If you don’t think you’re a windsurfing club, think again.
Windsurfing is an awesome way to get and keep kids in your sailing club, and on the water in general, by providing an alternative to sailing. And the good news is there are actually very few barriers to introducing windsurfing to your OnBoard activities.
Confusion over Team15 and OnBoard windsurfing has led to clubs either committing to Team15 or not doing any windsurfing at all. This is reflected in the low number of OnBoard clubs and centres currently running windsurfing.
But, as Sam Ross, RYA Advanced Plus Trainer and lead coach for the RYA Junior Windsurfing programmes explains, OnBoard windsurfing presents some great opportunities for sailing clubs.
“Windsurfing gives kids a choice, which in itself is a great tool to get them in to your club and build membership. But it also provides a possible means to ‘mop up’ juniors who don’t want to sail or who drop out of sailing.
“If there were the option to windsurf earlier in clubs, and even gain windsurfing instructor qualifications, we wouldn’t lose the numbers we see leaving sailing at 16, and while they might not carry on windsurfing at your club, they could become your next OnBoard instructors and are more likely to keep windsurfing for life.”
Sam added: “We understand the confusion between Team15 and OnBoard windsurfing. But if you look at it that Team15 involves sailors starting to travel away from their club to get more windsurfing experience with other clubs in the region, then the benefits to introducing OnBoard windsurfing become clearer.”
Common barriers broken down
So what do you need to run OnBoard windsurfing?
1) Some water – OnBoard windsurfing can run on the smallest bits of water, you don’t, as can be the perception, need an expansive lake with challenging topography that produces big wind and waves. In fact, small ‘ponds’ can produce excellent windsurfers as sailors get a lot of practice at mastering the basics. Oli Woodcock, GB Windsurfing Pathway Head Coach, is a great example of someone who grew up sailing on a small patch of water at Croft Farm near Tewkesbury.
2) A Dinghy Senior Instructor (SI) with a Start Windsurfing Instructor certificate – there is a common misconception that to become a recognised RYA Training Centre for windsurfing requires a Windsurfing SI but that isn’t the case.
3) A Start Windsurfing Instructor – to gain this qualification candidates need to be Intermediate (non-planing) level windsurfers. This can be comfortably achieved in a summer when you consider Stages 1 and 2 is a six-week programme and Stage 3 is the equivalent of adult Intermediate non-planing. You can be an Assistant Instructor at 14 and a Start Windsurfing Instructor at 16 and, unlike the DI course, there is no pre-entry assessment so the windsurfing instructor pathway is more accessible and can even provide young instructors with potential career options and opportunities.
4) Some kit – a Sport England Small Grants award goes a long way when it comes to buying windsurfing equipment. For £10,000 you could get a fleet of windsurfing kit that would teach people way beyond beginner level, SUP’able windsurf boards to provide another alternative fun activity, especially on light wind days, plus a bit left over to support further instructor training.
And that’s it.
OnBoard clubs and centres that do run windsurfing see a real value in it. Sailing clubs who successfully run windsurfing and sailing side-by-side include Glossop, Burton, Notts County and North Lincolnshire and Humberside, while Brogborough Lake, Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre and the OTC Portland and are just some of the commercial OnBoard centres also reaping the windsurfing rewards.
Derwent Reservoir SC is another club enjoying an OnBoard windsurfing renaissance. Having first introduced the sport 13 years ago, no fewer than 48 youngsters have already been introduced to windsurfing this summer with more groups still to come.
Meanwhile, their lead instructor, Linda Coleby, is a great example of how you never know where a ‘windsurfing champion’ could be lurking in the shadows, having not become an instructor until she was 54 in 2005.
She did her Start Windsurfing Instructor course within weeks of being randomly asked by a woman who was watching her windsurfing if she could show her how to do it. Over the next couple of years she qualified as an SI as she also worked to establish links with local Scout, Girl Guide and Cadet organisations. She persuaded her partner, Roger Mole to become an instructor too.
"The club didn’t have any junior windsurfing at the time,” Linda explains, “so I asked a Scout group if they would like to come to try windsurfing. They did, they came back and it snowballed from there. Schools haven’t been a rich hunting ground for us so we focus on going where you can get the youngsters, through other youth groups, open days, word of mouth or club members just seeing us on the water and wanting to have a go.
“We provide an alternative to sailing for youngsters who might prefer boards to boats and our Sunday afternoon junior sessions are focused on developing good core skills to become better windsurfers and having fun with no pressure.”
Derwent Reservoir did previously run Team15, but racing isn’t their priority for now. Rather inspiring the next generation of instructors to make windsurfing sustainable at the club is top of Linda’s agenda. She recalls being “over the moon” when the first lad came to her to say he wanted to do his instructor training.
She adds: “There's nothing better than when a parent tells you how much their kids absolutely love windsurfing and what a difference it’s made to them. For some windsurfing is something they can do when they might not be good at other sports."
Sam concludes: “Hopefully the barriers to OnBoard windsurfing don’t look quite so high now and more clubs want to get it up and running.”
*Fancy it? Drop Hannah Cockle a line to find out more.