Well folks it’s late May and that means in just three months till the best event in the watersports’ calendar. The event that all other events are judged against or at least should be, the event that leaves its participants talking about for the following 12 months, the event that is, of course The National Watersports Festival. If you’ve never been to this festival then I hope this article will help you decide to enter this year and if you have been before, well then sit back and reminisce because I know this will bring back memories. The article is about just one part of the entire event, namely the windsurfing side.
The festival is the largest participation windsurfing event in Britain and attracts over 450 windsurfers, each of whom rock up to Hayling Island in cars, vans, campervans and huge motor-homes for a weekend of windsurfing and partying.
The National Watersports Festival or NWF is basically a series of races over a weekend. The format being pretty simple, you stand on the beach, wait for the flag to drop and then race out to a buoy, gybe, tack or swim around it, then race back to the beach. Once back on the beach it is then a foot race up the beach to the finish line. Where you collapse in a heap on the shingle, legs burning, heart pumping and the biggest smile ever, which fortunately just comes naturally because you’d never have the energy otherwise! You can choose whether you really want to compete for one of the top spots, simply beat your friends or even just enter for the thrill (and trust me it is!) of starting a race with 450 other windsurfers. The great thing about the event is you’re racing along side world champions, British champions and amateurs. There are very few other events in the world you can do that.
Windsurfers are a strange breed of people, often quite selfish in their quest to get in the water, rearranging family days out or even work commitments around the wind. Sometimes they will get up ridiculously early just to get an hour in the water before work, or sail until they can no longer see the waves or chop in an after-work session. I have known windsurfers who refuse to make Sunday dinner commitments with their in-laws based on the fact it may be windy. Windsurfers are afflicted with a curse which makes them check the weather, the clouds and movements of trees at every available opportunity, often then becoming miserable if they fear they are missing out. And subsequently becoming the happiest, most contented people in the world when they score a great session in the wind and waves.
But once a year all these people get together for a weekend where they need not worry if they are missing out. Everyone is camped on the beach, and at 10.30 Saturday morning, regardless of wind or weather, everyone will be launching into the first race of the day. NWF consists of 4 races on the Saturday and 2 races on the Sunday. Interspersed with demos and clinics by the pro-sailors, races for kids, trade stands selling the latest kit, a night windsurfing race and one hell of a party on the Saturday night!
And so last year was just the same, I rocked up in my van at Beachlands on Hayling Island on Friday afternoon, met up with a load of fellow strange watersports enthusiasts and set up camp for the weekend. To be fair there is only one way you can greet windsurfers, some of whom you may not have seen for a year, and that’s with a few beers a barbecue and a Friday night party! The trouble with that of course is there is no-one to tell you when to go to bed and with the first race being at 10.30, the race briefing being at 10.00 and registration at 08:00 it doesn’t leave long to get up, have breakfast, rig your kit and prepare to race!
However 400 of us managed it, and by 10:29 we were all on the edge of the water, holding our kit, hearts beating out of our chests with nerves and adrenalin, waiting for the flag to drop to signify the start of the first race and the start of the carnage! 450 windsurfers battling for clean wind heading out to the gybe mark about a mile out to sea makes for a spectacular sight, and is even better to be a part of it and then of course there was the Saturday night fancy dress themed party! What a cracking party and of course a chance to wear that dodgy, gender non important outfit you’ve always wanted to wear!
This year the event is going to be bigger and better, with more watersports catered for than ever before. That can only be a good thing, if we can entice enough windsurfers, kayakers, paddle-boarders and kite-boarders to the event then we can guarantee its future and ensure that at least once a year we can all get together, promote and celebrate our fantastic lifestyle. And have one hell of a party to boot, which apparently is going to be a Horror themed fancy dress party! Oh yeah!
Tickets go on sale 1st June so ensure you keep track of the National Watersports Festival website and facebook page and don’t miss out. If anyone reading this is in any doubt whether this is for you, or you’re thinking of coming but fear you won’t know anyone then contact any one of the team riders and we will be happy to help.
See you all there…