Will Rogers brings us another of his topical monthly columns. Relating a winter time hot tub party to windsurfing, want to know more? Then read on…
I was lucky enough to be invited to a hot tub party a few weeks back – yes, that’s right a hot tub party! Visions of bikini clad women/toned six packed men, tunes pumping out of a 10,000W speaker system, beer, champagne and 12oz steaks falling off the BBQ fall into your head right? Well…. It wasn’t quite like that. It was in Devon, in a rainy February. The hot tub can only be described as a paddling pool with a bubble blower attached, which was all inside a poly-tunnel bought from B&Q. All the same, it was a very pleasant experience, and since it was after a long chilly windsurfing session and I had a beer, it all went down rather well.
As with most good parties, there are always plenty of new people to chat to, and I was chatting to Laura, a 20 something student teacher, who asked me what I had been doing prior to rocking up to the south west’s only hot tub party held in February. Of course I had been windsurfing, and had OBVIOUSLY been doing 8-10 bottom turns, followed by smacking the critical section of a barreling wave time and time again boosting massive air each and every time. It turned out Laura had an interest in windsurfing and knew some of the lingo so we got chatting. I then sadly heard about Laura’s TERRIBLE experience windsurfing…
Laura’s experience of windsurfing wasn’t the best, and being a windsurfing enthusiast, it was a pretty horrible thing to hear. Laura had been on a windsurfing holiday a few years ago. having been inspired by the challenge, speed and freedom it allowed after seeing it in the UK. Now – I would say Laura is the perfect candidate to be a windsurfer; sporty, keen on a challenge and super motivated. As I had thought, she decided to give it a go and whisked herself away to the Canaries, ready for a week of action packed shredding. Unfortunately that’s about as good as it got, the kit was old, battered and there wasn’t enough to go around, the instructor spoke poor English and what’s more had a class size of too many, so Laura just got frustrated by not getting any help and even got told off for sailing into a rock when she hadn’t even been told how to stop, steer or turnaround. After day two Laura sacked it off, went for her first surfing lesson and is now pretty hooked on that.
I guess this is only one side of the story, so I’m not making any judgments, but it got me thinking hard about introducing windsurfing to new faces and the extremely important role the windsurf centre, the shop and the instructor have in our sport. The point is, windsurfing is a complex sport, and the interaction a new starter has with the shop, instructor or windsurfing centre is key to that person’s future in the sport – if they have a bad experience, then they may never come back.
Most windsurfing centers, here in the UK and abroad are staffed by super enthused instructors, who all have the windsurfing bug and are super stoked to help encourage others to learn. They earn peanuts, work long hours in the elements, but as a result get to live a outdoors lifestyle, often on the beach – beats an office any day! If you are in this type of role, remember that your in an important job…you’re a role model to your clients and by introducing people to their first windsurfing experience are helping to secure the future of the sport you love.
Similarly, in today’s age of the inter-web, many may argue that the windsurfing shop is a thing of the past. But think back to when you started windsurfing, who explained the kit you needed, who did you get your advice from on the plethora of equipment? Chances are it was either from a friend you knew who windsurfs, the windsurfing center as I have already discussed, or if you didn’t know anyone who windsurfed the only option may have been your local windsurfing retailer. Our sport is complex, but the complexity is arguably the thing that makes it so inspiring, addictive and drives the unbelievable passion any windsurfer seems to develop. Although I’m a big believer in change and ‘embracing the revolution’ in line with advances in technology – I can’t see an alternative to that crucial face-to-face experience a beginner to the sport will gain from a visit to their local shop, no matter how well developed the internet has become!
Windsurfing can be a complex and daunting sport to start; therefore those first experiences are crucial for people to continue the sport. Without specialist retailers, those who want to learn or continue to learn in the UK won’t have any where to go to be able to buy their own equipment and taste the real freedom that windsurfing can give. It’s crucial for the network of retailers to be supported and continue to deliver a quality service. Remember – the shop isn’t just there for the beginner, I guarantee any accomplished windsurfer will learn loads by visiting their local retailer, be it a few tips on technique, a sneak peek of current kit or perhaps a demo on a new board!
It all links back pretty nicely to where I first started-the hot tub! In the same way that you can go in a hot tub in a poly tunnel whatever the weather outside and feel satisfied after, you can also go into a windsurfing shop whether you are a beginner or advanced to get top advice on kit or technique and come away completely satisfied with loads of new knowledge. So get down you local shop, see what’s new and then get out there and windsurf loads. Happy sailing!!