Monday, July 30, 2007

WET's Intro to Windsurfing

Local clubs like the Windsurfing Enthusiasts of Tidewater keep windsurfing alive. WET is comprised of 100+ fanatics who windsurf together for fun and competition, and work together to keep the sport viable in the area. Unfortunately, WET is aging and losing people to attrition. But they’ve started a new program that promises to swell their ranks once more – The INTRO TO WINDSURFING.

WET now holds 2-3 “Intros” each summer. We had one in May, and one last Saturday, each with over 35 new people! At an intro, all the local windsurfers come out and teach groups of 4-5 people the basics of windsurfing. We use beginner equipment lent by Beach Sports, supplemented by our own loaner equipment. In between the Intros, we do supervised “Sunday Sailing” at a local site called Mill Creek. The idea of Sunday Sailing is to bridge the gap between the first lesson and the point where someone is seriously “hooked” and ready to buy their own equipment.

Working the kinks out of the Intro to Windsurfing system has been an iterative process, but judging by the wild success of last weekend’s event, we’re starting to get it right. One of the key ingredients for an Intro is a core group of US Sailing-certified Windsurfer Instructors, because teaching by a defined method is WAY more effective than not. We also press some untrained WET members into service for the intros, and give them a crash course on how to teach. We start the lessons on land, using boards with the fins taken out as simulators. The picture below is instructor Bruce Powers showing his group how to face into the wind and point their arms to the side, identifying the directions perpendicular to the wind in which they will be sailing.

Then here’s me coaching my group in how to uphaul and get into the basic position with the body in the shape of a 7.

After we do the basic on-land stuff, we go the water, which is where it gets interesting. Through experience, we’ve learned that we need to teach people to turn around BEFORE we teach them to sail. Otherwise they go way out in a straight line, fall down, and can’t figure out how to get back. Of course, some spectacular splashdowns are inevitable. The photographer who was there this time recorded some good ones. (The full album is at this link).

But by the end of the day, everyone was doing very well.

Even the kids did great.

So if you're a windsurfer in another part of the country or the world, talk to your club about starting an Intro to Windsurfing thing like this. It's fun! And you'll ensure that you'll have a strong group of sailing buddies in perpetuity.


LakeSailor said...

Wow, James, you have a pretty big club and your new sailors are looking good! And I think I saw more women than men, where do I join? Nice job, nice photos.

James Douglass said...

Thanks lakesailor. Good observation on the gender ratio. Yes, these intros seem to work well for getting women into the sport. And the women motivate the single male instructors stay involved with teaching, so it all works out. :)

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

Awesome to see the new sailors and your passion for teaching them!

James Douglass said...

Thanks Steve. If you follow the link to the additional pictures from the day, the guy doing lightwind freestyle in the first shot is Dave Kashy, your formula fin designer.

Unknown said...

nice blog james and like you hooked me. i'll be thinking of you all freezing your butt of here while i'm in the Med windsurfing somewhere in a few months!!

PeconicPuffin said...

Outstanding event. Also, you've a nice little montage of falling there! As an instructor once told me when I expressed a desire to not fall: "They call it a Water Sport for a reason!"

Nice job.

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