I took some windsurfing lessons from an instructress who used to go parachuting on no wind days. “They are the perfectly complementary sports” she told me. “You can only parachute when the wind is light!”
Much as parachuting appeals, my budget can’t quite hack it and although I did try it once, the experience was the polar opposite of much of my windsurfing career. I swapped hanging around on beaches, waiting for the wind to get up for hanging around a windy airfield, waiting for the wind to drop…
I spent a month of evenings and weekends on a grass strip in Shropshire awaiting the perfect weather window to do a static line jump. Just as my time there was ending, we were suddenly GO! I donned the flying suit and parachute, walked over to the plane; heart in my mouth; adrenaline pumping – but the pilot refused to fly as dusk was falling. And, other than a tandem skydive (which was AWESOME!) that was as far as I ever got with parachuting!
So what are the perfect complementary sports for all seasons? What can you do if you turn up at the beach with your windsurfer or SUP and it is not windy / too windy. The answer is THE OTHER ONE!
SUP is a fantastic sport. It is relatively straightforward to get started and can get you cruising around on the water straight away, but there are options to take you to many diverse and exciting places; exploring, catching waves, running white water, racing, endurance, fishing, touring, multi-person boards which accommodate the whole family – even SUP Polo, Yoga and Pilates! And then the great crossover – the WindSUP, which harks straight back to the original windsurfers, which were stable and easy to ride AND JOLLY GOOD FUN IN LIGHT WINDS!
If you have learnt to paddle a SUP, you will have some understanding of the aqueous environment, the muscle memory to balance on a board and if you WindSUP, you will know the fundamentals of how to handle a sail. You are already well on your way to unlocking the exhileration to be had from windsurfing when the breeze gets up and is too much to SUP!
Yet SUP is a godsend to many windsurfers as a light wind alternative and you will find many a windsurfer now incorporates a SUP in their quiver. So what are the benefits? NWF Guru Jem Hall maintains that “SUP stops you from going MENTAL!” – and also keeps you fit! If you want to get on the water and keep that 6 pack toned, then SUP is your baby.
But light wind windsurfing is a much overlooked aspect of the sport. NWF Guru Simon Bornhoft told me “People learn so much more in light winds.” I can vouch for this after a windsurfing clinic where the wind was conspicuous by its absence. I am ashamed to admit to having become a ‘Force 4 Snob’ – I would only go out in planing winds. Yet by the end of the light-wind clinic, I was so much more aware of the FEEL of the wind in my sail and how to make the most of what wind there was. I practised non-planing transitions and had time to sort out my footwork – and all of this yielded tremendous benefits to my high wind sailing. Not only that, trying out little freestyle tricks such as helicopter tacks, cowboys and switch-stance sailing was tremendous fun (and looks a little bit impressive too!)
Now I am never going to do all this on my 80L wave board, but the WindSUP is the perfect, stable platform for learning. It’s no wonder that so many of the NWF Gurus have embraced them as an important tool in windsurfing training. And when the wind don’t blow – me and my dogs all head out on the paddle board for an adventure!
And what is the perfect place to find out about THE OTHER ONE?
The National Watersports Festival offers free taster sessions and technique clinics in both Windsurfing and SUP. So if you want to find out how THE OTHER ONES roll, come along and try it out. The venue, Rutland Water, is the perfect venue for both sports, with calm, inland waters and some of the best tuition in the business.