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Windsurfing kids – How young is too young to learn how to windsurf?

Windsurfing is a great sport when its blowy. And just as with stand up paddle boarding if you’re a parent who windsurfs then it may be a dream to see your offspring grab a boom and sail off into the blue powered by the wind. But at what age can kids start to learn how to windsurf?

Windsurfing and SUP synergy.

Windsurfing has always seen synergy with SUP with many paddlers also utilising rigs for blowier days. And then there’s windSUP where the two disciplines collide even more obviously. But learning to windsurf is always tricky – the rig in particular making it so. And that’s just for adults so how’s it going to be for your kids?

In times past a rough age of around eight years old was suggested the optimum for children learning the art. But things have changed in the last few years, as far as technology goes, with inflatable manufacturing crossing over into the world of gusts and puff.

Nowadays inflatable windSUPs exist and even sails – the McConks Go Free 9’8 board and Go Sail rig being cases in point. These products are poised to get your wee ones up and sailing in no time, as long as a few other boxes are ticked.

Slowly slowly – don’t force it with windsurfing!

The first question is do your kids actually want to get into windsurfing? Are they inspired? It’s all very well mum and dad being enthusiastic but time and again this enthusiasm doesn’t rub off. Being around any sport often, without shoving your child (or children) towards it, could eventually see all that stimulus glean off. And that rolls into the lifestyle aspect, which we get it isn’t easy to achieve if you live inland and have to juggle jobs (as most do).

Joining a sailing club could help here as there should be facilities for your kids and family to make use of whilst scoring windsurfing time yourself. There’s nothing worse than hanging about blustery wet beaches while mum and dad head for a blast. Your kids will hate it, as will your partner if he/she isn’t into the sport.

A club, with warm clubhouse and tea/coffee/eats, could therefore be a winner. The fam will be around sailing craft yet not be put off. In time they may get an inkling of perhaps trying windsurfing for themselves. Ultimately take it slowly and don’t force the issue. If they’re not interested there’s simply nothing you can do until they are. And be prepared that never may happen. Chances are, however, as an outdoor unit your kids will discover something else they want to be part of – which is great!

Wait for warmer periods.

Cold weather nobody likes – even the hardiest of windsurfers. Those keenest among us simply endure the ice. Your kids will feel the cold much more than you – especially nippers. Therefore wait for warmer periods of weather. And make sure both air temperature and water are on the up. Springtime, for instance, whilst offering some balmier days sees water mercury levels at their lowest.

Pick and choose your timings wisely and make sure your kids are well protected with a decent wetsuit. Also, have to hand a means of getting them warm post-windsurfing. If you’ve followed point one and joined a sailing/windsurfing club with shower amenities then this could be easier.  McConks changing robes are worthy investments.

A holiday abroad could help on the warmth front. There’s nothing like learning to windsurf somewhere hot. Plus, a third party teacher (windsurfer instructor), educating your kids in the ways of wind is much more likely to see success. Mum and/or dad trying to instruct doesn’t always work!

The right windsurfing location.

Seen all too often are parents trying to teach their offspring to windsurf in the wrong location. This could be where there’s too much deep water or conditions that’ll only make the process harder or put the individual off. A shallow venue, such a sheltered harbour/lake, that’s non-tidal or placid will benefit the learning process.

Having the ability to stomp feet down and touch the bottom will inspire confidence and not end up scaring the young ‘uns. It’s the same when considering tide and wind conditions. Strong offshore breeze and ripping tide is both dangerous and likely to put the fear into them. It’s imperative you get the location right otherwise embedding that windsurfing bug will be a non-starter.

Avoid wavey/choppy venues as well if possible – certainly anywhere with surf. This definitely won’t help. Breaking waves is hardly conducive to learning to windsurf. We appreciate where there’s wind there’s often chop so avoiding this may be trickier. But in whatever location you choose there will likely be shelter where the water’s smoother. Aim for here as it’ll make those first tentative steps all the more achievable.

The right windsurfing kit.

As we said at the start of this article windsurfing gear’s come on leaps and bounds over the years. Kit is now lighter weight and easier to use than back in the day (who remembers tie on booms?). That said rigid windsurfing rigs and boards can still be heavy for little bodies.

Here at McConks we peddle inflatable SUP boards as you’ll all be aware. It’s the same inflatable technology that can now be used for windy boards and sails – which some of you mightn’t know. Some of our boards – such as the Go Free 9’8 – have windsurf sail attachments. The board’s been designed with paddling and windsurfing in mind. It also has footstraps as the Go Free can plane (due to its hard rubber release edge affixed to the tail).

The learning phase.

