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He doesn’t work for ‘Relate’ but Harty reckons a regular dose of misery is the means by which you keep the passion alive.

It was a soggy afternoon as we drove into the campsite in Normandy and onto our pitch at the side of the lake. My wife suggested that, given the depth of the mud, a spot up the hill away from the shore might be more practical – but I wanted to wake up by the water so there. Backing in, I crunched into a knee-high stump, cunningly placed just below a van driver’s field of vision. Driving forward with just a touch of petulance, I took the wing mirror off on a low-lying branch.  The tent erected in the shallower of the 2 puddles, we bedded down for the night. At 2 am, a gentle whistling revealed that a mouse had eaten a hole in our inflatable mattress, leaving us lying on the bare ground at the very moment the heavens opened and a river the size of the Seine washed through our living quarters. As a protest vote, both kids emptied the digested contents of their young stomachs into their pyjamas.

“No worries,” said my wife, “I’ve brought plenty of spares. Fetch me the kid’s bag.” “Which bag is that darling?” “The one I left at the top of the stairs and asked you to put in the van just before we left.” “No you didn’t …”

So there we stood, sleep-deprived, sodden with 2 naked, stinking, deeply unhappy offspring, 200 miles from the nearest Starbucks. Our European neighbours poured yet more salt into our suppurating wounds by threatening to call the authorities unless we stopped bickering. Options presented themselves, easily the most attractive of which was to torch the neighbour’s tent and then head straight back to the ferry port and the green green grass of home, where we could spend 2 weeks luxuriating in the delights of modern living –  dry clothes, air fresheners, a flushing toilet, a springy mattress, a fluffy duvet. But no. Britain was not built on such a flabby attitude to adversity. So like sensible birds, we upped sticks and flew south. Twenty-four hours later, after a journey not without incident, we found ourselves on the island of Oleron, slumped into our £9.99 camping chairs on a mound overlooking the Atlantic, a cheeky, local red in hand to toast the golden sun which was setting over the peeling waves of the Cote d’Argent. The acrid stench of kiddy kaka had been expunged from van and nostrils. The kids themselves had been re-dressed c/o of some very special offers at Decathlon in Rouen and were frolicking in the rock pools below as cheerily as the von Trapps (during the happy part of the Sound of Music before the Nazis arrived). And with the tent dry and re-erected in an altogether more summery corner of la belle France, the mood lifted beyond the heavens.

It was a great holiday. It’s what we do every year and every year we have the same conversation on the way home. Is it really worth all the work and discomfort? Apparently yes. The happy memories overshadow the discomfort and you do it all over again. Windsurfing is a camping with kids experience. If it isn’t, I fear you’re doing it all wrong. I read recently that the current high rates of depression are due to the pressure of 21st century life where we spend most of our time fretting about things that we have no control over and trying to plan for unknown consequences. Instead, like our forebears, we should spend more time living in the moment.

That’s what sport is for. And nothing is better at it than windsurfing. So many people have said they love the sport because it’s so all-consuming that they have no time to cogitate over everyday problems. But the therapy only keeps working so long as the experience remains intense. The NWF is always a great time to monitor the overall health of windsurfing. You get to talk to people from every corner of the game from pros to those who took it up an hour ago at a taster session. Like a Party Conference, everyone fuels each other’s happy prejudices and it’s a right old love fest – most of the time.

But the saddest conversation I had was with Bill, alias Eeyore, who said (in a Brummy accent too which made it sound even more depressing): “I’m just doing everything I used to on the water, but every year a little bit worse.” I laid him on the couch and had a word. Had he bought any new kit recently? No. Had he sailed anywhere new? No. Had he tried a new move? Why would I want to do that? I might fall in. His time ran out but my parting gift was to tell him that the thousands of hours he’d invested learning this technical sport, had made it too valuable to give up. Rekindle the magic by getting uncomfortable again. The quest for ever-bigger waves is a dominant thread in this issue. I urge you to read Alistair McLeod’s experiences riding Pedra Blanca, a huge break way out in the southern ocean beyond Tasmania. If you do the maths, it’s about 6 months training and planning for about 30 seconds of action, which may or may not happen. But if it does …it’s basically camping with kids. You have to do a lot of work and handle a lot of sh*t for that special moment. But thanks to all the sh*t, when that moment does come, it’s especially special and therefore highly addictive. I’m not urging you all to head out to Jaws with iron resolve and your will updated. It’s just to remember those early days of windsurfing when you were putting in the hard yards, and when hours of frustration were punctuatedwith moments of unremitting ecstasy. It’s the pain as much as the pleasure that keeps us vital. By the way, they also mentioned that the other recreation that makes us live in the moment is sex; which apparently you also have to keep intense and varied. I couldn’t possibly comment.

PH 8th Sept 2015

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