Sarah Loughlin catches up with windsurfcoaching.com's Colin ‘Whippy’ Dixon in Vassiliki to talk about windsurfing, Greek summers, and his love for terrible jokes.
I will always have a soft spot for Vassiliki; it is a place of many firsts for me. The first time I managed to waterstart, the first time my boyfriend said ‘I love you’, and the first time I set my apartment on fire.
It was summer 2010 and I had bagged a job at the water ski centre in Vassiliki bay. Turned out it was less boat driving, and more babysitting than I had envisaged. The owners’ two year old looked cute from far away, but if I turned my back for two seconds he would be emptying the contents of my backpack off the balcony into the sea. Charming! So after about two weeks I quit my job, and suddenly found myself living in a windsurf Mecca with a lot of time on my hands. I spent my mornings reading trashy novels on the beach, waiting for the wind to kick in, and my afternoons teaching myself to windsurf.
Learning to windsurf at Club Vass was great - the wind pretty much always came from the same direction and if you got in too much trouble there was always help at hand in the form of a friendly rescue boat. The only down side of them making it so easy for you with the pre-rigged kit is that you can get to a fairly decent standard without any understanding how to rig a sail! Because of this I haven’t really got into windsurfing back in the UK.
Four years later, a fully integrated member of the grown up world, with a full time job and everything, I am back in at Club Vass taking some much needed windsurf lessons. I catch up with Colin ‘Whippy’ Dixon to get some tips about getting started at home. ‘It is quite common with people I meet to only windsurf on holiday. The biggest obstacle for people getting out sailing in the UK is the kit - they are not sure what to buy or even how to rig it’, explains Colin, who has been teaching at Club Vass, among other places, for the last 10 years. He has now started up his own business with fellow windsurfer Marco 'Dancing' Wedele, touring the world giving clinics. ‘Our clinics can help people get started back in the UK - people bring their kit with them and I can show them how to rig it properly to get the most out of their sailing’.
Gallery - Colin and Marco.
Originally from Southampton, Colin learned to windsurf as a child on holiday in a lake in Cornwall. 'In the 80's, 1 in 3 households had windsurf kit' he tells me. Colin started racing age 15, but only really got addicted to it whilst in Australia, wave sailing and doing freestyle. ‘I definitely recommend getting started on a lake if you are not confidant going out in the sea, or join one of the many windsurf clubs in the UK so you have people to go out with.’
‘The problem with some windsurf centres is they don't include lessons, particularly in Europe, and the private lessons are quite pricey. Working at Club Vass is great because the lessons are included for all guests and I think they really benefit from that. The best thing about teaching for me is teaching old dogs new tricks, the people who have been sailing for years and years, getting them out of their box, giving them back the love for the sport!'
Colin joins my intermediate group lessons for the afternoon to talk us through some tips for getting started at home, including his biggest tip: buy a decent wetsuit! Which makes sense; if you are cold you are not going to enjoy it. ‘September and October are the best time to sail in the UK, the water is still nice and warm. I love Rhosneigr in Anglesea, North Wales it’s a great spot that time of year.’ Colin really engages the class on what could be a very boring technical topic. He keeps it fun and interesting and I feel like I have learned a lot. ‘The great thing is, you don't have to be multimillionaire to go windsurfing. You don't have to have loads of money just spend time doing a bit of research and finding the right kit for your level and the type of sailing you want to do’. In his usual style he finishes off the class by telling some of his favourite bad jokes, ‘What do you call an Italian with a rubber toe? Roberto!’.
Colin runs clinics all over the world, taking windsurfers to different spots. He can also give you advice on travel and accommodation once you are there.
‘The best things for me about windsurfing are the people and the places it can take you, just blasting along with friends and being out on the water. If I had to pick a favourite place in the world it would be either Jeri in Brazil or Western Australia’.
Talking about his upcoming clinics in Brazil he explains, ‘I love all the different types of people I get at my clinics, I don’t want to exclude anyone, one of my guys is arriving by helicopter and one of the others is getting the local bus, it’s great because everyone can get involved’. Colin's dream is to organise week-long clinics all over the world and involve some of his fellow windsurf instructors.
Check out details and dates of the upcoming Windsurf Coaching clinics here; Colin will be in the UK for September and October.