It's a girl thing....

Whilst writing for Windsurfing UK magazine, I have had the pleasure of getting some feedback and stories from some ladies I know, my students and my friends, about their feelings about sailing with other ladies...hope you enjoy reading...I know I did.

Sarah Jackson - GBR 71 - Slalom and Freestyle superstar, tells us her feelings about windsurfing with other girls...

“Over the years of growing up racing invariably there were always more guys than girls which I found could be quite intimidating, especially when it was windy and the boys were just physically bigger than us so could hold down bigger sails and go faster. As I've started to race slalom, particularly internationally, the all girls fleets has really motivated me to improve as I know who I'm actually up against and that where I come in a race is actually my overall position and not calculated within the men's results.

I've learnt it's a lot more about skill and not just brute force - often when asking the boys about technique it's very much "well you just do it, or just use your weight" with at least 25kg between them and me I think it's safe to say us girls need to find other ways...

This winter I trained in two different slalom groups, one predominantly male and one mixed and although it was a good experience to sail with the boys, I preferred the more female approach of teaching each other better form and technique instead of just muscling through it.

For me sailing with other girls is really motivating, especially if they're better than me as it really pushes me to realise the moves are realistic and if they can do it so can I!”

When I'm being taught for me it's more about respect than gender but I often find that the best coaches are women as they seem to be better at explaining and really breaking things down. Ali Yates has always been my biggest inspiration as my first real instructor and then as a coaching mentor - she also ran the first girls only windsurfing camp I went to which I will never forget! Working for ClubVass we get mixed groups every week but often we teach in pairs and I've found that the most fun I've had teaching is with the other girls - and if we're having fun and creating a relaxed atmosphere I find the guests relax more and enjoy it more and then as a result are more confident and make huge leaps forward with their windsurfing. The common feedback is that the ladies like the female instruction as it makes it more realistic and achievable and we find different ways of explaining it to the boys to really breakdown the skills. I really love teaching and seeing my group improve throughout a day, week or longer really gives me a buzz and why I love that I get to call it my job!

Oda Johanne - PWA Freestyle No.2, incredible freestyler and slalom racer, a huge inspiration for me...

"I love to sail With ladies as we push each other to the max. We are not too many, that's why we always support each other a bit extra! I am coaching a lot of ladies. At the most there were 30 Girls joining my clinic in Norway. It's an amazing time on the water with all of them, they have high ambitions!

Nicola Su, from Plymouth, great windsurfer who has been learning to jump and ride the waves with me this year, talks about learning with ladies:

“ I think often women have different challenges learning to windsurf, a female windsurfing instructor is inspiring, and offers a similar perspective about how to tackle new challenges. I have found that my windsurfing has really progressed when being taught by a female instructor (Danielle Lucas). I really enjoy windsurfing with other ladies - I find that female groups/ weeks provide a really supportive and encouraging environment - it also combines 2 of my favourite things- windsurfing and gossiping!

Rosalynn Miller, from Portsmouth, seen on the beach often with me, Rosalyn has just last week been experiencing that amazing fully planing feeling in the straps. She talks about windsurfing with girls

Hanging out with other girls who windsurf is amazing. They encourage, inspire, and understand you and your passion. My gang of girls who windsurf have become best friends...close as a second family. As the girl in the group with the most to learn they give me pointers, confidence, and help me feel safe. They guys do too but its not quite the same. What other group of girls, are happy hanging out with messy hair, no makeup, soaking wet and clad in neoprene?

Being coached by a girl is amazing as they help with technique and turn an impossible task into an easy one. Even my husband will admit my technique is better cause I've had good coaching (mainly from other women) so I know what and how to do something rather than relying on brute strength.

In the 5 years since I've started I've gone from being the only girl on the beach to having a whole gang of girls to windsurf with! Windsurfing is seen as a solo sport and extreme. But for me, windsurfing is all about the community, the friends and my girls.

Marianne Brooks, Bonaire lover overcoming difficult health issues to enjoy our sport, tells us about her learning curve...

I had been learning to windsurf for two summers in Bonaire, from scratch age 52, having never done any kind of sport at all, unless walking the dog counts.

I did that thing that everyone says not to do, i.e., get your partner to teach you…!

