The RYA explain why windsurfing helps develop positive character traits.
Words & Photos RYA
Why do you windsurf? Well, the most common answer is that it’s lots of fun! But what makes it so fun, particularly for young people? Is it the fact that whilst on the water you are often for the first time at the control of uncontrollable elements like the wind and the tide? Is it being in control of your course, speed and destination and being relatively free to roam where you want? Or maybe it’s just being outside with friends, messing about on the water! Whatever the reason, it’s not only really good fun, but also helps young people to develop and get on in life. As well as positively impacting physical and mental health, outdoor activities like windsurfing can aid character development in young people.
“There is an almost universal consensus that character as well as exam results, has a significant role to play in shaping young people’s life chances, and these character ‘skills’ are much sought after by employers too,” explains Professor Bill Lucas, Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and Professor of Learning at the University of Winchester, who has worked with the RYA in developing their OnBoard programme.
“When youngsters start making connections between sailing and their real lives in two or three areas, then these traits develop, start to transfer more naturally and instinctively, and become embedded in a person’s character.”
Determined to succeed
14-year-old Clay Yelland, is the eldest of three mad keen windsurfing siblings and in 2017 was awarded a Bic Techno board and sail through OnBoard’s partnership with the John Merricks Sailing Trust.
“It all started when I saw a bunch of people windsurfing and I asked my mum if I could try it. I loved it straight away, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be and it took time to get everything right – you’ve just got to keep practising,” explains Clay.
“You’ve got to be really determined, but it always pays off, even when it’s freezing and I just want to come in and have a hot chocolate, I stay out because I know it will help me improve. People think I’m completely mad when it’s pouring down with rain and super windy, but at the end of the day I really enjoy it. The windsurfing community is friendly, kind and helpful, and although I sail alone I feel part of a team. I’ve made loads of friends, we go out and compete against each other, but when we come back in we’re all just really good friends. Windsurfing has taught me that, no matter how many mistakes you make, you can always learn from them.”
Besides competing in the UK racing circuit, Clay’s windsurfing is taking him all over the world. This year he will be going to the European Championships in Israel in August and the World Championships in Cadiz, Spain in October.
“When I think about experiences I’ve had of being determined in adulthood, so much of that comes from on the water experiences when I was younger, even when it was cold and wet, I still went out and did it,” explains RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, Hannah Cockle.
“Which are the experiences you tell stories about? The nice, comfortable easy ones or the difficult, uncomfortable ones? Once I was windsurfing in the snow; it was freezing, windy and we were only out there for about 15 minutes. But I’ve told that story so many times; how funny it was, how hardcore we thought we were, the bond and the camaraderie it builds with your mates. Those are the experiences I’ve learned most from.
“Let’s be honest, windsurfing can be difficult to learn and there will be difficult times. But that’s the same as life, whether at school, university or in adulthood. Knowing you can stick with something and come out the other side positively is a massive skill any youngster can take forward into the rest of their lives and it’s so encouraging to see OnBoarders like Clay go on and succeed.”
The RYA OnBoard programme was relaunched in 2017 with a new focus on the broader learning benefits of sailing and windsurfing. It is open to anyone aged 8-18 and offers the opportunity to try out sailing and windsurfing in a safe, structured and fun environment.
For more information about RYA OnBoard and how you can get involved visit www.rya.org.uk/onboard.