“Women – know your limits!” So said Mr Chalmondly-Warner in one of my favourite Harry Enfield sketches. If Mr C-W had his way, us girls would all be at home in pearls and thick skirts, talking about fluffy bunnies to prevent us having dangerous opinions of our own or worse, getting in the wrong side of the car (the driver’s side!)

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In terms of women in sport, the London 2012 Games have certainly been a landmark. Thankfully, things have moved on somewhat from the Ancient and even the early Modern Olympics, which were male only. 2012 is the first Olympic Games in which women can compete in every sport. It is also the first which has seen female representatives from countries which have never sent women to the Olympics, like Saudi Arabia and Quatar. Whatever their sporting achievements, these pioneering women are worthy of adulation for overcoming Olympian political, religious and cultural obstacles, before they even touched down in London.

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And you can’t deny that The Girls Done Great! For Team GB, 11 gold, 8 silver and 6 bronze medals were won by the ladies. That’s nearly half of the golds – and the first medal of the games for Team GB and the first Team GB gold was collected for Britain by the girls. There were many spectacular achievements; Nicola Adams made history by becoming the first ever female Olympic boxing champ – a far cry from the early 20th century, when archery, tennis and golf were considered the only Olympic sports genteel enough for women to compete in. Then there’s Jessica Ennis, darling of the nation and face of the games, who took gold in heptathlon, achieving a time over hurdles that would have won medals in the actual hurdle race in Beijing. This rather flies in the face of de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympics, who felt that female participation would be “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and incorrect.”

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Yet it remains a fact that fewer women than men take part in sport, despite well-documented physical and mental benefits of regular exercise, which include more self-confidence, better leadership skills, increased energy and improved sleep as well as the obvious ones of fitness and weight control. The reasons behind the statistics are the usual; social / traditional attitudes; lack of media coverage and role models (reluctance of advertisers to use women athletes – we could be about to see a big change there!); finance; access to coaching; and of course, family commitments and children.

Research by Sport England shows that overcoming psychological (feeling self-conscious) and social (friends do it) aspects are key in promoting female participation. Making things non-competitive and fun and particularly having female-only sessions are the best ways to encourage the ladies to join in. This means that the N.W.F is great news for the girls! You can bring a friend to N.W.F; the races are intended to be fun and friendly; and if there are three of you, you can enter the races as a team. Amy Carter and the ladies from FLOW (For Ladies Of Watersports) will be there to support you, offering the Three Cs; Chats, Coaching and Chocolate brownies! And boys, you can do your bit by encouraging your ladies to take part. And if it is not windsurfing, you might find that SUP is the sport for you – and will certainly help you develop a 6 pack to rival Queen Jessica’s!

Health is defined as physical, mental and social wellbeing. Sport brings us all of that; the buzz of exertion and adrenaline; the thrill of performance, when you have played well; the social life – a sense of belonging; all of these promote health. Windsurfing has all of this in spades, especially the social side. It is also a wonderful hobby to share and enjoy with your family. We know many parents who have had happy family weekends and holidays way beyond the ‘parents are boring’ stage, all through sharing a passion for our wonderful sport with their offspring.

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So, to summarise. Windsurfing makes you happy and keeps you thin. What not to like? And Women, as for knowing your limits, well that’s up to you. Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won the first British Olympic gold at 2012 and the first ever for UK womens’ rowing. After the race, Helen said “If you work really hard and try your best, you can do anything!” That from a lady who rowed for the first time only 4 years ago. It is the stuff of dreams. Know your limits? Well, we might not all have an inner Olympian, but what are the boundaries of your imagination?

Jackie Lambert

Ladies – this is our year! Why not make 2012 the year that you do something amazing and enter the N.W.F as an individual or with friends (male or female!) as a team of 3 or more? Or come along and try windsurfing for the first time or improve with some FREE coaching from FLOW? The N.W.F has a great sense of community and is a wonderful, fun and friendly celebration of our sport. Don’t miss out. Be part of it!

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