Words and photos by Sofie Jenkinson
The skies were a wash of shades of cyan and toes were sinking into the gentle floury sand along Sandbanks beach in Poole; the flags were flapping and the crowds had arrived. It was time for Animal Windfest 2009.
The thing that you would probably put at the top of your requirements list for a Windfest would be wind, of course. And although on land it felt quite windy the reality was quite different. This meant that all the masters of the wind gathered down on the beach with their wetsuits half peeled did not look particularly excited and the freestylers were kicking their heels.
Although no formal racing took place for the windsurfers and kitesurfers due to the aforementioned lack of wind there was still a lot to look at on the water. Humongous slalom sails were hopped upon with ease and kitesurfers showed us their skills over a few laps.
Friday kicked off with some skills from four-time British Biketrial champion Martyn Ashton and Sam Pilgrim, skills that they would continue to showcase across the bike shows all weekend - getting higher and more crazy with more obstacles and less wheels each time.
Saturday saw the beginning of some real competitive action starting with the Stand-Up Paddleboard race round Brownsea Island, it was an open race which saw a couple of brave tutu clad individuals mixing it up with the pros. However, John Hibbard, the third best paddleboarder in the world according to rankings, didn’t let the presence of neon armbands or bright pink tutus put him off and took the title. But kudos to local girls Janine Doming and Laura Kitching who came in as the second and third ladies in their first ever event race.
Not to be outdone the kiteboarders quickly saddled up for a two-lap race off the beach, with competitors including Kirsty Jones and Paul Simmons. Denzil Williams took the title and Richard Thompson, an amateur from Devon came in fourth.
As well as all the wind based fun there were a couple of other things going on alongside the bike show including the wakeboarding demonstrations. We briefly caught up with the brilliant Steph Caller in the wakeboard zone to find out what her favourite event at the Windfest was. And without much further ado we ran off to check out the Can Crush at the bikeshow, which Steph assured us was not to be missed.
And in further non-wind based news there was also some eye-popping Thundercat racing across the weekend including the E900 Thuderbolt Race where Camilla Pascoe and Carolina Sandbrook, both just 17, took the title.
Sunday saw the SUP Sprint race final for the Paddleboards where current UK Women’s Champion Claire Blacklock took on Marie Buchannan. Buchannan came out victorious with Sarah Frymann coming in third. So between the beautiful sunshine, the kick-ass events and the renowned Windfest ball and party, the crowd seems pretty damn happy with their lot, despite the lack of high force wind.
During one lazy sunny afternoon with the wind the wrong side of awesome we managed to catch some talented ladies on the land and sneak a few minutes with the fierce freestyle windsurfer Nancy Tyrie and the little fire cracking kitesurfer Susi Mai.
Are you competing this weekend? Yeah I am, hopefully. There’s not really enough wind at the moment for me. I do freestyle, so that’s all the like jumping around and all of that stuff.
So what have you been up to this year? I base myself in Margarita and a big thing for me is my teaching – I’m an instructor so I do a lot of that and I train in Margarita in Venezuela.
How did you find yourself there? Well the company that I work for – Club Vass – they did have a centre there, but it’s just closed down.
So you do more teaching than competitions? Yeah, I come back to do this event and next weekend I’ll be in Brighton for White Air and they have some local competitions in Margarita – a lot of people come from other islands and the Caribbean, so I take part in those. But maybe next year I’ll start looking to do something in the PWA – like on the world tour.
How do you feel coming back to England? Good, bad, ugly? No, no it’s fine! I’m actually on quite a long stint, I would have been here for two months. But no I like it, I like sailing at home it’s quite funny, the novelty of having to put a wetsuit on. I get to see all my family and that’s cool.
Where did you start windsurfing? Do you know what, I didn’t windsurf in England I learnt in Margarita. I was working with Club Vass doing the kids club side of things and then I started to learn to windsurf and then I got fully into it and took to it.
So how old were you when you started? It was like five years ago, I’m 27 now. Before that I was teaching on yachts, I’m a yacht master. So I was doing that side of it and then I luckily made the change over, which I’m so pleased I did.
So you think it’s important to have a grasp of sailing before you start windsurfing? You don’t have to at all, when you do a course or have lessons they will give you some theory as well but it does help definitely, having some wind awareness – if you’ve never done a sport like that before you might not even know which direction the wind’s coming from, so yeah it does help.
Has anyone inspired you? Yeah, there’s not that many girls that windsurf and Animal sponsored me at a very early stage because they thought that I’d improve, I guess quickly, and for me I’m in a good position with Club Vass. But there are so many boys that windsurf and they get brilliant sponsorship and everything and there’s a small amount of girls. But those girls are really kicking arse. There’s like five girls that are amazing, say and everyone else is probably down on my level, but those girls are wicked.
Have you tried kitesurfing? Yeah, my boyfriend is a kite instructor so yeah he’s been teaching me
So do you think it’s easier? Yeah it’s easier because you can do like five hours of kiting and you’ll be on the board flying up and down. With windsurfing it takes a little bit more time. But kiting at the beginning you’re just standing there on the sand flying a kite but with windsurfing you can get straight on your board immediately.
With your freestyle tricks do you have a speciality? I wouldn’t say a speciality; I have my core moves that I’m like really consistent at. But I need to create my own moves.
Do you get scored on the difficulty of what you do? They change it quite a lot. I think at the moment the way that they’re scoring it is that they take your three best moves that you do because before you’d get penalised for doing the same things over and over again. They change it around quite a bit but it is kind of like on how hard the move is and how well you pulled it off.
