Words Finn Mullen // Photo Katie McAnena
Editorial originally published within the October ’16 edition.
“On land we are constrained mostly by roads. At sea there is no road map – you are free to choose your own path.” Father Conor McDonough.
Discussing windsurfing with a learned man of the cloth will always provide an interesting viewpoint. Windsurfing, like any sail craft as Conor astutely pointed out, leaves us free to decide our own course and this issue we look at fresh ways of exploring our sport. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of windsurfing is that our frontiers are able to be self-determined. At every level we can find a challenge to excite and inspire and even better – “age is no limit” and the title of an excellent video by Peter Hart on our website (windsurf.co.uk/peter-hart-age-no-limit). Peter eulogises, “There are no limits to the age you can windsurf. There’s a club called Sea Vets and they have a super vet category for racers over the age of 80. Because it’s a skill based sport..once you have these core skills you learn better and better ways to use your body and put yourself in more efficient positions so you’re not stressing yourself and that’s the same for young people and old. And just by doing the sport you create a natural strength and the right sort of strength. So honestly, age is no limit.
…The most appealing part of the sport..maybe it’s the diversity …when I was racing it was all about achieving the next level, riding the biggest wave, going out in the strongest winds and you can’t keep doing that forever because your body just falls apart. Now it’s changing the experience.”
One of the easiest ways to ‘change the experience’ is taking a trip and this month PWA pros Phil Soltysiak and Max Matissek hit the highways of North West America for an epic road trip on the iconic Highway 1. Renting a camper van, they explore and windsurf the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge finding an area with few frontiers. Phil exclaims, “We could probably come back to the same area of the coast every year, and windsurf new beaches, rivers or lakes for the next decade.”
For a windsurf trip with a difference and a much lower carbon footprint, check out Florian Jung’s “Tour de France” as he explores Brittany by bike, towing his kit by pedal power and telling us that his unconventional mode of transport for a windsurf trip was inspired by “What’s essential instead of looking for the most comfortable option. I care about the experience of travelling and the challenges I have to overcome during the trip. It’s about discovering new horizons, to be in nature and to really take a break from all the things that don’t add any value to our life. It’s not about rushing from A to B in a certain time or about travelling gigantic distances. We just wanted to go with the flow and adapt to nature in the best possible way. If there is wind and waves, we stay in the water, if not, we hop on our bikes.” At the other end of the scale to the cycle lanes of Brittany we look at windsurfing’s high speed frontier in “Formula 1” as the top four finishers at this year’s Fuerteventura PWA talk us through their boards and sails which are designed with only one criteria in mind, the slalom podium.
Windsurfing Jaws for the first time is the new frontier we report on in “Lucky sixes” as six lucky sailors score a rare uncrowded session at one of the world’s most famous waves. In terms of frontiers they don’t come much greater. Graham Ezzy writes, “This is the scale of Jaws. Everything is bigger and more powerful – the consequences more dire, more real. Riding a Jaws wave is to be part of something so much more powerful than yourself, you become insignificant.” From the world’s greatest waves to the world’s greatest stage, we pay tribute this month to the most decorated male Olympic windsurfer on the planet, our very own Nick Dempsey, with an exclusive interview by his UK windsurfing peers. Nick absolutely transfixed us with his extraordinary performance in Rio and, as Andy Chambers pointed out, Nick has “and will continue to inspire so many new kids to take up windsurfing and that really is an awesome achievement.” Fittingly, Nick now sees his own kids as his windsurfing priority – “For me windsurfing is now something very different. Before it was about performance, a job, and a lifetime of commitment to achieving one thing. Now it’s about time with my boys, putting them in a wetsuit and setting them loose.”
Harty was right, windsurfing’s beauty is its diversity. In that challenging post games period for any Olympian, Nick is better equipped than most having a sport where he, like us all, is free to plot any course and find new frontiers.
Photo – Finn Mullen finds a new frontier on Ireland’s west coast; pic by Katie McAnena