WINDSURFING IS IN MY GENES. Even though I was born and raised in New York City, I used to love looking at pictures and movies of windsurfers and sailboats, dreaming of the day when I would get my chance. When I was 21, I moved to the Cayman Islands and literally jumped on! Since Cayman has off-shore winds, I was on my way to Venezuela before I realized that I had a lot to learn. I spent every free hour on a big floaty Mistral making my way back and forth on Seven-Mile Beach. I was hooked!
When I returned to New York City five years later, I went into windsurfing withdrawal until I discovered great windsurfing on the East End of Long Island, and began teaching myself short boarding. My friends say you can take the girl out of the Caribbean, but you can’t take the Caribbean out of the girl!
I love the trance that sailing puts me in. It has a hypnotic effect because I am totally focused on the precise moment, and am able to forget about any other obligations, stresses, and worries. There’s nothing like sailing in a Nor’easter to tighten your focus on what really counts: sail size, wetsuit thickness, jibing, hitting water starts and trying new things like duck jibes, jumps and sailing hard!
There’s nothing like feeling your feet in the straps, hooking into the harness and getting the lift of the sail and the board as the wind takes control! Flying on top of the water is magical. It’s really important for women to know this because windsurfing is not merely a physical sport. It takes you to another level of happiness.
Viva la difference!
While I hate generalizations, women tend to approach windsurfing more cautiously than men, perhaps because the technical aspects can be confusing. I have yet to meet a woman who likes rigging. Most of us would like some strong dude to do that part and carry the gear to the water, but, like sailing itself, a lot of rigging is mental. You need to be patient with the set-up time and let it become part of the mindset which will keep you focused on the water.
Many entry level women sailors have gear and sails that are inappropriate for their skill level—so they become permanent beginners who fall and can’t get up! Take it from me: Gear is Destiny, especially when you’re learning.
This year is better than ever in terms of equipment breakthroughs and innovations! The biggest challenge is getting over the ensuing sticker shock. If you want light gear that’s easy to rig, it’s expensive but worth every dollar. Skip the Prada shoes one month and buy a small diameter boom—it will pay you back in spades! Why struggle when you don’t have to?
Marketing hype can be somewhat confusing at times, and most products out there, let’s face it, are designed for 80% of the windsurfing consumers—men. I’ve been around the block with what works and what doesn’t over the last decade or so, so if you have questions on equipment, e-mail me your queries. I’ll be more than happy to help you with a free gear makeover, and include my advice in this column.
The Feminine Edge
I don’t know why many women think that they “can’t” learn windsurfing, but a lot of us lack the mental confidence that guys seem to have in excess! With the right instruction and gear selection, windsurfing is more about finesse and balance than it is about muscle. Which means we have a definite feminine edge. We “Windsurfing Bettys” have another advantage—we’re lighter than the dudes, which means it’s easier to get moving on the water. I love looking out on the bay and seeing women planing while the guys are washed up on the beach griping that they need more wind.
You do need some upper body strength, a bit of flexibility, and a healthy back, but you don’t need to win any bodybuilding contests to get into shape. Windsurfing is a great workout because you use your whole body—and it’s a great way to build smokin’ triceps, biceps, and abs! That is not to say that windsurfing is a total burn, it’s not. Once you get dialed in, with your feet in the straps, harness lines shortened, and hitting your jibes, sailing seems effortless, even though you are still getting a killer workout.
When people ask me, “Can any woman learn to windsurf?” I tell them: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, send them to me and I will set them straight! All you need is a little passion, commitment, and a little wind!
Thanks to US Sailing and the ABK camps, we are moving to higher teaching standards. This means it’s easier than ever for you to get out there on the water. Whether you’re just getting started or want to tune up your skills, taking lessons is the way to go.
Better than sex? A woman’s perspective:
We’ve all heard that expression. You know, “windsurfing is better than sex.” If you’re one of those women who has just ditched her boyfriend early on Sunday because a Nor’easter has just blown through, you might think that it is better than sex, but my recommendation is the sex you have after the session!
It is hard to describe the feeling I have after being out on the water—conquering conditions, getting sprayed with salt water while the sun warms the neoprene suit as I jibe effortlessly on a flat spot or down a wave face. I feel strong, accomplished, undefeatable and hungry! And so will you!
Gina’s G0-For-It Guidelines:
1. To learn, go someplace warm. Sign up for at least six hours of beginner lessons with a certified instructor (It doesn’t have to be the Caribbean. There are great windsurfing sites all over the United States).
2. After your lessons, set one goal for yourself, such as tacking, staying on the board when you uphaul, or whatever the next step needs to be in your progression, at YOUR pace.
3. Hang in there! Practice, practice, practice. Do not forget to HAVE FUN!
Even when it feels like you have pulled that sail out of the water one million times, always remember to smile!
By: Gina Lalli
With: Laurie Nadel
Future Columns: Stay dialed in for Gina’s upcoming columns. She’ll answer your questions, give you a FREE gear makeover, and provide you with intelligent tips on how to purchase the right equipment, wetsuits, and rig your gear. She’ll also be available to answer questions on windsurfing and love, life, and work. (You know…that stuff your other friends don’t get because they’re not into windsurfing.) email: Glalli@aol.com