The windsurfing media is full of ripped twenty-somethings pulling the newest ridiculously named freestyle move or ‘shredding’ the latest wave, but can the rest of us keep up? Is windsurfing only for these über buff ‘professionals’ or do us mere mortals stand a chance of keeping up?
Matt Pritchard is here to show that your windsurfing can in fact improve with age, and that there are even a few advantages to gain over the sun-bleached whippersnappers as you get older.
Let’s face it: we aren’t getting any younger these days! Fortunately, windsurfing is a reasonably gentle sport and has quite a broad range of participants. In Maui it is not uncommon to see sailors upwards of 70 years old out there having a blast! This is ultra inspiring, just as it is to see 25-year-old rippers like former World Wave Champion, Marcillio “Brawzinho” Browne charging hard. Windsurfing can be for anyone, any age; all it takes is a little dedication, some inspiration, plus a great sense of humour and adventure.
For many windsurfers, it takes quite a lot to actually get on the water.
There are a lot of excuses floating around including ‘work’ or ‘family’ or ‘it takes too much time’… all certainly valid excuses, if you allow them to be. Too bad we can’t schedule ‘work’ around the wind, imagine that! What can be done is scheduling yourself to be ‘on your game’ when you do get a chance to hit the water! There’s nothing worse than finally scoring some wind only to be so out of shape that you are only good for 13 minutes before you cramp up and get frustrated. We need to create our own reality…
The saying goes something like:
…and I have to totally agree with this statement; you are only as old as you think you are.
This thought process might sometimes get me in trouble, but it also keeps me fit and in tune. If we look at the positives in comparing, say, a 45-yearold to a 20-year-old, we can see some great advantages…like being able to afford the latest and greatest gear, or a nice big van that’s organised and outfitted for anything the wind can throw at you. How about experience?
Yeah, that helps but there are some other secrets to share that can help a 45 year old sail longer than his younger statesmen. One of the most obvious tips is to be relatively fit. If you can spend a couple days a week doing some cardio work and some push ups or pull ups for half an hour, you can be fit enough to windsurf for two hours at a time, easily. Some will take it to the extreme and plan their life around two gym sessions a day, but that is not necessary in my book. If you want to go extreme and lean yourself out to look like a 20-year-old, you are gonna have to tap into your diet as well; that plays a huge part when it comes down to showing the ripped abs and this is all another story that we don’t quite have time for today.
Bottom line is, give yourself some love, get on a programme and not only will it help you with your windsurfing, but life in general. It’s a no brainer!
Next up is equipment selection; this is where you can save some energy, especially with the new boards out on the market these days. When you jump on your board, you want to get moving with ease, right? A bigger board makes this a lot easier and nowadays there are not a lot of disadvantages to having more volume. If you are a freerider, 10 litres difference is not that much when it comes to turns and top end. You will get planing more easily, saving you energy, you may not be as flat out unbeatable when you are lit up, out of your mind and struggling for control, but hopefully you have a smaller board stashed in your badass van on the beach for such occasions.
Some sailors will have an easier time riding a smaller sail and bigger board combination; this eases the arm-work and allows for greater efficiency. One other key point that I like to stress in all my lessons is to use the right length harness lines. This is very crucial to proper stance and all other aspects of your sailing. Without going into a great debate on this subject, the general consensus is that longer is better. Recently a poll was done that found the average harness-line length of the PWA pro was 32.85 inches long; so if you are riding a line shorter than 24 it might be time to make some changes.
As we get more advanced in our years, we tend to have more patience. The most important aspect, and often the one that is most overlooked, is tuning your gear. Taking the time to get your downhaul and outhaul set right can make or break your day. Not enough downhaul and you will be flicked over the handlebars, especially on those gusty days. Too much and you can’t get going… hmmmm. Same with outhaul, don’t pull too much on or you will be dead in the water. Too little and you’re going to be getting backhand pressure that you can’t hold on to.
Another one is batten tension, make sure you have your battens nice and snug, this gives you a tighter and more tensioned sail. You don’t want to be wearing loose and baggy underwear, why would you want your sail to feel like that?
How about some easy moves to show you’ve still got it? If we go back to the original freestyle days, you see jump gybes, carving 360s, duck gybes, monkey gybes and a plethora of relatively safe tricks that keep you in the game and having FUN! With the technology these days, you can simply check through Boards.co.uk and have some ‘how to’ features right in front of you to watch and learn. In reality, not many people are going to be doing a switch puneta, so there is no need to even consider these types of moves unless you want to do some serious damage to yourself. Focussing on the basics that can build your confidence is the key to progressing to your next level. If you can be a more efficient sailor and know how to set your gear up, this gives you time to work on new moves rather than just survive from one gybe to the next!
One of my favorite tips to most anyone I am teaching is to SMILE! More often than not, people tense up, hold their breath and struggle rather than going with the flow. Mother nature always wins, so you have to learn to ‘roll with it’, as fighting it just hurts. When you are smiling, you are breathing and at least looking like you are having fun, and when you are looking good, you are feeling good!
Age really is ‘all in the mind’, embrace it and work with it. Robby Naish is a great example of how we should all aspire to be! At 50 years of age, he has nothing to prove but he is on his game and competed at the 2013 Aloha Classic in the PWA Pro division, how awesome is that? Dunkerbeck is still going for his next world title and he isn’t getting any younger. Albeau is dominating the slalom world; he is a classic example of getting better with age, he doesn’t look to be slowing down at all, if anything, he is probably even more hungry now. Kevin Pritchard, my younger brother, he still sails everyday with full power and can throw down moves like the youngsters.
He is still a little bit away from 40 (which I believe to be the new 30) so we can all be motivated and inspired to challenge ourselves to get out there, prepare our bodies so we can keep it going, because what is the alternative? Once you get it right, the probability of sailing into your 70s is well within reach.