I still remember it like it was yesterday, despite it being more than 30 years ago…
The first day I stepped on a windsurfing board was quite literally the day that changed my life. I was that little kid who never quite fit in, the last to be picked for teams during playground games and the easy one to pick on in the playground. I never really got on with “conventional” sports in in Ireland that didn’t leave many options… But windsurfing changed all that for me, it gave me the opportunity to develop at my own pace, learn skills in a different way and gave me the opportunity to discover who I really am.
My first day was a complete disaster, but I was hooked anyway. I’d been dreaming about learning to windsurf for a few years, but had always been told I was too small… then finally at 12 years old I was on my way to my first windsurfing course. Still the smallest kid there, I struggled with the 3.2m2 training rig mounted on a Bic 250 board. The board was so heavy that I could not have carried it to the water’s edge by myself. I don’t think I travelled more than 20m at any point on that day without falling in and the effort of dragging the heavy sail out of the water left me completely exhausted and freezing cold by the end of the day. But, this was where my stubbornness kicked in… I was going to learn this sport no matter what.
After a shower and warming up, I walked into the clubhouse in the windsurfing school to find a group of people huddled around a little TV watching a video of two windsurfers drag racing across turquise water towards a white sandy beach. Already in awe I innocently asked where that was… “That’s Maui” came the reply.
That was it, the seeds were sown and a dream was born. I wanted to do that, I wanted to go there. I was determined to be a windsurfer. I was definitely a “Wannabe Windsurfer”
That first one week course left me barely able to go out and back in light winds. In the late 1980’s light weight beginners equipment hadn’t yet been invented and the “apprenticeship” of learning to windsurf was a hard one. I pestered my father all the time to take me to the beach so that I could rent a board and practice. I read everything I could find about windsurfing and became totally obsessed, but despite all that my time on the water was still limited, my progress painfully slow and I wasn’t getting any closer to being one of those guys blasting into that white sandy beach.
Then came the day when I was asked if I would like to be an instructors assistant at the windsurfing school. I jumped at the opportunity. Now I would be on the water every day of my summer holidays and would have the use of the school’s equipment in my free time. So at 14 years old (and barely past being a beginner myself) I was now helping the instructors teach new students.
I quickly discovered that being on the water every day and helping beginners led to a much steeper learning curve for me. I got the basics perfect and didn’t have to think about them anymore which made progressing much easier. My self confidence improved as I learned how to teach others and as my own skills also improved for the first time in my life I believed in my own ability to do something… anything.
The dream was alive and I was getting closer to it.