Windsurfing around Bermuda – Neil Burnie Challenge

After the sad loss of our good friend Dr Neil Burnie, many of us thought we should make a challenge to windsurf or kiteboard around the island as he used to do.

In the end 8 of us set off, one windsurfer and 7 kiteboarders as seen in the video. It was pretty brutal with the wind not the right angle meaning many tacks to get upwind. It was great fun and glad we did it!

The following is a description of the event:

To honor the passing of a great friend of the Bermuda windsurfing community, a windsurf and kitesurf around the island challenge is being created. The idea of the challenge it to embrace the daring and adventurous spirit of Neil Burnie and previous windsurfers pioneers.

Windsurfers with their high speed and shallow draft provided the ideal platform to make high speed roundings. It was Hugh Watlington who first took up the challenge by windsurfer in 1980, taking an arduous 6 hours and 6 minutes!

During the 80’s and early 90’s, the heyday of windsurfing, equipment was developing at a frenzied rate. Amongst the local windsurfers there was fierce competition by the likes of Alex Outerbridge and Goffre Pitman, both outdoing each other for the quickest rounding with times dropping below 3 hours.

When Neil Burnie became part of the windsurf scene his technical ability, board speed and tenacity allowed him to shave additional time from the previous challengers. Neil’s circumnavigation time of 2 hours 11 minutes has stood for close to 20 years.

Not every rounding has been successful however! Skimming over shallow reefs at close to 30 knots in offshore winds, large ocean swells requires physical and mental toughness. There have been many equipment breakages, reef collisions and even in Neil’s case, a collision with a submerged refrigerator! Without boat support it was a risky endeavor, breakdowns often required multi hour paddles, sometimes into the hours of darkness!

So in Neil’s adventurous spirit a fun around the island challenge is being created by his windsurf and kitesurf friends. For many, surviving an exhausting and mentally tough rounding is a challenge in itself, but because of this it is a great reminder how daring Neil was out on the water!


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