ARE YOU YOUNG AND WANT TO WINDSURF?
ARE YOU A PARENT LOOKING TO INTRODUCE YOUR KIDS INTO WINDSURFING?
Venturing into windsurfing at a young age is the best way to ensure rapid progression and become part of a sport without limitations! If you’re young and want the opportunity to try the best sport in the world, get your parents to sign you up for a windsurfing lesson NOW!
You’ll pick it up so quickly that you’ll soon be way better than Mum and Dad! You’ll impress all your mates, get fit, strong and the rush windsurfing gives you is better than any other sport or video game. There’s some amazing user-friendly kit around to make your whole experience on the water sensational. You have to give it a go.
You too could learn to blast fast, do tricks, maybe compete, ride waves and impress your friends. If you’ve got parents who don’t windsurf, join a local windsurfing club, they can help you with kit and you’ll meet and sail with others of your age and ability. So whilst your mates are wondering what to do in their spare time, you’ll be screaming about on the water with an awesome feeling of independence and a rush adrenaline running right through you. It feels even better than all the amazing pictures in this magazine!
More then ever, windsurfers from the 80’s & 90’s are getting their kids into windsurfing. So if you’re a parent, what’s stopping you? It may even increase your own windsurfing opportunities. Saying, “I’m just off to the beach" on a weekend can be a tough call, but take the kids with you and it’s much more likely to happen. Yes initially you might become an under-appreciate caddy, but the long term benefits of getting the family involved has to be a good thing for everyone. But, it’s really important to go about it the right way, otherwise those wetsuits will only be used once and Facebook will regain control of their lives.
Here’s our BOARDS BASICS guide to get and keep young people windsurfing in a fun, safe and enjoyable way.
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!
Kid's kit has never been better, so go on, treat them! Wonderful miniature rigs, scaled down boards and narrow gauge booms, it’s like a Lilliputian playground. We beg you not to put them on the old narrow, wobbly long board that you learnt on. Modern wider more stable designs massively improve their whole learning experience. So here’s some advice on board and rig selection.
If you’re looking for a family board, check out our Beginners Board section and choose a board with a soft deck, they are so much kinder to wetsuits and knees climbing on and off. With regards to volume, if you’re not too heavy and you’ve got kids under 10 who will be using the board a lot, go for a slightly smaller family beginner board 150-160L, rather than 170-185L+ boards. Also make sure you fit a sub 28cn fin to make turning easier.
KID'S BEGINNER BOARDS “Fantastic Features’ – “Easy, stable, turns easily and a lovely soft Deck"
If you’re looking for a specific kids beginner board then getting the right volume is key. As a rough guide go for a board 3-4 times their body weight in kilos converted into Litres (E.g 35Kg child = 105-130L beginner board). Make sure it has a central fin or daggerboard and a small tail fin under 28cm otherwise it will be difficult to turn. Once again go for soft decks with footstrap options. It’s worth buying from a distinguished brand as they keep their value on the second hand market.
KID'S SHORT BOARDS “Lighter with narrower footstrap settings , perfect for kids!"
Many centres have rental arrangements that take the kids through the first stages of the sport. So for whizzy types who pick sports up quickly and can stay upwind without a daggerboard, there’s no reason why they can’t use an adult Freeride board. As a rough guide go for aboard that is 50-80L above their weight in Kilos for kids learning to get into harnessing and straps. Once again, make sure the fin is under 28cm until they’re in their teens. However, if your kids are small build or under 14 years old, the distance between the footstraps can be an issue, so the best option is a specific kids short board. These are lighter scaled down versions of adult boards, with narrow strap spread and fit. They come in various volumes and styles and offer the ultimate platform for youngsters to really rip and get into windsurfing easily!
The most important factor for younger windsurfers is the rig. If adults appreciate the benefits of a stable and light rig, then someone half the size and strength (and probably twice the enthusiasm) will benefit even more. Well there’s good news. There are some amazing little rigs on the market. So seek out light battened sails, skinny masts and narrow booms. Putting them on small adult rigs too soon is a problem because the boom cut out can be too high and the whole rig is too heavy. Small and light is right for kids!
Battened v Soft Sails
Without question, young beginners at windsurfing schools prefer soft sails during their first few days on a board. It helps them feel the wind more easily and they are lighter to uphaul. Once they’ve had a few days on the water, there’s no reason why they can’t move onto kids battened rotational rigs, which offer more stability and directional feel. So don’t buy soft sails, by 3-4 batten rotational kids rigs, they will have more wind range and they won’t grow out of them.
SAIL SIZE GUIDE
The most commonly asked question is, “What’s the right size sail?" Well, just like adults, sailor stature and ability play a part in the choice. For instance one particular 10 year old might be larger than another and therefore capable of using a larger rig. Also as they grow up and progress onto larger sails, they still need smaller rigs for higher wind sessions. So if you have a couple of kids or wanted to cover a wide wind range, having a 1.5-2m rig and a 3.5m rig is decent quiver to see kids through from 6-12 years old. Once the kids are into their teens, provided they’re not too small, they can use adult rigs. In racing events, some kids as young as 12 are using 6.5m rigs!
KIDS RIGS GUIDE
5-6yr olds – 1.0-1.5m kids rig
6-8 year olds – 1.5-2.0m kids rig
8-10 year olds – 1.5-2.5m kids rig
10-12 year olds 2-3.5m kids rig
12-14 year olds 2.5-4.5m kids rig
14-17 year olds 3.5-7m Adult rig
It won’t be long, like a couple of days, before they will be asking what a harness is and can they have one. The answer should be yes. Kids should learn to harness as early as possible to save their arms and learn to blast. You can get extra small kids harnesses, just make sure they try them on wearing a wetsuit to ensure it fits properly, with the obligatory room for growth of course. Harness line length should be elbow to middle of palm.
KIDS SET UP
Mast Base: 130cm from the tail or as far back in the track as possible.
Boom Height: Shoulder to chin height.
Fin: Make sure you use a fin no more than 28cm otherwise they will find the board too hard to turn.
So, if you’re keen to get your kids windsurfing, give them the best start possible. There’s a healthy second hand market for kids kit, so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to pass gear on to other families. So get out there with them, when you’re to old to carry your kit, you’ll have your own personal caddie!