Teaching your Kids Windsurfing

Mercedes up-hauling the sail on the Aquaglide Multisport

Today I took my daughter Mercedes out for a wind surfing lesson. We used the Aquaglide Multisport I purchased on special from BCF this winter past. I had promised Mercedes I would get her a kids sail for Christmas but was grumbling about the price. Then a few days later she spotted this one hanging from the ceiling at BCF and said "look dad there's a sail and it's only 99 dollars!" It was the last one they had and it was on special because it was used as a display model and had gotten a bit shop soiled. It was 75% off the retail price so I purchased it there and then. Not only did I get a sail manufactured by Neil Pryde, but an aluminium mast and boom and an inflatable boat that doubles as a proper sailing dingy with stays, a centre board and tiller. The boat is like an air bed. You simply use a kite pump to blow it up, slip in the centre board and fin and then keep pumping until the fabric skin makes the deck pretty firm.

Follow a lesson plan

For our windsurfing lession I used the lesson plan from James Douglass' blog - including some of the comments by other readers. We started with the lesson on land. We went over the names of the various parts of the windsurfer. How to uphaul, how to turn the board around using the rig, how to commence sailing and finally how to steer by leaning the sail forward and backward.

Mercedes and I sailing together

Pick a day with perfect conditions

I picked a perfect day for it. The tide was at its out, so the water was flat, shallow and there was no current. The wind was a gentle South-easterly ranging between 5-8 knots. I started following James' lesson plan, but when we got on the water, it was much too hard for Mercedes - the sail is probably just a bit large and heavy, so she was struggling to control it. Then I realised that rather letting her do it all on her own with me on the shore yelling out instructions. I could kneel on the back of the boat and help her. All it took was one arm with my hand in between hers, and I could instruct her on how to perform all the manoeuvres we had practised on the sand. I was also able to easily correct her posture and stance as we went. Sure we didn't go fast, and the boat was pretty loaded with me on the back, but it has plenty of buoyancy and my extra weight probably made it more stable.

Cross train with other sports to develop board skills and balance

Mercedes has been wanting to learn windsurfing ever since I started back in December 2009. To help her develop the necessary board handling skills and balance we started by learning how to rip-stick together at the local skate park.

Mercedes learning to ride a rip-stick

It took about 6 weeks for her to learn going to the skate park several times a week. Having a bar to learn with is also very important. I had to get my own rip-stick with extra hard ashfelt wheels and a die-cast aluminium deck - with my weight I could wear through regular wheels in one afternoon session.

Make it fun

So off we ventured tacking up wind to Dr May's Island. Along the way we stopped several times to explore the rocks and tidal pools.

Adventuring on Dr May's island

We rescued many starfish that had been stranded by the low tide.

Rescuing starfish

Mercedes has a real affinity with sea creatures and insects - she says she wants to be an entomologist or marine biologist when she grows up.

Putting the starfish back in the water

We also found a Chiton in the sand.

We also found a Chiton

You seldom get to see the underside of a Chiton. Its like a slug with a hard segmented shell. You can see its little mouth in the right image above. Below it are a row of teeth that feel like a rasp. It uses these to scrape microscopic algae off the rocks.

Manage expectations

Probably the most important thing is to manage both your own and you child's expectations of what you can achieve in a day. Just to be able to uphaul, sail out, turn the board around and sail back is all you should expect if everything goes really well. An hour or two is enough, and an Ice cream at the Kiosk afterwards tops off a perfect day. Bit by bit you can let them progress at their own pace. The most important thing is that its fun and they enjoy themselves. I have heard of over-keen parents who purchased expensive kids rigs and boards; only to push their kids so hard that they ended up having such a bad experience they never wanted to do it again.

Managing expectations and having fun

Conclusion

I can highly recommend the Aquaglide Multisport as a teaching aid. Being able to kneel on the back and coach your child to develop their skill and technique turned out to be a really safe and effective approach. I got a lot of approving glances by fishermen and beachcombers pointing and waving at us as we sailed together up and down the river mouth at Elliot Heads.

Posted by Henry Thomas, 7 years ago on Monday, October 18, 2010

2 comments:

fan said...

Nice job! For those looking to teach their own kids, could you share her age, height and weight? My son is 10 and looks maybe 2 years older? He's about 4'8" and 60 lbs. I'm thinking he could handle the gear a bit better but hard to find good suggestions!

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Henry Thomas said...

My daughter was about seven at the time, not sure about her weight - but she was too light to handle the rig on her own. She probably would have been better off with an Ezzy 1.5m kids rig. Nevertheless, my kids will grow into using this gear - there are plenty of summers ahead of us. The sail is 4m - that's about the size I would recommend for your son. Perfect for sailing in light winds (>10kt) and as he gets older he will be able to sail it in stronger winds.

If you want to get specific, have a look at my windsurfing gear calculator, it has an option for Kids under Activity, so you can enter your child's weight etc. - see what it spits out. However you will probably want to go a bit larger so they don't grow out of it too quick.

The thing I liked about the Aquaglide setup was that I could tag along on the back, give them a lesson and help them out. Its needs to be fun - I have heard stories of kids on their own getting stranded out on the water - with all the trauma that entails - who never wanted to go back out again. Very costly mistake when you consider the investment in gear involved.

Posted 5 years ago on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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