Varying the ways of working with kids is important. Emmanuel shows daughter Aliza the proper stance on the board. He also stands in the water and challenges her to sail the board and try to hit him. This makes a fun game for both father and daughter.
Everything is new to kids when they start windsurfing. So, the first and most important thing to do is to teach it as a game. Play a game with them to teach them how to fall off the board or how to jump off the board. Show them with a game how to get out if the board falls on top of them. After that, the game can become taking short runs, turning around and coming back to shore. Try to always make it a game.
A good way to start is to show them how to stand on the board. Try not to use right or left, just use front or back for them to get their own mark on the board. When you bring in the sail, stick with terms like front of the boom and back of the boom. At this point, let the kids just feel the wind, without talking much about it. They will start to think about wind as they feel it. Work on balance with a game. Try to sit down on the board or balancing on one foot on the board. This will also get them used to the board.
Equipment for kids should be small, like a a mini-Bic with a 1.3 sail. We’ve had a lot of success with a tandem board, made from an old Tiga board with two sails on it. We find two kids that have a good relationship together and they go on the board together. They have fun, they get to go fast and they improve their skills. It’s kind of a new challenge.
Varying the ways of working with kids is important. This child wanted to go fast on a board, but was too small to hold her own gear in high wind. We were able to rig a rope with a bar so that she was able to hold on to it. She got a pretty fast run on the water and now has discovered a new feeling on the board. This should only be done with a small sail and an extremely experienced sailor.
One of the things you need to deal with is kids’ fears. Sometimes, they feel okay while they are near the shore. But when you bring them out to the deeper water, they get scared of the things they see in the water, like the seaweed. Show them what everything is and explain things to them. They will become more confident and less scared. All it takes is some communication and explanation from you. As you spend time with kids, they develop a strong relationship with you. When they get scared, you can explain things to them and then they are more willing to try it.
Using a tether is a way of dealing with fears when the conditions are suitable. Using the rope, you are connected to another board. The other board then does everything that you do. It can make a kid feel more secure and they learn very fast just from watching.
If a child doesn’t want to go, you need to try to find out why and what’s wrong. Don’t push him. It could be that his parents are on the beach and he doesn’t want them there. He may want to be in a group lesson instead of a private or the other way around. You get all kinds of situations. Some kids go faster in programs when they’re in groups. Other ones do well in a private lesson. You have many different needs and you have to offer many different solutions.
The key to working with kids is that they always go with their feelings. They don’t think about something as much as they feel it. If they like what they are doing, they’ll keep going. If the feeling is not good, then they’ll stop. It’s up to you to figure out what feeling is wrong…why they don’t want to go any more.
Windsurfing is good for kids because they get a new perception of themselves. They’re always very proud when you tell them they’ve done something right. Often times they don’t realize that they’ve been working correctly. Then they realize what they’ve been doing is right. It makes them more self confident. And, physically, it’s not hard for them at all. It’s water and the equipment is not heavy.
So, to teach a child, go at the child’s pace, making it always a game. When they feel they can, they will.