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Posted by on Jun 19, 2019 in Windsurfing News |

The inspiring stories of disabled windsurfers

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Windsurfing, until recently, was not commonly associated with disability. People would tend to point at sailing as the easier to adapt option. In sailing, you sit down, move the rudder and pull the lines. In Windsurfing, your body becomes part of the structure holding the rig up and your posture is what does the steering. All in all, windsurfing is just plainly a difficult thing to do!

Despite that, disabled people nation and worldwide have shown the nay-sayers time and time again, that where there’s a will, there’s a way! In today’s article, we’ll have a look at inspiring stories of patience, determination and ingenuity.

Sailability in Windsurfing

Royal Yachting Association Sailability Logo

The accessibility of water-sports to the disabled has improved significantly over the last years. This is thanks to programmes such as RYA’s Sailability, that overcomes barriers for the disabled at water-sport centres.

Windsurfing is one of the easiest sailing sports to adapt to the special needs of the disabled. In many cases there isn’t even a need for specialist or modified equipment! With a bit of creativity and a lot of hard work, the instructor and student can work together to make it work, with unique adapted technique.

Pretty different – but it works!

Marit happily planing along, despite her disability!
Marit happily planing along, despite her disability!
| Pretty Different|

Marit, from the Pretty Different blog, describes her take on the sport. Being born without her left hand has not managed to stop her from pursuing the passion for windsurfing boiling in her blood. Thanks to her fathers passion and love, the duo started to figure it out as early as Marit’s 9th birthday.

With just a couple of knots on the up-haul, she is now able to pull out the sail , just like anyone else. Then, using her elbow to hook onto the boom, she can get the power in the sail and get going! As Marit says: It’s really not the easiest thing to do, and I’m not great at it, but it works!.

Not only recreational

The story of water-sport with a disability does not have to be limited to amateurs either! And the best example is the story of Craig Wood, a Afghanistan veteran, triple amputee and the member of the British Sailing Team from 2015.

Disabled windsurfer, Craig Wood, on a bi-hull set-up.
Craig Wood on his custom bi-hull set-up.
|RYA Sailiability|

When learning to windsurf again, Craig started out by using wide-body boards to help him keep his balance. However, he also tried the bi-hull setup (Bi-Planche), which is an option often recommended to those with lower body disabilities.

Craig says that getting back on the board was a big step in his recovery. But windsurfing is only one of his wind-fuelled passions. With his extensive sailing background, Craig has undertaken the challenge of sailing around the world solo. Since 2017, he’s been living a nomadic lifestyle on his 46ft. boat, Sirius. Travelling and sailing with the wind has become the core part of his life, despite the warnings of many, who said he shouldn’t do.

So how easy is it?

Depending on the type and degree of your disability, it might be more or less complicated to get you windsurfing. However, as said by multiple authorities in British sailing, such as Richard Beardsley:

“As with everyone who learns a new skill for the first time, you have to focus on what they can do, not what they can’t. “Everyone struggles with something to start with, and everyone learns how to overcome it to improve. The process of learning is exactly the same for everybody.”

Richard Beardsley for Boards Magazine.
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