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Learn to windsurf in an hour…

23 January 2012


Having convinced my famously sharkophobic (I’m sure there’s a proper word for this) girlfriend into bravely dunking her head under the water to do her PADI openwater diving course I found myself with two days in Sihanoukville with time to kill (I had also booked on a photography diving specialism course for the overnight trip where Anna would do her dives with Scuba Nation and will post on that when done).  The beaches here are truly lovely, yet I can’t really bring myself just to sit still for that length of time.

Fortunately, after a couple of inquiries I found that a bloke on Otres beach apparently had a couple of windsurf boards and offered lessons. I had tried windsurfing once before, found it incredibly frustrating consisting of falling off the board repeatedly as I got the sail halfway out of the water.


What I wanted to be able to do on Otres Beach...

On our spare day before Anna’s course we checked out the beach late in the afternoon.  As she got stuck into her openwater manual I spied the hut for said bloke (Hurricane Watersports), offering “Learn in just one hour” lessons for $18 which consisted of half an hour tuition and half an hour practice.  Acquiring a new skill had been on my to do list for the trip and so I asked if I could have a lesson, planning to spend the next two days learning.

The promise…


However, true to what I had been told, Sydney (said bloke) said all (both) of his boards were already rented out and on the water.  He offered me to come back the next day.  As we had booked our tuk-tuk driver to return at 6 to pick us up (tuk-tuks from Sihanoukville to Otres beach are $3 single or $5 return), that actually fit nicely into my plans.

Sydney at work

The next day I rose early to have breakfast before Anna went off to blow her bubbles, had a minor panic attack over accommodation (Chinese New Year, although not celebrated formally in Cambodia, causes overbooking and insane price increases), buying(/hiring) a sim card from the tuk-tuk driver (foreign nationals are only allowed to buy sim cards in Cambodia with a business permit) I headed to Otres beach for my lesson and to add a new skill to my portfolio, albeit sceptical that Sydney would be able to perform miracles in an hour.

Otres beach is a lovely stretch of white sand about 10 minutes from Sihanoukville.  Although it has its own accommodation on site (admittedly not as much or as fancy as Sihanoukville where we stayed in the lovely Coolabah Hotel, who were very helpful and considerate with my accommodation dilemma and a highly recommended restaurant and amazingly frosted beer glasses), it has a lot less hassle than the main beach in Sihanoukville and is just quite beautiful.

 It was a lovely, calm, sunny day and I suddenly grew concerned that there would not be enough wind (I have spent hours floating in a dingy and without a beer can or a friend this can be quite dull).  Fortunately, Sydney reassured me that this was ideal learner weather and that his learner board was available.  After a quick landbased briefing with diagrams in the sand, he led the board into the water and gave me a few demos, straight line, baby turn, straight line.  I tried it out and managed to mount first time, sailing off in a (pretty much) straight line but balsing up my learner turn.  After a couple more demos I had managed to show I could master this basic turn, using the lanyard to lower the sail and stepping around the back, so much so that Sydney showed me the “professional” turn that is quicker and better.  To my amazement, I managed to conquer that.  After a couple more instructions (“sail towards the back to turn towards the wind, towards the front to turn away”) I was left to my practice and loving it.

My practice went really well, bobbing along probably at two knots, but managing to execute nine out of ten of my turns, Sydney really was a wizard!  With Cambodian timing I managed to get about an hour and a half, enticing two female windsurfers onto the waves (had Sydney bought another board?!).  I also performed so well (;)) that when Sydney called me in, another learner was waiting.  I should point out that, although Sydney seemed overwhelmed with my natural ability (with that endearing Gallic nonchalance) he did reassure me that the wind was very light, with not many waves and that it was perhaps too easy to learn.

Completely amazed at my own performance (I have hideous balance and despite all my efforts would never describe myself as sporty) I celebrated with a beer and a bacon baguette before settling down to read my underwater digital photography manual.

This conquered, I decided to capitalise on my early success and take another hour rental ($9).  I had originally thought 3 hours at $24 was a bargain but my accommodation delays meant I was concerned about getting back to hear about Anna’s progress.

The wind had picked up, but I kept the same learner board and sail.  This certainly was more challenging and my turn effectiveness dropped to about 25%.  I got a lot of support from locals celebrating Chinese New Year who laughed along with me and shouted encouragement each time I fell (well, how they could tell I was laughing whilst underwater and what the Cambodian is for encouragement I do not know, but they certainly seemed to be interested in me) and, with their support, I improved to an extent where I could link a few turns together and even get some wake going at a few points.

It would probably have made me look better if another windsurfer hadn’t taken a board out just after me and mastered the majority of his turns (although I did overhear that he had two hours practice ahead of me…).

An hour was plenty, much more pull in the afternoon than the morning, although perhaps the beer had relaxed my muscles, it was more challenging but each time I mastered a turn and managed to overtake a paddling swimmer I felt a real sense of achievement.

So, did I learn to windsurf in an hour?  Can’t say I’ll be going round the islands yet, but Sydney has definitely given me the basics and now it’s down to just practicing.  I’ll be back tomorrow for a three hour stint (there may still be time to get in a massage before Anna gets back from her pool) and will now have the confidence to hire a board at the next location so that I can practice.  Like everything, it’s going to take hard work, but it was fun and I have definitely got a taste for it now.  I would recommend Sydney, Hurricane, and Otres beach.

Me enjoying a well earned coconut

From → Fitness, Sailing, Travel

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