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SWA monthly

SWA Monthly - The Windsurf Industry



Will Jones reports this month about some home-truths on the state of the windsurfing industry and muses over possible solutions and what the student population is actually doing to power on through…

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SWA Media Rep - Will Jones





The current state of the UK windsurf industry is perhaps not like it was in its glory days. Kit prices have been increasing and just affording the fuel to get to the ideal spot is beginning to have its impact. Unfortunately to some people the sport is becoming less and less accessible. It’s a problem but there are some hidden glimmers of a shinning light.

Firstly, there are still plenty of people who want to go windsurfing. I know I’m far from alone in finding myself having a quick break from work most days to check the weather forecast for the coming weekend. Whereas in the past I would have spent the week looking for the best forecast in the country, then come Friday packed the car up and disappeared off for the weekend. Now more often I will just settle for a slightly less full on session at my local spot.

It’s not just us long time windsurfers who have to feed our addiction. There are plenty of people who have never tried the sport that would love to have a go. I get asked fairly regularly by my non-windsurf friends if I could give them a lesson some time. I would love to be able to do this. Of course, they don’t understand that it would be fairly tricky to try and teach them on my gear. It would be a small miracle if a complete newbie to windsurfing managed to uphaul on my wave board and I definitely don’t have the spare cash to buy a set of beginner kit to teach them on.

So what are the options for people who want to give the sport a go: Well, if you can afford it, I would guess the best option is book yourself a holiday somewhere hot and sunny, with racks of windsurfing kit on the beach and plenty of fit tanned instructors to teach you. The next best option is a course in the UK. These can be found for a reasonable price. If you live local to a course that is running it can even be done to a reasonable budget. If you don’t have one nearby then you have to include the price of getting there and accommodation and suddenly the cost of going abroad don’t seem as so far fetched. I think, however, that by far the cheapest and one of the most enjoyable ways to windsurf has to be to get involved with a club.


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The solution to using the latest kit for free - SWA Clubs and Events



Clubs seem to have a pretty simple formula. You pay a small fee to join, say £25 for the year. The club organises regular sessions to go along to with tuition from other club members. You all meet up, go windsurfing and make lots of new friends doing it. The club provides some kit which it pays for through the membership fees and probably some sort of sponsorship or discount they negotiate from a local shop in return for their business. It’s a great way to learn and enjoy windsurfing at an affordable price. Unfortunately clubs like this seem to be in short supply. Perhaps due to the ever increasing cost of windsurfing this formula doesn’t seem to work as well as it might have done in the past.





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Will Rycroft



Will Rycroft

So, just last week I met Will Rycroft who despite all the challenges facing him is determined to start a windsurfing club in Northumbria where he has just started University. I caught up with him to find out more about his plans for the club.
 

Q: How will you attract people to get involved club?

Will: Today with the help of things like facebook you can reach a big audience without too much difficulty. I set up a new page on facebook explaining that I was trying to start up a windsurfing club and invited people to get involved. I posted loads of videos on it to show people what windsurfing was about. I’ve been posting the page on all the different Northumbria Uni groups I can find. On top of that I put up loads of posters in all the different departments around the Uni and on the sports societies notice boards in the Union. After that it’s just word of mouth, hopefully as we get up and running people will have a good time and tell their friends about it and encourage them to come along to.


Q: Do you think a new windsurf club can grow and thrive whilst the UK Windsurfing industry is having its belt tightened?

Will: Yes, I definitely think there is a place for a new windsurf club. There are still lots of people who want to windsurf. If you go to the beach round here on a windy day you will always see people out on the water. Often if I chat to anyone at uni about windsurfing they tell me they would like to give it a try. As soon as I created the facebook page it got loads of likes and straight away people posted questions asking about how they can get involved, so there is definitely interest.


Q: Will you be able to accommodate beginners with the kit and tuition they will need? 

Will: Students are notoriously poor and windsurfing kit is definitely not cheap. A student going to a shop and buying a new set of gear is pretty much out of the question. We are talking to local reservoirs at the moment about the possibility of running sessions with them and being able to use their gear. From what they are saying it sounds like if we can regularly bring a good size group of people they should be able to help us out without the cost going through the roof. We are also going to get involved with Newcastle Uni. We’re in the same city as them and they already have a club up and running. To start us off hopefully we can go windsurfing with them and borrow some of their kit from time to time.

Some other clubs at the Uni get a grant from the Union. So hopefully if I can get sufficient interest, we will be able to do the same. That would really help to get us started. Also I am looking to local shops to see if any of them might be interested in sponsoring us.

