Harty picks up on the theme of scoring, suggesting that sometimes the prize isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
I was once ‘Employee of the month.’ The post I held at the time was toilet cleaner (or ‘Sanitation Supervisor’ as I told my parents) at a factory in Guildford, which proves you can be both a winner and a loser at the same time. The certificate reminds me that success and scoring isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
We humans aren’t that smart at identifying what makes us happy and healthy. A friend made an interesting observation the other day. “You know in this consumer world how everyone is hell bent on accumulating stuff? Well, have you noticed how much happier people look when they’re chucking it away than when they’re buying it?” We were at the council tip at the time, and sure enough there was a wonderfully engaging, friendly vibe as people cracked jokes about each other’s rubbish and helped lift various hideous dust-collecting, space-hogging heirlooms and faulty gadgets into the recycling skips. “Compare that with the miserable demeanours of those in the shopping malls wasting away the hours buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have. And they all have us believe that shopping is fun.” The trick to being a good windsurfer is working out what makes you glow.
In the Masterclass technique section this month (what do you mean you haven’t read it yet?) I relate the tale of James who was at the same time ecstatic and forlorn after having scored his first planing gybe – ecstatic over the result and yet forlorn be- cause he knew his gybes were basically still crap.
People who inhabit a pressurised, results-driven work environment often attack windsurfing with a box-ticking mind-set.
Asked at the beginning of a tuition week, for example, what they want to get out of the week, they’ll typically specify a move – ‘duck gybe’, ‘360’, ‘loop’, whatever, as if the prize is more important than the experience of learning. It’s like a tourist on a safari demanding to see a leopard so they can take a photo of it to show their friends – rather than delight in the the first hand experience of seeing an incredible animal in its natural habitat.
If you become goal-obsessed, the danger is that you develop extreme coping mechanisms rather than sweet skill. A classic is the loop. The loudest ‘whoop’ I heard recently was from a bloke just after he’d crashed one – even though he could do them (sort of). But he came in beaming from ear to ear saying: “At last …I felt it!!”
Chris had been driven by a “loop before I’m 40” bet with himself. After a journey littered with busted kit and bruised tissue, he finally water-started out of one in Jericoacoara. The difference that day, he admitted, was that he had just gone higher. His method had been to jump upwind and then flop through the gap twixt nose and mast. But he knew it looked and felt nothing like the dynamic accelerating rotation of the pros.
So we stripped it back and worked on the correct rig action, (it’s rig power that drives the rotation). On the ‘whoopeeee’ one he dropped the rig to windward, sheeted in and for the first time saw the rig drive the nose downwind. He felt the glorious liquidiser whirl. OK, he crashed onto his back but he later said that the learning of that new element, which he could then go on to use in a number of moves, was more satisfying than waterstarting out of a deeply flawed half rotated plummet.
THE MISERY OF SUCCESS
Here’s a knotty question – would you rather play brilliantly and lose, or underperform but score a jammy victory? In competition, unearned success, while bringing momentary fame, can have unsavoury consequences.
Back in the black and white era I became the first Brit to score a top 10 in a Grand Slam World Cup. Better still, and to the delight of sponsors and an adoring public, I’d done it on a standard, production Mistral Screamer – and this was in an era when the top flight travelled with containers of feather light custom prototypes.
The press release declared I sailed like a god. The reality was less divine. It was just one of those days where people committed hara-kiri around me and I found a path to the semis by doing nothing more than sailing around the course without falling off. Then in the first semi everyone was disqualified for premature starts. So our semi was now the final. I’ll take that. The final itself saw more wanton self-destruction as a youthful Dunkerbeck bore off down the line to avoid being over early and took out everyone downwind of him. At the penultimate mark another fracas left a Frenchman (Eric Thieme I think) tied in knots around the anchor rope … and then there were three. I stole a podium finish in a race I had barely qualified for.
It was marvellous, for a moment. With success came a welcome wad of cash … but also unfounded expectation. As they say in business speak, ‘I’d been promoted to the point of maximum incompetency.’ I had neither the skill nor nous (nor luck) to repeat the feat and couldn’t handle the new pressure. It was too much too soon. Just as minnows Leicester City followed their amazing Premiership win with a disastrous season, I didn’t get anywhere near the podium again for a couple of years. Scoring had merely highlighted my shortcomings.
SCORING THE WEATHER
Talk about expectations, they were stratospheric as the weather chart promised a 6 metre swell and 28 knots of slightly offshore wind – and unusually for this part of Ireland, famous for its squalls, no rain and only 5 knots between the mean and peak wind speeds – so NOT gusty. That never happens.
No one had that good a day. Conditions were brilliant. The place looked like classic Ho’okipa in Kona winds (wind from the left), except better. In the pub afterwards there were half smiles and mumbled compliments: “I saw you on the lip …wow …it was massive … etc.” But the plaudits were insincere because everyone knew that it should have been the day of their windy lives – but they hadn’t stepped up. When conditions are that good, you have to be good, or the feeling of waste is palpable.
The next day the wind swung onshore and the swell dropped to a couple of feet. It was a proper old mush pit but they had a ball. Said one: “Today we were better than the conditions.”
‘Scoring’ is what you make of it.
Peter Hart – 22nd March 2018
Photo: Harty jumping through the finish line to score a podium finish on his standard Mistral Screamer – luck never came into it!
PHOTO Hart Photography