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The OTC watersports Community, Ordinary Windsurfers: Extraordinary Stories!

It is never too late to jump back on board! Jon Wills had a gap of thirty years from when he learnt to windsurf as a teenager, until he up-hauled the hobby again. Stressing the importance of finding a great coach and club who gave him the confidence to strap himself back in and enjoy the ride. Jon has rekindled his love of windsurfing and is a regular visitor to The Official Test Centre where he enjoys clinics run by The OTC affiliate Simon Winkley. Why not take the plunge! You never know where it will take you!

By Emma Nicholson.

What is your job title?

Jon said: "Director/Business Owner – my wife and I own a bakery Satterthwaites Bakehouse in Crosby, Liverpool."

"I really look forward to my trips to Portland Harbour, it is such a fantastic windsurfing location!"

Can you talk me through your windsurfing journey, from the beginning, right up to today?

Jon said: "I sailed dinghies at an early age and learnt to windsurf over a half term holiday. At the time windsurfing was becoming very popular and Tiga, a big brand at that time, were demonstrating their boards. They gave me a new board and sail for a few days and left me to it which was a fantastic experience.

"I then reached the end of my teens and sadly my watersports activities ended for about 30 years. At the age of 49 I decided to start windsurfing again. In late 2019 I joined Queen Mary Sailing Club and hired some equipment for a day.

"I enjoyed this so much that I bought some equipment and tried to get on the water as frequently as possible. I was extremely lucky to meet some friendly club members that were so helpful in those early days. Their advice and encouragement was so important at that time as I quickly realised that it was going to be a steep learning curve.

"I then attended my first windsurfing clinic with Simon Winkley at Portland Harbour. This was a four day course including equipment set up, on shore simulator training and one to one coaching out on the water. This was a real game changer for me as the professional instruction gave me confidence in more challenging conditions and the skills to achieve my goals through each stage."

What is one of your best memories, watersports related?

Jon said: "My best memory at Portland Harbour has to be one quiet November evening with Simon Winkley and a group of fellow windsurfers. Planing across the harbour in perfect wind conditions, stopping from time to time in the shallower area to share the experience-can’t beat it!"

"Windsurfing in both straps with the power of the sail is such an amazing experience."

What do you think the benefits are to people’s mental health by taking part in watersports activities?

Jon said: "It is a fantastic sport as you focus totally on your windsurfing when you are out on the water. You completely set aside all your day to day issues and it is such an effective way to de-stress. It is also the only time that you can get away from your mobile phone-just you, the environment and the windsurf equipment. It is also quite a physical sport- the improvement in fitness levels certainly has a positive effect on your general wellbeing."

Alongside your work, how do you find time to fit in windsurfing?

Jon said: "I aim to get out at weekends as much as I can. Spending just an hour or so windsurfing in the evenings is also a great way to progress, focusing on a few areas whilst also having such an enjoyable time on the water. "

What is your favourite spot to windsurf in the UK?

Jon said: "I would have to say two locations! My home spot Queen Mary Reservoir is an excellent inland location as it is a huge, safe expanse of water and a great place to learn to windsurf.

"I really look forward to my trips to Portland Harbour, it is such a fantastic windsurfing location! It is accessible in all wind directions with the opportunity to experience flat water and choppy conditions in an easterly. You can practice water startsand beach starts to your hearts content as you are able to stand in the shallower areas in the harbour. This is so beneficial when you are learning these techniques!"

What is your favourite brand of windsurfing kit and what is your favourite set of gear?

Jon said: "When I started windsurfing I bought an Ezzy sail and they are still my favourite sail brand. I recently bought a Tabou Rocket 123 from the OTC and absolutely love it!"

"The coaching I have received from Simon Winkley has been so important and given me the skills and confidence to progress through each learning stage."

What is your biggest achievement with your windsurfing?

Jon said: "It would have to be getting into the back strap! This took me a long time but what a difference it made! Windsurfing in both straps with the power of the sail is such an amazing experience. It is extremely rewarding after all the time on the water practicing each technique."

Why do you think The OTC and Surf Doctor is so successful, as a brand and a place of business?

Jon said: "The OTC is in such a fantastic location right on the Harbour. There is a great selection of equipment and you are able to try out the equipment on the water which is so important.

"Getting the right advice is also so important. There is always a member of staff (or professional windsurfer!) on hand to help out."

If money was no object what watersports kit would you buy?

Jon said: "I do enjoy buying new equipment! That said it is really important to make sure the equipment suits your skill level and allows you to progress in an effective manner. I have certainly made some mistakes but fortunately I took advice and changed the equipment quite quickly.

"As noted above it is also really important to test out the equipment before you commit. I recently tried out my Tabou Rocket for a day at the OTC and ended up buying it-turned out to be a great board for me."

Who inspires you?

Jon said: "I have made some great friends at Queen Mary Sailing Club and they have given me help and advice from my first day on the water. They inspire me each time I go on the water.

"The coaching I have received from Simon Winkley has been so important and given me the skills and confidence to progress through each learning stage."

"My biggest motivator so far has to be getting comfortable planing in both straps."

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your windsurfing journey, so far?

Jon said: "Learn as much as you can about your equipment set up and tuning. There is nothing worse than going out on the water and finding that your set up is wrong."

Do you take part in watersports as a family?

Jon said: "My family haven’t yet caught the windsurfing bug but they enjoy paddle boarding when they get the chance."

Where is your favourite spot to windsurf abroad?

Jon said: "I recently spent a week in Fuerteventura at the Rene Eglin Centre, wow what a location! The equipment at the centre was fantastic with excellent windsurfing conditions. There is also a lovely hotel nearby for the family to enjoy."

What is the best advice you have been given for your windsurfing?

Jon said: "Just head downwind, get planing and get into your front footstrap! This was a very effective piece of advice."

What is your biggest motivator?

Jon said: "Where do I start! It is such a motivating sport a there is always so much to learn. My biggest motivator so far has to be getting comfortable planing in both straps, I am getting there!"

The future for your watersports what does that hold for you?

Jon said: "Each day I go out on the water I learn something new. It is such an amazing sport and I would like to carry on progressing on the fin until I am comfortable in a variety of more challenging conditions.

"I would also like to start wind foiling to get out in lighter wind conditions-watch this space!"

Try before you buy, come to The Official Test Centre and find the perfect set-up for you, the Surf Doctor team are here to help you find the right kit, ask them for advice and they will answer any questions you have about what is best for you, your ability and your requirements and the best bit you can take it out in the stunning surroundings of Portland Harbour and see if it is right for you!

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