It has been an exceptional winter for windsurfing; but then I probably don’t need to tell you that. Across the UK the weather stories in the press have been about the downside of this winter’s weather, in this issue we celebrate the upside!
(This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Windsurf Magazine. To read more features like this first, Print and Digital subscriptions are available. Prices include delivery globally for 10 x issues a year!)
The last few winters in the British Isles have been nowhere near as windy as this season past. We needed this; our sport needed it, because windsurfing comes alive when we have consistent periods of wind. It’s a bit like any relationship; you need to spend regular quality time with your partner to keep the flames of lust alive. Lucky for us in the UK, the wind this winter has been available for a bit of you know what, just about whenever we wanted. Our reliable anemometer in the office is Peter Hart. One of the lucky few who counts windsurfing as his job, if we can’t get a hold of ‘Harty’, it’s a fair bet it’s windy and he is at his own version of the ‘office’, ‘working’. This winter he was rarely out of ‘office’, clocking up overtime on the south coast in the jovial company of, as he says himself, ‘’The Wittering massive, who as far as I can see don’t have jobs and have all spent the last 2 months on the water, abetted by sailors, pro and weekend warrior alike, who have had more sailing this winter than is strictly legal’’. Peter and his cohorts were not the only guilty party; after 3 days of sailing in a row on a 3.5 I was having criminal amounts of fun myself. If all this sounds a bit smug, you’re right, it is. Windsurfing can be quite a selfish sport left unchecked, but we are going to do our best this issue to offset the egotistical footprint by giving back – sharing the stoke and stories of sailors from the UK and abroad of their winter experiences. Cold water windsurfing or as we like to call it in the UK – ‘windsurfing’ – has a great habit of keeping narcissistic tendencies at bay; try looking hipster in a balaclava and booties. Cold water brings a warmth of community though; we look out for each other more in the water and are happy as we shiver to share tips on how to regain the use of your left foot. Kevin Pritchard got a taste of this winter spirit when he made the unusual journey from Maui to Denmark in December. Hearing a Hawaiian based sailor of Kevin’s standard describe the highs and lows of Northern European winter sailing is compelling reading. Read about his experiences this issue in ‘The Viking test’ where he ‘’could not believe how foreign my gear felt, the weight and stiffness of the extra rubber made every action different.’’ But, ‘’felt more Aloha in this beautiful part of Denmark than at home in Hawaii’’.
Closer to home our ‘Black Monday’ story follows the Motley crew as they rightly ran for cover from Storm Imogen but scored in the shelter of Branksome bay near Poole, only to be blown away later in Avon as gusts of 80-100 knots lashed England’s South Coast. ‘’My body was already broken from the best winter I can remember and Imogen left me in pieces!’’ recounts a battered Paul Hunt.
Atmospherically and anecdotally it has been a winter of extremes and when you talk extremes in windsurfing there are two sailors that quickly spring to mind – Thomas Traversa and Jason Polakow. Big wave windsurfing isn’t normally associated with Europe but these two pioneers of calculated lunacy and gifted ability have changed all that. Jason shares his story on a ground breaking day at Nazaré, Portugal, where he became the first ever wind powered athlete to challenge the fearsome waters of this internationally renowned beach break on steroids. Not to be outdone, Thomas Traversa took a different approach to chasing storm Imogen, seeking out the fringes of its long period swell’s reach in the Basque Country. He tells us this issue of just how he came to stumble on this spot and why he felt the need to hit the lip of a monster wave that anyone else would run from! Thomas is a humble but plain speaking man and his writing gives an insight into an athlete who is widely and deservedly respected by his peers. As the atlas of big wave windsurfing is rewritten, let us not forget that Maui and specifically Pe’ahi, aka Jaws, has roared many times this winter too. The Pacific Ocean has been supercharged in recent months by an El Nino event so strong the media dubbed it ‘Godzilla’. In ‘Jaws Journals’, Kai Katchadourian, Jason Polakow, Robby Naish and Marcilio Browne bring us behind the liquid curtain of the world’s most famous wave, sharing the before, during and after moments of their sessions and a revealing look at their preparations, mindsets and dealing with the increased number of paddle and kite surfers who ride there.
Windsurfing of course is not all about such ‘in extremis’; that’s why we also this issue let Peter Hart tell you about waveriding in onshore ‘mush’ and Jem Hall educate you on the ‘Moves that matter’ to get you back in the groove for spring sailing. Tris Best and our test team look at the latest in freerace gear to comfortably enjoy your speed fix with, while our Mediterranean travel guide let’s you review some of the best spots to find your own thermal wind and crystal blue water nirvana.
Modern windsurfing is often cited for portraying an unrealistic and elitist ideal but really that is too simplistic an argument to overlook how photogenic and dramatic big waves, high winds are, the passion and emotions that they inspire athletes to perform in or photographers and writers to document. As a magazine it is imperative we record the cutting edges, it’s the living history that will inspire the current and next generations of our sport and many of the sessions in this issue will be rightly celebrated and remembered in time with the regard they deserve. It has been an exceptional winter and this is its tale.. FM
Finn Mullen gets his winter high over the Irish sea in Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland Photo Alan Bennett