Windsurf Magazines technique guru Peter Hart, talks us through how the Corona crises is holding him back from his normal hectic schedule:
Photos courtesy: Peter Hart
WS: Tell us how the lockdown is affecting your business as an instructor?
PH: Well global windsurfing courses are tricky do from home, so it’s been pretty devastating. All the side-line activities such as journalism, videos and motivational speaking have been hit as well.
WS: How many coaching weeks have you missed out on so far?
PH: In one way I have been lucky. I returned from my Tobago clinics in mid-March just as lockdown kicked in. I then traditionally have break so I can be around my family for spring and the Easter holidays. But it’s from now on that I really suffer. I’ve had to postpone my wave clinics in Kerry in May; then a series of weeks in Vass and Rhodes in June, as well as various one- and two-day courses in West Wittering and Weymouth in early summer. I’m hoping and praying the restrictions will have eased by the autumn. Over four weeks in September and October I have 50 people joining me in Donegal. It would be devastating if that had to be cancelled.
WS: Have your clients been understanding and re booked for later dates etc?
PH: They’ve been amazing. Almost everyone has rebooked for 2021 and been happy to roll over payments to then. One guy coming to Kerry in May, knowing how hard it is to make a living over there, doesn’t even want his money back from the local cottage owner and says he will pay again next year. Windsurfers are lovely people – that’s official!
WS: Do you think business will resume this year for travel abroad or do you think you may have to adapt and do more clinics in the UK?
PH: It’s the $60,000 question I’m asked every day. For places like Mauritius and Tobago (where I run winter weeks) which rely so heavily on tourism, there’s a huge incentive to get things up and running again. On the other hand, many of the exotic islands have very limited ITU beds, so a secondary outbreak would be devastating. My brother lives on the tiny island of Nevis in the Caribbean. They currently only have 3 cases but are on total lockdown with borders closed because the government know that they haven’t the facilities to deal with a big outbreak.
Happily, over half my courses are wave road trip weeks to Kerry, Donegal and Tiree. Of course, I love heading off to tepid, exotic, azure locations, but if push came to shove, it would be no hardship for me to do more courses in Ireland and the Hebrides.
WS: What have you been up to at home during the break?
PH: Our house was flooded last year (a burst pipe rather than a river thank heavens) – the builders left in a hurry on 22nd March – basically there are stacks of jobs that need to be done – which is a healthy challenge for someone who sits at the bottom of the DIY class. Actually, I have no problem filling my days. I have a dongle that digitises old footage – so I have been having a lot of fun trawling through old VHSs and posting video clips from old competitions and events in the 80s and 90s. There has been time to write – so for the first time in long time, Fin Mullen, our glorious editor, may find that my copy finally arrives on time when the mag is back up and running! My kids and wife are very musical, so we’ve been playing a lot together (I obviously am very embarrassing). My daughter has a small recording set-up, so I’ve given her the job of composing music for my videos. We home schooled them for 5 years back in the day, so we’re used to having them around 24/7. Oh yes, I’ve doubled the size of the veggie patch and the dog has never had so many walks!
WS: Do you find the situation stressful or worrying or are you just going with the flow?
PH: I have a simple philosophy that I refuse to worry about things I have no control over. We live day to day and try and focus on all the positives coming out of this. There’s a tremendous community spirit round here and a lot of humour. I know the situation is dire for many people and they have my total sympathy. However, having worked for myself for nearly 40 years with all the pressure that brings, and although it’s financially pretty disastrous, it’s actually really nice to be forced to take a break (and not feel guilty about it). There’s been lots of time to stop and revaluate, talk with friends … and put that shelf up which has been sitting there for 3 years!
WS: How are you staying fit?
PH: We are so lucky. We live on a farm and the track at the back leads us straight up into the South Downs – excellent mountain biking territory. Also, we have a big enough garden to accommodate a permanent circuit set-up with a few free weights, pull up bar, gym ball etc. I know – it’s one thing having them – and quite another actually using them! Happily, I have a competitive teenage son who is determined to outdo his old man at everything. What I am, noting is that the little niggles and aches that are never given the chance to heal, are gradually easing.
WS: How much do you miss getting out on the water?
PH: I’m generally not short of windsurfing time so I do cherish the odd break but … this is driving me nuts. I love this time of year. As is so often the case, we’ve seen day after day of cloudless skies and high-pressure easterlies, which would be perfect for foiling and freestyle from our local beach in the Chichester harbour.
WS: What do you love best about being a windsurf coach?
PH: The relationships, the camaraderie, the craic and seeing people improve. For some reason a lot of people keep coming back for more; and to be with them on their journey often from low intermediate right through into the meaty waves of Ireland and beyond, is a real privilege.
WS: What is the worst part of the job?
PH: I find no joy whatsoever in negotiating airports and check-in staff with a load of kit. Other than that, I suppose it’s the dread of being skunked by the wind, which thankfully happens very rarely. But I’m finding people are finally getting the message that too much is actually worse than too little. In and out of the waves, the best teaching days I have are non planing; where first of all we’re all in close proximity (and not hooning off to various points on the horizon) and where we can tweak and drill key technique elements which just get ignored when it’s windy.
WS: Do you still love the travel?
PH: I enjoy the travel, but hate being in transit. That doesn’t include the van. I actually love driving to clinics like Ireland and Tiree. The fun starts as you leave home – a good play list, stopping when you like; meeting up for a beer on the ferry; breakfast in Castlegregory. I can’t say the same about flying out of Gatwick.
WS: How many more years do you think you will be in the game (body allowing!)
PH: I think I’ll probably die on the job – the windsurfing job that is. I really do love it. On top that, our kids are about to hit their most expensive period, so I just have to keep on keeping on. I can see a time when I do a little less – but so long as people want to join me in these lovely places, I will keep going … even if I do have to use stabilisers!