A few years ago, my husband, Colin, announced that we were going to the N.W.F. “Wow! Sounds a bit scary to me.” were my initial thoughts. “I’m not good enough to race!”
I had learned the basics of windsurfing in the Maldives only a year or so earlier. Even the thought scared the living daylights out of me. Colin insisted it would be OK and packed my Starboard Go. I am not sure what was bigger – my board or our new motor home! There was no getting out of it, although I tried every excuse in the book during the 7 hour trip from Yorkshire!
All was quiet as we rocked up at midday on Friday. By 5 o’clock, you couldn’t move for motor homes, vans, tents, people sleeping in board bags, suppliers setting up, people testing microphones, safety boats coming and going and a guy with ginger hair running around like the Hayling Looney… Mr Allan Cross himself!
By 9pm, a small army of friends had gathered around our van. Colin’s convinced it’s my never-ending supply of tea and bacon butties. (I prefer to think it’s our company…!) Anyhow, I’m having a fab social night and beginning to look forward to the festival… although I’m still NOT taking part!!
Saturday Morning – awoken early to Allan Cross on the tannoy – briefing at 09:00…
I had never encountered what I saw that morning when I opened the blinds! People everywhere; rigging, walking kit to the beach, socialising… When I entered the registration tent, horror struck me. Hundreds of men in matching rash vests… I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! (I think I did cry…) That’s it! I’m definitely not taking part!! But I did pay my entrants fee, so I can mingle in with my event rashie and look like I know what I’m doing…
Watching the world of windsurfing prepare for the first race, I noticed my kit lying there all rigged and tuned. NO WAY!!!!!
The first race was called. Colin told me what to do and I carried my kit to the beach. I placed it well away from all those professionals and hardened windsurfers. The 3 minute call! The beach covered with an array of coloured sails as far as the eye could see… I started to shake. I even introduced myself to one of the safety boat drivers, so he remembered my face…!
I bottled at the very last minute. Colin could see me turning yellower than my rashie. I sat down out of the way next to my kit, head in my hands. “Oh god, why did I come? I don’t do racing…”
The 1 minute call. 300 people holding their kit. The beach was bedlam. I stood up and started shouting to my husband and friend. “Go Col! Go Mark!” I scanned the beach for other friends and saw a few ladies taking part. I also spied young people, old people, thin people, fat people, people in fancy dress, people on brand new kit, people on retro kit, a whole wide mixture of people windsurfing. Mmmmmm! I thought this was for professionals. Maybe not!
The race began and I don’t think I have ever laughed so much! With 300 sailors launching, the start line was carnage. People dropping sails, falling in, trying beach starts; some had waded out for a water start, others just got lucky breaks. It was an amazing sight! Slowly, competitors got away and sailed into the distance to the buoy and back. I felt so disappointed with myself that I hadn’t had a go. When the next race was announced, I was down there getting a prime spot on the beach!
My race was awful. My start was even worse! I think I fell in a dozen times. I couldn’t gybe around the buoy, as I had never sailed on tidal sea, but I got back safe and sound. I didn’t win – but I didn’t come last! But out of 300 competitors, I did have the biggest smile on my face – and felt I should have won a prize for that alone! Colin got my kit as I came to shore; so I ran up beach past the finish post with spectators clapping everyone. I thought “Yes!!! I have just finished my first ever windsurf race!!!!!”
I think I managed another two races before I ran out of puff. The great thing about N.W.F is you can do as many races as you like. There is no certainly no pressure. I couldn’t wait for the Sunday to do it all again!
For Colin and I and a convoy of mates from the North, N.W.F is always firmly in our calendars. We arrange our holidays around it – it’s the social event of the year and I absolutely love it!
So – if you have never been, then come on, give it a go. Don’t be scared about the word RACE like I was… Even if you’re a beginner, if you can get around a simple course (doesn’t matter if you wobble or fall off a trillion times like I did) then it’s for you!!!! It’s all about taking part and having lots of fun – and it really is!
It’s a great festival for anybody who simply loves windsurfing. You don’t have to be a professional (they have their own fleet), all you need is some kit and some pain killers – because I can guarantee you will have face-ache from smiling so much! (They may also come in for the Saturday night party. I’m not going to say much – not because I can’t remember – because I don’t want to spoil it!)
One word – Awesome!
Laura took part in her first N.W.F when she had been windsurfing for only 8 months. Last year, the youngest competitor was 6 years old! If you think the N.W.F is not for you, think again…!