Q. I’m already a windsurfer, but I don’t know if I can teach my kids?
A. If you can sail back and forth on a large board in relative control, then you’re more than capable of introducing your whole family into windsurfing.
Q. We’re new to windsurfing, what’s the best way to get them started?
A. Sign up with any RYA centre, either in the UK or abroad. They will have lessons and equipment for all ages, statures and levels of enthusiasm. Don’t buy a cheap old board off Ebay and try teaching yourselves – You’ll waste your money and time.
Q. What kit should I buy?
A. Most windsurfing schools will offer rental wetsuits, but if the kids really get into it, the first purchase should be a good wetsuit. Go for a well fitting, warm (4-5mm) suit with long arms and legs for extra protection and warmth. There’s nothing more off putting than being cold! Once they’ve done a beginner course and shown true signs of wanting to windsurf, it’s time to invest in some specific kids kit, be it new or second hand.
Q. What age can kids learn?
A. Child’s size and strength is more important than age. An active strong 5 year old using a 1.1m sail can easily learn and progress. Put a less physically built 7 year old on a small adults rig and they’ll struggle or be put them off forever. So always use small, light, kids specific rigs with narrow gauge mast and booms.
Q. Should I teach my kids?
A. Provided you honestly don’t get competitive parent syndrome or flustered when they decide diving off is more fun than perfecting their tacks, go ahead. But here are some key points to consider.
- Make it fun orientated and involve other kids as much as possible.
- Keep them warm, all the time!
- Do short sessions and stop before they get tired. You want them left asking for more!
Q. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO SAIL WITH THEM?
A. Due to the small beginner sails kids have difficulty gaining much forward momentum, staying upwind and turning the board round. To overcome these try these tips:
For the initial stages, find shallow flat water and attach a 10-20m line to the bow and let them sail away from you. Then, gently, use the line to help them turn or reel them back to the shore. Another way is get them to sail short distanced between two adults standing in the shallow water.
Provided you can sail back and forth in control yourself, tow to teach. Grab a large volume board for yourself and tie a 3m’s long line from the tail of your board to the nose of their board. Sail very slowly, controlling your acceleration and you’ll be amazed how much they benefit. It’s much easier, for both of you, than you think.
ADVANTAGES OF TOWING
1. A little forward momentum improves the ease of their uphauling, getting going and holding the rig up.
2. Steering up and downwind they get an immediate response to their actions.
3. Improves understanding of wind direction, tacking and staying upwind.
4. They look and copy you! It ‘s amazing how quickly kids learn.
5. If they struggle or get tired, you’re right there to tow them back to shore.
6. Gradually lengthen the line until you’re not really doing anything – then let that duckling go!
Q. What about harness and footstraps?
A. Introduce kids to harnessing and forward placed footstraps (off the plane) within the first few hours/days. Especially when towing, it develops confidence and saves their arms.
Q. Are techniques different?
A. The fundamentals are exactly the same, so reinforcing the principles of Vision and a good 7 shaped stance and moving out and back on the board to counterbalance against the sail as the board accelerates. Plus all the tips in our Technique Zone work for kids as well as adults.
You’ll see photos of wave riding kids as young as 11, but make sure you take their windsurfing safely at their own pace. Like adults, the biggest turning point for kids is learning how to harness and then waterstart, which due being able to rest the boom on the back of the board, doesn’t actually take them too long. So give them all the support you can and be warned, they’ll want your kit and will soon be better than you!