During the initial learning phase, there’ll be lots of scrambling back on the board following a stack. Being air filled and made from Dropstitch/PVC ensures no scuffing and grazing of delicate limbs. Plus, if your kids fall on the deck they just bounce.

In terms of performance the Go Free does everything a hard shell windsurf board will do so there’s no issue nailing those fundamental windsurfing skills. And there’s no reason a board like the Go Free won’t take your child from beginner to winner. Even adults who fancy a bash at windsurfing can learn on the Go Free no probs.

McConks windsurf gear.

It’s windsurfing rigs as well. The McConks Go Sail has been designed with ease of use in mind. As it’s air filled the advantage is the Go Sail floats on top of the water as opposed to sinking below. This means up hauling is much easier as you don’t have the water pressure forcing the sail down or weight of mast, sail and boom. Kids will find getting the Go Sail out and up into the correct sailing position a doddle. Made even easier by its lightweight nature.

There’s simply no comparison to how light the inflatable Go Sail windsurfing rig is when compared to a rigid sail, mast and boom type. Also, having only handles (placed in the correct position), means your kids (or adults) have no choice but to hold the sail at its correct angle. Straight off the bat riders will be puffing along effortlessly making it a much quicker and slicker exercise than if using ‘hard’ windsurfing gear. And if it’s dropped then there’s no risk of injury to rider or damage to kit.

The right conditions.

Heading out for a beginner windsurfing sesh in a gale isn’t the wisest – as any seasoned windsurfer will know. Light winds should be the go for learning. And by light we’re talking force 3 (7-10 knots max).

If you can coincide your chosen location to have cross to cross onshore winds also then you’ll be winning. Avoid offshore winds or directly onshore blows – unless the spot you’re at is conducive. Ultimately you’re aiming to make your child’s life as easy as possible as well as safe and fun.

How young’s too young to learn?

This is a tricky question as it pretty much comes down to the type of kid we’re talking about and what kit you have access to. If your child isn’t showing much interest (and we appreciate that’s actually tricky to judge as well) then we’d suggest waiting until the signs are there. Letting kids play about with your gear on land (yes we appreciate that means them climbing on and off boards, so much sure they’re sitting on soft ground without stones or other flotsam that can cause dings.

This is another area where an inflatable windSUP will come in handy as they can be chucked about without too much concern) can get them familiar with what windsurfing equipment is. It could help them begin asking questions which is one sign of interest. As a parent, you may start to tentatively guide your offspring down the route but don’t force the issue.

Equipment plays a big part, as we’ve already discussed. And we also mentioned that traditionally about 8yrs is when children have been seen as robust and strong enough to lift (up haul) rigid windsurf sails. But now we have the McConks inflatable Go Sail option.

The rider in the accompanying pics is 3, and a small 3 at that. All the boxes have been ticked, in terms of interest pricked, but then it comes down suitable windsurfing equipment. And it’s the sail that’s most key. You can see how the McConks Go Sail XS is being wielded no trouble. The lightweight nature of the sail, overall size and design makes it particularly applicable to a diddy sailor like this.

A floaty, voluminous board adds to the mix. The lad’s been around watersports since day dot so he’s familiar with what windsurfing is – as is his sister who’s also used McConks’ inflatable windy gear to progress from a young age. We’ll add this also helps: having an older sibling to follow in the footsteps of. Pack mentality and all that…

Kiddy windsurfing safety.

Safety should be paramount if teaching young children to windsurf. The UK’s climate isn’t exactly tropical so protection against the elements will be the first port of call. A good quality, well fitting 5mm wetsuit is gold. Even at the height of UK summer wind chill will still be in effect, especially as we’re talking wind sports which see additional evaporative cooling occur.

Personal floatation, such as quality buoyancy aid, is essential. Kids love jumping off boards as well as falling accidentally so BAs will keep their heads above the brine. If you’re child’s learning with a rigid windsurfing rig and board a helmet would be a good idea. With an inflatable sail and windSUP this isn’t as necessary, although may inspire further confidence if your wee ones are nervous.

Wetsuit shoes/boots will prevent tootsie scrapes as well as giving additional grip whilst on the board. Kid’s extremities also get chilly so wet shoes (and possibly gloves) will fend off the cold.

If you’re looking to get your kids involved in windsurfing there are no right or wrong answers. You as the parent can determine if the time’s right and what gear to use. Hopefully, this article’s given a few suggestions of ways to do so without losing them and with equipment that’ll enhance the process. Keep it fun, keep it safe and who knows where your kids will be with their windsurfing in a few months.

For any queries relating to McConks windsurfing gear, kiddy equipment or watersports in general get in touch.

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