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How a Danish fishing village became windsurfer paradise

Europe

Copenhagen - You can park your hippie bus right at the beach. Board-riders are trudging to and fro in their neoprene suits, lugging their sailboards down to the chilly water in the fresh breeze off the North Sea.

Some are passing the time lounging in their minibuses, skating or slacklining as they wait to head for the water again.

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The best time on the Danish coast is also the coldest.

The scene is reminiscent of surfing spots in Sardinia or the south of France, but the weather is considerably cooler here in Klitmøller, a fishing village with a registered population of a little over 800 souls on the northwest Danish coast.

“Cold Hawaii” as it has become known since it was discovered by windsurfers in the 1980s has 31 registered board-riding spots, and the North Sea boasts a combination of wind and waves to delight both board-sailers and surfers.

While Portugal, Spain and France offer some of Europe's most stellar ocean rollers, coasts like this, sheltered by the British Isles from the full force of the Atlantic, offer a dedicated surfer waves with their own rare challenges.

The best time on the Danish coast is also the coldest.

“From September to Easter there are waves of 3 to 4 metres,” says Rasmus, who runs one of the two surfing schools in the village.

The village has a supermarket and two shops selling surfing gear.

Geir and Morten from Norway have been driving their minibus to the resort for years.

“The waves are constant, and it's peaceful here,” says Geir. The two are bearded, have little to say and are in their late 40s.

They set up camp wherever they are, but enjoy going to the local pizzeria or picnicking among the disused military bunkers along the coast.

The first windsurfers arrived in the 1980s.

“But the real boom started in the 1990s,” says Ole Christensen, head of tourism at Visit Thy.

At the time the fisherfolk were sceptical. “The surfers took up the parking spaces, sleeping where they wanted to. And the idea that the sea was there for fun was new to the fishing community,” he says.

The North Atlantic Surf Association stepped in to mediate, and since 2010 Klitmøller has hosted the Cold Hawaii PWA (Professional Windsurfers Association) World Cup.

The world's top surfers gather for the event in the discipline Wave Performance, which combines windsurfing with traditional surfing.

“During the world championships there is always a big party for which the fishing community make their huts on the beach available,” Christensen says.

The intention is that Klitmøller should remain the way it is, although the number of young people attracted to the village has made it more modern.

At times signs can be seen in the shop windows reading: “Closed because of Waves.”

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