It had been a while since I’d windsurfed, January I think was the last time—I drove down to the Ebro Delta for 30 knots of Mestral and wore my arms to over-stretched elastic holding down
It was good to get on the water the other day. With a steady 20 knots out of the east and a 3ft swell I rigged a
13 years ago I took up windsurfing as being the simplest and cheapest way of getting on the water. I wasn’t after the thrills at that stage, it was a straightforward desire to potter about on the sea and get a bit of distance on the land. I lived in
13 years ago the sport of windsurfing was living its darkest hour, the drive had been to develop faster and more specialised equipment and the result was that only the real hotshots could make it work. There was a vast difference between the large beginner boards and dedicated planing boards which were unforgiving speed machines. To bridge the skill gap required serious application and many left the sport in frustration. Windsurfing manufactures had cut off the sport’s life blood by alienating its participants.
I didn’t know any of this on the day that I turned up at Masnou marina for my first lesson, I just wanted to go sailing. With fewer people entering the sport there was less onus on instructors. There was no standard teaching method like there is today and instructors were hired by a school if they had windsurfed. Rather like the practice in Spanish primary schools whereby a teacher is assigned to give English on the basis of a blustery fortnight spent in a bed and breakfast in
Instructors were left to develop their own methods and mine had a curious one. Their were four of us, two had already completed a course, they could up-haul, sheet in and get going but they couldn’t turn, then there was myself and another fellow who’d never windsurfed. Our instructor tied a string of four boards behind a dinghy and piled us and two sails into the small craft, then we puttered out of the marina and into the open
Soon the dinghy was but a speck and I gazed over at my companion standing on his board about
It later transpired that the instructor had got impossibly tangled up amongst the bathers as he entered the exclusion zone to retrieve a pupil who’d driven his board up on to the beach. Bellowing instructions and insults he got the lad back into the water and sailing away from the beach but then had to dash off to catch the other one who was flailing about some way off. Apparently, in what must have been a bad moment for the instructor, he drove the outboard over the sail and got a load of Dacron wrapped round the prop. The silent dinghy drifted in to the beach.
My companion, I later found out, paddled the half kilometre back to the shore, ditched his board, walked back to the marina, got in his car and was never heard of again. And I, in my British way, remained standing on my board as I’d been told to do. The current, set up by the latent easterly swell, taking me parallel to the coast and, I noticed with interest more than alarm, slightly out to sea.
No rescue operation was put in motion, no helicopters plied the skies. I was simply picked up, sunburnt, a long hour later by a very peeved instructor who wanted to know what the hell I was doing bearing down on a container ship.