An island. A man. And a dream. Mauritius. Every windsurfer knows the name. Few know the exact location. Fewer still, the real potential. Scattered like pebbles in the Indian Ocean beyond Madagascar, 2000 kilometers off the east coast of Africa, Mauritius is barely visible on most maps. In reality, it’s a tropical four island nation, with a total area just larger than Maui alone. Yet, with a multicultural population of over 1.2 million, it’s hardly deserted. Everyone knows it’s French, right? Well, not really. Portuguese, then Dutch arrived before the French. By 1810, the British took control, and Mauritius is in fact now a Commonwealth nation.
Warm water, white sandy beaches ringed by wide tropical lagoons and outside reef breaks lie under clear blue skies, while steady trade winds cool the island and provide an ideal water-sports environment. One doesn’t have to travel too far around Mauritius to discover this truly is a windsurfing paradise. Booming in the heyday of windsurfing, Mauritius almost forgot the fun of the sport that was their ideal. Riders grew older, built careers, families and years rolled by while old gear rotted unused. Perfect East Coast conditions went untouched day after day. Hardly believable in a crowded world.
Thirty years ago, Chris Tyack was just one of hundreds of thousands of riders riding the massive wave of excitement that was windsurfing. Like many, life moved on and a business, a beautiful Mauritian wife, a new daughter and some casual kiting replaced the board and sail he once spent such fun times on.
Three years ago, Chris Tyack was just part of the renaissance on Mauritius. With no sailing events on island for more than 15 years, windsurfing really was heading the way of the Mauritius State bird, the Dodo. Extinct. A spark of local interest kindled a small flame. Suddenly, the spirit started to return and in no time, the first Pte Desny Crossing was organized by some re-energized locals, using ancient and old equipment, all for fun! Very much a casual, fun affair, yes bolstered by the enthusiasm of 100 sailors and kiters, that simple event was a great success
Feeling there was even more to uncover, Chris seized the opportunity to build bigger and even more engaging events. 2011 saw the birth of the Malibu Classic. The spirit of fun sailing, and friendly Pro-am style competition was compelling, but for a small Island Nation, the challenge of attracting friendly competitors from further afield was the next step. With the help of the Mauritius Tourist Promotion Authority and local sponsors, Chris was able to launch his true concept: The Indian Ocean Championship, a teams challenge in which sailors from Mauritius could enjoy friendly freeriding competition in perfect conditions with visiting teams from nearby Nations.
Chris actively engaged with both South Africa and Australia, preparing and offering a great package and opportunity to get foreign sailors along. This was no small affair, with airfare and accommodation offers to neighbor nations to send their top slalom racers, while generating widespread interest and support for both the event and Mauritius itself. The conditions and races were exceptional and visitors left the island with a big smile on their faces, confirming that they would surely come back with more friends. But he’s not done yet! In his own words, Chris enthuses the freeride ethos he sees as the future of so many opportunities to help rebirth our vibrant sport on Mauritius - and beyond:
Heroes drive windsurfing. We thrive on them. We all seek the next Robby, Björn or Antoine. Essential elements of our sport, but consider too what can really make it so great. Next time you’re enjoying a nearby event, stop and think for a minute. Those local guys, all super enthusiasts, driven so strongly to share fun and excitement with others in our sport, simply for the love of a good time with some friends. Windsurfing could do with a few more heroes like Chris Tyack.