I think John had thought that I would fairly soon give up and go back to my Kindle and drinking coffee all day on the beach, but no - I enjoyed being on the water and trying to get to grips with something which seemed impossibly complicated.

I had got to the point where I really wanted to start planing, and I think John was scared I would hurt myself so would just give vague instructions like “Well, keep your weight down, and your front arm straight and it’s easy” Keep my weight down WHERE? I would say, and he would shake his head in disbelief and zoom off….

So I did that, and nothing worked except me feeling really scared and out of control. I struggled on for a few more days on and off, asked everyone I could think of, bit the bullet even and got a one to one lesson at vast expense (and much head shaking from John!) from one of the fancy champion men who hang around on the beach flexing their muscles and stroking their tans.

This guy got me a massive beginner board, and some other kit which was not what I can usually use rather than teaching me on what I have.

So yes, I got planing momentarily, and then went back without him to my own kit and was stuck in the same situation as before.

Phil and Danielle arrived, and after a few days I plucked up the courage to ask about a lesson, if Danielle wasn’t too busy and wouldn’t mind stooping to the lowliest level of teaching a really rubbish old lady who wasn’t the least bit young or cool, has breathing problems, only half a lung on each side and really bad asthma.

To my great surprise, Danielle was warm, friendly and encouraging - not being a sporting type myself, I had assumed that all sporty people were probably really competitive and only wanted to teach to show everyone else how good they were.

She explained something which I had had my suspicions about, and that is that sometimes if you don’t have brute strength to do a sport, you can use clever techniques and subtle tricks to make things easier…

We went into the water, and I tried to do a beach start in water a little deeper that I was used to , and of course, I failed. Danielle was right there with me, and watching carefully. Instead of falling about laughing (I think I may have developed some lack of confidence issues after all the time I spent struggling and getting nowhere - they are better now!) Danielle showed me two slightly different ways of positioning my feet, plus where to look. I did exactly what she said, and to my enormous surprise, I was up on my board, sailing along. Two tiny differences made the difference between spending 10 minutes wading about finding water of the exact depth, to being able to pop up onto my board wherever I wanted, like a real windsurfer.

Laura Craig Harvey from Crosshore.com, a great page for all female windsurfers, tells us why she loves windsurfing with other ladies....

Windsurfing with a troop of girls is the best fun I can have on the water. My favourite sessions are always when I head out back with the girls, find a less busy spot and dominate that patch, windsurfing around each other, fully going for it and exploding into spectacular wipe-outs. When you’ve got girls there to laugh at you when you fall in, it completely removes the frustration and, at times, soul-destroying tendency of our sport. We can also discuss at length the wedgie, boardie chafe and nip slip issues that the boys just don’t understand and have no advice for! In Jeri, I was windsurfing alongside the pro freestyle girls doing their winter training, which was awesome. I didn’t feel intimidated at all- they inspired me to try harder and be braver. There’s no excuse not to try it when it’s other girls doing it!

As an instructor, teaching a group of ladies, especially at intermediate level when things start heating up, is the best teaching resource you can ask for. It makes a huge difference when a woman takes on the high winds – or any new aspect of windsurfing – for the first time alongside a group of other women. Last Summer, one of my ‘Divas’ during the Club Vass Diva Week told me that she had been windsurfing at intermediate level for 25 years and had never improved as much as she had in that week. She said it was because of being taught in a group of women where she felt truly comfortable and confident to try new things. It was the first time she had relaxed and just gone with the flow, realising that was all she had needed to do to make the transition to an advanced planing windsurfer. She started off the week nervously holding those breaks on, teetering on planing, and by the end of the week she was blasting around at the speed of light without a care in the world. Absolute superstar.

Karen Dunn, (known for her endless bikini selection and crazy behavoir windsurfing in only a bikini in the UK in the winter!!) talks about why she likes having a female coach...

I think the best thing about having a female coach is the understanding of how it is to learn as a female.

I find it exciting seeing a girl on the water and it inspires me to do it and makes me feel I can.

Thanks to all for the contributions, if you would like to contribute to this page, please do message me with your input, we love hearing from you : getwindsurfing@gmail.com

And of course don't forget to check out Windsurfing UK Magazine

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