The OTC watersports Community, Ordinary Windsurfers: Extraordinary Stories!
This week meet speedy slalom windsurfer Mike George the brains behind the mind boggling number crunching data of Weymouth Speed Week, he went viral for his 'Solving the Rubiks cube one-handed whilst windsurfing challenge' and if you join The Official Test Centre watersports community, Mike will be a familiar face, an ordinary windsurfer with an extraordinary story. With his methodical attention to detail and his determination on the UKWA circuit, breaking the 45 knot barrier he is a force to be reckoned with, we take our hats off to you Mike!
By Emma Nicholson.
What is your job title?
Mike said: "I'm on an extended career break right now, but my last job title was 'Data Science Architect'. The role morphed over time into something where I was leading a team of software engineers, data engineers and devops engineers, alongside a team of data scientists."
"Never give up! Set backs are sure to happen over the years, but they are usually temporary."
Can you talk me through your windsurfing journey, from the beginning, right up to today?
Mike said: "My windsurfing journey started very slowly. I learnt to windsurf whilst on a family holiday in Nefyn (North Wales) in 1987 or 1988. For the next 12 or 13 years, I basically got to sail once a year and some years there was no wind. In an attempt to make some progress, I took myself to Lanzarote in 2000, where I learnt to carve gybe and became hooked on the sport. I joined a club about 45 mins from home (Brogborough Lake, Bedfordshire) where I got into freestyle and learnt the basics like vulcans, spocks and forwards. We had club racing every Thursday night during the summer months which is where I acquired a taste for slalom and the club GPS ladder got me into speed sailing. My focus nowadays is primarily slalom (fin and foil), where I compete on the UKWA national circuit and speed sailing. I also do a fair bit of wingfoiling as well."
What is one of your best memories, watersports related?
Mike said: "After more than twenty years of windsurfing in the UK and abroad it's hard to pick one memory. My first proper slalom event was very memorable though. It was held at Rhosneigr at the same time as a wave event and we had 40-45 knot winds and mast high waves at the outer gybe mark! For someone who was essentially a lake sailor that Rhosneigr event was a baptism of fire, but I loved it."
What watersports do you enjoy the most and why?
Mike said: "Windsurfing, windfoiling and wingfoiling are the three that I enjoy the most. Clattering across the water on a fin is so exhilarating and cranking up a high speed gybe is a great feeling. The foiling variations (wind and wing) provide a much smoother ride than the fin and feel quite serene, until you start pushing for higher speeds and start regularly terrifying yourself!"
What do you think the benefits are to people’s mental health by taking part in watersports activities?
Mike said: "I've heard it said that windsurfing is the only thing that will take some people's minds off traumatic events. Sporting activities are generally a great way to de-stress and forget all of your worries for a few hours. Most importantly, all of the watersports are great fun and sharing the experience with others is a great way to put a smile on your face and the faces of others."
"Just be realistic about your goals, believe in yourself and keep working towards them."
Alongside your work, how do you find time to fit in windsurfing?
Mike said: "For many years, I basically had to use a day of my holiday allowance if I wanted to windsurf during the week. This was typically for a speed session at the Ray (Southend-on-Sea) or West Kirby. During the summer, I would sometimes be able to get away early and sail for maybe an hour at the lake before heading home and finishing my work at night. Unfortunately, due to the nature of my last job it was basically impossible to take time off. I currently have the luxury of picking when to windsurf and fitting everything else around it."
What is your favourite spot to windsurf in the UK?
Mike said: "Ah, I would have to say my home spot. For many years, I would have said Brogborough Lake, but nowadays it's got to be Portland Harbour. Portland Harbour probably has more regular wind than anywhere else on the south coast and provides sailing opportunities in almost all conditions. Flat water for speed in a windy south-westerly, through to big chop in a windy easterly."
What has been the toughest thing to learn with your windsurfing?
Mike said: "Learning to vulcan felt pretty tough at the time. It took hundreds of attempts before the first success! It also took me quite a while to finally break the 40 knot barrier, after I took up speed surfing and only weighed about 70 Kg."
What is your favourite brand of windsurfing kit and what is your favourite set of gear?
Mike said: "Favorite brand is an easy one; JP and Neil Pryde for whom I am one of their national riders. Favorite set of gear... now that's tricky. Right now, I'm really enjoying the new JP Hydrofoil Slalom 88, Neil Pryde SLR foils and RS:Flight Evo IV sails."
What is your biggest achievement with your windsurfing?
Mike said: "I managed to break 45 knots quite regularly and clock a nautical mile of 38.1 knots when I was still weighing around 70 Kg. I also went viral for my 'Solving the Rubiks cube one-handed whilst windsurfing' challenge!"
Why do you think The OTC and Surf Doctor is so successful, as a brand and a place of business?
Mike said: "The location is second to none in the UK. It's the perfect spot to teach beginners, intermediates and advanced sailors. The staff are all great people, friendly and passionate about watersports. All of the staff take part in a multitude of watersports, so they can offer great tuition and advice to their customers."
If money was no object what watersports kit would you buy?
Mike said: "If money were no object, I'd need a much bigger garage to store all of the kit I'd end up buying! I usually have pretty much all of the speed and slalom kit that I require, but a wider selection of wing boards, wave kit and some freestyle kit would be cool, if money was no object and if I had unlimited garage space!"
Who inspires you?
Mike said: "There are too many people to name them all. I've taken inspiration from a great number of professionals across all of disciplines; wave, freestyle, speed and slalom. Watching the passion and dedication of some of the up-and-coming youngsters is also quite inspiring."
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your windsurfing journey, so far?
Mike said: "Never give up! Set backs are sure to happen over the years, but they are usually temporary. Just be realistic about your goals, believe in yourself and keep working towards them."
Do you take part in watersports as a family?
Mike said: "Yes. I met my partner Jo through windsurfing, so it's something that we can both enjoy together. We both windsurf and wing and we also enjoy surfing and body boarding when we're on holiday in places like Cornwall."
Where is your favourite spot to windsurf abroad?
Mike said: "I really loved our trips to Le Morne (Mauritius) and Jericoacoara (Brazil) but the place we keep returning to is Prasonisi (Rhodes, Greece). We get to windsurf during the day and relax in the tavernas at night."
What is the best advice you have been given for your windsurfing?
Mike said: "How to rig a sail properly. You may have the best sail available, but if you rig it badly, it'll feel terrible!"
What is your biggest motivator?
Mike said: "I've always been very competitive and driven to better myself. Personal improvements (whether something measurable like speed, gybing or whatever) always motivates me to progress further. Learning to foil has provided yet more opportunities to improve on the water!"
The future for your watersports what does that hold for you?
Mike said: "I never imagined we would see a new watersport as popular as wingfoiling to appear from nowhere, so who knows what might be available in the future! Hopefully I'll be able to continue sailing into old age. You did an interview with Brian Tilbury last week who is a true inspiration!"
Click here to watch Mike solve the Rubik's cube one handed whilst windsurfing...
If you would like to come and sail at The Official Test Centre, call 07817 717904 and hire some kit and experience one of the best locations in the UK to windsurf!