There are times when even the most die hard standup paddler wishes the wind wasn’t blowing so hard – on flatwater or on the waves. While there is no way I will trade in my quiver of KIALOA paddles for a sail, I definitely have re-sparked my interest in windsurfing.
A winter trip to Tampa for a late holiday vacation with my son and granddaughter set up the time and place to experience a windsurfing lesson. I was fortunate to discover North Beach Windsurfing on St Petersburg Beach and owner, Britt, had a lesson slot available.
Before the lesson I had a chat with Britt and learned a few reasons why he was 100% engaged in sharing his expertise – and it all begins with a passion for what he does. Britt graduated from Eckerd College in Florida and had a great collegiate experience on their windsurfing team. After summers enjoying every moment being a windsurf instructor, Britt began to use his degree in economics by starting work with an investment firm.
He still taught windsurfing on the weekends but it wasn’t until his firm was sold that the door opened for him to re-think his career path. His job didn’t survive the merger and a door opened. It was simple. He loved to teach so why not share what he loved with others – and North Beach Windsurfing was born.
The day of my lesson dawned clear with light wind, an ideal situation. I had owned a sailboard for a few years back in the early 1980’s. I learned by trial and error, using my sailing skills and surfing balance to have a lot of fun.
I wasn’t 5 minutes into my lesson with Britt before I realized I had never honed any windsurfing technique or actual understanding of the science (basic stuff) behind forces, vectors and levers that can make sail handling way easier than I remembered.
One “aha” moment followed another during the land-based part of the lesson. My natural tendencies to use brute force to lift the sail and hold it during reaches and tacks suddenly seemed ridiculous. With patience and lots of “let’s try that again” Britt led me to discovering the balance and ease of having the mast and sail in the right place.
Soon we were in the water – and to my surprise, Britt jumped right on the board ahead of the sail and continued to talk me through the steps while on the water. Soon afterward it was my time to go solo. I probably had more than 100 hours sailboarding, but this solo venture was totally new. I finally “got” the seeds to a solid understanding of making the sport more fun – and probably much safer for my 67 year old self.
I am already counting the days until my next lesson.
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Even though I love everything about SUP – there is a magic in windsurfing that can complement my time time on the water.