Meet the Team: James Hardy
If you have met the bundle of energy that is James Hardy you will know how infectious his enthusiasm is! We are so excited to announce that James has officially joined Team OTC as a Team Rider! Having recently taken the plunge and started his own empire as a freelance watersport instructor. James is motivated by making a difference to the next generation of shredders. Passionate about realising the positive life-changing impact windsurfing can make to young people. James has dedicated so much energy to making that a reality.
You will find him in all weathers with a smile on his face, encouraging, cheering the youngsters on! James has been determined to make a successful career for himself in the watersports industry and has packed a lot in, he set up the 'Docklands Dugongs' windsurfing team, become a qualified RYA Windsurf, Windfoil and Wing Instructor Trainer, RYA London & South East Techno293 Coach and Junior Performance Pathway Coach. Welcome James to the team!
By Emma Nicholson
I started off asking James when did he first try windsurfing and what interested him about windsurfing? James said: "I must have been about 10, and it was at Rye Watersports on a kids’ activity week, after the first day windsurfing I remember I just wanted to windsurf each day rather than sail or kayak. I think it was the challenge, but also the fact I could be in and out of the water a lot, basically just jump in and make sure that wetsuit was very, very wet."
Windsurfing is literally my life, both professional as a career and personally."
Can you talk me through your windsurfing journey, right from the beginning, right up to today? James said: "Like I said I started around 10 years old and windsurfed most weekends at Rye for a handful of years before stopping as we didn’t find ourselves that way very much. I then didn’t start windsurfing again until I was 19 when I started working at Docklands Sailing & Watersports Centre in London. I worked as a kayaking instructor for the first year and then got my Dinghy Instructors the following year, and then If I remember rightly got my Start Windsurf Instructors the following year after that and then I got the bug back and windsurfing took over.
"If it was windy I was out windsurfing if I could be, believe it or not I learnt to how to use the foot straps on a Medium Rio on the dock, we had to put the footstraps as far in board as they went, so we could sail around with at least our front foot in, watch the gust roll down the dock, kick the daggerboard up and then just bear away towards a wall that’s 70metres in front of you, shove your backfoot in and then immediately take it out and tack. Sounds ridiculous but it got me going.
"I then got some more appropriate kit, and some sails and then would do regular trips to Poole Harbour, Queen Mary Sailing Club, Whitstable and Portland harbour and just blast around. I started to take things more seriously and would venture out at West Wittering, Hayling or Pevensey on windy days and give it a go. Throughout all this I worked my way through the various instructor qualifications.
"In 2018 I was being nudged towards thinking about the trainer pathway as well as the junior windsurfing route, I suppose that was a big year and really focused me on making windsurfing my career beyond what I was already doing as a Senior Instructor at Docklands Sailing & Watersports Centre, teaching Sailing, Kayaking and Windsurfing year round. I set up the 'Docklands Dugongs' Windsurfing Team, a Disability Watersports program, did a lot of WindFoiling and gave some racing ago and I then started coaching for the then London, East & South East Bic Techno Zone Squad in late 2018.
"Covid was a bit of turning point and whilst luckily being furloughed and running laps around London gave me some time to think about setting my own thing up, which is how 'James Hardy Windsurfing & Watersports' was born. I made a logo and did all the other relevant stuff and then started just doing the odd bits privately here and there around my work at Docklands. In 2021 I went part time at Docklands and completed my RYA Trainers in late 2021. In 2022 I left to make a proper go of my business, but didn’t really leave as I still do one day a week looking after and teaching the “Docklands Dugongs”. It sounds like I just stopped windsurfing, but I never stopped I still went out whenever I could, I think I just really got involved with what else the sport can offer and what I could try and offer to the sport.
"And that’s where we are now a year on, I am still living it up with the 'Dugongs' one day a week ish, and spend a lot of time here there and everywhere coaching and running instructor courses. I owe a lot to Docklands Sailing & Watersports Centre for letting me run with things and ideas I had and encouraging me along the way. Now I live not far from the beach, have an awesome job and, incredibly, am an OTC Team Rider."
"I love being in and around the water and I definitely feel a whole lot calmer, content and relaxed."
What is one of your best windsurfing memories? James said: "Entering Weymouth Speed Week 2016. My mate Simon and I rocking up with my 144L Futura and a 7m Tushingham Lightning with a gaffa taped panel and a couple of borrowed sails between us, thinking we are heros and then realising what complete kooks we were. We rigged up round the corner whilst we questioned or life choices. Didn’t come last though!
"Or windsurfing to Lulworth Cove and back on some seriously cheap RSX kit when we thought I could do an Olympic campaign. Don’t worry we borrowed the RIB from work, so it was double safe!"
"Covid was a bit of turning point and whilst luckily being furloughed and running laps around London gave me some time to think about setting my own thing up."
What is your biggest motivator? James said: "Being an ambassador or role model for the sports and to make windsurfing, winging and just being on the water as accessible as possible and as epic as possible. If I can turn around and say I have made a real difference there or to an individual through windsurfing I am happy and that motivates me to be better and continue to do what I am doing."
What is your favourite type of gear? James said: "Currently for windsurfing it’s my Gaastra IQ Sails, in particular the 4.8, I love it when its 4.8 weather, that paired with my 93L wave board is peachy. For winging it’s my Armstrong kit, it just works so well. I am tweaking and adjusting and currently changing between two different front wings."
