“The thing that puts most people off windsurfing is they think it’s too difficult. Or they won’t be strong enough or are too old. But none of these things are true. Windsurfing is about learning technique and anyone can do that, especially with all the new developments in equipment. Then the windsurfing world is their oyster."
These are some of the common misconceptions held up as ‘daunting’ reasons why potential newcomers to the sport never go any further than thinking it might be a cool pastime reflects Amanda Van Santen, RYA Chief Instructor, Dinghy and Windsurfing.
There are arguably more routes than ever before into taking those first tentative steps on to a board, yet the common reasons not to remain all too well-worn.
Amanda and Gillian Wright, RYA National Windsurfing Development Officer, make it their raison d'être to explain to the population at large –adults and kids – why these ‘reasons’ are nothing more than myths.
Here Amanda and Gillian provide their top tips on getting started in the sport.
1) How can you start if you don’t know where you can go?
At the very earliest point of thinking you may like to learn to windsurf, have a look at the Where’s My Nearest section of the RYA website. You may have already decided that there can’t possibly be anywhere local to you cater for windsurfing as you live in the middle of the country or the middle of nowhere. But there are some 250 RYA Training Centres running windsurfing courses in Britain and overseas so chances are you actually won’t have to travel too far at all. The RYA Start Windsurfing course is for adults and Windsurfing Stage 1 is for juniors.
2) Don’t worry about buying anything.
Not at the start anyway. RYA Training Centres can provide you with all the kit and equipment you need including a wetsuit. The only things you may need are something for your feet and your own swimsuit. A common mistake is newcomers buy equipment that’s not appropriate for them, either too big and they progress off of very quickly, or too advanced, which hampers progression. We recommend not even thinking about investing in your own equipment until you reach Intermediate course level.
3) Jargon free zone!
The language specific to windsurfing can be baffling and off-putting to an outsider. A key part of our Instructor training is they are taught to keep language simple so people can understand it, the same language is then as you continue to progress throughout the whole scheme.
4) You will be sailing within your first session.
We try to get people on to the water as soon as possible. There is a bit of simulated activity on shore to start with but one of the great things about windsurfing is pretty much everyone can go in a straight line by the end of session one. Windsurfing is about technique, which is why size, age, gender etc. don’t matter and you can improve pretty quickly. At the end of a two-day course people generally can get up and move on the board, sail across the wind, downwind, upwind, tack, gybe and understand how to put the kit together. Seeing quick improvements is really motivating for people to keep on wanting to get better.
5) Practice makes perfect.
Like with any sport the more you do it the better you will get more quickly. Most RYA training centres and windsurfing clubs have a ‘pay and play’ facility to hire kit and get out on the water. Many centres offer ‘pay and play’ discounts for students on their training courses, to encourage them to practice, while others are aligned with windsurfing clubs where people can get discounted hire. When practicing new techniques, stay in a comfortable Force 1-3. People don’t realise how much conditions can affect ability to learn.
1) Get your mates to learn too.
Windsurfing is a massively social sport, even right from the start. There is a lot more fun to have if there are a few of you, so you can learn and progress together. People of all ages are much more likely to continue with a sport if they have an emotional and social attachment with it. Hook up with like-minded people in your area. Find a club or group via the RYA (www.rya.org.uk) or Project Windsurf-UK (www.projectwindsurfuk.org.uk) websites or if you’re 15 or under look for your nearest Team15 club. This is one front on which Team15 has been so successful; the emphasis is on being part of a club with your mates.
2) Invest in good kit.
When the time comes to buy your own kit and equipment make sure you get the right stuff you need for you to be comfortable on the water. Learning can be made easy by taking RYA courses, either locally or on holiday overseas, where all the equipment is provided and suitable for your level. When you’re progressing the kit you can hire will be appropriate to your standard, and change as you progress. But get it wrong when buying your own and you could stop yourself wanting to go! Start with a good fitting wetsuit and buoyancy aid; if you are warm and comfortable then you will want to go more. Buying your own board and sail will help you get out more often. Get good advice before you invest depending on budget.
3) Getting around.
Learn how to put your board on your roof rack securely. It’s quite simple, but only if you know how. If you don’t have a car, can’t drive or don’t have sufficient storage, don’t stop let that stop you buying your own kit. Some clubs and centres offer storage for a small fee.
4) Learn how to put your kit together properly.
A badly rigged sail can hinder progress. If you buy from a centre or shop, they will show you how. If you buy second-hand ask the seller or a more experienced windsurfer to show you. Someone in your windsurfing group can help you.
5) Go windsurfing as often as you can.
Do I need to say more!
Find out more about RYA Windsurfing training courses at www.rya.org.uk
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New to windsurfing? Find out more about getting into the sport in the Basics section here.