Anyone who windsurfs knows firsthand the dedication and tenacity it takes to learn and develop windsurfing skills. It’s the favorite sport for many — not only for the thrill — but the sheer sense of empowerment and accomplishment.
I’m always inspired to see talented windsurfers on the water. The truth is, sometimes we feel stuck, reaching for the next level and not making it as quickly as we’d like. And let’s face it: women are a minority in this sport. We push ourselves for the love of it, and benefit from inspiration in women around us.
When one of my friends recovered from a bad skiing injury and felt timid about getting back on her board, I thought the best thing I could do to help was sign us up for Big Winds’ Women’s Clinic. There might have been a smidge of self-interest, but it was a great excuse. (Plus a pretty simple task — a single phone call or website click.)
We are students!
The first morning, eight women abuzz with nerves met (goddess) Heidi Chappel and her assistant Milena. Introductory conversations outside Big Winds helped us get to know each other, where each was in her windsurfing journey, and even share any fears we had. (Why not throw in some group therapy too?) Experience levels varied. Some sought confidence in the footstraps and harness, while others strived to jibe, or finesse a bomb-proof jibe.
After checking wind reports, Heidi announced we’d caravan to Viento, where the wind was promising and people sparse.
There we watched Heidi on the dryland simulator while she imparted her wisdom. (In “real” life, Heidi teaches high school English — no doubt the kids love her!) Then she distilled what most women were there to work on: the carving step jibe. Everyone had a turn on the simulator to practice Heidi’s stages for the “set-up,” “the carve,” and “the transition. Each part of the jibe had several steps yet within a short amount of time we had them drilled in our heads. It was obvious many ladies learned new pieces that might hold keys to their success.
Preparing our own equipment, Heidi imparted some excellent rigging tips, and key things to look for in a properly (or poorly) rigged sail.
On the water, one instructor sailed with us and the other stood hip-deep near shore, calling out feedback as warranted, and offering heavy doses of praise and encouragement. It’s hard to describe the sensations, surrounded by women sailors in a wave of camaraderie. All of us with the same chant in our heads: “slide, release, mast, boom, boom.”
Day Two – We Want More!
The next day, pumped for more fun, the wind called for another day at Viento, which excited us all.
Two solid days of practice with the right guidance works wonders. It was amazing how each person’s skills improved. Some relearning jibe steps in line with Heidi’s methods. Some who never jibed in their lives occasionally nailed them, gifted by hoots and hollers from camp mates.
At the end, none wanted it to be over. We exchanged email addresses and promises to sail together again. And we hung out with our picnics well past the end of the camp.
For those who have thought about trying Big Winds’ Women’s Clinic, I heartily recommend it. You’ll learn from amazing teachers. You’ll have fun. You’ll make new friends. Most of all, you’ll be empowered, all in the company of inspiring females.