"If I can turn around and say I have made a real difference there or to an individual through windsurfing I am happy."
What do you think the benefits are to people’s mental health by windsurfing? James said: "I think the benefits are huge. I know for myself I love being in and around the water and I definitely feel a whole lot calmer, content and relaxed if I have been on the water windsurfing, winging, foiling, whatever it is, even a swim in the sea."
What is your biggest achievement with your windsurfing? James said: "There are a few, and I can’t choose just one so I’ll pick three. Starting up a Junior Windsurf Team in 2018 in Central London, the 'Docklands Dugongs' and their success’s along the way from Interclubs, Nationals and Internationals. On a professional level it has to be becoming a Windsurf Instructor Trainer just over a year ago and setting my own business up, 'James Hardy Windsurfing & Watersports' and making a success of that."
What is your favourite spot to windsurfing? James said: "Hayling West Beach, pushing tide on the sandbar, it’s not far from home and generally delivers some lovely conditions. I’ve windsurfed in Cornwall a couple of times and it was epic, so would love to make some time and head that way some more in the future."
"The freedom, being out there in the elements on the sea, I just love it."
Is winging your thing? James said: "Winging has definitely become something I do a lot, It’s definitely not replaced windsurfing but I supposed I realised how good winging was when conditions would be average or a bit of a slog for windsurfing but for winging it was perfect and just endless fun. I think that was when it became one of my passions to run alongside windsurfing."
"Seeing young people get so much from working with them is the most rewarding thing."
The RYA, what is you role with the RYA? James said: "I am a Windsurf, WindFoil and Winging Instructor Trainer, so predominantly training instructors. I am starting to do a few other bits for the RYA to do with the schemes as well as stuff regionally within the South and South East. I also Coach the London & South East Bic Techno 293 Regional Training Group through the winter."
"I still sit and look at the forecasts every day, I still froth on just being out there and doing it."
How important is windsurfing to you? James said: "Literally my life, both professional as a career and personally, it sounds dramatic but it literally is. I still sit and look at the forecasts every day, I still froth on just being out there and doing it."
"There is so much more to windsurfing than just being on the water; social side, development, mental health, it’s a life style, career, it’s developing life skills."
Why do you windsurf? James said: "The freedom, being out there in the elements on the sea, I just love it. I love how it's an endless journey, there is always something new to learn, there is always another spot to windsurf, like you can’t really complete it and I suppose that’s why I windsurf."
"I am just enjoying the ride and trying to make it as epic for everyone as possible."
Young people, you spend a lot of your time encouraging, teaching and inspiring young people to get into windsurfing, why do you find that so rewarding? James said: "Wow we really want to unravel this! Future aren’t they. Without them the sport dies and there is so much more to windsurfing than just being on the water; social side, development, mental health, it’s a life style, career, it’s developing life skills etc… Working with the kids is one of my favourite parts of my career. Keeps me on track, them on track and I have seen it has given kids a motivation or a focus. Seeing young people get so much from working with them is the most rewarding thing."
"There is always another spot to windsurf, like you can’t really complete it and I suppose that’s why I windsurf."
Who inspires you? James said: "I have definitely been influenced and Inspired by the plenty of people along the way, but Tris Best and Sam Ross have definitely inspired and given me some nudges in the right direction which I am very grateful. But I will be honest, It’s got to be the kids and the young adults I get to work with, whether that’s on an Instructor course or the kids that I teach regularly on Bic Techno 293, their attitude and love for wanting to be better and to have fun on the water just inspires me to one get on the water more, but also to be a better Instructor and coach for them."
"The OTC is gold star standard and I am a part of that. I am honoured."
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your windsurfing career? James said: "Never stop learning, you can always be better."
What type of windsurfing do you like to do in your spare time for fun? James said: "Anything with a wave is my favourite whether that’s Windsurfing or Winging, I just find it feels so good when you get it right and it’s also a challenge. But to be honest with you if it’s windy and I can get out on the water, Windsurfing, WindFoiling or Winging I am frothed for it, the more time spent on the water the better you get and the more fun you have."
"Never stop learning, you can always be better."
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into windsurfing? James said: "Do it, don’t hesitate. Remember its all about you having fun. Go get some lessons at a centre offering tuition or courses just like The OTC. Or even better come to The OTC. You will progress so much faster."
Why is Portland Harbour such a great spot for windsurfing? What does it mean becoming an OTC Rider? James said: "Well firstly it’s a proper hub for windsurfing, everyone from kids taking their first steps on a board to Olympians training, the water is pretty flat, you have nice clean wind, you have plenty of space and the biggest one for me and the one that’s so key is that no matter what the conditions you can still get out and do something of value in a safe environment, oh and you have The OTC right there to guide you in all your windsurfing and watersports needs.
"I am mad stoked to be on the team, It means a huge amount. It's incredible to have the support from Tris and The OTC. It gives me a little nudge to keep on doing what I am doing, keep being better, The OTC is gold star standard and I am a part of that. I am honoured."
The future what does that hold for you? James said: "Wow that’s a big question, ha! I really want to push the top end Junior coaching side more, in particular this year both with my own personal development but improving the program and provision for the kids that are coming up and are soon to be coming through. I hopefully have some exciting things lines up with Instructor Training both Windsurfing and Winging. I am just enjoying the ride and trying to make it as epic for everyone as possible."