There is no doubt that 2016 was a year of change. In some cases, change in a most unexpected way. But is change always bad?
The rise of Trump and the UK vote to leave the EU is indicative of deep dissatisfaction with a system that is not serving all of the people. I do have reservations about both, but on the positive side, I do wonder whether these events will send a sharp message to a bloated and complacent Establishment and precipitate much needed change.
And what has this to do with the NWF? Well, change is afoot! A momentous decision has been made to move the Festival from its original venue at Hayling Island, the spiritual home of windsurfing, to Rutland Water. From the South Coast to ‘the Midlands’; from the sea to a lake; from September to June. Changes that have also precipitated much comment and speculation within the watersports community.
So as with Brexit and Trump, we have to ask ourselves “Why?”
NWF Founder, Allan Cross, says “We had 10 brilliant years at Hayling Island, but the time had come to make the difficult decision to move the Festival for a number of reasons. The NWF has become a victim of its own success; it has grown to a point that the venue at Hayling can’t really cope with an event of that size. The logistics of hosting thousands of visitors over the weekend, on a site classified as a SSSI and the increasing bureaucracy and red tape around Health, Safety and Security were becoming unmanageable on such an open area.”
The NWF philosophy has always been that the festival is all about participation and that it is for EVERYONE to take part, regardless of age, sex, ability and the type or age of equipment that they ride.
Hayling is the spiritual home of windsurfing, since it is where, in 1958, a 12 year old Peter Chilvers invented the sport by attaching a sail to a board. Hayling is, however a coastal location, prone to strong winds and a punishing shore break, which younger and more novice sailors can find intimidating.
Hayling is also not the most ideal location for novice SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding), which has, in the last few years, become an important part of the NWF. Allan says “While the NWF will always have its roots in windsurfing, SUP is the world’s fastest growing watersport and, with the advent of the windSUP, is a key route for encouraging people into windsurfing. Getting new people, particularly youngsters, into windsurfing is the lifeblood of the sport and critical in terms of development of equipment. SUP is an accessible sport. It gets people on the water, can be enjoyed by families and has that important crossover into windsurfing.”
So why Rutland? Some of the more hardcore windsurfers might poo poo windsurfing on a lake, even though that is where many of us started. Back to Allan again “The NWF is not about hardcore competition, there are already such events on the calendar. Many of those who come to the NWF sail on lakes and found the sea at Hayling intimidating. That said, Rutland Water is no puddle; it is actually the largest man-made reservoir in Western Europe! The venue has camping facilities for 6000 people and there is a 25 mile cycle / walking track around the reservoir, an aqua park and zoo, all set in 4200 acres of countryside. It is the perfect venue for families and is suitable for all levels of windsurfer and SUPer. It is also much more central in the country. I have been told so many times that people would love to come to the NWF, but the South Coast is too far for a weekend, or too challenging for them or the kids. I am hoping that the venue will attract more families and more participants from the North, while still being accessible to those in the South.”
And the move from June to September? There was a vote throughout last year on the NWF website and June won! Allan says “There was a lot of support for having the Festival at the beginning of the summer to get the season off to a good start, showcase the new equipment and have a tune up ahead of the holidays. “
So the NWF has major change in common with Trump and Brexit. However, Trump has managed to divide the US; Brexit to divide the UK, but in contrast, Allan has tried to unite UK windsurfers and SUPers by locating NWF in a place accessible to all and an environment that will suit all abilities and all family members.!
NWF 2017 will take place at Rutland Water on 3-4th June 2017. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter or www.nationalwatersportsfestival.com for news and further developments.
www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland gives further details of the venue and attractions.