Friday, January 25, 2013

The trouble with being a windsurfer

It's tough being a windsurfer, even tougher when you're a wave sailor. Let me explain.

Windsurfing began in the 1970s, when someone put a mast and sail on a large surfboard and it progressed from there. Boards and sails got better able to deal with prevailing conditions and different disciplines developed, like speed sailing, slalom, waves and freestyle. The 1980s and 90s were the heyday of windsurfing but by the early noughties it was declining, due to economic issues and the fact that most of the world actually doesn't have enough consistent wind to keep people interested. Couple that with the rise of kite surfing, which allows getting out in lighter winds, and the future for windsurfing was looking pretty grim.

For those of us lucky enough, or prescient enough, to live in places where the wind blows consistently, there hasn't been a decline at all. Of course living in one of the top windsurfing places on the planet does help, there may well be a decline elsewhere, but it isn't that apparent here. Sure there's more kiters, but there's still lots of locals as well as national and international visitors jumping and thrashing our waves each summer. And despite the economic downturn in Europe, all the regulars still keep turning up...

I say prescient, because almost every "local" in this town is a seasoned windsurfer or kiter who moved here from elsewhere. We're actually a pretty multicultural mix from all over the planet. Not just Aussies from Perth, the east coast and South Oz, there's English, Irish, French, Dutch, German, Swedish, Swiss, Japanese, American, Malaysian, Singaporean, and a few more nationalities who've moved here just for our wind and waves. There are a few home grown sailors, but surprisingly few actually.

Perhaps the difficulty is that learning to sail in Geraldton isn't all that easy. The wind tends to kick in with a vengeance and when you're learning it's nice to have a bit of flat sheltered water rather than a rip roaring shore break. We have a couple of beaches in town that suit, but there's no windsurfing school, so even if people want to learn there's no-one offering regular lessons.

It's pretty challenging to windsurf in Geraldton because it isn't really beginner conditions. With big swell coming in off the Indian Ocean, and wind that is consistently 20-30 knots, most of us who sail here are not shrinking violets. It takes balls to get out through big waves and to ride in on top of rollers from out the back, carving sweet bottom turns and slashing off the lip. Not to mention just sheer strength to hold on when the gusts hit 35knots!

But recently, the weather has been less than accommodating. Not only have we had very little swell, we've also had less than consistent winds, and when it does blow, it's more often over 30 knots than within the nice comfy wind speed parameters for a fun sail. My 3.5 m sail has probably been the best investment I've made in recent years, and given the amount of usage it's had, it may well need replacement before the 4.5 does!!

Fact is, I get bored when it's flat, and there's only so many times you can bash your body around in bruising over 30 knot winds. And it's supposed to be fun right?

Yep, it's tough being an elite sportswoman when the weather doesn't oblige to suit your lifestyle! Now there's a first world problem of epic proportions!!

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