There she blows
Can't be bothered to go out for yet another run? Why not try something that's fun, sociable and great exercise – windsurfing.
Another mid-life crisis activity coming your way. This time windsurfing! You would have thought I had learned my lesson by now when it come to water and sails. But no, here I am again squeezing myself into a wetsuit at Bray Lake Watersports, ready to wrestle with equipment I know nothing about. The last time I tried windsurfing I was 15 teenager on a school trip to Exmouth beach. It will come as no surprise that it didn’t end well.
I went into total panic when I couldn’t remember how to turn and booked myself a one-way ticket to France. Then there was the fateful Antigua sailing lesson that also resulted in a minor accidental sexual assault on the poor instructor, who was puzzled by total ineptitude when is came to turning the boat. With a watersports ASBO to my name, I’m hoping age and experience will save the day.
If you’ve never been to Bray Lake Watersports, you must. You’ll find it on the outskirts of the picture perfect village of Bray, between Maidenhead and Windsor, within easy reach of the M4. It’s a stunning spot, surrounded by weeping willows. The facilities are second to none, offering paddle boarding, open water swimming, sailing, windsurfing and kayaking for all ages, plus cafe, shop and changing rooms. So it’s a great place to get together to have fun with your BFFs and family, but also to get fit. Cue slow-mo run in my red swimsuit past Braywatch Tower.
I have booked on to the 3-hour Beginners’ Windsurfing Course with instructor Andy Reynolds, possibly the most patient man in the world. My fellow student is fella half my age training for a marathon. He was fit. And then there was me, knackered and trying to get back into shape.
The lesson starts on a simulator. You get a feel for the board and the weight of the sail, learn the basics – the down low on the equipment, foot and hand placements and where to look and position the sail top achieve those pesky turns, that have so far eluded me.
On dry land, I totally nailed it. Pro status pending. But Andy is big on just cracking on and doing it for real. Out on the water we go…
The aim of the lesson is for me to learn how to sail across wind, steer and how to turn round (ahem), get to grips with the equipment, and a bit of theory before attempting tack and gybe. I was determined to crack this sport once and for all. And to be fair, I was able to get going, wind catching the sail and off I flew (OK, it was more of a gentle glide) across the lake. So far so good.
Turning was still an issue and also understanding how to catch the win was trickier than I thought. When you have a pensioner shouting at you to read the water and other helpful tips, you know you’re looking like a damsel in distress. I did have to be towed away from the bank, which I was drawn to like a moth to a flame and I fell in a lot. Every time a gust of wind caught the sail, it pulled me onto my tip toes and into the water.
But there were moments when I looked and felt like a windsurfer. It’s fun, you’re out on the water, in the fresh air. It’s got wellbeing feeling written all over it. The workout it give you is immense. I used muscles I’d lost touch with years ago. My arms ached from pulling up the sail, my legs were screaming at me and I think I discovered my core after 3 hours.
You need to complete the RYA Start Windsurfing Session 1 & 2, costing £89 each or £159 if you purchase both at the same time. At the end of session 2, you’ll not only take away a certificate but also 2 free hours of hire to practise what you have learnt.
Anything that’s considered exercise but doesn’t feel like it, will always get my vote. Judging by the state of me the next day. I reckon if you do it regularly, you’ll have a body like Elle Macpherson in no time.
Bray Lake is also a really social place, so you can meet new people, get tips from the pros and have a laugh. We may not be within easy reach of a beach, but this is a great alternative. Windsurfing equipment can be expensive, so it’s great that you can hire all the equipment.
The next course is running on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 November. Book up and let me know what you think in the comments below…