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Philip 6th February 2008 06:37 AM

The thing about windsurfing
There is an excellent and technically informed thread about the future of windsurfing which tends to concentrate on equipment and WS formats. However, I beg to offer an alternative view.

What we had in the early days was organisation. The 'fleets' of the original WS and later the long race boards were the thing. They provided a structure for younger people to engage with the sport.

Formula WS did not destroy this structure, it happened along as the structrures were decaying in many parts of the world and I don't think the contemporary Olympic board selection had much effect either.

WS structure was driven by retailers wishing to build the sport from scratch. It had to be the retailers because they were most plugged into this new thing (remember too this was pre-internet times) and they had (have) the physical infrastructure to organise.

My own observation is that those areas that provide the structure have a happening WS scene, other areas are 'getting along' by word of mouth. Young people tend to engage with sports with a coaching and competition format like cycling and running in their manifold 'club' formats in their local communities. Where is our feeder group?

WS has to be organised at the local level before we can feed into regional and national levels. Pretty obvious. Whether the time has passed for retailers to lead the charge again (is that even a reasonable assumption?) is something I can't answer.

The best sailors in my small part of the world think regional and national, by-passing the local scene. This might of course all be a local aberation. I would be interested in the experiences of others.

Really I think the issue is with us sailors and not the gear makers. It might be of course that the majority of the WS community prefer not to be organised; if so, there is growth to be had but at a lesser rate.

James 6th February 2008 08:50 AM

Right on, Phillip. Active organization at the local level, whether it comes from a shop or from a club, is probably the most important thing for windsurfing.

Unregistered 6th February 2008 05:33 PM

Great point!

Local clubs work really well. Ours has 50+ members. We have the organisation, cash and drive to have learn to sail classes and a Junior class that gets kids out there on their own gear (mostly) or club owned gear.

Critical mass is vital, and since our kid's programme is only a couple of years old it's still building up. The kids (8 to 15) love meeting kids from the other organised fleets in our neighbouring cities. They do a few short races, then the younger kids spend a few hours sailing around three to a board, then taking the rigs off and splash around, then in the evenings they play Magic.

Those who don't have kids and whose ideas about kids today is driven by media may think that they are all crazed adrenalin junkies, but what they really seem to love is a mixture of structure, free time to mess around and be kids with other kids, and simply being social.

The other thing that organised clubs can do is address the gap between experienced windsurfers and the newbies, which is so big that is's a problem for our sport. Oh, and they can do publicity, a place to store gear, safety, etc etc etc.

Unregistered 6th February 2008 11:17 PM

I want to share my experience.
We have club without full time staff. We are volunteers.
You can do a lotof good things organising WS movement locally, but why should you do it? It takes a lot of time an energy to organize schools, camps, competitions and finally all profit from sales goes to distributor:) Looks like you are working for distributor for free:) What should we do?

pierrec45 9th February 2008 08:45 PM

I'm afraid clubs are 'passť' ,,,
Clubs were popular (and I was in one then) long time ago, when all had the same or similar gear. In the early '80s, I would travel around the country for competing and most sailors were in a club - organised or clique.

This fell apart mid-80s onwards. I remember my own club: people started showing up with all sort of ever numerous and recent gear on a trailer. Those wouldn't join, as they were going faster - they were their own heroes. Open races, as opposed to one-design, became the norm, so the best gear would win. There was no link anymore between people but to show each other all the brand new faster gear they'd bought. That would happen in the spring, what a Tupperware party. Still is.

Current "speed" guys - going right and left all summer - couldn't race now, and won't want to measure themselves against competitive sailors. Clubs are mostly dead, bar a few racing enthusiasts.

I have my own informal social club. We get together by happenstance on the same spots, we teach kids and people. I teach a lot of freestyle on all sort of gear. Small gains, but I'm happy with sharing my experience that way.

Once in a while someone pays me beer - that's OK.

Philip 11th February 2008 04:35 AM

Part reason why club racing fell apart on my local pond was that insurance costs for the WS club went sky high. Subsequently affiliation with the local sailing club was a prospect but required the WS element like all 'classes' to take a turn on the organising side of regatta days and most WS people did not want to do that. Seems that people are increasingly cash rich and time poor which is why plug and play gear is so popular (and I would think just the thing for club training and racing anyway). For myself I have migrated to 'dedicated' slalom gear as a 'growth path' until such time as the wheel goes around again, as I am sure it must.

steveC 11th February 2008 08:27 AM

Philip, I must say, a very insightful post.

Really I don't think that the majority of windsurfers really want to go "off the top" on organizational viewpoints or controlled activities. Although some spots have active racing interests, there is absolutely no support for organized or formally regimented windsurfing activities in Santa Barbara (no negatives, it's just reality). At least locally here, controlled activities aren't consistent with participation in the sport. While things were bigger in the 80s, the situation wasn't really any different. Windsurfing is quite separate from traditional sailing viewpoints and rules, as is kiting now.

Philip 12th February 2008 03:45 AM

Hi SteveC. How is WS at Santa Barbara? I visited there a number of years ago on business and liked what I saw very much. There were no WS on the water as there was zero wind that week, so I was none the wiser as to where WS happens, conditions etc.

steveC 13th February 2008 12:40 AM

Hi Philip,

Windsurfing in Santa Barbara can be quite good, particularly following passing storm fronts in the winter and spring months, but generally it's on the lighter side, and more a product of thermally driven winds. Another thing about sailing here is the kelp and eel grass, which can bedevil folks that don't have weedfins. The weed concentrations can vary from spot to spot, so there are some spots where one can get away with use of slalom fins.

The thing that can be interesting about the area as a whole is that over relatively short distances (8-10 miles) the conditions can be totally different. For instance, in SB Harbor area (Leadbetter Beach) the wind can be too light to sail, but westward up the coast in the Goleta area the wind can be averaging 15-25 knots. Similarly, the Goleta area can be virtually windless, and another 8 miles up the coast at El Capitan State Beach it can be cranking. Being so close to the Central Coast where winds are consistently stronger, the wind can come from a northwesterly (downslope) direction over the mountains producing strong sideoff conditions.

If one doesn't mind driving a bit, conditions can be quite good along the western Malibu coastline, or a bit closer in Ventura. Also, just around Point Conception at the base of the Central Coast, there is Jalama Beach where the wind and waves can be awesome.

Really, to get the most out of the Santa Barbara area, one needs to be flexible and somewhat adventurous. That's a big reason why the club or organized activities have a hard time getting off the ground. If one tends to go to only one or two spots, they could be missing many interesting opportunities. Of course, being a bit more creative can mean sailing alone. In fact, in all my sessions so far this year I've been sailing alone.

Philip 13th February 2008 03:29 AM

SteveC it seems that Santa B is a good case study as to why WS is so foot-loose as it were. My own sailing routines have just evolved and reflecting on these it seems there is a favorite spot where the guys hang out, but during the working week I tend to go where the wind is most favourable. Often find I am sailing alone or perhaps with another WS or two in the distance. Nice work if you can get it!

As a by produce of this I tend to be especially self-reliant in the way I kit- up for a WS session in case things turn cold or really gusty. A good selection of wet-suits and sails with stability + are a must and I often road test a couple of fins before settling on the 'fin de jour'.

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