Marti Jerrard: Never Give Up!
In this new series of blogs, we meet the windsurfers that make up the community that we are so lucky to be a part of, first up Marti Jerrard opens up his 'this is your life' red book for us to take a peek into the highs and lows of his journey, so far! A proud military man, in this interview Marti gives us an honest, gritty and humorous insight into his windsurfing journey.
By Emma Nicholson.
I started off asking Marti, What is your job title?
Marti said: "I joined the British Army in 1980 as a 16 yr, 9 stone fresh face boy and retired in 2018 as a weather beaten, 13 stone but very content vintage 55 year old! I couldn't just leave the Army because I loved every aspect of it so joined the Army Reserves but sadly even that must come to an end this year when I turn 60 (I know hard to believe eh)! If it were not for the global financial cost of living crisis I would have happily retired but sadly a mortgage, an aging van and a lady of leisure to keep, a military pension will not provide a windsurfers lifestyle and habits to travel and adventure so I am now a FT Business Support Manager for an Army Foundation Charity."
"I lost everything, house, car and my beloved windsurfer with only a push bike as my main means of transport."
Can you talk me through your windsurfing journey, from the beginning, right up to today?
Marti said: "As that young soldier back in 1986 I was introduced to windsurfing on what we call Adventurous Training whilst on the Isle of Wight. It was like the Miami Vice opening scene experience where I managed to do a head dip on a bright yellow Vinta 330 and I was hooked.
"I saved as much as I could and soon found I could afford a £50.00 Klepper board and sail which fitted on my Ford Capri with 3 kids and a wife! Sadly, I had also purchased my first house on Portland whereby the UK markets soon crashed and the country went into recession whereby I (we) lost everything, house, car and my beloved windsurfer with only a push bike as my main means of transport.
"Windsurfing was put on hold until I was in my early 40s when I first entered the very first National Windsurfing (Watersports) Festival at Hayling island which rejuvenated my love for windsurfing. I'll also be very honest as I don't think windsurfing really clicked with me skillswise until I hit my 50s when I found I had much more time and of course a bit more money to purchase modern equipment.
"I did a few clinics to get better but I really didn't progress as I wasn't getting enough water time to practice, still serving in the military and playing far too much rugby and of course living inland making it near impossible to get to the coast. Rugby always came first, then family and then finally windsurfing."
What is one of your best memories, watersports related?
Marti said: "Has to be my very first Defi Wind. After doing the NWF the sheer scale and number of windsurfers on the water was frankly overwhelming and scary, but I managed to finish in the top half so I felt rather pleased with myself. I have now been three times and will again be returning in 2023. It's an awesome event like no other around the world where recreational windsurfers get to meet and sail (not that you see them) with the world's best professional windsurfers."
What watersports do you enjoy the most and why?
Marti said: "Windsurfing of course. Early in my military career I loved kayaking both slalom and K21 and K2 marathon racing, but rugby once again took over. I absolutely love windsurfing and the challenge and freedom of being on the open seas. You just never stop learning and as a weekend warrior it's been a long and frustrating journey which is not yet over.... Oh and and I have had more serious injuries windsurfing than I have ever had playing rugby for 20 years."
"I absolutely love windsurfing and the challenge and freedom of being on the open seas."
What do you think the benefits are to people’s mental health by taking part in watersports activities?
Marti said: "I don't just think it's just watersports, I truly believe all sports aid mental health and wellbeing, in fact all hobbies or activities which challenge and stimulate you both physically and mentally are good for the soul. There are so many choices these days for everyone both including those with disabilities which makes you also realise how lucky some of us are. For me just getting in the van at 6am to drive two half hours to Portland is mentally stimulating (the roads are also clear) as you are on your way to meet and sail like minded people."
"All hobbies or activities which challenge and stimulate you both physically and mentally are good for the soul."
Alongside working, how do you find time to fit in windsurfing?
Marti said: "In the Army, it was really challenging as I was away from home a lot, but that's what I also enjoyed immensely. As I mentioned, I also played and coached rugby union so most of my time including weekends was taken up doing that until I retired from both aspects at 50. Again, I consider myself a very enthusiastic weekend warrior although I make the effort to travel for overseas clinics where I can along with road trips in my van which is my life line to freedom, windsurfing, cycling, friends or just time away anywhere."
What is your favourite spot to windsurf in the UK?
Marti said: "There are still far too many I have not visited yet, but I am working through my bucket list. Hayling Island used to be the place that brought the biggest smile to my face, but sadly over recent years it's become a place I only go if I am short on time or meeting up with good friends. No overnight stays and now with the erosion of the car park it just gets really busy and expensive to park so I would now rather spend extra time travelling anywhere there's an opportunity to challenge myself (within reason). I am very fortunate at the moment to also sail from Thorney Island which is closer to home. All that said, I really enjoy sailing in Portland Harbour which is safe and great for learning new skills."
What has been the toughest thing to learn with your windsurfing? Marti said: "The nemesis of the fully planning carve gybe still alludes me consistently.
Quality time on the water with expert instruction from professional coaches and sailing with much better windsurfers is the key to success. I also love bump and jump and a few waves but totally rubbish at it. I am always looking for feedback even if I dont always listen!'
The nemesis of the fully planning carve gybe still alludes me consistently.
What is your favourite brand of windsurfing kit and what is your favourite set of gear?
Marti said: "Firstly, I am not a sponsored rider, so I am afraid it all comes down to affordability and personalities I meet on my windsurfing journey. The quality of all the brand equipment out there is so good now it's difficult not to want them all. That said, I recently switched to Point 7 sails which was a massive decision, but as I mentioned it came down to affordability but what surprised me was still the great quality. I initially had a few tuning issues so sent an email for advice direct to Point 7.
