“It’s quite a unique sport for a girl from East London!”

Anais McCarthy is reflecting on what she loves about being a windsurfer. The 13-year-old is just one of the next generation of young windsurfing talents finding their groove through OB.

And with the new OnBoard windsurfing sessions cards now being used by clubs and centres, there will be plenty more future board lovers following in her wake.

Top of the pile

You only had to check the results from the recent Eric Twiname Junior Championships to see the impact OnBoard is having in windsurfing.

Anais herself made her ETs debut at Rutland, representing London and South East in the Techno 5.8 class, while 14-year-old Midlanders, Duncan Monaghan – also an ETs debutant topped the Techno 7.8 and Nieve Ball finished first girl in the Techno 6.8. And these were just three. Across the fleets, windsurfers who took their first tentative steps through OnBoard are emerging as confident competitors.

As Anais continues: “This was my first proper race! I was quite nervous but my plan was just to try my best and have fun. I also really wanted to make my coaches, family and myself proud. I made so many new friends and had loads of fun and even managed to come third girl in the 5.8 fleet, even though I was only sailing on a 5.4!”

Duncan, racing on new board funded through the John Merrick Sailing Trust, added: “So much came together for me, my new kit and each bit of my winter training. I got the chance to practice it all in a big event without pressure, but still with the chance of winning something at the end. We all had a great time.”

Beyond the racecourse

Around a third of OnBoard clubs now run windsurfing, and in the same way that there’s more to sailing than dinghies, there’s more to windsurfing than going to an Olympics. Anais, Nieve and Duncan clearly all have competitive talent. But it’s learning the core skills back at their clubs where they’re getting the real buzz.

“Carve gybes - wow!” exclaims Duncan. “I found that the biggest challenge to learn until I did one, then failed loads again until I did my second. I tried so many times over two months to master a lay-down gybe too. When it finally worked it was exhilarating.”

Carve gybes were Nieve’s nemesis too. She said: “I’ve struggled for a while attempting them and it felt amazing and satisfying to finally achieve one, even if it wasn’t the best! I found clew first heli-tacks very difficult to learn due to the weight of the rig during the manoeuvre.
This felt thrilling to get right as it meant I could now practice this by myself and it can lead to me learning many other manoeuvres.”

All three put their enthusiasm down to the passion of the instructors at their clubs.

Anais and Duncan both first learned to sail; Anais got afloat aged eight at Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre because her mum worked at Canary Wharf, and Duncan’s parents enjoyed sailing at Notts County SC so he and his twin, Linus, did their RYA courses. Nieve, meanwhile, had a windsurfing lesson on holiday and discovered the opportunities at Burton SC when she got home.

Once they all stepped on a board, however, something clicked for each of them.

Anais recalls: “I really enjoyed sailing, but my favourite part was getting wet! I loved to capsize the boat and jump in. I’d seen people windsurfing and they all seemed to come back in quite wet, so it looked really fun and I wanted to try it!”

Duncan continues: “I saw an older sailor whizzing around, going fast, it just seemed more fun and like there was greater freedom and independence. I enjoyed the speed and got wet a lot! There was always a new challenge that led to another thrill too - getting in the harness, landing a gybe, getting back upwind, its still the same today.”

Nieve has a similar story. “I enjoyed how the experience differed from any other sports I had done. I always like to be positive and encouraging to myself and others, and I think that’s helped me to progress in the way I have. Burton has provided a comfortable environment to try out new skills and gain knowledge and experience.”

Big picture

Just like the OnBoard dinghy session cards before them, the windsurfing suite means clubs and centres can now embed the six OnBoard character attributes across all their activities. Both sets follow the same format, but the windsurfing cards feature a whole page focused on physics as so much can relate to that topic.

To get to the level of racing they have so far, Nieve, Anais and Duncan will all have mastered different elements of creativity, determination, independence, teamwork, communication and confidence. But it’s the fact they all testify to these traits helping them in other areas of their lives that really showcases the power of board life.

Nieve says windsurfing has helped her organise her time and in communicating with her squad mates, Anais has become more independent and learnt to use the washing machine to take responsibility for washing her own kit and Duncan is doing his Duke of Edinburgh Award and is now junior rep on his club’s sailing committee.

But for all the ‘sensible’ stuff windsurfing brings, let’s be honest, say ‘windsurfing’ and you think ‘lifestyle and location’. These three are no different with the incredible backdrop and nature of Pwllheli already capturing the imaginations of Nieve and Duncan, while windsurfing anywhere on the sea is awesome for Anais.

“I just love the uniqueness of the sport and the community that comes with it; mixing with people from all over, from all walks of life,” Nieve concludes.

Their future in racing might be bright, but their windsurfing passion will burn for life.