El Médano – not quite a spotguide

What was planned as a spotguide, turned out to be more of a character sketch of El Médano, a little town on Tenerife, famous amongst wind- and kitesurfers.

Click here to read it in German: Spotguide El Médano – eine Themenverfehlung

Imagine a small, picturesque fishing village on the Canarian Island of Tenerife. Under cover of darkness, whilst most of the villagers still sleep profoundly, the fishermen already head out to sea, followed just by a couple of dolphins who are hoping for a small share of the prey. A little later, when the bakery opens it’s doors and the scent of fresh bread wafts over the main square, locals enjoy their breakfast with a Café con leche and exchange the latest news of town. People know each other. This is El Médano.

… not really but somehow I have to start.

Picturesque doesn’t really hit the spot, too obvious are the architectural blunders of the 70s and 80s. And it’s probably as long ago that the last fishermen set sail. Still, El Médano has it’s unique charm, even though to some it might only show at a second glance.

Größere Gebäudekomplexe direkt am Meer.
The ‚Skyline‘ of El Médano: A nice foto of architectural missteps.

The dune

The town’s name, meaning ‚The Dune‘, fits pretty well though. Due to it’s special geographical position and the everlasting trade winds, the Alisios, El Médano is home to the biggest natural beaches of the island. Dune, seen as something that’s always in motion, also describes the town’s residents perfectly – there is a continuous coming and going. Globetrotters. Dropouts. Wind addicts. Those people are the core of El Médano. It’s hard to explain but try to see it as a potpourri – you know, one those things you can find in fancy bathrooms. As different as each individual might be, together they form a harmonic composition. People know each other. They stick together.

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A typical day at the seafront.

A walk at the seafront proves this point. The local, middle-aged doctor chats with the Venezuelan kitesurf instructor about the gusty conditions – amongst wind & water sports addicts it is mandatory to complain about the wind. A little later the dutch windsurfing instructor passes on his bike and casually waves to the street artist, who lives in a cave close to town. A short ‚Hola, qué tal?‘ to the Italian waitress from the beachbar and on he goes with his ride. People know each other.

Alisios – the peace keepers

Of course there are also tourists. But given the fact that El Médano stands out with beautiful beaches and endless hours of sun, the run on the town is not exaggerated. Mass tourism like in the very south of Tenerife does not exist yet. Reason for that might yet again be the almighty Alisios. Those tourists in their sunbeds who’s main activity is to turn once in a while like a steak in a frying pan, don’t necessarily care for the wind. Even though they often seem well done, being breaded by flying sand is not appreciated.

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Dresscode: Boarshorts and Wetsuits.

This said, also in terms of tourism El Médano attracts a special group of people. First of all there are the islanders and spaniards from the mainland who usually visit the town on holidays and weekends. Their motive: Sun, beach and fiesta. Thanks to them, even in high season the region does not lose it’s Spanish touch.
Apart from those more or less local visitors, it’s the water sports aficionados who mark the picture. Even though age, origin or social status may differ, on the beach this doesn’t matter. No suits, no uniforms, no white coats – instead flip flops and boardshorts. The love for the sea unites. People know each other.

Perpetuum Mobile

Dropouts. Tourists. Hippies. Athletes. Freethinkers. El Médano is a Perpetuum Mobile of serenity – the tranquility of the town transfers to the people and vice versa. Chicken – egg – who cares. So even if you sometimes have to wait a little longer for a cup of coffee, just keep in mind: „Prisa mata“ – stress kills. A truth that some, from the rush of everyday life driven people may have to learn the hard way but finally do enjoy … everything needs it’s time.

By the way, even though it sometimes takes a little longer, keep in mind that employment relations on the Canary Islands are not comparable with those you may be used to. The labor conditions often verge on exploitation. Fixed employment contracts are exceptions (in 2017 only 1/8 of all contracts were indefinite).¹ Apart from that, the listed working hours only correspond to a fraction of the effectively carried out hours¹, the rest is secretly paid². No matter whom you see responsible for this – the system or the employers –  it’s the employees who suffer. They are the ones have to cope with losings in sick-pay, unemployment benefit, dismissal wage and pension. If you now also consider the generally low wages combined with the vastly rising rents due to the boom of vacation rental (Airbnb etc.), it is understandable that the thumbscrews for many local people are extremely tightened. Getting sick is a no go, you live from hand to mouth.
In short terms: A life on the verge of poverty and the absence of social security are not very helpful to push the working moral. So please consider this the next time you are tipping.

Neben dem Strand sieht man den Montaña roja und einen Teil der Strandpromenade.
The dune landscape with the Montaña roja in the background.

In the end you can always use the waiting period to relax a little and enjoy the the view. Because, apart from mentioned architectural blunders, El Médano does have things to offer for the eye – scenically speaking of course. A glance across the bay at dusk with the red mountain in the background should speak for itself.
This view can also be enjoyed while having a drink at one of the beachbars or, as locals call them, ‚chiringuitos‘. So while the remaining kite- and windsurfers slice the last waves of the day, you cozily sip at a fresh tapped beer right on the beach. If you want to, you blend in with the locals – language barriers or not, a short chat should always work out. If you prefer it a little more quiet, just observe the lively ambience and let it do it’s magic. Coziness is infectious.

Anthill

Only on windy days the town transforms into a giant anthill. Boards, kites, sails as well as masts and booms are then assiduously being carried from one place to the other. What a bustle!

Viele Kites und Segel liegen am Strand verteilt.
Kites und sails where ever you go.

Every now and then some of the black-suited ants stop alongside others. It seems as if they were communicating because shortly after, occasionally one of them turns around again just to arrive a couple of minutes later with completely different gear above its head. For untrained eyes this is absolute chaos. For aficionados though there is a recognisable pattern – or not. As long as there is wind, it doesn’t matter anyway.

Finally a small confession:
This should have become a spoguide of El Médano. Didn’t really work out. Better luck next time. But a great cliffhanger …

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References:

¹ see. (German source)
https://www.sonnige-kanaren.de/kanaren-blog/tag/arbeitsvertrage/ 
² see. (German source) https://www.tfservice.net/teneriffa/leben/arbeiten/

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