Windsurfing in gales for Children in Need!
Sometimes I think I come up with ingenious and brilliant plans… doing a charity windsurf for Children in Need was one of them!
And so there I was on Friday 17 November finding myself hurtling down the south coast from Selsey to Brighton at warp speed on a broad reach with winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour behind me, dodging big swell and waves on the way and wondering exactly why (a) I put myself through these things and (b) if I would get out of this one unscathed…!”
To give a brief summary of my madness I’ll go back to two weeks previously when the seed of an idea was given to me by my friend Matt Short after a session at Shoreham;
“Wouldn’t it be great to do something to raise some money – maybe for next year’s Children in Need – maybe something like windsurf across the English Channel at one of the longest points”.
And my typical blasé and ‘grab the bull by the horns’ response was “why next year, let’s do it this year!”
So there I had done it, committed myself to the point of no return, encumbered with a mountainous goal and the responsibility of organising a windsurf across the English Channel in two weeks time, complete with support boat, crew, fellow windsurfers, getting some publicity in place and securing donations from sponsorship! I think at this point it might even be said that I was starting to lose the plot as I saw the chance to include my new boss at law firm Thomas Eggar, I mean, really look at the opportunities available – I have a boss that is a keen windsurfer and surely this sort of initiative can only do great things for my career?! Ha ha, someone please reign me in!
And to skip to a few days before the event, there we had it; support boat (care of an enthusiastic client who also incidentally chose this occasion to get assessed for a further licence…), four windsurfers, the BBC on board (yes I really had been touting about) and…. A forecast of severe gales….!
Even my powers of persuasion couldn’t convince the skipper to go out in the English Channel on this day and given my first-hand experience I can say that was a good thing!
So; last minute plans were hatched and it was agreed the “English Channel” windsurf would go ahead by virtue of doing the same distance (some 44 miles) from Selsey to Brighton, just me and my boss Jeremy Wootton, no support boat, just on land support in the form of Gavin Baylis – aka Weathercam from the online forum.
The day in question started for me at 5.30am when I got up to prepare my kit and myself. Getting a lift from Jes it was there to Gavin’s house for a further de-brief, listening nonchalantly to the somewhat breezy wind outside the car…
At Gavin’s I think it suddenly occurred to me that this was really going to be a challenge and watching the weather station show the wind creeping up from 30 to 35 to 40 miles an hour I responded with big glugs of sugary tea.
When we got to the beach our first call was actually to launch from Southsea. I did however say somewhat nervously “looks a bit dodgy here”. By dodgy I mean heavy shorebreak and strong on-shore winds with accompanying rip into the harbour. And that was when the re-think happened so that we ended up going to Selsey point and launching from a very idyllic private road facing a pretty gnarly looking sea.
After some intimacy with the shorebreak we were off. It became apparent to me fairly quickly that this was possibly going to be the most challenging windsurf experience to date. The swell was huge and basically I did not want to hit it at any speed whatsoever completely over-powered on a broad reach.
I think what people also don’t take into consideration when doing these ventures, and I fully profess to my ignorance, is the sheer concentration involved.
When we got to Bognor Regis we came ashore at Butlins where Gavin took over from Jes and we continued east towards Brighton. The best part of the trip for me was actually from the point onwards to Lancing where the tide had dropped enough to create a terrifying speed course on the inside and it was then that I started to enjoy myself saying hello a bit like Lassie on speed to all the windsurfers at their local spots!
And before we knew it we were at Shoreham and Gavin continued to the West Pier where he came ashore and hitched a ride on the back of the lifeguard’s quad bike!
And the day as far as I am concerned only got stranger – two BBC radio interviews in our wetsuits in the Grand Hotel sipping beer and then back later doing a live interview on BBC1 listening to the exploits of last year’s X-Factor winner or something like that…
K195 is sponsored by JP/Neil Pryde, Bluecrush, Kaenon and Sevenx.