Once again we are joined by the RYA here on BOARDS. This month they have kindly supplied us with a host of festive Christams gift ideas for windsurfers. So if you are at a loss for ideas, how about considering one of these…
Admit it, you’ve already started thinking about the awesome winter sailing locations you’re going to check out over the next few months haven’t you? If not, why not!
It’s this time of year the windsurfing community’s collective adrenaline really starts flowing. All windsurfers know the unmatchable rush and post-sail tingle that comes with blasting through the choppier, challenging waters and great swells when a good low pressure system is hanging about and a decent wind is blowing.
Yet even for less experienced sailors winter can also be a great time to not just hone your skills in different conditions and locations to those experienced over the summer, but to think about what you can do to prepare for the following season, and the inspiration for windsurfing Christmas presents, is limitless!
Dress for success
Winter is cold. Fact.
Unless you’re planning on taking a windsurfing trip overseas – also a very popular thing to do in the winter months – you’re going to need to make sure you’re wearing the right gear before you get afloat.
Firstly your wetsuit – invest in a good quality 5/3mm well-fitting and windsurfing specific warm winter wetsuit. Both double and single lined varieties are good and thermal rash vests can also provide a good mid/base layer to keep your core warm.
Next up your extremities – you will need winter boots of at least 3mm, and get a pair of special windsurfing gloves so you don’t get cramp in your forearms. Hats, and if it’s really chilly balaclavas, will stop your body heat escaping through your head.
Just remember thicker boots can affect getting in and out of the footstraps, so they will need adjusting before you go afloat.
Being an RYA member can really pay dividends at this time of year. Not only does membership include free Third Party insurance, crucial when conditions are a bit hairy, there are also discounts for the Wetsuit Centre and 24-7 Boardsports plus heaps more clothing specialists, on Overboard kit protection products and Kestrel Pocket Weather Meters, vital when weather changes can be sudden and dramatic.
While many windsurfers might think of winter sailing and wild, extreme locations you don’t have to turn into Bear Grylls to enjoy getting afloat at this time of year, especially if you’re not the most experienced windsurfer.
There are plenty of RYA Training Centres around the UK that stay open throughout the winter, offering courses and clinics to brush up on your skills or learn new ones. Even if you just want to go blasting, or a centre has no formal tuition running, many will do kit hire so you can mix up what you’re sailing suitable to conditions.
Sailing at an RYA Training Centre comes with the added bonus of a warm post-sail shower and a welcoming freshly made brew and toastie after an exhilarating blast.
There are also likely to be more people around, which is doubly good as not only is windsurfing generally more fun when you sail with others but there is the safety side to it too – more people to look out for each other and any changes in conditions or behaviour that could suggest someone is too cold or tired, on and off the water.
And, of course, should anything at all go wrong, from minor injuries to displaying symptoms of possible hypothermia for example, RYA Training Centres have fully-qualified First Aiders, and if needed rescue boats, on hand and will be able to keep a ‘patient’ warm and dry ashore while the next course of action is decided upon.
If you really are a fair weather sailor – and don’t forget the UK winter does still offer beautiful lighter wind days – perhaps it’s the perfect excuse to explore overseas.
There are hundreds of RYA Training Centres worldwide, from Egypt and Turkey to places like Brazil, Mauritius, South Africa, Maui and Australia, where you can enjoy formal tuition and clinics, with some of the top instructors in the world regularly hired in to host popular guest clinics. RYA members also benefit from discounted airfares through Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air as well as airport parking perks.
It’s time to learn
Sometimes it’s just too damn stormy to go windsurfing, even for the most extreme sailors. But that doesn’t mean time not on the water has to be time not becoming a better windsurfer. Reading and watching videos can help massively too!
Whatever your level, the RYA has a range of books and DVDs to get your teeth into, while the eBook versions also come with animated diagrams/graphics and videos plus voiceovers for a more interactive learning experience.
All books are designed to accompany the relevant RYA training course and act as reference tools to build knowledge and confidence.
The RYA National Windsurfing Scheme – Syllabus and Logbook provides an overview of the pathways and opportunities the sport offers, from beginner to advanced, and includes a section for your personal log entries and a place to attach your certificates you earn along the way. There is a kids’ RYA Youth Windsurfing Scheme version too.
RYA Start Windsurfing is ideal for those who are about to start or who have recently begun windsurfing, introducing, for example, equipment, wind awareness, stance and basic manoeuvres, while RYA Intermediate Windsurfing takes things on to help people improve by learning how to sail in stronger winds, getting to grips with the harness and footstraps, while providing an introduction to more dynamic transitions.
RYA Advanced Windsurfing completes the series, written for windsurfers who already have a good knowledge and want to reach a higher level including mastering carve gybes, water starts and advanced planing techniques, all featured in this book.
Meanwhile for kids, the RYA Go Windsurfing book takes young readers from where to start and how to rig up their board, to learning to steer and starting to race, as well as covering all the important elements needed to stay safe while out windsurfing. There is also a fun, informative windsurfing facts section.
If you want an extra stocking filler idea, RYA vouchers can be spent on all books and other items in the RYA Shop, including RYA diaries with handy tide charts and magnetic boat packs and wet notes for instructors, and on RYA training courses too.
The value of common sense
There is no doubt winter offers the chance to enjoy some of the best windsurfing you may ever experience, but be safe. Know your limits and capabilities and, as always, respect the elements and other water users. The RYA Windsurfing Logbook and RYA Start Windsurfing both include a common sense pre-sailing checklist.
To find out more about how the RYA can support your winter windsurfing, from finding an RYA Training Centre and/or seasonal courses and clinics to buying from the RYA Shop or becoming a member, visit www.rya.org.uk