Tuition for beginners shouldn’t be a problem. I can teach up to intermediate level so I’m keen to teach people. I know quite a few of the guys at Newcastle Uni are instructors and there a couple at Northumbria. There are other instructors around Northumbria who would come and teach on a freelance basis.

As we get more people involved we will be able to share transport and it will reduce the cost so we will be able to get to more SWA events. That’s a good way to get people involved because there is plenty kit to use and tuition at the events.


Q: To people who already regularly windsurf around your area what’s the advantage to them of joining the new club?

Will: Meeting other windsurfers who are like minded people I suppose. Having more people to go windsurfing with is always a good thing. I hope to get a good social side going also. I think that is an important part and a good way to draw more people into the club. I reckon if we get a crowd along to some SWA events they will see its worth getting involved even if it’s just for the social.

Thanks Will and keep me up to date with how it goes.




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Duncan Dumbreck


Duncan Dumbreck


That all sounds pretty promising. Will is enthusiastic and he seems to have been pretty active in talking to people and making useful contacts. Before Will appeared with Northumbria the most recent club to appear on the SWA radar was Bangor University. I thought I would have a quick chat with the founder and president of the club Duncan Dumbreck to get his advice on starting a new club.


Q: Why did you decide to start a club in Bangor?

Duncan: I’d heard about SWA events from friends on a season in Greece. I had heard about Aussie Kiss and its reputation and so wanted to get involved. I got in touch with Taffy from the SWA committee and set up the club.


Q: What challenges did you face  setting up the club?

Duncan: Where to start really. Taffy and the SWA were very helpful. They helped me arrange it with the University Athletic Union who said that I had to get 15 members to be an official club.


Q: Does the AU provide any support for the club?

Duncan: Yeah we are affiliated with the AU and we get a grant from them. The grant is proportional to how active the club is. The more members we have and the more trips we do the more money they will send our way. Especially things like nationals, they will put lots towards that because it gets BUCS points for the Uni.


Q: How do you encourage people who are new to the sport to come and try windsurfing?

Duncan: Well we have a fresher’s fair every term where we have a stall and advertise. People can come along to that and find out about how to get involved. Then really it’s just word of mouth. When people join they have a good time and they bring their friends along. We don’t really have any gimmicks or anything, we just try to be open and approachable and that seems to work pretty well.


Q: Are you able to provide kit for beginners to use?

Duncan: Yes, we were pretty lucky really. For some reason when we started the surf club had some kit which had been sitting in their lock up and never got used. They were happy to give it to us, so that was good to get us started. There were a few bits missing but they were easy to get hold of cheap.

We have a social sponsor (www.Patricksbar.com) who we picked up when the club started. We host all our socials in there and they are always really good to us. If we have a big social there they give us free food, they were really helpful when we hosted the SWA event here and they put some money towards funding the club, which is amazing.

With the money we get from the AU each year and our sponsors there is enough to buy a few new bits of kit and subsidise some of the transport costs.



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Beginner sessions at Bangor




Q: How can you help club members improve their windsurfing?

Duncan: We tend to run sessions for beginners on the lighter days. So the days the advance guys won’t be so bothered about getting out, they can instead help out with teaching the beginners. That’s a really good way to help the beginners learn.

Time on the water is the most important thing really. For intermediates and advanced windsurfers, just being able to sail regularly with your friends and help each other out is the best way to improve. Whatever your ability people who are keen and enthusiastic to learn, learn the quickest. Those who turn up for the sessions all year round will improve the most.


Q: What have been the difficulties in setting up and running the club?

Duncan: Transport. It’s great that we can hire minibuses off the union but you have to be 21 to hire them and we are a young club. That and the water temperature around North Wales!.


Q: Do you think overall the club has been successful?

Duncan: Yes definitely. We now have a good group of regular members and are growing all the time. Windsurfing as part of a Uni club is the cheapest way possible to be involved in the sport. Also it’s a huge bonus learning with friends and people your own age. Being able to spend 3 or 4 years at Uni learning to windsurf with your friends around you is definitely the best way to do it.

Thanks Duncan


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Well there you have it. The club formula does still seem to be working well. Although these are both examples from university clubs I see no reason why clubs have to be restricted to just students. It’s seems to me that the answer is simple enough. If you want to windsurf in a sociable environment at an affordable price as part of a club and there isn’t a club near you, start one.

– Will Jones, SWA Media Guru
 







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