How Windsurfing Came to Vietnam

activities - Phan Thiet: April 29, 2014

Mui Ne is the most popular destination for water sports in Vietnam. Its consistent winds and geographical location attract ever-increasing, like-minded water sports fans from around the world.

However, Mui Ne was not always known for its wind and water sport activities. Let’s go back to 1995: no kite surfers to be seen, not a single windsurfer spotted planing across the waters of the beautiful, untouched bay of Mui Ne. But in December of that year a young Frenchman arrived with an addiction to windsurfing, conveniently based and working at the Novotel Resort in Phan Thiet less than 15km from Mui Ne Bay.

Pascal Lefebvre was one of the first to experience the potential and untapped wind conditions. We must remember there was not a lot of internet access back then in the local area, and the only people who knew of Mui Ne’s wind were the locals, who had never heard of windsurfing and had absolutely no interest in water/wind-based sports. In fact, for the locals the wind was more of an annoyance rather than something to be enjoyed.

Pascal, however, noticed on his first visits to the bay that the local residents had only really constructed buildings on the other side of the road along the beach. To a keen windsurfer that was obvious evidence of strong wind blowing from the sea to the land. Closer inspection of the wind-battered palm trees only confirmed his suspicions. He recalls having a meeting interrupted on the sixth floor of the Novotel building, windows violently rattling from howling wind at speeds of more than 30 knots.

The only problem for a keen windsurfer like Pascal was that there were no water sports shops, no rental centers and no water sports schools, meaning no way to get his hands on any equipment. That was until Pascal was introduced to Daniel Arnaud.

Daniel had opened a beachside resort in the heart of the bay called Coco Beach (one of only a handful of resorts in Mui Ne at that time) and luckily for Pascal, Daniel had some very basic windsurf equipment. From that moment Pascal could be found spending any free time rigging up equipment at Coco Beach and enjoying the entire bay to himself, a windsurfer’s paradise.

After travelling around Vietnam working for Victoria Resorts, Pascal took on a full-time position as general manager at Victoria Phan Thiet, a perfect location to witness the full force of Mui Ne’s wind. By this time he had managed to buy some second-hand equipment to use himself but always kept an eye open for more windsurf sails and boards. 

He was lucky enough to find a local resort that had imported some windsurf equipment, but due to a lack of knowledge it wasn’t getting used. Pascal was quick to buy everything the resort had and now found himself with enough equipment to run the very first windsurf competition in Mui Ne, if not Vietnam. It was named “The Fun Cup” and with only a handful of amateur riders the focus was on light-hearted enjoyment rather than serious competition. The event, although small, was a great success and added fuel to Pascal’s quest to promote Mui Ne worldwide. He created the very first windsurfing website for Vietnam, www.windsurf-vietnam.com.

On December 16, 2001 Jibe’s windsurf and water sports club was born. Pascal and his wife Phuong had taken the next step by opening the Full Moon Hotel and Jibe’s Beach Club in the heart of the bay. This provided windsurfers from all over the world with a place to stay and a centre to rent equipment. News spread fast about the venture and Mui Ne’s amazing wind conditions, and foreign /media as well as sports and tourism magazines began to take Mui Ne more seriously.

By 2011 Mui Ne was home to the PWA (Professional Windsurfers Association) World Windsurfing Tour, a widely recognized international event covered by the world’s sporting /media. The KTA (Kite Tour Asia) also held a number of events in Mui Ne and it’s only a matter of time before Mui Ne welcomes the PKRA (Professional Kiteboard Riders Association) events. Jibe’s hosted the 15th Vietnam Windsurf Fun Cup with close to 40 international competitors, including local riders from Vietnam.

Mui Ne has come a long way from the days of a single, dusty road, oxcarts and the odd lone foreign backpacker. It is now firmly on the map as the best water-sport location in Vietnam, and one of the best locations in the whole of Asia, with a vast choice of accommodation, restaurants and nightlife. Kite surfing, windsurfing, classic wave surfing, stand-up paddling and sailing have brought this once sleepy little fishing village to life. In the middle of the high season (November-April) it is not uncommon to see more than 200 kite surfers on the water and sometimes in the air, but I can’t help feel a twinge of nostalgia for the old days when the bay was still a secret jewel in Vietnam’s beautiful coast line.

Author: Adie Casket