Do you listen to music on the water? Do you know what I would love to and I’ve considered it but I have to think ‘is it safe?’ really, whether I can hear people around me. I’ve only had one crash on the water, I crashed into a guy, it was completely my fault, mid move and took him out with my mast but he was absolutely cool about it. I’d be worried about hitting someone but I’d love to. Sometimes I’ve sailed, like here, and you can hear the drum and bass and it’s ‘YEAH COME ON! I can do it, bring it on.’ But yeah, I have to think about safety.
So where’s your favourite place in the world to windsurf? I do quite like Eygpt, Dahab because it’s really nice wind. It’s really windy but glass flat as well and for me to freestyle that’s perfect. And the water is just amazing, you’ll be sailing and if you just have a look underneath the water there is just so many fish.
Is there anywhere you’ve not been that you really want to go and do it? Yeah loads of places, like I’ve never been to Maui - I really want to go there.
Nancy is sponsored by Animal and uses North and Fanatic equipment and Iron wetsuits
Have you been competing this weekend? Nah, there isn’t really a freestyle competition. I’m just here to do the Animal thing.
So what’s been going on for you this year? I haven’t competed on the World Cup this year because there was a little bit of a mix up between tours and they’re just trying to sort all that stuff out right now so I’ve just been kind of doing my own thing. In February I did a travel story with a bunch of girls – it’s like when you go somewhere and you write about it with a photo-story, we went to Necker Island and the Dominican Republic so that was really fun – it was a girls only trip which I really dig. And on the side I’ve down two TV show pilots, I’m trying to get into TV presenting a little bit.
So have you been doing videos? Yeah I travel with my boyfriend Tom Court, who is also an Animal rider so that works out really well for us because everywhere we go we can video each other and take pictures of each other. Every little place we go to we put together a video and put it out. He writes for the kite mags too so yeah we’re just like a little team.
Did you start with kitesurfing or surfing or something else? No it was the first thing, I was in High School back then. I like windsurfing, my Dad was a big windsurfer but kind of felt like it was too much of a mission to learn it, I’m just lazy. Then kiting came along and we had a World Cup there and I saw people actually flying through the air and I thought, ‘alright, I’m going to try this one’. I was kind off and on with school and when I graduated from High School I had a summer off and just started doing it loads and got really good at it and it just snowballed from there.
So where’s your favourite place to ride? It’s really hard to say, top three...definitely Maui, Australia and back home in the Dominican, when we’re not getting hurricaned or rained on.
Is there anywhere you haven’t been you want to? I really want to go out to Tahiti, it’s one of those trips that always just doesn’t make it. I’ve planned it so many times, trying to get a crew together and trying to go and then something else happens. And then I’d like to travel around Asia a bit more because that’s a part of the world I haven’t really touched.
Do you think kitesurfing has opened up a bit more for girls? Yeah I think just because it’s accessible and it’s not that physical – y’know a lot of times when you’re just standing on a windsurfer and you’re trying to pull the sail out you realise you don’t really have enough strength and it would take you weeks to build up that strength just to pull the frikkin sail out. On a kite you can just hook in and go, you don’t need all that strength. So it’s kind of more instant gratification and girls tend to get bored if shit doesn’t work out right away and you can share equipment.
Have you got any tips for anyone who thinks that they might want to do it but they aren’t really sure? I say just go for it. It’s honestly so easy and fun. In one week you’ll be out riding. Maybe not in England where it’s cold and inconsistent but if you go on holiday and learn to kitesurf it’s going to be awesome, everyone really enjoys it. I’ve never met someone who got up and went and then said ‘ahhh this really sucks’ y’know? Everyone that actually gets up and goes, but you’ve gotta like put the effort in. You’ve got to have like three solid days of really wanting to do it, but if you that then you’re hooked. And it’s cool.
Do you do any sports in the cold? Umm I snowboard but I honestly spend all my time chasing summer. I try to stay away from wetsuits as much as possible because I grew up without one so now when I have to wear one I just feel like a rubber man, I can’t move and I’m freezing!
Do you have any great ambitions? I want it to become a girl sport. I would love it there were ten times as many girls out on the water than boys because I just think it’s rad y’know. And um I definitely want it to go Olympic and we’re working on that right now but there all this internal crap. But it would be really fun if we could go to the Olympics. But mainly have chicks in it, when you go to Oahu now, you go to Honolulu and it’s all girls surfing – on their longboards with their bikinis matching their boards and I think that’s super cute. I would like to see more of that in kiting. I like to see an intimidating amount of girls in kitesurfing.
What do you think of the move to try and reclassify windsurfers and kitesurfers as boats? I think that’s bullshit. But we are an extreme sport y’know, there should be some sort of regulation so that not any idiot can go out and have a go and kill someone else but I think it’s stretching it to call us a boat. Because I’m not a boat. If I hit a person swimming I’m not going to do anywhere near as much damage as a boat, not even a small boat. So I think there should be some kind of regulation but it’s like that with every new sport, people get scared and they’re like ‘what is that? Oh my god that’s probably going to kill everyone on the beach if someone launches a kite.’ So it’s understandable but it should be sanctions fairly.
Do you listen to music while you’re riding? When I’m out, I dunno, it’s pretty cheesey but I usually listen to stuff I like dancing to as well because it really motivates you. I’ve tried everything, I’ve tried Jack Johnson and stuff like that but it usually just makes you really mellow and you’re just cruising so for training and stuff you want something kind of like punk rock that’ll really get you going. I have a lot of Linkin Park on my Ipod right 3now, which seems to do the trick.