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‘ The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.’  Lord Byron

Originally published within the July ’17 edition

Words  Finn Mullen  //  Photo  Katie McAnena

The sensations of windsurfing give passion to our sport, it’s the feelings that feed our addiction and drive us to pursue it in pleasure and sometimes pain – “The great art of life”. The sensations we experience are as varied as the wide plain of ways we can enjoy our sport and this issue we examine the range from the speed canals of France to the slalom strips of Japan and the waves of Cape Town and Australia while also hitching a ride with two world champions, Kevin Pritchard and Antoine Albeau as they reflect on their own sensational careers. Looking to make the most out of summer, then check in with our windSUP review and windSUP technique with Harty and even learn how the Tushingham team managed to incorporate windSUP into Muzza’s stag!

As windsurfers, we have the perfect summer beach toy. There’s no shame in bringing a windsurfer to a gently lapping sea; it’s how our sport started and exploded and is still just as relevant today, as a recent trip to the beach reminded me. Wind wise it was definitely not one of those multi starred days on windguru, in fact I think they struggled to find a number, whole or decimal, to even put to the wind speed forecast.

It was irrelevant anyway, it was the weekend and time for some ‘seahabilitation’; sometimes all you need is to feel some sand between your toes and that windsurfing sensation of gliding on the water, however sedate. Packing for a family day at the beach with a baby involves the art of putting the entire contents of a nursery room + spares into a small bag but a few hours later we were on our way and arrived to one of our favourite windsurfing spots. Windy days at the beach are often ours as windsurfers to enjoy alone save for the odd hardy dog walker. It’s always interesting to see the much wider range of people that frequent the beach on a summer’s day. Teenage boys awkwardly walked self-consciously amongst girls in bikinis while families of Syrian refugees happily danced and played traditional music in a colourful scene of light and sound. There was a light breeze, cross shore, enough for me to play on with my floaty freestyle board, cruising near to shore in the shallows, exploring the rock pools and savouring the delights of being able to see the golden sands of the sea bottom on such a calm day. And so began the routine for the next few hours, we’d take it in turns to swim, windsurf, give baby her first steps in the sea and on the board, cook very unhealthy looking bacon sandwiches on our small gas burner and wash our thirst away with that most British of tonics, tea! So far all very zen but what about the windsurfing you ask. Well, you see the gift of days like these is not the obvious one. The sensation of windsurfing can be enjoyed in many ways and if we limit ourselves to the high-speed pursuits we miss out on an important part of our sport – just messing about on the beach with a board and sail in light winds. I spent my childhood doing just this; it was my equivalent of kicking a ball against the wall. Professional athletes, footballers, tennis players, often recall forming basic skills in very basic settings, their back gardens and local parks. As a young lad, Rory McIlroy used to practice chipping golf balls into his mum Rosie’s washing machine, that worked out pretty well for him!

If you look at the best practitioners of our sport, there’s certain nonchalance to how they throw around their gear. It comes with talent yes but it also comes with familiarity. Hours on the water with your gear bring that almost studied level of coolness the pros have. The insouciance and sang-froid with which they manoeuvre round a board and rig is all reflected in just how much time they have spent on the beach and in the water. The more time we spend in the environment in which we operate, the more comfortable we feel in it and the better we perform. The teenage boys feel awkward on the beach because they are used to being on their PlayStations or mobile phones, not in their shorts surrounded by bikinis. The Syrian families are happy and relaxed because although they are in an unfamiliar environment they can explore new shores because they have the comfort of their kin and culture with them. The more we play with our board and rig in light winds, the more confident and comfortable we feel to tackle higher winds. Lighter winds allow us to slow transitions down and make little mental notes of how subtle hand, body and head movements influence manoeuvres. Feet changes and shuffles round the mast and board are easily practiced and don’t become these huge barriers to cross when the wind increases. What we learn in light winds is transferrable to high winds.

One of my favourite things to do in light winds is close my eyes and sail. The sensations of windsurfing then become much heightened and you begin to feel what windsurfing instincts you have and don’t have in your skill set. The irony of progressing in windsurfing is that you want to reach a point where you don’t have to think too much about you want to do, you just do it, uninhibited like a child. Light wind sailing is all about playing like a child but it has a purpose. Windsurfing at the beach on a summer’s day with friends or family enhances the warm and fuzzy sensations we get from windsurfing but it also creates an ideal environment to relax and learn. So enjoy your summer sailing, play with your rig, mess about on your board, be cool! Sometimes the less effort you make, the better you sail, and the better you sail, the sweeter the sensation – simples!

“ The sensations of windsurfing give passion to our sport.”

Photo The sweet sensation of a summer blasting session; Finn Mullen loving life.  Photo Katie McAnena.

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