Paul Simmons from event sponsors Tushingham reports from the first British Slalom Association (BSA) event of the season last weekend at Hayling Island: From a long way out the wind forecast for Easter had been very poor: every forecast could have been interpreted as "no chance of slalom". It was a pleasant surprise then, to see thirty two eager competitors registered on Saturday morning. The other good news was that the sun was out and temperatures were already warm by the 10am briefing.
That many forecasters can't be wrong though and the wind that never topped five knots all day fell close to calm at times, making for near-perfect SUP conditions. Many of the windsurfers took advantage of the demo boards provided by Starboard and other brands. An unusually chilled vibe ran through the competitors: an outsider could have been forgiven for thinking that B.S.A. represented British Sunbathing Association!
For those with energy to burn, an action-packed SUP sprint race was held off the beach with the UKWA freestylers up against the creme of the UK's slalom talent. With a little sabotage adding to the excitement, it was the slalom team that took the win against all the odds. With temperatures soaring though, it was time to get back on the beach for some seriously hardcore chilling. The exception was Marie Buchanan, who decided along with a couple of the Fanatic riders that paddling 13 miles in the blazing sun all the way around the island would be fun.
To accompany the pleasant evening sunshine, the smell of several barbeques hung over the event site as many competitors took advantage of the unseasonably good weather. Others dined out at the Inn on the Beach: perfect for most windsurfers, offering a number of tasty dishes and good beer.
Sunday morning began with a promising breeze as Hayling Island was once again bathed in sunshine. Gusts peaked at around nine knots, sufficient for the lighter or more skilled riders to plane occasionally but below the requirements for official competition. There was a series of fun Master Blasters throughout the day, with competitors on raceboards having a huge advantage in the light winds. After eight rounds we saw a family clean-sweep of the podium with Zak Page edging ahead of his dad Mark and younger brother Finn not far behind in third. Some non-Master Blaster racers from the Pro and Amateur fleets chose to race in the light winds and RSX sailor Joe Bennett (sailing Bob Ingram's Phantom Race 380) deserves a mention, taking a clear first place thanks to his excellent raceboard skills.
Trevor Funnell's UKWA freestyle competitors wowed the Hayling crowds in the light winds, making use of the windsurfable SUP boards, which seem to make excellent platforms for lightwind freestyle. On Sunday afternoon they reverted to their standard boards and towed behind the boat to allow planing tricks and big crashes. PWA star Max Rowe was a stand-out rider but all competitors provided superb entertainment, enhanced by Muzza & Aussie Steve's commentaries over the PA system.
A massive thank you to everyone who made the effort to attend despite the low winds and thanks to every one of the UKWA team for helping run a slick operation. The event clearly demonstrated there is a great time to be had out on the water without the need for planing conditions. Having said this, our fingers are firmly crossed for a good force five or more at the next event in Weymouth on 21st & 22nd May. There will be a couple of special announcements concerning this event coming soon so check out www.windsurf-bsa.com and www.ukwindsurfing.com in the coming weeks.