Will Jones reports this month about some home-truths on the state of the windsurfing industry and muses over possible solutions and what the student population is actually doing to power on through…
The current state of the UK windsurf industry is perhaps not like it was in its glory days. Kit prices have been increasing and just affording the fuel to get to the ideal spot is beginning to have its impact. Unfortunately to some people the sport is becoming less and less accessible. It’s a problem but there are some hidden glimmers of a shinning light.
Firstly, there are still plenty of people who want to go windsurfing. I know I’m far from alone in finding myself having a quick break from work most days to check the weather forecast for the coming weekend. Whereas in the past I would have spent the week looking for the best forecast in the country, then come Friday packed the car up and disappeared off for the weekend. Now more often I will just settle for a slightly less full on session at my local spot.
It’s not just us long time windsurfers who have to feed our addiction. There are plenty of people who have never tried the sport that would love to have a go. I get asked fairly regularly by my non-windsurf friends if I could give them a lesson some time. I would love to be able to do this. Of course, they don’t understand that it would be fairly tricky to try and teach them on my gear. It would be a small miracle if a complete newbie to windsurfing managed to uphaul on my wave board and I definitely don’t have the spare cash to buy a set of beginner kit to teach them on.
So what are the options for people who want to give the sport a go: Well, if you can afford it, I would guess the best option is book yourself a holiday somewhere hot and sunny, with racks of windsurfing kit on the beach and plenty of fit tanned instructors to teach you. The next best option is a course in the UK. These can be found for a reasonable price. If you live local to a course that is running it can even be done to a reasonable budget. If you don’t have one nearby then you have to include the price of getting there and accommodation and suddenly the cost of going abroad don’t seem as so far fetched. I think, however, that by far the cheapest and one of the most enjoyable ways to windsurf has to be to get involved with a club.
Clubs seem to have a pretty simple formula. You pay a small fee to join, say £25 for the year. The club organises regular sessions to go along to with tuition from other club members. You all meet up, go windsurfing and make lots of new friends doing it. The club provides some kit which it pays for through the membership fees and probably some sort of sponsorship or discount they negotiate from a local shop in return for their business. It’s a great way to learn and enjoy windsurfing at an affordable price. Unfortunately clubs like this seem to be in short supply. Perhaps due to the ever increasing cost of windsurfing this formula doesn’t seem to work as well as it might have done in the past.
So, just last week I met Will Rycroft who despite all the challenges facing him is determined to start a windsurfing club in Northumbria where he has just started University. I caught up with him to find out more about his plans for the club.
Q: How will you attract people to get involved club?
Will: Today with the help of things like facebook you can reach a big audience without too much difficulty. I set up a new page on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Northumbria-University-Windsurfing-Club/280186572041652) explaining that I was trying to start up a windsurfing club and invited people to get involved. I posted loads of videos on it to show people what windsurfing was about. I’ve been posting the page on all the different Northumbria Uni groups I can find. On top of that I put up loads of posters in all the different departments around the Uni and on the sports societies notice boards in the Union. After that it’s just word of mouth, hopefully as we get up and running people will have a good time and tell their friends about it and encourage them to come along to.
Q: Do you think a new windsurf club can grow and thrive whilst the UK Windsurfing industry is having its belt tightened?
Will: Yes, I definitely think there is a place for a new windsurf club. There are still lots of people who want to windsurf. If you go to the beach round here on a windy day you will always see people out on the water. Often if I chat to anyone at uni about windsurfing they tell me they would like to give it a try. As soon as I created the facebook page it got loads of likes and straight away people posted questions asking about how they can get involved, so there is definitely interest.
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