of the Broad River bridge in Columbia. Travel north on 215, something around 20 miles, to the tiny town of Jenkinsville. The lake can be seen on the left. Look for the sign, ball field scenic overlook, turn left, and you are there. This is just to the north of Jenkinsville
This is THE lake for windsurfers in the Atlanta area. Lanier is similar in size to Clarks Hill, but on the big days, there can be 30+ plus sailors ripping it up on the lake. Unfortunately, if one of these big days coincides with a warm, sunny Saturday or Sunday, there can also be 300+ boats on the water! There are several good launches on Lanier, but the two sites mentioned below are by far the most popular. To find out more about some of the other launch sites, or Lanier in general, take a look at the Atlanta Board Sailing Club's website . It has excellent info on Lake Lanier and the Atlanta sailing scene.
Van Pugh N
From Atlanta, take I-85 N to I-985 N. Take the Friendship Rd & Lake Lanier Islands exit (exit 8)). Turn left at the top of the ramp and go to the first stoplight. Turn right on Atlanta Hwy. In about one mile turn left on Gaines Ferry Road. Go straight, you'll pass one light (McEver Rd). Keep on for another 1.5 m until road deadends in the park. Bear right and drive around past boat ramp and picnic shelter. $2 entrance fee from May-August
This is the best N.E. wind launch at Lanier. There is a large grassy rigging area, real toilets, and a great view of the lake. To get there from Atlanta, take GA 400 north to the GA 306 exit (this used to be Exit 17, but the exit number has changed). Turn right on GA 306 to the first stoplight. Right on GA 369 about 6 miles. Towards the end of the second (maybe third) three-lane section, look for a sign on the right. Turn right and follow until the road dead road ends at the park.
This often-overlooked lake makes a great alternative to Lake Lanier for Atlanta sailors who live in the south part of town, being that it takes about the same amount of time to travel to either lake. The water temperature is about 5 degrees warmer than Lanier (which can make a noticeable difference in the dead of winter), and there is a lot less boat traffic. In fact, boats with engines larger than 25 h.p. are not even allowed. Since Juliette is smaller in size, and not as deep as Lanier, it stays much flatter. Even in the "big blows," you can rip flatwater jibes just feet from shore.
From Atlanta, take I-75 south to the Route 18 exit (this used to be exit #60, but this has changed) and turn left. Go east on 18 (for about 6 miles) until you come to the first blinking red light. Take a left at the light on to highway 23 (north). Drive for about a mile, and Dames Ferry park will be on your left. *NOTE. From October through mid-April, the main gate to the park is locked, but local windsurfers have the combination. If you plan on sailing here, contact me, and I can get you in touch with one of the locals who know the combo. There is a $2 parking fee for the rest of the year. The facilities here are very well maintained (toilets, vending machines, BBQs, etc...)
Sullivan's Island (Charleston, SC)
From N. Myrtle Beach to Savannah, there are countless great places to sail, especially at Folly Beach and Hilton Head. One premier spot within easy driving distance that warrants special mentions is Station 29 (one of the numbering roads perpendicular to the sea) on Sullivan's Island just north of Charleston. A unique combination of offshore sandbars, the curvature of the beach, and tidal currents, this venue can accommodate beginners in the cove inside the bars, and experts can get radical out beyond the further sandbars. On 15 knot plus days, there's always lots of very, very friendly local sailors. Station 29 also has a telephone Windline, 843-883-5247, that will give you current and recent wind speed and a web site on the Isle of Palms right next door at http://iopweather.com
The northwestern part of the state (Florence, Decatur or Tuscumbia)
You can sail on the Tennessee River below Wheeler Dam called The Point. The Point is a spot on the river that can be sailed from most any direction but works excellent with W, N.W., NE, and S.E.
A sandbar keeps the water flat on the inside (watch those shoal markers), and from there on to the other side, the river can kick a big swell, especially if the dam upstream is releasing water. Tony Peebles (205-381-1057) is the local host and runs a windsurfing shop there.
Take AL 184 west off of AL 101 just south of the river. (AL 101 crosses the river on Wheeler Dam. Turn right at the first road past the creek and bear left at the fork. Go until the way deadends into the parking lot for the Point Restaurant. At the bottom of the lot, bear left and rig on the grass near the camping sites. Tony has the trailer right on the water. If you get lost, ask locals for the Point Restaurant. Try entering "Wheeler Dam Village, TN" in your search query.
Midsection portion of the state (Birmingham)
There are numerous places on the Coosa River or at Lake Logan Martin.
The southern part of the state
You're fortunate since there are countless places to sail in the Mobile Bay, or it is just a short drive to Pensacola or Cape San Blas, Florida, which is one of my favorites.