Thursday, August 11, 2011

Never Getting Bored with Boards

Having now seen the windsurfers in action, there is no denying the adrenaline as boards and boarders are pouring into the sailing community.

French influenced and all around faster, the windsurfing culture is something hot to get into. With about half the competitors talking about “le vent”, or wind in French, it feels like a completely different form of sailing, and it is. The equivalent of snowboarding to skiing or kite boarding to surfing, windsurfing gets you closer and faster across the water.

Having never windsurfed before this summer, this has been quite a journey for me. In my first attempt with instructor, Ned Crossly, I ended up drifting down the channel in front of New Bedford Yacht Club. However, the more I watch windsurfing the more hooked I get, and you can talk to any windsurfer to see the energy rush windsurfing brings to people.

At the core of windsurfing in the U.S. is Nevin Sayre, who is spreading the sport with an almost evangelical attitude. Taking anyone and patiently waiting until he sees that they’re hooked on the sport (usually when they first plane) the windsurfing community is centered around a need for speed.

I saw Nevin at work tending to the Silver Fleet at Windsurfing Junior Olympics this week. With a group of kids, many of whom have never raced before, Nevin reserves the right for Race Committee to “wing it at all times.” Nevin has no hesitation to throw out the standard proceedings to get these kids hooked. Instead of conventional starts, Nevin shouts, “On your mark, get set, go!” when the kids are ready and off they go.

It’s easy to wonder how these kids were going to learn racing without any structure. But I think results speak for themselves. On the first race, only one boat rounded a mark (yes, windsurfing is that hard). By the end of the second day, the kids were competitive racers and succeeding at a variety of courses.

My favorite teaching device was a relay race where Nevin drew a skewed line in the sand, leaving the boards in the water. Explaining that this wasn’t a “ready, set, go” start, Nevin wouldn’t let them run to their boards until he had run past them on the line. Without knowing it, the kids just learned how to do rabbit starts.

Not to mention Nevin’s own two kids, Solvig who just returned from Sail for Gold in Weymouth and Raz who just won the US SAILING Sportsmanship of the Year award. Keep an eye out for exclusive interview with Raz about the award.


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