Will Jones joins Boards for the next installment of the SWA Monthly.
After SWA Nationals I felt a little bit down. Nationals marked the end of another fantastic student windsurfing year and meant having to say goodbye to a lot of good friends.
Pretty quickly however, I realised I was wrong. Wrong to feel down and also wrong in fact that it’s the end of the student year. I had almost forgotten this year the SWA calendar has one more fixture on it; for the first time we have teamed up with Beach Break Live to form part of the Student Extreme Games. This promises to be an awesome event. We will be running freestyle competitions alongside snow sports, wakeboard and kite surf competitions during the day.
Then in the evening, we will be able to see some of the biggest musicians, bands and DJ’s in the world performing live. Epic! On remembering this, my sadness suddenly turned to excitementand I realised I was being ridiculous in the first place. I shouldn’t be sad, just excited about the future.
There are lots of events coming up over the summer where I’ll see all the usual faces again. National Windsurf Festival and Windfest are just round the corner, the BWA/UKWA seasons are already underway and it’s really not that long till Aussie Kiss 11 (I don’t think there is anything wrong with me already being ridiculously excited for Aussie Kiss, even if it’s not until the last weekend of October).
In general I’m stoked for the new SWA year. It’s always great to meet new people and awe-inspiring to see new talent come through. I wonder if at Aussie Kiss 11 we will be as blown away by the freestyle as we were at Aussie Kiss 10. I definitely hope we will be as blown away by the Vass girl’s outfits at Aussie Kiss 11 as we were by their X-rated interpretation.
Nationals overall, were a wicked weekend, truly amazing parties on both nights. The Saturday night boat party in particular never disappoints. All the competitions ran smoothly and I had great fun competing in them. The weekend’s competition in fact led me to a slight epiphany. It was during the freestyle competition that this particular moment of insight hit me, but what I’m about to discuss really applies to any sort of competition or situation where you are challenged to push yourself to sail at your best.
The wind for Nationals had been a bit on the light side overall, Saturday morning had started very light. Thankfully by the afternoon it had picked up a bit and people were on and off getting planing on big kit. There was even about a half hour where a few people took the chance to go out on their freestyle gear, but sadly that didn’t last long.
Sunday started much the same as Saturday, with very light wind. Fortunately, the afternoon’s wind started to fill in just a little bit earlier than the Saturday. The morning’s team racing event was a battle of who could pump onto the plane. By about 1pm, the wind had really started to pick up and it looked like we would have what we needed to get a proper freestyle competition in. Hastily, all those keen to compete ran off to rig their gear and re-group on the beach.
Phil and Danielle from GetWindsurfing.com were judging the competition and gave a short briefing on their point scoring criteria. Heats would be eight minutes and points would be awarded for variety and quality of moves, but also to those who didn’t just play safe and went for some bigger moves too, even if they didn’t quite land them. The SWA scoring system aims to encourage as many people as possible to compete and make it as entertaining as possible for the audience, hence the marks for attempting bigger moves.
With that made clear, we were divided into heats and the competition got underway. I was in the first heat which gave me time to do literally one test run out and back to check my kit was all ok before I had to start my heat.
The megaphone sounded, we were off. I sailed upwind, tacked and came broadreaching at full steam towards where the judges were sat. Flying along, I reached back down the boom, popped the board out of the water, extended my front arm as high as I could, sheeted in hard with my back hand and looked back over my shoulder for a forward. Now, the outcome of this forward is frankly irrelevant (ok I crashed). But my point is, I know if I had gone out just to sail it would have taken me at least 20 minutes to warm up before going for a forward.
I waterstarted out of it and sailed back away from the beach. Knowing I was eating into my eight minutes I immediately found myself going switch and bearing off to pick up speed. Again, in a normal session there would be a fair few moves I would normally try before I started trying anything switch.
The entire eight minute session continued like this. I think I tried a different move on every run, sometimes more than one. After eight minutes of that, I was exhausted. As I collapsed back on the beach to catch my breath I realised that I probably tried as many moves in the eight minute heat, as I sometimes would do in an entire afternoon of sailing.
About 10 minutes later, I was forced to do it again in the next round. The message I am hopefully getting across is that whatever your ability, competition drives you to push yourself. For that reason alone its worth taking part.
