The RYA’s Chief Instructor, Dinghy and Windsurfing; Amanda Van Santen takes a look at what is happening at our local windsurfing clubs to motivate us this year, as well as providing others with top tips from those clubs who are clearly doing it right………..
With summer here and autumn winds around the corner, it’s definitely time to brush the dust off our kit and get out on the water. But, getting back into watersports after a long break can be challenging and sometimes a little motivation and encouragement from others goes a long way!!
The RYA pumps huge resource into supporting local clubs, helping to ensure clubs are able to offer the service you and I require to get out on the water. I spoke to three clubs; Notts County, Minis Bay and KGSC about the secrets of their success!
‘Variety is the Key’ says Gerry Ball, RYA Trainer, Regional Club Coach and member at Notts County SC. ‘Every windsurfer loves to go fast’, says Gerry and so Notts County Club purchased two GPS’s, which the members contribute £10 (per year) to use and introduced the Speed Ladder. Designed as a bit of fun and low key competition, GPS speeds are recorded both monthly, and annually, with the best six results counting towards an annual trophy. This definitely encourages people to turn up more regularly; any windy days now just cannot be missed, with members discussing top tips and kit set up in the bar afterwards!
The success of the GPS lead us to expand the speed and introduced a ‘Very short (>2mins)’ timed lap, set around a course – similar to a concept run by the famous car show on BBC 2, basically a timed Speed Trial, with times not being revealed until everyone gets back in the clubhouse. We have found that this encourages people to work on their technique, setting themselves targets, knowing that if they can improve their stance, or perhaps skill around the corners, they will get quicker!
And why does it work so well? Because it can be done on ‘club’ boards and sails, with no hi-tech kit needed!
Gerry’s two top tips – Communication and catering
- Communication, email groups work well and Facebook and/or twitter have aided and increased club communication and can actually be more productive.
- Catering, very important! This is really important to knitting together all our initiatives at the club, and without the social element the whole thing would falter.
Minis Bay, who after receiving a grant in 2010, were able to invest in new equipment, safety boat engine and additional safety boat training for their volunteers, helping their club go from strength to strength. Last year the club also benefited from six days professional instruction, due to being an RYA Affiliated Club. The RYA’s adult participation scheme, ‘More Adults Sailing More Often’ provided the club with access to a pro coach, who provided the club members with coaching support at a variety of skill levels, aiming to improve technique and help sustain interest in the sport, through inspirational coaching and encouragement, helping them tackle plato’s in their windsurfing progression. It was amazing – every session was fully booked and people left encouraged and enthused!!
King George Sailing Club (KGSC), North London, had just nine windsurfing members, with kit that was over 25 years old, but with hard work, commitment and dedication, membership today is 53!
By selling old abandoned kit, the club started to raise money to kick start the funding process and purchased some second hand kit. Becoming an RYA Training Centre gave KGSC exposure to the general public, while giving credence on course deliverables and helped put them on the map.
So what do they do to encourage their membership? Membership discounts for newly qualified beginners, offers on courses at the club, storage containers; since KGSC is located in London many of our members have problems with storage facilities, so funding was gained and three containers and open days to attract potential new members.
Like Notts County, KGSC feel communication is key and uses email to give their members periodic encouragement throughout the year. They also use the distribution list to provide help for their beginners. Being a beginner can be a bit daunting, so to overcome this there is a ‘buddy’ list available of names and contact numbers of people the beginners can contact during the week to go windsurfing with.
GPS speed trials, course racing, Tag Team racing, all topped off with end of evening BBQ are just some of the evening activities KGSC have in the evenings to add to the social element.
An important element that runs through all three of these and their success is the support and dedication from their volunteers, the teamwork, that without they would not be able to achieve all they have.
If you would like to find out where your nearest windsurfing club or Training Centre is, don’t waste another second, get online and check out ‘Where’s my nearest’ at www.rya.org.uk.