All Aboard IIGetting your better half on-board
Words and pics, Karl Degraa
How often do you see it? Blokes out windsurfing, having a blast, while their wife/girlfriend/partner, sits on the shore, reading a book or doing something else to fill in the time. Indeed, it's a scene that my wife Carol and I have played out many times over the course of our married life.
There's no denying the fact that windsurfing (like many activities) is great to do but not necessarily that interesting to watch, especially if the action is taking place a few kilometres away. So late last year, after years of just watching patiently from the sidelines, Carol decided it was time to give it a go.
Unbeknownst to me her interest in windsurfing had in fact been growing over the years as she could see it was good fun. Added into the equation was a genuine love of the outdoors, the desire for a release from the rigours of her day/desk job, and seeing more and more women getting onto the water, and the stage was set.
Carol's first attempt to windsurf was at Sydney's Pittwater on a glorious summer's day with just enough wind to get her going on an old 90's-era 3.7m and my 140lt freeride. Initial Instructions on how to balance on the board and uphaul the sail met with success. However problems arose not long after this, with the sailor and board drifting sideways downwind once sheeted in and unable to get back.
Several more similar experiences using my gear convinced us both that Carol really needed a board which both encouraged forward momentum and had a bit more stability if she were to progress. For while she could sail along in a straight line, she'd invariably end up way downwind as her transitions just weren't happening.
Consequently we dropped in to our local shop - Windsurf n Snow - to have a look at what was on offer and straight away were drawn to a new RRD Easyrider (Large) that was for sale at a reasonable price.
Now we'd had some exposure to this model board before, having seen it in action down at Botany Bay, during as demo day some months earlier and Carol, a natural-born bargain hunter, negotiated an even more reasonable price with the team from Windsurf n Snow. Consequently, a credit card was produced, the deal was done, and we were the proud owners of the "Easyrider" and matching board bag.
We left the shop and headed straight to the water to christen Carol's new board and I could not get over how comfortable and easy to sail it was, the perfect platform for the task at hand.
Carol hopped on next and on her first attempt sailed out about 40 metres from the beach before finally dropping the sail and waiting for me to swim out to her and help her turn the board around. This was fun for a while though the wading and swimming soon became tiring so we went through rope tacks and gybes. We went through doing a 360 starting with a rope tack then rope gybe resulting in the board facing the way it started. Then practised reversing the process (ie: gybe first) to still achieve the same result.
And then came that magical day when it all came together for Carol and she was able to sail around for several hours without needing my (or anyone else's) help. The venue was the western end of Narrabeen Lake, the weather was warm and sunny with a reasonably steady nor-east seabreeze blowing, and for a good few hours my wife sailed upwind and downwind, tacked and gybed, dodged traffic, and had a good old time of it. Chatting away with other folk on the water, revelling in being out in the elements, and even going so far as to loan her gear to several other newcomers to the sport, it was clear that my wife was stoked on windsurfing!
The next weekend we enjoyed a social sail with friends at Narrabeen Lake. Again the RRD Easyrider was used to teach complete beginners. And yet again, after a few tips and a bit of practice, most could sail out, turn around and come back to where they started. The day was capped off perfectly when for the first time ever, my wife and I truly sailed together, sharing several runs over the lake and back as the afternoon wore on. Perfect.
Since then I've sadly been laid low with a bad back and unfortunately don't think I'll be back on the water for a good few months. But the fire still burns in my darling wife and she's become somewhat of an advocate for the sport with her friends and family and is already setting goals for the season ahead. Carol claims windsurfing helps her sleep better and has improved her fitness and general wellbeing and I can't wait to get out there with her again.
If your better half wants to give it a go then why not organise it? Minimise the arguments and fights by making it as easy as possible. Use appropriate gear, big fat board and tiny sail. Pick the right time to try, warm weather with light consistent wind. Pick the right place, clean, clear and warm water with a sandy bottom that's not too deep. Find somewhere with little current. A bit of basic instruction, remember windsurfing is fun and before you know it, you will be the one getting dragged down to the water to go windsurfing.