Skim over the waves
Slice through the water on a paddleboard, capturing the wind in your sail. Windsurfing is as much a battle against the elements as it is a lesson in controlling themtravel Updated: Jul 19, 2010 10:11 IST
To a windsurfer, there's nothing more inviting than heavy swell moving in from a distance. It's the perfect challenge that the sea can throw up, and it's got two equally able and malevolent companions to throw you off balance -- the wind and tide.
But if you're calm, you'll observe how all of these together make for great surfing conditions. And once you've figured out the direction you're going to be travelling in, it's all a matter of poise.
Step wise progression
Actually, there are three stages to it. You start with lying flat on the board and swimming for a while. This is to warm up your biceps for the rigour that is to follow. The next step is stand up paddleboarding, which is a sport in itself. You stand on the surfboard and use one oar to manoeuvre the waves. With this you can go real fast, and the activity is just as thrilling. But to Alistair, my instructor from England, it is a way to get me acclimatised to moving around in the choppy sea. He says it will help me with my surfboarding stance.
In the middle of the Mana Mana beach resort, in Singapore, I'm all set for my first windsurfing lesson.
Learning the basics
After a few laps of paddleboarding, the exercises begin on Alistair's simulation kit set up by the shore. He starts with the basics. The mast is the pole that holds up the sail, the boom is a curved bar that controls the sail, and the mastfoot is a universal joint at the centre.
Throughout my time at sea, I will place my legs sideways, at an arm's length from each other, except when turning the board. To start off, I will climb the board,lift the mast and grab hold of the boom.Then i will turn the board depending on which direction the wind is blowing in, and begin surfing. We do one session on land, and the combination is so difficult to remember, I either forget to position my feet correctly or direct the mast the wrong way.
Out in the sea
When we enter water, the wind is blowing in the south west direction. This means that we can either go north west or south east. Alistair chooses south east. We wade into about 5-feet deep water, and then I climb onto the board. Even on my beginner's Starboard, with a volume of 250 litres and a 3 metre sail, lifting the mast is difficult. I almost tip over twice, and then get its position right. No sooner do I hold it there that it tilts backward and the board sets off. I realise I've opened the sail a bit too much. But before I can act, I lose control and plunge into the water headlong.
The next time I make it a point to hold the mast close to my body so as not to expose too much of its surface area. I get my balance right and, securing my grip on the boom, tilt the mast downwards and behind me.
The breeze propels the board forward but also turns it in the direction of the shore. "Tilt the mast to the left and let your feet turn the board... then step over to the other side,"I hear Alistair shout from behind. If he were me, he'd have turned the mast to the other side and slowly stepped to the back of the board to make it turn. But I'm content just to see the board moving and I expose a little more of the sail.
Within minutes my little watercraft picks up pace, about 30 kph, and I have set off parallel to the shore of Singapore. I feel like one of those professional guys on TV, riding the wild surf. But I'm not in complete control yet, and I know it.
The wind can drag me wherever it wants. Even as I'm wobbling on the board trying to turn it and give it a new direction, the mast jerks and goes out of control. It doesn't hurt me that I fall into the water again. But it is painful when the sail lands right on my head.
Before I get back on, Alistair comes rumbling behind me on his motorboat, saying I should use the wind to get the boat sailing. I try his method again, and this time it does work. I'm surfing at a good speed and I even manage to make quick turns before letting go of the mast in fatigue.
The board slows down by the shore and, just as I am about to alight, it gives a sudden jolt and throws me overboard. It is my umpteenth dip in the water and I'm really not amused. Alistair walks up to me from behind. "What did I teach you before we entered water, the first thing?" It hits me in bits. "Oh yeah. Alight when you're about five feet from the shore and drag the board all the way outside," I say. "So should we do only the last bit again, then?
Wind surf in the city
H2O water sports offers lessons spread over 7 sessions. Basic knowledge of swimming is essential. Call: 23677546. Lamhe.com organises windsurfing expeditions at a camp near Mahabaleshwar. Cost: Rs 20,000. Visit: www.lamhe.com for details. Windsurf in the Varasgaon Dam back waters, 45 km from Pune with Wind Sports Pune. Email: email@example.com Nature Trails organises windsurfing camps at the Tapola River over a period of 2 days. Call: 022-66557777 Go windsurfing in Goa. Get in touch with the Goa Yachting Association at the Dona Paula Beach Resort. Call: +91-8322453863/4
First Published: Jul 19, 2010 10:11 IST