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The Student Windsurfing Association
SWA monthly

SWA Column, a monthly review of the Student Scene

A new series that will kick off our pro-active approach to highlight what is one of the largest windsurfing organisations in the world. The Student Windsurfing Association. With a no holds barred on the content they provide, we are hoping we get to see a real in depth look into the student community, with all the gossip from events and some banter thrown in, let’s see what they can come up with. Over to our SWA Media Rep, Will Jones…

Will Jones - The SWA Media Dude

Who Is Will Jones?

Age : 22

Occupation: Student, studying Mechanical Engineering at Cardiff Uni and Head of Media for the SWA.

Number of years windsurfing: Had my first taste of windsurfing when I was on holiday with my family aged 7ish. Then maybe a week or two most summers until about 5 years ago when I got my own kit and started sailing as often as I can.

Favourite discipline: Wave.

Favourite spot: Newgale, West Wales.

Sailing ability: Got forwards pretty good trying lots of backloops and pushloops, water starting out of lots but sailing cleanly out of very few at the moment, would love to have them consistently.

Involvement with the SWA: I got involved with the SWA through the Cardiff Uni windsurf club. Went to my first SWA event which was Aussie Kiss 8 and been hooked on SWA events ever since. At the beginning of this year I got involved with the SWA committee helping organising events and handling the media side.

The SWA Monthly

What an awesome opportunity! Boards have only gone and given me my own monthly feature with the brief to write about anything I like, as long as it links vaguely into the world of student. So what am I going to write about? Well, I want to get under the skin of the student windsurf community and show the world just what we’re really about. I want to shout about all those undiscovered talents that deserve to be shouted about and send the student gossip global, after all rumours are meant to be spread. For my first entry let’s just get some perspective with a look back at the first half of the academic year and a look forward to what the remainder has instore.

There is no doubt that first half of the SWA 2011/2012 season has been sick! What has struck me the most about this year is that the level of windsurfing amongst the students has really stepped up a notch. Just a few years ago if you pulled a Vulcan at an SWA event you were almost guaranteed to get some that night. To stand out from the crowd and attract the opposite sex you now have to have something really special tucked up your sleeve (and I’m are not talking about the wizard’s kind). At Aussie Kiss this year we saw konos, ponches and burners being pulled in the freestyle event. This year so far in the race series I don’t think anyone in the top 10 has dropped a gybe. Let’s just pray for some wind in the wave series, how long will it be before we see students doing double forwards?

Aussie Kiss - Bigger every year

There is no official chart to back this up but I think it’s safe to say that the SWA is now the biggest active windsurf community in the UK if not the world. Other than the PWA I can’t think of anywhere else where there is such a dedicated regular following to a calendar of events throughout the year. Around 700 people attended Aussie Kiss X making it possibly the biggest windsurf event in the UK during 2011, and putting it on the worlds windsurfing calendar as a highlight of the year. Just in case you have forgoton how awesome Aussie Kiss 10 was here is a reminder filmed, edited and produce by Matt Farrant, Josh Gajewski and Carl Davis:

It’s been great to see the student influence on the wider windsurfing world. Over the summer there was a big student presence at National Windsurf Festival and Pool Windfest. A particular mention should go to Ollie Acton, one of the top SWA freestylers, for winning the amateurs fleet at Pool. At the BWA Cornwall event earlier this year there was a huge posse of students (and ex-students) from Universities far and wide. Bangor, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Southampton and Exeter all represented teams of over 25 in total.

Students push into the UKWA/BWA scene

The SWA ladies were particularly successful here with Jo Wright from Exeter Uni taking third place and Sarah Bibby formerly Southampton Uni taking second and the overall series title. Hopefully in 2012 we can get a big group of students up to North Wales and across to Ireland for the BWA events (if only they didn’t fall slap bang in the middle of the exam period), and even the long trip up to Tiree (Scottish Students be prepared to have some guests crashing on your floor for a night).

Students going as vertical as JP

One other way student windsurfers reach out to the wider windsurf world is through the number that spend their university holidays instructing in more exotic location. Egypt, Greece, Spain and France are just a few examples. If you’ve ever been on a windsurf summer holiday and been taught by someone in their late teens early twenties there is every chance that at some point they’ve been involved with the SWA. Many students join university having never windsurfed at all and after a year or two are qualified instructors. That opens them up to the opportunity to spend the summer abroad windsurfing everyday and every evening chatting up the locals in their best attempt at the language. As well as having an awesome summer it means your windsurf level shoots up and you have the joy of starting Uni in September ridiculously tanned and blonde, and to everyone who’s experienced that, you know how good it is.

Parties, the student way

If there is one thing students know how to do better than windsurf, its party! I think for a lot of students there club socials are a highlight of Uni life. Definitely is for me and I’m for ever hearing stories and laughing at photos on Facebook from carnage nights out in Bristol or madness in Exeter and then of course there are the legendary Cardiff punch parties. But nothing can come close to the SWA event parties. Everyone has a story from an SWA night out. You can’t even say Aussie Kiss to a lot of people without a mischievous grin spreading across their face. I definitely don’t think anyone could stereotype SWA students as lazy if you just look at how much time and effort they have clearly put into their fancy dress outfits.

Students love to dress up...

Pretty excited to see what 2012 has in store for student windsurfing. With the next wave event hosted by Cardiff, to be held at the beach with the best forecast from Porthcawl, all of the Gower and Pembrokeshire coastline. Then a similar thing two weeks later in Portsmouth. Following that there is Liverpool and the climax of the year at Nationals. DID SOMEONE SAY BOAT PARTY!

What next?

The question really is what next for student windsurfing? How can the SWA improve? Despite all the above windsurfing is still a fairly unknown sport. The SWA only reaches a minute percentage of the nearly 2 million students in the UK. If on a Monday I go into a lecture and someone asks me what I was up to over the weekend and I mention that I went to a windsurfing event they will probably look stunned and tell me they didn’t know such a thing existed. It’s very likely that they’ll probably have no idea that it is possible to have windsurfing competitions, and to be completely honest, although they will essentially know what windsurfing is, their image of it is probably ridiculous retro orange and blue cloth sails, boards that weigh as much as cars and bright pink wetsuits that they saw one time walking past a local lake. Amongst the extreme sports available at Uni I don’t think windsurfing has quite grabbed the cool factor that some others sports achieve and that we all know it should; skiing for example, maybe mountain biking and, dare I say it, kite surfing. But this is easy enough to change, just get out there and show the student world how awesome windsurfing is. Next time you do a club trip to the beach make sure you take a camera and then send those photos to your Uni newspaper along with a few words on what a sick day you had. They’ll lap it up and when people see those pics they might just want to come along to one of your club trips and experience it for themselves. And that shouldn’t be restricted to just students; just anyone going to the beach I would encourage to spread the word amongst your friends by filling you preferred social media profile with photos.

So what I would really like to see the SWA achieve is showing the rest of the student world what an amazing sport windsurfing is and giving it the recognition it deserves. Then I hope we can continue doing what we do so well. I hope we continue to see the level of windsurfing rise amongst students at the rate it has been and we see students showing off that level at both SWA events and national events, maybe even international events. Rest assure though as I am fully aware that the SWA parties will continue to rip the roof off wherever they go, this is one area I struggle to see how the student windsurf community could possibly improve!

– Will Jones, SWA Media Guru

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