By Gregg Dunnett
Whether windsurfing at your local spot or overseas, you should always give thought to your health and safety.
It can be really embarrassing to get rescued, but sailing where there's no-one to rescue you could prove to be the last mistake you make.
When you're sailing overseas, you need to be a lot more careful than normal, mainly because you're in an unfamiliar environment. There may be unusual winds, tides, underwater obstructions or other dangers that are invisible until it's too late. You should always seek local advice, ideally from a windsurfing centre (who should give you a safety briefing before taking their kit out). If there is no windsurfing centre, and no-one else sailing, you should ask yourself: why not? Only sail in these circumstances if you're totally sure you can get back to shore on your own, and try to avoid sailing in offshore winds.
You'll get the most out of a windsurfing holiday if you put in a little bit of effort a few weeks before you leave. There are two areas you need to work on: your general fitness and your hands.
Most windsurfers spend less time on the water than they'd like, and more time in the office. So anytime you spend getting fit, and most importantly stretching, will go a long way towards improving and increasing your time on the water.
If you don't know where to start, why not go to a yoga class? They're hugely popular with the pro-windsurfer crowd and improve fitness, balance and flexibility all at once. Improving your fitness is an obvious piece of advice, but very few heed it. You can tell who they are since they tend to maximise their sailing time when they arrive on holiday.
By Gregg Dunnett
Hardening your hands
The other big problem for the occasional windsurfer is the appearance of painful holes in the palms of their hands. The combination of warm water, sand and gripping the boom for hours on end on your first day can put you off the water for the rest of the trip.
You can help matters with preparation. Anything that involves a bit of manual labour will help - sweeping the floor, raking leaves, lifting dumbbells, even just rubbing your hands together a lot before you go will encourage the skin to thicken. The second tip is to start slowly. It's amazing how quickly your skin will respond and start to develop calluses, but if you remove all your skin in the first three hours then it's always going to struggle.
If you do overdo the sailing on day one, the best way to deal with holes in the hand is to superglue plasters over the holes before you go out. You can drop the glue right into the holes (best to flush it out with iodine first) and then stick a plaster on top. If you don't use glue the plaster won't stay on. Then put electrical tape on top and you're back on the water.
Finally, don't forget to stay well hydrated. if you start to feel thirsty you're already dehydrated and that impacts on your performance. Follow this advice, wear lots of high factor, waterproof sunscreen, and use a healthy dose of common sense and you should have a great time.
Gregg Dunnett is the co-founder of oceansource.net and former journalist for Boards magazine.
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