Riding the Wind

It’s almost a cliché to quote Bob Dylan’s song, Blowin’ in the Wind. In fact, it is a cliché. But so what? The answer — at least one of the answers for your waterfront program — could really be Blowin’ in the Wind. Windsurfing, that is. And, even if you already run a program, here are some more tips and tricks for running a great program.

A successful windsurfing program will provide your campers with…

1. That glint in their eye of “getting it” — sailing around on their own confidently.

2. Improved self esteem and confidence.

3. A thorough understanding of the relationship between the sail and the wind, which translates directly to sailing.

4. A wonderful form of exercise.

5. A peaceful and enjoyable time on the water.

6. Enjoyment of a very environmentally-friendly sport.

7. A lifetime sport. Once kids learn to windsurf, they can return to it again and again throughout their lives, like getting on a bicycle or clicking into a pair of downhill skis.

Controlling the Elements

Here are the elements necessary to get a successful windsurfing program in place:

1. Your key staff person. This person should be excited about teaching windsurfing and be a good sailor in light to moderate winds at a minimum.

2. Certification. To be sure the kids get quality instruction, we recommend your key staff person be US Sailing (www.ussailing.org) certified. When your key person is a US Sailing Certified windsurfing instructor, they have the tools necessary to get kids sailing in a very short period of time with great enthusiasm. Check with vendors on scheduling certification courses and package deals.

3. CPR and first aid certifications. All staff that work in the waterfront programs should have these certifications.

The equipment:

1. Windsurfing boards that provide total stability so the kids can focus on learning what to do with the sail without thinking about their balance. Windsurfing boards have become quite short and wide, making them really easy to balance on, unlike years ago. Although there are many choices in today’s market, there is no single “perfect” choice, but the list that is easy for the kids to learn on, is reasonable on camp budgets, and is durable for the long haul is short.

2. Two general types of boards are offered, epoxy sandwich construction with expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam core, ASA skin and EVA foam glued to the deck, and blow molded construction with polypropylene skin, non-skid deck, and urethane foam core.

ASA/EPS/EVA deck board construction — The EVA deck is very comfortable to climb up and stand on in comparison to a non-skid deck, and these boards are shorter and wider than the current generation of polypropylene boards, with full buoyancy extending right to the edge of the board, providing the most stable platform for kids.

These boards are also lighter and stiffer vs. polypropylene constructions giving them more optimum planing performance. They offer a very high level of resistance to damage by incorporating an EVA padded deck, nose bumper and ASA plastic protective outer skin.

The disadvantage of ASA hulls is less puncture and ding resistance vs. polypropylene construction. ASA boards use an EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam core which can absorb water if the outer skin is punctured to expose foam.

Any puncture of this type must be repaired before returning the hull to the water, or you risk water weight gain and long term damage to the hull. A five-minute epoxy called Ding Stick is a useful material for quick and easy repairs.

Blow-molded polypropylene technology’s best feature is its durability in a camp environment. These products can really take abuse and last a very long time. These boards are difficult to puncture, but if punctured, the urethane foam core does not absorb water, so it does not require repair and it will not gain weight.

The outer skin is polypropylene, which maintains a strong bond with the inner urethane core. The disadvantage of polypropylene technology is its heavier weight, less stiff and non-padded deck surface vs. ASA/EPS boards. Also the non-skid deck surface can be a bit rough on knees and elbows when new.

An element to consider is whether your camp boards should have a removable center fin or a retractable daggerboard. The retractable daggerboard offers greater versatility, stability on the water, adjustability and upwind performance versus center fin type boards. A removable center fin is not big enough to make it easy for kids to succeed at going upwind windsurfing so I recommend boards that have a retractable daggerboard.

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