All The Steps for Club Success

While windsurfing may be an individual sport, the gains made from windsurfing with others are incredible. Whether you’re windsurfing in numbers for safety, the social or to find out the latest kit on the beach, it is always worth hitting the water with others. Windsurfing clubs provide a great opportunity to find like minded people, the RYA catches up with one of the new generation of clubs, Windsurf Plymouth, to find out about their development.

Most sports are organised through, or at least provided by, a form of club structure, enabling you and I to participate on a regular basis and provide us with the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits, including both the social element and competition – if that’s your ‘trigger’!

John Warren credit H2O
John Warren credit H2O

Unlike sailing, which has a very successful club structure in the UK, windsurfing lacks this, which is often highlighted as the reason more people do not take up or continue in the sport.

How many times have you or your friends not gone sailing because you can’t find anyone to go with? I know this has been a reason for myself and many others I windsurf with; especially if you live on the coast where the safe environment of an inland lake isn’t available.

So, could you help by forming a local club, helping to get more people on the water, or do you have a club already that could benefit from help and potentially funding?

The RYA takes an active role in promoting club activity and increasing the number of clubs around the UK to increase the sports accessibility and get more people on the water. Windsurf Plymouth is just one of the clubs the RYA has been working with recently, here’s what they have been up to recently and there’s plenty to learn from them……….

Windsurf Plymouth was initiated in 2008, as a resource to provide young people in the Plymouth area with a viable and easy introduction into the sport of windsurfing.

For two years weekly club nights were run from May until September, with RYA qualified volunteers running sessions from a local RYA training centre.  Participants paid a small weekly session fee, which covered equipment cost and safety boat fuel.

Unfortunately, this activity ran for a couple of summers and then ceased, mainly due to lack of volunteers and the usual sailing venue not really being suitable for coaching planing techniques, making it increasingly difficult to retain the younger members interest.

Once better sailing locations were found and club nights could be run more effectively, a new approach ensured a regular club resource could be provided for wannabe and current windsurfers in the area.

At the beginning of 2010 two aims were set:

1) To create a club format which would appeal to current local windsurfers.

2) Develop regular club activity through which individuals and local groups and could develop their windsurfing competence and confidence.

Learning to Windsurf
Learning to Windsurf

To do this we asked local windsurfers to complete a questionnaire, circulated via the local windsurf shop ‘Reactive Water sports’, with support from the RYA South West Regional Sport Development team, enabling us to focus our efforts on creating a format which would actually be used by the local windsurfing community.

One of the most common comments was that they would like to receive information about when and where it would be best to windsurf for someone of their ability, as well as knowing when others would be afloat, as this was a barrier to them going windsurfing.

A club website was developed, costing a mere £40 per year! Populated with detailed information on all the local windsurfing locations, links to appropriate weather information, weekly news, new member registration and a sign post to the clubs ‘Facebook’ site – making a valuable resource.

The club has been run in a virtual format, with no fee, but the following 12 months saw 246 people join the Facebook group with 126 registering onto the clubs mailing list via the website.  The Facebook group has become the backbone of the club activity, with members posting every time wind is forecast and listing the location time they are heading for a sail. It’s the perfect way to allow individuals the opportunity to ensure they sail with others. Club member Will Rogers comments “Since Windsurf Plymouth has been launched I have met and got to know so many more local windsurfers, and sailed at many more locations than I used to.”

Encouraging new members…….Club ‘Beach Days’ are arranged once a month, with the idea to encourage local windsurfers to try a different location safe in the knowledge that they will be windsurfing with plenty of other people. The location for the ‘Beach Day’ is posted on Facebook considering the forecast.

Sustaining your volunteers………..in September 2011 we sent an open invite to all members asking for people to come forward in assisting with future sustainability. A meeting was set up and a formal club structure, which allowed Windsurf Plymouth to offer a club membership with tangible benefits.

Participation and club benefits………..Weekly club sessions are now provided, which take place through a partnership with a local sailing club, located at the best and most popular windsurfing spot in Plymouth! This also allows are members and volunteers to benefit from the clubs facilities and safety boats for club sessions.  Richard Broadbent, club member says…….. ‘a BIG THANK YOU goes out to Tim, Stuart, Windsurf Plymouth Club and the Siblyback team for an awesome evening….I felt like the sorcerer’s apprentice…… such useful advice. ……thank you once again.Anyone looking to have a great windsurf experience could do a lot worse than getting yourselves to the Tuesday club night.’

Creating both a ‘formalised’ and ‘free-feeling’ aspect of the club has been important, aided through the continued open access of the Facebook group and Website.  Joining a formalised club does not appeal to every recreational Windsurfer!

John Warren credit H2O
John Warren credit H2O

Where do we go from here………one aspiration of the club is to create sustainable participation opportunities for young people, students and the local community. We are looking to purchase our own equipment and to help raise funds we are considering applying to Sport England for a ‘Small Grant Fund’, which has a maximum limit of £10,000. Through the formalisation of the club and affiliation to the RYA, this has now become possible. The RYA Regional team is at hand to help with the process and have all the relevant information you require.

For further information visit the Club Development pages on the RYA website: www.rya.org.uk/infoadvice/clubsclass/development

  1. Matt Farrah

    Windsurf Plymouth has been a great resource for me. Put simply, I’ve spent much more time windsurfing over the past year directly because of it. I was new to the area, so didn’t really know where to sail, which tide states were best etc etc.

    Through the informal, open group structure I’ve got to know others in the area who sail. People hook up via the group when the forecast is looking good. And now there’s an evening once a week where WP offers a support boat and a ‘fixed’ session. There are great plans to grow this, primarily to encourage new people into the sport and up the early and steep learning curve. We all want more people out on the water, so this is a great thing!

    As for the Facebook group, even for those who don’t like or want a formal ‘this is where to go’ instruction, it’s useful just to know that someone else will be on the water when you arrive.

    The way WP is structured (online and offline) means you can get as involved, or as indirectly connected as you want.

    It’s helped too, by the fact that the local watersports and windsurfing shop, Reactive Watersports in Plymouth, has been behind the project all the way.

    I think it’s great. Nice one.

    Matt

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Fanatic/North lifestyle. Image credit Sebastian Schoeffel

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