The RYA tell us more about their initiative to get more people hooked on the best sport in the world – windsurfing!
Words & Photos RYA
Pro slalom and speed competitor Scotty Stallman first tried windsurfing in a taster session on his 9th birthday and loved it so much he was hooked for life. His parents had been determined to find a sport which would properly challenge and engage him and it was a simple two hour introduction to windsurfing with the Official Test Centre (OTC) in Portland, Dorset, close to his home, which did the trick.
Recalling that particular summer’s day, Scotty says, “It was quite light winds and an instructor in a boat beside me said ‘go out, turn around and come back in’, and that feeling of being able to do it on your own without any help was really intriguing. Then on windy days I saw people out windsurfing, going so quick, and thought ‘I wonder if I’ll be able to do that one day?’ “
The answer was a resounding yes! Windsurfing had caught his imagination and thanks to the OTC providing a ‘next step’ of clubs and courses, Scotty was able to continue getting out on the water as often as possible. By the age of 11 he’d hit 30 knots and by 14, 40 knots! A top youth on the slalom circuit, Scotty, now 17, finished second in the Pro Fleet on the 2018 national tour and is one of the UK’s hottest windsurfing prospects.
PUSH THE ‘BOARD’ OUT IN MAY
For children and young people, windsurfing can provide a real antidote to the stresses of school, screens and social media, while for grown-ups it’s a great way to switch off from work. For those who are competitive, there is the racing aspect of the sport to fulfil their needs!
“What I see is the escapism and the focus it provides,” says OTC Managing Director Tris Best. “It’s not the easiest sport by any stretch, but those that thrive on a challenge love windsurfing. There’s also a real community about the sport and it’s great socially – you can talk to a five-year-old or an 80-year-old and everyone else between because they all have a shared interest.”
Whatever your age, background or experience, it’s never been easier to get windsurfing. The RYA’s ‘Try sailing in May’ campaign will again be inviting people to ‘Push the boat out’ (or board!) for little or no cost, with open days offering taster sessions at literally hundreds of sailing clubs and watersports centres across the country, at inland lakes and reservoirs as well as on the coast. The campaign is all about making it as simple as possible for people to get on the water – with a variety of accessible and fun options then available for those who are inspired as a result to take up windsurfing and learn more, or return to the sport following a break.
Many clubs and centres offer memberships and training for all ages, including RYA Start Windsurfing courses for those who prefer a structured programme. There’s ‘OnBoard’ fun sessions and ‘Team15’ racing clubs for children and young people, and pay-and-play options enabling grown-ups to choose how and when they want to go windsurfing.
WINDSURFING FOR ALL
There were more than 375 Push the Boat Out (#PTBO) events nationwide in 2018 and this year’s campaign is again on course to offer anyone who has ever wondered if sailing or windsurfing might be for them, a fantastic opportunity to find out. As PTBO Programme Manager Michelle Gent explains: “Wherever you live in the country there will be a ‘Try sailing in May’ event near you! Come along if you’ve never tried windsurfing before but want to see if it’s the sport for you. Likewise we’d love to welcome you aboard if you have kids looking for an outdoor adventure, or a lapsed windsurfer looking for a way back into the sport after finding it overtaken by the demands of family or work. Find out what’s going on in your local area and get involved.”
In 2018 more than 39,000 people attended an event, with more than 3,500 new sailors and windsurfers joining their local club as a result. This year it could be you!
Summing up the appeal of the sport, Scotty adds, “If I go down the beach everyone is chatting and if anyone is struggling, someone will help, and then we have a great time on the water. I’ve always liked competing, but with windsurfing you’re solely relying on yourself and it’s that feeling of independence which is really good. And when we’re training, there’s quite a few of us, and a lot of it is messing around having fun. Before you realise it, it’s getting dark! I’d recommend windsurfing to anyone. It’s a feeling like nothing else – once you get going on your own, and you start planing in the footstraps, you’re free!”
To find your nearest ‘Try sailing in May’ venue, visit www.rya.org.uk/ptbo