"Within days I had a response from some chat advising what to do. After many email exchanges, it wasn't until a few months later that the penny dropped that I was actually being advised by the Point 7 brand owner and Defi Wind 2014 Winner Andrea Cucchi! He has been absolutely awesome in advising in tuning his brand sails which you don't normally get.
"Also before his switch back to Severne, 7 consecutive times UK slalom Champion James Dinesmore has been a tremendous help and continues to be for anyone regardless of brand or standard. I must also mention both Riks Wndsurfing (Rik Jones) and Boardwise (Ian G) who in my early days again gave me great kit deals which without I would not be at the level I am now.
"Modern kit changed my windsurfing completely which makes you realise how good the likes of Dunkerbeck, Naish, Stone and Pritchard were. My own kit varies tremendously where I have iSonics a 77 & 67 and AV Modena 62 for slalom and blasting along with a Starboard Kode 95 for bump and jump locations.
"I also have a quiver of NPs Atlas (17/18) and an RRD RSW 85 (2011) located in Ireland but raley get the chance to use them. As for my favorite combo that has to be my iSonic 67 and my Point 7 ACK 7.1 with a Fhot 37 RWS-3. I am now grateful that the Surf Doctor is a major distributor for all my Point 7 gear."
What is your biggest achievement with your windsurfing? Marti said: "After windsurfing for over 15 years in the Army, winning the inter Corps Team Championships with the Army Medical Servcies for the very first time in 2016. There are some really talented windsurfers in the Army and across the other other two services but we (the Army) have yet to win the inter-Services during my time so that has to be the main effort for 2023 as its my last opportunity (if selcted of course).
"Next to that is actually winning the British Army Open Individal Windsurfing Championships in 2018 & 2019 but the icing on the cake will be winning the UKWA Slalom Veterans Series in 2019 and the Grand Master Slalom Series Winner (2nd overall Ams) in 2022. The 2022 UKWA Series was a rather windless season so I was very fortunate to be that the two events that had wind and were i score my very first bullet!"
"The journey is far from over so the learning will never cease. What I would say is don't give up and stick with it."
Why do you think The OTC and Surf Doctor is so successful, as a brand and a place of business?
Marti said: "There are so many reasons for this success, but it comes down to the professionalism, dedication and honesty of one man - Tris Best; supported by his superb team of worker ants and a few good windsurfers all of whom are ready to assist and advise anyone of any standard or level. Seriously, who has a staff pool table in their office. The OTC is just an awesome place to sail from but also just to meet up friends for a coffee and chat at the WPNSA cafe."
If money was no object what watersports kit would you buy?
Marti said: "Again so many to choose from but I am genuinely very happy on Point 7, Starboard, AV and Fhot. Sure if money were no object I would be tempted to try other brands and certainly try the full on race sails such as the AC-1 or SV Mach 5 but I have to accept my best years are over and it's now about comfort rather than pure power and speed."
Who inspires you?
Marti said: "Wow, that's a really difficult question to answer. Honestly, from the very early days until now it's 42 x World Champion Bjorn Dunkerbeck who I met for the first time at Defi Wind 22.....Yep picture this; a 58 year old guy waiting for his poster to be signed by his 53 year old hero! Jokes aside there are far too many to name but I regularly sail with many of them and I sometimes just sit and watch in awe at how skillful and fast they are on a board fin or foil. You know who you are so thank you."
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your windsurfing journey, so far?
Marti said: "Firstly, the journey is far from over so the learning will never cease. What I would say is don't give up and stick with it. I remember having an outburst of frustration at a professional coach as I failed yet again at another carve gybe whereby he calmly said, it will come, just keep practicing! He was right of course as I am still practicing.
"As a Weekend Warrior you don't get better unless you spend quality time with an on water game plan. Sometimes you have to admit you can't do a skill or technique from just watching videos or reading magazines and may need the expert tuition on a windsurfing clinic with a top UK coach. It's worth every penny to get maximum benefit. Oh, and always go abroad where its warm + your partner can feel more part of your journey."
Do you take part in watersports as a family?
Marti said: "Sadly not as my wife is a genuine windsurfing widow. To be fair, she is happy to accompany me on my trips to the coast but thereafter it's walks, cycling and fine dining (in the van). That said, I now have 3 grandchildren (boys) so I am actively targeting them for some quality beach time over the next few years and just got myself my first SUP so there is hope."
Where is your favourite spot to windsurf abroad?
Marti said: "I loved Bonnaire (flat) and Jericoacoara (waves) but I'll be honest it's got to be Fuerteventura and staying at Melia with access to quality kit at the Rene Egli Windsurfing Centre... Oh and the wife seems to be happy with this as well."
What is the best advice you have been given for your windsurfing?
Marti said: "Don't give up! Little and often! Have a plan! Go windsurfing with friends!"
What is your biggest motivator?
Marti said: "Me and my windsurfing buddies. I don't need much encouragement to start the van engine up as I'll go anywhere with anyone if I can get a windsurfing fix especially for a new experience. Work tends to get in the way these days but I do have a cunning plan! Oh, I also like cycling which is a great non-wind activity and keeps you fit for windsurfing."
The future for your watersports what does that hold for you? Marti said: "As I mentioned I am in my twilight years with work taking up far to much time so i need to readdress the balance and soon! This year my main effort is once again the UKWA Slalom Series and Defi Wind. I also have a windsurfing clinic to Turkey and a van trip to Holland and Ireland so its actually a very busy year so I really cant complain. The final grand plan is to earn as much money as I can now so I get a new and slightly more reliable windsurfing van and then drive off into the sunset to explore those lands and isles both home and abroad not yet visited. Hey, we can all dream can't we."