Words: Tez Plavenieks
Pics: Tez & Fi Plavenieks
It’s a dilemma for anyone into windsurfing with offspring. Imparting enough inspiration/information and encouraging your kids without being overly pushy can be tricky. If the magic happens then they too will have their imaginations pricked and soon be blasting back and forth with mum and dad (if both parents sail). The difficulty, however, is not being the overzealous parent forcing the issue resulting in a complete lack of interest. Also, there needs to preparation in the event of none of your children ever becoming bug bitten. But you know what? That’s OK as hopefully they’ll find another active pursuit to while away the hours. We know of many a young un involved in other similar sports even if they’re not bothered by windsurfing per se.
Our eldest, Molly, has always been around boards of some description (how can she not with me as her dad!). From day one it was SUPs, surfboards, skateboards and windy boards/sails. Familiarisation has therefore been ongoing – something which is now happening with our youngest, Oscar.
Touching, feeling, talking about and gently being invited to step aboard has been one strategy of ours. As said at the start of this article it’s hard not to be too pushy but I genuinely believe we haven’t been. All along we’ve given Molly the opportunity to opt out.
Regular floats on top of SUPs and sweeps round in kayaks have seen Molly’s water confidence increase steadily. She was also taken to swimming lessons early on. Prior to our trip to Club Vass, Greece, she was happy enough in shallower waters but didn’t care for deeper stuff, understandably as she can’t swim properly (yet).
So all the foundations had been laid and at the start spring 2018 Molly had been asking increasingly often to get out on the water. We were therefore interested to see how warmer seas and air temps would affect the situation.
Windsurfing parents may consider they’ve found their own suitable family sailing destination but for us Club Vass is definitely the one that works the best in summer. A combo of decent shaded outdoor space, right next to the launch, which actually doesn’t get too blustery is the first piece of the puzzle. Then having consistent (generally) wind that all family members can make use of is the next tick in the box. Kit is also important: for both mum and dad AND kids. The fact is, there are very few centres where 0.8m kiddy rigs are available. This point alone makes Club Vass worth its weight in gold. (Diddy harnesses and boards are also great additions). And then there’s the general vibe. Windsurfing’s buzz positively crackles in this part of the world – the Club Vass staff and other guests helping to push the stoke’o’meter through the roof (especially when the cross shore kicks in!).
Alongside all this is the ‘easy access’ nature of the village with everything just a short walk away yet boasting plenty of amenities and options for eats/drinks. The locals love wee ones and many restaurants cater for most diets, even dairy free and allergies as is the case with our youngest. And should you get a window to go bonkers in the infamous Zeus Bar, or Club Vass BBQ, then fill ya boots.
In the past Vass has been labelled a hardcore freestyle/party venue. But actually, these days, it’s more family-friendly than you’d imagine. Of course, wave heads will be left disappointed by flat water conditions but my take is: ‘all water time is good time’.
Something during this trip flicked a switch in Molly that’s for sure. Within a few days she was practically begging to be let loose on the water with boom in hand. There were a couple of days where she was also out paddle boarding. And on a couple of occasions she had the opportunity to ride a few ripples on a SUP surf style (another tick in the box). And all this without being able to swim properly remember. And on that note…
With proper floatation our little girl was all over the wet stuff. Under supervision Molly became quite happy chucking herself head first in the deep end of the hotel pool. With inflatable noodle under one arm she could get back to the surface for another go. If she needed fishing out then we could oblige. Pretty soon she was beginning to show signs of doggy paddle which from a safety POV is comforting.
Back on the water
Molly’s crowning glory was during a morning with the (amazing) nannies and kid’s instructors. Setting off atop a board specifically designed with nipper rippers in mind she was able to position the sail intuitively and slot her feet in the footstraps. OK, this wasn’t planing conditions but again it’s the familiarity and muscle memory (we all know about that one!) that aids progression. With a huge cheer from onlookers Molly was very much loving the spotlight which only fuelled the fire.
She also managed a short stint with UK pro coach and top freestyler Max Rowe. Don’t think many three year olds get that kind of opportunity! So big up the instructors and head nanny Billy.
And the wee one?
It wasn’t all about big sis though. Young son Oscar (10 months at this stage) had his first go with a windsurf sail, albeit on dry land. As a child just learning to walk it was grin-inducing to see him just about managing to balance a kiddy rig. Either way he thought it was hilarious. And crawling around sail/board racks is amazing as well!
It’s very hard when it’s your own kids to not sound gushing when they achieve. That said we, and others, were genuinely impressed by our three year old girl’s enthusiasm and progression. She may end up being as good as suggestions were made. Likewise she could find something else as a passion. That fact that she’s had the opportunity, however, bodes well for her future windsurfing exploits. Obviously we parents are chuffed so it’ll be interesting to see how things go.
Huge thanks to Club Vass for hosting us and allowing our kids to roam free and immerse themselves in windsurfing’s culture and the Vass vibe. All the staff were great and we can’t fault them. Kit is amazing and with some blow to play it meant mum and dad also got their windy fix. All in this trip was a big success and an experience our kids will hopefully remember for a lifetime. Check out more at clubvass.com