Chief instructor for the RYA Amanda van Santen introduces one of the most enthusiastic groups of windsurfers you could ever hope to find.
I often get asked by people what the best age to learn to windsurf is, or if there is a suggested time to stop…….my reply is always the same, just like every sport, ‘you’re never too old’, and ‘try and keep going as long as you can and it is safe to do so!’. Your location and kit choice may change, but there is no reason why, as long as you are fit and healthy, that you can’t carry on enjoying such a great sport.
Am I too old to windsurf……. should I be hanging up my wetsuit for the last time? Most RYA Training Centres will take people of any age to learn to windsurf, with minimal prerequisites; basically all you need is water confidence and a ‘let’s just give it a go’ attitude, with all the equipment provided and recent developments making it lighter than ever – there really has never been a better time to give it a go, or keep at it!
If you fancy brushing up those rusty skills, why not take a lesson or too…….the RYA Windsurfing scheme has a course or clinic suitable for most, taking you from beginner, to being confident in your harness and footstraps and on to learning the basic techniques to sail in bump and jump conditions.
Let’s not forget the health benefits……..If you do a search on the web, there are numerous articles about the health benefits of not only windsurfing, but generally getting out in the fresh air. If you windsurf already, you will be very familiar with the fact that as you manoeuvre the board and sail, you are giving your body an entire work out – arms, legs and back, while you’re cruising around!! Let’s not forget our core muscles workout, due to the balancing required, and a good old top up of Vitamin D while we are soaking up sunshine………..oh hang on, we’ll maybe leave out the Vitamin D for now considering recent weather!!
So now we have overcome the initial ‘I’m too old’ stage, what can we do from here to ensure we maximise our time on the water and really reap the health benefits it provides?
About 10 years ago, while instructing overseas, I had the pleasure of meeting that most inspiring group of people that really are ‘proof of the pudding’ and show 100% that you are never too old to windsurf and are reaping the health benefits of keeping active and getting out on the water – The Seavets. Before you stop reading this article and think I am going talk about ‘Silver Surfers’ and the group are nothing to do with you………..membership for the Seatvets starts at the ripe old age of 35……..yep 35, and these guys really do put many of us to shame!!
The Seavets where set up back in 1984, when a medical research charity called the Foundation for Ageing (now known as Age UK) were looking for active groups of older people to demonstrate that an active middle age can lead to a healthier and therefore happier old age.
Together with the UKWA (as it is now), they held a weekend at Hayling Island, and this was to be the beginning of the Seavets!
28 years later, the founder, Andrew Watson, is still the Vice President of the group at a ripe age of 94! The oldest member, but sadly no longer fit enough to windsurf – I think he has a pretty good excuse!!
An RYA affiliated club, with over 200 members, the Seavets aim is to promote windsurfing as a sport for the more mature, through numerous racing and non-racing events, but also to continue supporting the original charity – Research into Ageing.
With a members ranging from 35 to 94, there is plenty of diversity to the group, who are always actively recruiting new members to increase the challenge on the race course, and believe me that is no mean feat!
You do have to be 35 or over, and unfortunately they are unable to take complete beginners as members or provide equipment, but if you are interested and are just learning the sport their links with RYA Training Centres and the courses offered would ensure you go to the right level in no time. Their only other stipulation is that you have to have enthusiasm for windsurfing, and having met them, I can assure you this group oozes that!
What attracts the 200 plus members to join the Seavets and windsurf? Fun and lots of it! The pure enjoyment of having a group of like-minded people to meet up with and go windsurfing, whether it is weekend racing events, or blasting from a local beach.
Getting interested, well the group have about 12 racing events which take place between April and October and four ‘Social Sailing’ meetings every year at Poole harbour, Weymouth and Calshot and club trips to Brittany in July and Minorca in October, as well as smaller groups that meet informally during the week somewhere on the south coast, depending on the wind and tide.
So apart from the events above, where can the Seavets be found? Most lakes and coastal waters near you……..there are members at Poole harbour, Portland harbour, Calshot, Hayling Island, Lake Bala, Wales, Burghfield, Reading, Notts Co SC, Barnt Green, Whitwell, Grafham, Farmoor, Brogborough and so the list goes on………
The Seavets are also part of Project Windsurf UK, the RYA’s most recent windsurfing initiative helping to get more people out on the water together: http://www.projectwindsurfuk.org.uk/
If you would like to find out more about the Seavets, check out their website: http://www.seavets.co.uk/
To find out more about RYA Windsurfing courses visit www.rya.org.uk/training