Learning to windsurf isn't just about learning to pull up the sail, blast along and turn around. Once you've mastered the basic windsurfing techniques, it's time to learn the rules and etiquette that are key for every windsurfer to know. First up, we learn the Golden Rules of Water Safety with George Shillito.


In times of need your board becomes your life raft, make sure you know how to minimise these times and react to them if it does go wrong.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail....

As you read, you may have notice that most of the points are nearly all done before your session on the water even begins and are all complete and utter common sense. Even so I can assure you that all of the below rules will have absolutely no effect to your sailing, nor get in the way of progression, or even damage your beach cred, but one day they might just save your life, so take note and make those otherwise unconscious checks a thing of the past!

Learn from George Shillito's mistakes; 10 rules of how to stay safe on the water.

[splitpost intro="true" order="true"]

[part title=" 1. CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON:"] 1. Choose your weapon:

Checking your equipment is in good nick is obvious, but making sure you have the right kit for the conditions you’re about to tear to tiny shreds (rather than the other way round), is far too easily misjudged so when you arrive at the beach, watch the conditions closely, go down to the water’s edge, talk to those in the know and pick wisely.

[part title="2. CHECK YOURSELF, FOOL:"] 2. Check yourself, fool:

Wrap up; make sure you’re wearing suitable clothing to keep you warm (but not too hot!) and comfortable during your sailing session as it’s worth bearing in mind if it all goes wrong you may be getting to know the water pretty darn well.

Board silly; always check your deck plate, footstraps and fin are tight and show no signs of wear.

Rig right; your outhaul, inhaul and downhaul are the easiest thing to take for granted, yet if they break you’ll know about it all too well! So replace your ropes often and whilst you’re at it; ensure your mast is correctly slotted together, the boom clamp ‘snaps’ shut and you wouldn’t wear your cap upside-down so why should your mast – make sure it’s pulled on tight!

[part title="3. BACKUP PLAN:"] 3. Backup plan:

Always let someone (reliable) know where you are going and what time you plan to be back. Even if you are having the time of your life arrange to call at a certain time to make sure you don’t find yourself drifting off to who-knows-where without any back-up. (N.B. – make sure the person on the end of the line knows what to do if you don’t call!)

[part title="4. THE PERFECT STORM:"] 4. The perfect storm:

The chances are if you’re about to hit the water then you’ve already checked a dozen forecasts over and over again. If not, make sure you have a long, hard look at a detailed, local forecast so you know what the conditions will be like when you arrive AND (this is the important) for the rest of the day!

[part title="5. LOCAL LEGENDS:"] 5. Local legends:

In general, windsurfers don’t bite so rather than stealthily rigging up before sneaking out onto the water, make sure you say ‘hello’ to the local sailors. You’ll be amazed at the depth of knowledge they have on the area such as hidden dangers, tidal movement, wind direction and local effects which they’ll all too happily reel off for you.

[part title="6. IF IN DOUBT, DON’T GO OUT:"] 6. If in doubt, don’t go out:

It’s similar to passing your driving test this one; just because you have a certificate to say you’re capable of pure, unrelenting moments of brilliance always know when to sit one out and you’ll be surprised just how quickly a camera gets thrust into your hands!

[part title="7. JIM’LL FIX IT:"] 7. Jim’ll fix it:

But if Jim isn’t there, you’ll need to fix it so be prepared with some essential spares. You can never have too many essential spares but some of the most important and easy to carry with you are:

Rope (downhaul off-cut; perfect to tie either around your harness hook or end of boom)

Whistle (unbelievably light and tucks just about anywhere)

Day –glow Flag (folds into any small pocket or stitch it into your harness/buoyancy aid)

[part title="8. NUMBER 8, SAIL WITH YOUR M8:"] 8. Number 8, sail with your m8:

When you hit the water organise to sail in a group or (at the very least) with someone else as even some of the most underdeveloped animals on the planet have managed to work out the simple principle of life that is safety in numbers! Preferably sail with one of your friends so you can really push each other’s sailing, keep a close eye on each other and have a good laugh whilst doing it.

[part title="9. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT"] 9. Practice makes perfect:

Now this sounds stupid but stay with me! We all have those days when we turn up at the beach and the conditions haven’t quite come through or they have but then simply turned off mid-session. However, instead of passing the time sitting in your car/van and waiting, have a go at rescuing yourself in the safe, calm surroundings. The RNLI and Coastguard do it so why shouldn’t we? Try sailing without your fin, disconnecting your sail whilst afloat, swimming under your sail or even a full scale de-rig and in doing so you have instant knowledge of just how long it will take if you have to do it for real!

[part title="10. KEEP CALM:"] 10. Keep calm:

The most important point of all! If it all goes wrong then YOU will have to do something about it so there is absolutely no point in panicking or stressing as that will get you nowhere. There will be plenty of time to recall the situation to your mates in the pub later but for now, it’s you versus Mother Nature! Some key points are; keep calm, think it through, take note of where you are (to monitor progress) and act accordingly, remember I’m only able to write these ten rules because someone, somewhere had to learn the hard way; they lived to tell the tale and so will you!

Written by George Shillito:


Gul International

O’Shea Surf

Polkerris Beach Co.