I have felt over the last few months that my sailing progression has kind of stalled. I’ve got a selection of moves that I can do well and consistently, and then a few that I can do occasionally but they’re not getting any more consistent.
I have found many excuses to justify my lack of progress; mostly having a job and not getting to the beach as much as I’d like or maybe not having the best possible set up on the day.
But, maybe the real reason my windsurfing has just not been progressing the way I would hope, is that I have just not been pushing myself enough. If, every time I went out I sailed like I had done in those eight minute heats at nationals I am sure I would quickly start to see myself progress again.
I do quite a bit of running. I always try to find some sort of event to sign up for to give me a goal to train for over the coming months; 10km’s, half marathons or last year I did my first marathon in Snowdonia. I find it really hard to motivate myself to get out and train without an impending race. I’m signed up already to the Cardiff Half Marathon in October, to give me the motivation I need to get out and run over the summer.
So, perhaps this same principle can be applied to windsurfing. Pick a competition coming up and get on the water and train for it. There are plenty coming up with the SWA at Beach Break, the National Windsurf Festival and Windfest just around the corner. Not long after that Aussie Kiss will be on us followed by BWA Gwithian for the wave sailors.
From now on I’m going to follow a new philosophy on windsurfing. Every time I go on the water I’m going to sail like I’m in an eight minute heat and in the future I’m going to enter as many competitions as I can make it to. Perhaps that will help take my windsurfing out of the rut I’m stuck in and on to the next level.
I think a lot of people are slightly nervous to go out and push themselves all the time. If you’re out sailing with just a few of you and there’s not much around in terms of safety I suppose I can understand this. Then there is the risk of injury, which is something always on my mind. But realistically windsurfing is a fairly forgiving sport. Bruises and scrapes are common and maybe the occasional sprained ankle but in my experience more serious injuries are quite rare. The water is quite a forgiving medium. If it’s injury you are scared of and you want to progress, it is something you are probably going to have to get over.
I’m not saying you should go out and start trying stupid things, I mean push yourself and get some good sliding moves under your belt before you start going for konos. You can push yourself in a sensible way and keep the risk of injury to a minimum. But at the same time, perhaps when your next tucking into a hearty breakfast about to head to the beach you should look to the back of your fridge to see if there is a can of ‘man up’ lurking there to wash it down with. To quote Travis Rice ‘You’re gonna take beatings. You go down, you get up. That simple!’
I also think a lot of people are scared of competitions, even if they’re perfectly capable of entering and putting in a good performance. This is something I’ve noticed particularly at SWA events. What are people scared of? Well, it’s probably down to not wanting to embarrass themselves.
No one wants to look stupid in front of their friends. No one wants to have people laughing at them. But if we are honest, this is probably down to vanity. What is there really to be embarrassed about and who is going to laugh at you?
Definitely not the other competitors, who will be feeling the same pressure and if you’re worried about the people sat on the beach, who are too scared and embarrassed to enter themselves laughing at you, I think you need to have a good hard look at yourself in the mirror.
There is nothing to be scared of or embarrassed about. If you want to enter a competition be it to show off your windsurfing or to challenge yourself you should go ahead and do it.
All that said. I guess we must be going in the right direction. The numbers at SWA events continue to grow, as does the number of competitors.
However, if you think there is a way that we could encourage more of those who are already turning up to events to compete I would love to hear your views.
Similarly I think UK events are growing. National Windsurf Festival and Windfest get bigger every year and I think UKWA and BWA are growing in numbers. I am sure we can expect to see a lot of students at all those events this year. Particularly, I know the BWA event at Gwithian this year will be extremely well attended by students.
In all the events I’ve competed at in the past, SWA and UK, I’ve always had a great time no matter what the end result. You are challenged to windsurf at your best and you get to meet some cool people doing it.
It’s no mystery that the windsurf industry is struggling slightly. Just in the same way every other industry is struggling considering the current economic climate. The industry needs your support.
So, if you’re interested in taking part in your first competition or if you are one of those people who has considered entering a competition before but have been too nervous or self-conscious, now is the time to get over your fears and put your name down for your first event. With your support we can boost windsurfing back to the dizzying height it was at in the glory days of the late 80’s. Furthermore; you’ll probably regret it a lot more if you don’t enter, than if you do.
By Will Jones