How-to: Enjoy Your First Lesson

So you want to windsurf? Well what next?

So you want to windsurf? Well what next? The best thing and the only real thing to do is to go out and take a lesson. Take the lesson from someone who really does know what they are talking about. That way you can start off in the sport with nothing but good habits. Depending on where you’re learning, one of the best ways of getting familiar with the equipment before you even touch the water is on a land simulator. 

ONE EASY THING TO DO is to go down to your local windsurfing retailer. Most stores have their own lesson program and if not, can direct you to the nearest windsurfing school. Look at the back of this magazine or search the Internet. You can also get in contact with sailing clubs or just look up the word windsurfing wherever you can find it!  You can make it even easier and go on vacation to a nice warm place. Other possibilities are the many traveling windsurfing clinics available around the country.

Now that you’ve found your windsurfing school, what do you do next? Go and talk to the people. Tell them that you’re interested in a lesson and ideally, the person who you’re speaking to should be more excited about the lesson than you are. Look out for the enthusiasm of the instructor. The more enthusiastic they are, the more fun it’s going to be for everyone.

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If at all possible, rent or borrow your equipment for the first ten hours or so. Your learning curve is so fast as a beginner that you are going to outgrow your equipment incredibly quickly. 

You are now ready for your first lesson. Your instructor is going to show you how to put all of the equipment together and lead you out onto the water, but before you get onto the board, get the right attitude! Sometimes wanting to do something too much can hold you back more than anything else. Go for fun. Expect to fall off!  Expect to get wet!  Enjoy falling off and splashing around.  Don’t try too hard to stay on the board all the time. The person who comes back to the beach with dry hair didn’t really try and didn’t have a good time. It’s the wet people who are having the most fun.

What do you expect to get out of your lesson?  Don’t expect to be flying past the local hot shot within ten minutes.  It takes a little bit longer than that to get there. Honestly, the first challenge is to just get comfortable and balanced on the board.  You don’t even have to have the sail in your  hands.  Just get familiar with what the board feels like and what the sail feels like. Sort of make friends with it. Get used to the feelings. After your first lesson, you should expect to be able to move for a short distance and do a basic turn. Your first time out may be your most strenuous windsurfing experience, but afterwards, it gets easier and easier.  On that first lesson, expect to work a little bit, maybe even pick up a few windsurfing souvenirs, like a little bruise here and there. But you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t even realize that you collected them and when you get back to the beach, you can compare them with everyone else. Most importantly, a lesson can turn a week of frustration into an hour of pleasure.

Depending on where you’re learning, one of the best ways of getting familiar with the equipment before you even touch the water is on a land simulator.  This can save you hours of frustration by showing you how to control the board, how it’s going to move, how you can maneuver it, what it feels like to hold a sail in your hands.  It’s very difficult to fall off a simulator and you don’t have that “getting wet” thing, but it does give you a chance to loosen up, get a feel and find out how you can balance yourself against the sail.

If you’re having difficulty with some aspect of your windsurfing, you can also go back to the simulator and try and work out the problem there. If  you’re getting a little frustrated, don’t stay on the water. As soon as you feel any frustration, go straight back to the beach. Sit down and watch the other people sail. See if you can figure out what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Practice it on the simulator. The number one rule is that if frustration is coming in, that’s not the time to be out there. If you continue to get frustrated, go to the beach, rest, relax, get a big smile back on your face. Then, go out and give it another try.

So, now that you’ve got the right attitude, go out again. You can move back and forth a little bit and turn the boat around.  From here on in is when everyone separates as a windsurfer.  And always, it’s your  attitude that will get you out there and get you sailing without a problem.

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If you have no other choices, you can learn from a friend.  But you have to realize that it’s not the ideal situation. Try to read some instructional literature on windsurfing, just so you’re certain to get the picture. And expect your friend to vanish at any moment or start sailing away.  You can’t expect him to stay  around for too long, for that’s the reason that he’s come to the beach… to go windsurfing!  This way, learning will take a little big longer, require a little more patience and a bigger smile to get through it.

Believe me, it is well worth the effort!

by Mark Archer

Originally from England, has been the head instructor at Sailboard Vacations in Aruba for the past four years.

photos by John Chao

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