Youth Windsurfing - On The Up! - Boards Windsurfing

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Youth Windsurfing – On The Up!

The future of windsurfing is dependent on more and more kids coming into our fantastic sport, through whatever routes possible. The DofE (Duke of Edinburgh), together with the RYA, now provides amazing opportunities for windsurfing clubs and young people wanting to windsurf. Read on if you want to get involved…

Image credit Andy Stallman.

How can we get more people into windsurfing? This is one of the toughest questions for a centre or club when planning for the season ahead.

But there is a largely untapped resource of potential future windsurfers you may not have even considered before – young people pursuing Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Awards.

Physical, Skill, Volunteering, Residential, these are all defined elements of the DofE awards programme that windsurfing undoubtedly ticks the boxes of.

Whether marketing windsurfing as an activity to a new audience through schools, colleges and universities, or encouraging young windsurfers already learning to develop their skills further by allying their windsurfing with pursuing DofE awards, the scope to get more people windsurfing more regularly is vast.

You might even be one of those young windsurfers yourself! If so, have you ever thought you could get a DofE award, which is viewed very positively on CVs for the personal and character qualities the awards instil, by doing a sport you already love?

So what’s it all about?

It’s time to get involved… image credit Tris Best/OTC.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of activities for anyone aged 14 to 24.

In 2013 the RYA became a DofE National Operating Authority meaning young people can officially take part in boating activities at RYA clubs or training centres as part of their DofE programme.

Doing their DofE gives young people the opportunity to experience new activities or develop existing skills. There are three levels, which when successfully completed, lead to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award.

There are currently 275,000 young people participating in a DofE award programme in the UK, with over 80,000 achieving a Bronze, Silver and Gold Award each year.

That is an awful lot of potential young windsurfers!

How can it work for you?

“The opportunity is there to not only introduce young people to the sport for the first time but to encourage continued participation as they work through their DofE awards,” says Amanda Van Santen, RYA Chief Instructor, Dinghy and Windsurfing.

“The DofE awards work alongside RYA Training as well as their own recreational sailing so there is no need for centres to run specific courses. As long as the participants are fulfilling the criteria, it’s a no brainier for a training centre!”

The RYA National Windsurfing Scheme can provide the required incremental development mirrored by the increasing demands of the three DofE awards. Conversely someone could be doing their Gold award that has never windsurfed in their life, and doing Start Windsurfing is the best fit for them.

We’re not just talking participation benefits either – the DofE syllabuses includes a volunteering section which can prove mutually beneficial to both centres and the young people themselves.

Every centre or club can use extra pairs of hands supporting its activities, whether it’s regular AIs for Team15 nights or just helping out in the galley.

Meanwhile if a young person wants to get formal RYA instructor qualifications it could give centres a potential stream of future instructors while providing students with opportunities from earning regular holiday money to opening doors to possible future career avenues in watersports as well as gaining their DofE award.

Goal-setting and attainment is a key feature of the DofE awards programme and assisting young people in achieving qualifications in the RYA National Windsurfing Scheme, or even encouraging them to go on to race, certainly meets that criteria, as does shore-based training like First Aid, or skills required for Powerboat Level 2.

Meanwhile, whether practical, social or personal, there are plenty of different skills nurtured through windsurfing not least taking responsibility for personal safety, learning board maintenance skills and applying meteorology theory.

How have we done it?

Simon Horsfield, RYA Coach Assessor and Windsurfing Trainer, is based at the Army Sailing Association Centre, British Mohnesee Sailing Centre in Germany.

He’s been working with local British Forces schools for about two years after being approached by a lad who wanted to know what DofE options he had at the centre.

It didn’t take Simon long to recognise the potential of proactively marketing the centre as somewhere students could pursue and achieve many varying elements of their DofE awards. He believes DofE windsurfing is definitely something more centres, clubs and young people should look to get involved in.

“Each year we do windsurfing tasters for groups of DoE students, totalling about 40 tasters, with the scope for them to come back to do windsurfing for their DofE. We’ve probably had 12 who have gone forwards to get windsurfing qualifications from this.

“We had one lad, who has now gone to university that having never previously windsurfed before now blasts around, carve gybing and has volunteered as an AI. He is waiting to do his instructor course, all through DofE, and is a real success story.”

Simon says every young person’s skillset has to be assessed individually. They then work together to identify an agreed goal and tailor their DofE plan accordingly.

Every goal has to be achievable and include the required amount of challenge as specified within the DofE syllabuses. They aim to achieve that level within two to three months. All RYA courses, at whatever level, are run especially for the students on an ad hoc basis; they don’t join scheduled courses.

Simon believes sparking an interest in one young person and them inspiring their friends is one of the most effective mechanisms to engaging more of them in exploring windsurfing challenges for their DofE.

Simon added: “We had a group of six last year who were all mates, and it made the sessions really fun for them and the instructors.

“I did DofE as a lad myself so I know what benefits it can bring. I think it’s a really good way to get more young people into windsurfing and encourage them to stay involved in the sport even once they’ve left school.”

Want a piece of the DofE action?

Are you:

  • An RYA Instructor or Senior Instructor
  • Interested in helping young people complete their DofE award and up-skilling yourself by taking DofE training

If so we want to hear from you! Contact Dawn Seymour at RYA Training on dawn.seymour@rya.org.uk with your details and we can look at what options you could have. You can find out more about DofE at www.dofe.org

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