My First Windsurfing Lesson
Blog image courtesy of Jennifer Kroon
We get lots of emails asking about windsurfing lessons at the club. There are full details if you dig around the website, but this is a slightly less formal overview.
Lessons are nominally 10.30am Saturdays and 11am Sundays. During winter, we don't run Sunday lessons. Sometimes you can get enthusiastic members or day leaders to give you a lesson at other times, but don't count on it! The weekend mornings really are the best time to learn, due to the wind.
The lessons are about an hour on land, and then open-ended on the water, subject to tide and wind.
Yes, it's possible to turn up and pass the written test and self-rescue with a cursory introduction, but we discourage this, since much of the lesson is about club rules and safety (yours and ours). If at all possible, please come to the weekend lessons.
The lessons are all taught by volunteers like myself (Second Vice-Commodore, in charge of windsurfing gear, co with Chris Lalau-Keraly), the Rear Commodore (Will Spargur, in charge of windsurfing instruction) or other club members. Anyone can teach, and so styles vary. Some people come to multiple lessons to get different teachers. Our style is pretty informal though, and as volunteers, that's how we like it. Cal Adventures by contrast my offer a more structured lesson (or may not!)
$99 covers 3 months of club membership, including all the windsurfing and sailing lessons you can handle, as well as use of club gear (subject to ratings and rules). The price is $89 for students/seniors and $150 for a family. As part of your membership, you're expected to give 2 hours of volunteer hours to the club per quarter.
And the best part? If you give 10 hours, it's free! So don't forget to get your hours signed off on your white card (given to you when you sign up). Try getting a lesson elsewhere - you'll find it's much more expensive.
What should I bring?
The club has a full range of boards, sails, wetsuits and life jackets. But if you wear glasses, a leash is recommended. Footwear is optional, and many advanced windsurfers go barefoot. It is pretty muddy near the dock though. The club has a limited selection of boots. Many windsurfers do wear flip flops down to the dock and then tuck them under the rail.
What about kids?
We do have some very small sails for kids (1.2 and 1.7m), but we don't have very small wetsuits. Kids over 5 are welcome at the club, but the lessons might not be suitable for kids under 10. You might like to wait until you can teach them yourself once you've learned the basics (hint, you can walk behind, and hold the sail). For kids over 10, they should have no problem with small adult sails.
Windsurfing is a detailed topic that is hard to do justice to here, but I'll attempt to cover some points that are relevant to the club.
The novice sailing area, for both sailing and windsurfing is an intersection of imaginary lines South out from the 3rd dock (going East from the club house) and East from Hs. Lordships restaurant. On most days, there is a visible wind line here. After that point, the wind picks up and the waves become much higher, which is why we restrict sailing until you gain confidence and skill. If you end up down past the 3rd dock, you will need to paddle back (aka 'self rescue), or wait to be picked up.
Wind and Direction
The primary wind direction is from the South West (from the Golden Gate Bridge). It will come from this direction most days of the year. This means that there is a tendency to be blown downwind (i.e, the 3rd dock) as a novice. Your goal initially is to sail in straight lines out from the dock, then return.
But beware! The wind can change, and just because most of the year, it's from the South West, doesn't mean it's always so. Check the wind docks and other indicators. They will tell you where you might end up if you get in trouble. On stormy days, the wind will often become very Southerly. On days of changing weather patterns, the wind may become much more westerly. On a few days a year, the wind can come from the East or North.
The boards and sails we have for novices are robust enough to stand up to frequent use, but they are also very fragile too. Listen to instructor guidelines on how to carry for your safey. Please don't step on boards, and don't use any that are damaged. Once you become more proficient, you will be expected to help repair boards too, especially if you damage them.
Have fun! Windy, windy!