Windsurfing in the winter is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can get according to the RYA, here's why you should be hitting the water even when the temperatures drop!
The satisfying buzz when you come off the water is hard to beat, not to mention the badge of honour you get from people who think you are insane to want to go anywhere near the water when the wind chill feels like the Arctic!
Amanda Van Santen, RYA Chief Windsurfing and Dinghy Instructor, is a dedicated winter windsurfer:
“The UK tends to get some good low pressure systems moving through during the winter months providing some excellent sailing conditions," she explains.
“These can bring anything from flat water blasting to choppier, more challenging waters and some great swells being produced for wave sailing.
“I always feel winter provides more exhilarating sailing, with strong south-westerly winds, challenging conditions and often colder weather, which brings that nice tingle to your body as you warm up after a great sail!"
So, how can you make the most out of one of the best times of year to sail?
Amanda has a few tips....
1) Substance over style – it doesn’t matter what you look like, the right clothing is everything when you go windsurfing in the winter.
Firstly think about your wetsuit. You need a good winter wetsuit that fits well and is specifically designed for windsurfing and the UK climate. A wetsuit 5/3mm in thickness is sensible, and both double and single lined varieties are really good.
Wetsuits have come a long way in recent years. Thermal rash vests can also provide a good mid/base layer under a wetsuit. Keeping your core warm is critical.
Boots of at least 3mm are needed for winter windsurfing; your summer booties will not cut the mustard! Gloves can be used, but make sure you get a pair that is specific to windsurfing or they can give you cramp in your forearms.
When the weather gets really cold balaclavas provide great warmth for your head.
Know your limits – it is really important to remember the colder weather, and wearing of warmer thicker wetsuits, does tire you out more quickly. It can also restrict you slightly around the arms etc, which can impact on how tired you get too.
Don’t go out with a set length of time to sail in your mind; your body will tell you when it has had enough so listen to it.
[part title="2) Weather watch"]
2) Weather watch - there are so many weather websites now you could spend all day checking the forecast. Sites like Windguru, Metcheck, BBC Weather and the MetOffice are among the most popular.
One of the great things about the growth of mobile phone technology over the past few years is we are never more than a quick app check away from the latest forecast. Weather patterns and systems can change quickly in the winter, so being able to stay on top of any diversions in forecast is extremely useful.
Always check the outlook to see if any stormy weather or dramatic changes in weather, direction or strength is on its way too. It might be nice and sunny now but who knows what the next 30 minutes will bring!
For the most local updates possible an increasing number of webcams are providing instant viewing of your favourite location, while your local club or shop will be able to tell you exactly what is expected.
One of the biggest things advanced windsurfers in particular are guilty of is waiting for ‘perfect’ conditions, which means they don’t then actually go windsurfing as often as they could! Just get out there and enjoy whatever you get.
[part title="3) Hunt in packs"]
3) Hunt in packs – we all know windsurfing is a really sociable sport, but in the winter sailing with friends is about much more than being social. Always sail with others and look out for each other. Pay careful attention to any changes in behaviour that might indicate someone is getting too cold or tired, on and off the water.
[part title="4) Getting geared up"]
4) Getting geared up – there is nothing different about the type of equipment you should use in winter.
Boards and rigs are built to sail in all conditions so, just as you would in the summer, check all your equipment is suitable for the conditions and is in good working order.
Bear in mind that thicker boots can affect getting in and out of the footstraps, so adjust those appropriately prior to heading out on the water.
Looking after your kit post-sail is the same as any sail session, there is no specific advice or things to look out for related to the cold weather.
Just check over the equipment to make sure nothing has been damaged or is looking worn, and make sure you roll up the sails properly no matter how cold it is! Also always rinse off your kit if you are sailing on the coast or salt water.
[part title="5) Common sense prevails"]
5) Common sense prevails – above all else BE SAFE!
The following seven common senses are elaborated on in the RYA Windsurfing Logbook and G49 Start Windsurfing.
• Is all your equipment seaworthy and suitable?
• Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back
• Obtain a forecast for the local sailing area
• Are you capable of handling prevailing conditions?
• Sail with others
• Avoid strong tides, offshore winds and poor visibility
• Consider other water users
[part title="6) Enjoy the buzz"]
6) Enjoy the buzz – you want to you go home feeling exhilarated and buzzing, not with your mates wondering whether a trip to A&E for possible hyperthermia maybe on the cards for you.
Make sure you have plenty warm clothes to get into back ashore and plenty of fluids to rehydrate yourself. Although it is cold, you will still dehydrate from doing exercise and need liquids just as much.
Part of the fun of winter windsurfing is the warming satisfaction of the post-sail refuelling to warm up your hands as well as your insides!
Amanda says that follow this simple advice and you can enjoy some of the best windsurfing you may ever experience.
Find out more about RYA Windsurfing courses and publications at www.rya.org.uk
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