Earlier this week we caught up with Taty Frans and he shared his 7 ways to improve, now it's the turn of another legend Sarah-Quita Offringa to share her stories of learning to windsurf and her words of wisdom.
In my discrete opinion windsurfing is one of the most difficult sports to master, you need to coordinate your hands, feet and body to position the sail and board, adjusting constantly to unpredictable factors like the wind and water current.
And guess what? Once you’ve mastered all of this and you’re able to sail one way, unlike with most other board sports such as snowboarding, surfing or skateboarding, you then to have to learn these techniques on the other tack, that is if you ever want to get back to shore (swimming is not an option!).
Windsurfing is a so-called cross dominance sport and balances everything out. It forces you to train coordination of both the left and right side of your body from lesson number one. Surely you remember having a preference for one tack? Maybe you could perform a perfect beach start in one direction, but always uphauled on the other?
Personally, I prefer port tack (left foot forward) to practice new moves because it just feels more natural, new moves on Starboard tack feel somewhat awkward. This makes it harder to stay motivated and keep on practicing moves on that tack. But when I finally nail it always find learning new things on starboard tack (right foot/hand forward) a lot harder, it has just always been that way.
However, because I have to train more and it takes a little longer for me to master new moves on this side, it is all the more gratifying and always adds a little extra to my routine when I do!
I started windsurfing 11 years ago, and I have been totally hooked right from the start. As kids we learn through play, all week I would look forward to my Saturday on the water where for two hours I got to windsurf, laugh and enjoy time with my friends. Imagine playing tag on a windsurfing board? Pumping the sail to go faster, constantly manoeuvring up and down wind and tacking or gybing under pressure just so you wouldn’t get tagged. It was so much fun and at first didn’t even realise how much I was progressing, every time I am learning something new or finding a move hard, I think back to these times and remember to just enjoy myself.
The first stumbling block for myself was learning to beach start, I was very stubborn and refused to try because it felt more comfortable to uphaul. Luckily for me, my teacher was even more persistent and after much persuasion convinced me to give the beach start a go. Maybe I was scared of trying, or did not believe I could do it but after a lot of practice the beach start was mastered - my confidence and motivation were given a huge boost, opening the door for my windsurfing to progress even more.
My pirate name became ‘SQ The Wild One’ and I was ready to roam the seven seas with my friends, although careful not to go past the first channel which was almost a whole 40 meters from shore!
Every new stage I reached in windsurfing I hit the same barrier, I became really comfortable sailing at a certain level and would be hesitant to try new techniques. Getting into the footstraps for the first time, water starting, hooking in and gybing, all of these were tough for me, as I am sure they are for most windsurfers.
However, every time I overcame a hurdle I became more and more motivated to move forwards, understanding the dynamics of the sport further with each progression.
My biggest motivation was seeing my friends and brother around me trying new things and improving. Seeing a move performed perfectly right in front of you will help you to understand it. Even seeing somebody crash will give you more insight into the manoeuvre.
When I started competing in the PWA my practice time had to change a little from just having fun, to focusing on what new moves I need to perfect and later with slalom, how I can not only go fast but also win a race. The skills required to win a race are hard to practice though, I have definitely learnt the most on this through competition itself where every mistake matters.
While the competition scene is really important to me because it pushes me to progress I windsurf because I love the sport and have so much fun doing it, so I always try to remember this and enjoy every session!
While professional windsurfers maybe lucky in some senses (yes we get to do what we all love for a living) but behind the scenes we all train really hard. Nobody can get to the top without putting in years of practice. Take Gollito for instance, before he first became world champion in 2006 Ricardo Campello was the top guy in freestyle, but Gollito was determined to be number one and a year or two before taking the title upped his training level immensely. He was on the water almost 24/7, taking every opportunity to work on new moves and of course it paid off. After years at the top maybe Gollito finds it harder as he has nobody to chase down; whereas Steven and Kiri are both determined to be the best and with Gollito being the front runner had a clear aim of who to beat. If you are not 100% motivated and focused with your training there is no way you can hold onto a world title. I love windsurfing with the top freestylers in Bonaire. The likes of Tonky, Taty, Kiri and Bjorn have been raising the freestyle bar for years now. Their success is undoubtedly influenced by a few factors; firstly they are all great friends, who share the same upbeat attitude to life and windsurfing (none of them will ever be seen without a massive smile on their face!). They are also all immensely talented, and more importantly always want to try new things and push the sport. Kiri for example, training on his own would be good, but it is windsurfing with friends - the battle to constantly out do each other and giving tips back and forth - that make him and the others all fantastic windsurfers.
The same can be said when watching the wave sailors in action, especially at the PWA tour stop in Gran Canaria, which regularly produces the hardest conditions you could ever think to windsurf in. At this jumping playground you will see guys like Ricardo, Phillip Köster and Victor Fernandez always trying to beat each other by going faster and higher, or landing the next big jump (who’s going to land a triple already?!).
Whether in or out of official competition, it is this rivalry that pushes both their individual windsurfing, and the level of the sport as whole into incomprehensible realms. The progression of the triple forward or the newest freestyle trick may not be something that is on everyone’s mind when going windsurfing, but anyone can take pointers from how the top competitors develop their skills. If you windsurf with a group of friends, why not make it a little more competitive with an impromptu race? Nothing complicated, just out and back or around one mark. Or if you don’t usually windsurf with the same crowd, investigate the local scene a bit more. You will be astounded at how simply sailing regularly with peers will improve your level.
Even when windsurfing with friends you need to think about your personal goals, i.e. what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. You should always have a new goal, something you are working towards, as well as a long-term goal that keeps you motivated for the future.
Windsurfing is all about trial and error, and the more you practice, the more comfortable you will become. So go out and try something new, raise the bar for yourself, and push yourself to reach the next level. And if you do crash and burn, laugh out loud and enjoy it, because after all these make for the best after-session stories afterwards right? If you are not falling in, you are not trying hard enough!