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Raw Adventure in Tarifa: Christian Funck

Tarifa Adventure - July 9, 2024 - 0 comments

Christian Funck is not a man who does things by half. Learning to swim at age four when his grandfather pushed him into a swimming pool was the beginning of a lifelong connection to watersports that led him to the pre-Olympics swim team and later, to Tarifa. A spirit of resilience in the face of adversity is a feature that’s common amongst the windsurf gang in Tarifa. Chris is no exception. 




Like most people who arrived in the late nineties or early noughts, it was windsurfing that brought Chris to Tarifa. Aware that Hawaii and Tarifa were two of the best windsurfing spots in the world, it was a place he’d known about since childhood. He got the chance to first visit at age 18 when he was in training for the Danish pre-Olympic swim team and living in Malaga. 


Tarifa’s the kind of place that people either love or hate, and for Chris, the love affair was instant. As a budding adventure junkie, something about the raw energy of Tarifa caught his attention and that was it, he was hooked. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury took him out of the swim team, ending the dream of competing in the Olympics. Pragmatic at heart, Chris took defeat in his stride, returning to university, gaining a Masters in International Business & Marketing. 


But it wasn’t long before he was back in Tarifa. After his Masters, he worked at Shell, the international oil and gas company, and was looking at a solid career as a corporate man. But a phone call from a friend about a job with a shipping company in Tarifa changed the course of his life overnight. In 2000, he took the job of marketing director at FRS, the shipping company that runs the ferry line from Morocco to Spain, and stayed with them for four years.



Today, he chuckles at the memory of the job interview that took place on a ferry out at sea in Force 7 wind, and was a sign of things to come. But his connections to Tarifa and windsurfing made him the perfect candidate for the job, as someone who could appreciate el duende or the spirit of the Strait of Gibraltar. At FRS, he worked long hours, leaving him with little time for anything but work during the week. 


But the weekend was his time and he didn’t waste a minute, hitting the water the moment work finished on a Friday night, later, hitting the bars, and then a full day of adventure activities on Saturday and Sunday. During these weekends, Chris’s goal was to get in as many activities as possible including windsurfing, mountain-biking, snowboarding, skiing and motor-cross.


The thrill of Tarifa was the easy access to all these activities as well as some of the best windsurf conditions in the world. As kite-surfing became more popular in Tarifa, like many windsurfers, Chris transitioned to kites, adding them to his weekend repertoire of activities. By now, he was a fully-fledged member of the work hard play hard crew. He left FRS after four years, burnt out, but the biggest adventures of his life were still waiting for him. 




The first few years after leaving FRS were difficult. Due to a mountain-biking accident, Chris developed a blood clot in his brain that demanded two years of recovery. For seven years, he ran his own companies and did consultancy work, which took him to Oman where he built the national ferry company. In 2011, FRS asked him to come back, and once more, Chris followed the call. 


In 2012, he completed a swim across the Strait of Gibraltar in 3 hours and 57 minutes. He swam in a group of three, with safety boats ahead and behind them. Calling it the “Sierra Nevada of swimming,” meaning dangerous but not one of the worst on the Oceans Seven list, Chris says the hardest part of the task was the training, squeezing in swim sessions while working 100-hour weeks. Much of his drive comes from the opportunity to “compete against yourself.”


In 2013, he took on a new challenge, the Paris Dakar, driving with a friend on motorbikes for a fourteen-day race from Almeria in Spain down to Dakar in Senegal. By then he had broken his back three times and was in pain but found a specialist who was able to repair him in time for the race. When they got to the finish line, his friend collapsed in relief. Chris wanted to know when he could do it all again. 




He got the chance in 2015 when he left FRS again, and inspired by the TV series Long Way Round starring Ewan McGregor, Chris decided to drive his motorbike around the world. He spent nine months driving 57.000km across Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, different parts of Russia, including Siberia, travelling all the way to Japan. He spent time in North and South Korea and had plans to travel on to New Zealand but then he got sick. 


He developed a neurological disorder that caused severe muscle contraction and debilitating pain. To date, he’s found meditation to be the most powerful tool for managing pain, which has shifted his focus onto understanding the power of the brain and how to find a balance that helps the body to relax. Whereas for much of his life, he used his body as a “tool,” today he’s much more respectful of both its power and limitations. 


Living in Tarifa has helped him to change his relationship to his health and wellbeing. “To this day friends ask me why I still live in Tarifa,” Chris says, “They just can’t understand it. But it’s not like other places. And yes, it can be difficult to live here, difficult to make money. But none of that matters. What matters is that you can spend an afternoon on the water, walk barefoot on the beach. Totally disconnect. That’s part of what gives Tarifa its special quality.” 

Want to experience your own Water Sports adventure in Tarifa?

Get in touch with Liz today

Liz's tips

Tarifa has got some of the best wind- and kite-surfing conditions in the world, ranked 3rd worldwide after Hawaii and the Canary Islands. Get in touch and I can set you up with the best schools, so that you can get on with enjoying the adventure of Tarifa. Some of the adventure activities I can set up for you include:

  • Kite-surfing

  • Wind-surfing

  • Wing-foil

  • Mountain-biking

  • Scuba-diving

  • Paddle-boarding

  • Horse-riding