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The coast from Blackpool to Liverpool is world-famous for its illuminations, fairgrounds, piers, sand dunes and docks. What it isn’t known for are it’s downwinders, which would allow someone to experience all of these wonders in the same day – and that’s just what Trev Pitt and Justin Evens did!
Words: Trev Pitt
Justin and I are close friends and have been kiting together for around 7 years. We came up with the idea of doing a downwinder from Blackpool to the Wirral after making a similar trip last year in the opposite direction, which took us 20 miles along the coast from Rhyl (in North Wales) to the Derby Pool, which is at New Brighton on the Wirral. Derby Pool is our home spot and takes its name from being the site of an Art Deco outdoor swimming pool built in the early 20th century.
To complete the planned downwinder, all we needed was the right wind direction and consistent wind speed to ensure that we could complete the journey safely. The coastline also has a broad tidal range meaning that we had a limited 4-hour window over the tide to complete the downwinder.
We have been treated to some fantastic conditions recently on the coast and have been able to get out on the water a lot but none of these days ticked all the boxes for us to complete the downwinder. However, at the end of June, we saw a promising forecast for the 6th July which ticked all of the boxes for our downwinder. The direction was right, with the wind blowing from the North West, wind speeds of 22- 30kts and an incoming tide. The forecasted conditions were what we had been waiting for and would be perfect for both of us, me on my 9m Liquidforce NV and Justin on his 8m Core Nexus.
On the day of the downwinder, we arrived at Liverpool’s Lime Street station at 8 am fully kitted out in wetsuits and flipflops and carrying all of the gear we would need to successfully complete the downwinder. We certainly got some funny looks as we walked through the station with our face masks on! Two transport Police Officers pulled us up and asked why we were dressing in wetsuits, intrigued by all of the gear we were carrying. When we told them what we were doing, they were shocked and said to us we were nuts! We kindly asked for a selfie with them to which they happily obliged, then we went and sat on the platform waiting for our train to Blackpool.
Our train arrived at the station, and we started on our epic adventure. Justin decided to reserve his energy by having a nap while I watch the world go by out of the window with nervous excitement at the thought of the journey ahead of us.
After an hour and a half on the train, we arrived at Blackpool North Station at 10 am, and after a quick stop for coffee, we headed to the beach which was only a short walk away. Just past the north pier, we started setting up our kites on the beach, and with an incoming tide, we had to be quick.
We quickly packed all of our gear into our kite bags, saddled up, launched the kites and off we went, the downwinder had begun.
Conditions at first were quite challenging, for the first couple of miles coming out of Blackpool we fought through the massive waves and chop of the Irish Sea, which I can only liken to being in a blender! I was certainly hoping at that point that the remaining twenty-six miles of the journey wouldn’t be the same. Not long after my fears were eased, and just after we passed the Pleasure Beach and the massive structure of the Pepsi Max Rollercoaster, we hit the South Shore. It was at this point the conditions started becoming enjoyable. The sun was shining, and the wind was blowing onshore, and we were cruising down towards Lytham without even needing to tack.
Both Justin and myself were having fun in the epic conditions, looping our kites while switching from heel to toeside and carving the waves. In no time at all, we were at Lytham St Anne’s and waving to the handful of local kiteboarders out on the water as we went whizzing past them down the Fylde coast. We reached the mouth of the River Ribble not long after, having a quick thirty-second break while we sussed out the crossing, and then quickly decided to go for it, straight over the estuary to Southport.
The crossing was epic, with shallow flat water, and amazing views down the coast. By this time the wind had picked up and was a solid 30kts. I was holding onto my 9m and loving every second of the ride.
Finally, we hit Southport, which was our halfway point, and we could see quite a few kites in the distance further down the coast at Ainsdale. On the tack, the wind was onshore, which was a dream for us both as we hugged the coastline, taking in the sunshine and views as we edged further towards our goal. We promptly reached the sand dunes of Ainsdale, seeing quite a few of the locals out. Not long after we left Ainsdale, we reached the sand dunes of Formby, which was a beautiful place to kite across with spectacular views. We continued further down the coast towards Crosby, and then Liverpool, where we would complete the last leg of our journey, across the estuary of the River Mersey and over to the Wirral.
At this point, Justin looked over to me and shouted across to ask if we were ready for the crossing, I looked over in anticipation and said ‘let’s do this’. I had experience crossing the Mersey with a kite, alongside the famous ferry, so I understood the challenge the lay in front of us.
Off we went into the washing machine of wave madness that lay in front of us with the wind whipping up the water and spray. I remember looking over at Justin and seeing his kite and lines in front of a massive wave and thinking what a crazy experience this had all been. As we pushed on through the waves a trawler came out of nowhere, we gave the crew a wave as we sped past across the estuary towards the Wirral
By this time, we could see the massive red cranes at Bootle docks in Liverpool and the coastline of the Wirral and Derby Pool in the far distance where we were heading. Three-quarters of the way across the estuary and some two hours into our journey, my legs were beginning to feel really tired, and I was drawing on all of my strength to make it across to home.
Before we knew it we had done it, we had crossed the estuary and reached the shoreline of Derby Pool and completed the longest downwinder we had ever done. Twenty-eight miles of kiteboarding in two hours and twenty minutes. We arrived on the beach, and quite a few of the local kiteboarders were out clapping and celebrating with us. Justin and I both had the biggest smiles on our faces, I shouted “woohoo, we did it bro!”, as we gave each other a massive High 5! Job done! This was by far, one of the best kitesurfing downwinder experiences I have ever had the joy to complete. The wind was perfect, it was a beautiful sunny day, and the tide was spot on. We were able to capture some footage of the journey which I have edited into a video.
Unfortunately, only Justin had a camera, so we were only able to capture a fraction of the journey and the magnificent coastline.
My advice to anyone else planning their own downwinder is to plan ahead and wait for the perfect conditions. I’m looking forward to making plans for the next one already!