We’d all like to get paid to go windsurfing, but in reality, only very few of us will ever even come close to becoming a pro windsurfer. Before you despair, however, there are other ways to make your passion your occupation and one person who seems to have got it nailed is Amanda Van Santen: Chief Windsurfing and Dinghy instructor for the RYA
Amanda has been quietly working away, and living the dream, as Chief Windsurfing instructor at the RYA for several years now and has met with a great deal of success. So much so, that she was recently promoted to Chief Instructor not only for windsurfing, but also dinghy sailing and keelboats.
It all sounds rather grand, but what does it actually mean? We caught up with her to find out, not only what her job entails, but also what got her into the sport and also what still excites her about it.
How did you first get into windsurfing and what was it that got you involved in the sport in the first place?
I got into windsurfing quite late; I was 20. I had always been an avid water person. I started competitive swimming at the age of 6 and was always labelled a water baby as a kid! We always took family holidays down to Penzance and my brother and I spent all our time in the water, at school I always opted for the watersports activity holidays to France.
When leaving school I wanted to do something different, I had always been a youth volunteer and wanted to continue giving something back. I remembered my swimming coach and my instructors out in France, and wanted to be like them. I convinced my parents to let me go down to Cornwall to learn to Sail, Windsurf and Surf. I hated windsurfing at first, just concentrating on Surfing and Sailing, and then on a trip to Maui with Tom Buggy (my husband) and lots of his friends, I got bitten by the bug!
You have been running the windsurfing scheme at the RYA for eight years and the national sailing scheme for about two now. What does the job entail and what are the best and worst bits of the job?
My main role is to administer, develop and promote the RYA Windsurfing and Dinghy scheme in order to maximise participation in the sport and maintain high standards of training and safety, UK and overseas.
If I just stick to telling you about the windsurfing side of my role – my job concentrates on everything from grassroots to the coaching of advanced recreational windsurfers, instructor training, appointment of windsurfing trainers and the inspection and recognition of RYA training centres in the UK and Overseas – basically everything non-Olympic pathway.
We currently have over 3100 windsurfing instructors and 85 appointed trainers.
I also spend time liaising with the magazines and equipment importers to help jointly promote the sport through articles, conferences etc.
Sometimes I wake up and think I have THE best job in the world; this is when my job takes me all over the UK and overseas meeting new instructors and seeing our training centres doing an amazing job. The people at the RYA are great too, so office work is often very entertaining. There are some amazingly passionate people here.
Then there’s the politics, that’s when my job really gets to me, but every industry has it I guess. We just need to remember we get to escape onto the water and do the most amazing sport in the world to rationalise everything.
What changes have you made since joining the RYA that you are most pleased with?
Since joining, with help from many windsurfing trainers and Simon Bornhoft we have completely changed the scheme and rewritten all the windsurfing publications, of which many are now being translated into a whole range of languages, including Danish and Dutch– that’s pretty cool!
Due to the scheme being a little more accessible, we have also now seen an increase in the number of people both taking courses at our recognised training centres and becoming instructors.
How do you plan to develop the RYA’s windsurfing training over the next few years?
I think in the current climate we need to concentrate on what we have rather than change to much. I have been working with the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, so I am looking forward to spending time growing our work together, as well as taking a look at our youth schemes and how we can get kids inspired about such amazing sports.
What’s your favourite discipline of windsurfing?
I love being in bump and jump and wave conditions, it’s really testing and always changing. You learn so much, plus I’ve never been much of a sail twiddler, but flat water can be great fun too, I do like to see how fast I can go in a straight line and while working in Minorca loved taking Formula kit out with big sails!
What would be a perfect day’s windsurfing for you? Location, conditions people to be out with…..
I live on the Isle of Wight, so I’m really biased to the amazing sailing locations we have. A perfect day for me would be a force 5/6, cross-shore day with the waves lining up all the way to the horizon, at somewhere like Niton or Brook – shared with a few good friends, I’m smiling like a Cheshire cat just thinking about it! Failing that, an unspoilt day in Maui with Tom and our little boy Blake would do nicely; I love the place.
As well as Amanda working tirelessly to develop and maintain the high training standards set by the RYA, her colleague Gillian Wright, RYA National Windsurfing Development Officer continues to work out ways to encourage more people in to the sport and participate on a regular basis, developing the Team15 programme that she was instrumental in setting up some 12 years ago and Project Windsurf-UK, created 18 months ago.
Find out more as Gillian talks Team15 and adult participation and explains how things have changed since she joined the RYA some 22 years ago.
For more information about the RYA visit the website at: www.rya.org.uk.