Words; Annette Kent
Pics: Kent family
Annette Kent has pretty much dominated ladies longboard racing in the UK for the last eight years, with considerable success prior to this. Showing no signs of slowing down we caught up with this longboard lady for a chat.
My windsurfing beginnings started in the eighties. When I was 19 I bought my first windsurfing board, a Mistral SST from my now husband Robert Kent. The first sail out on my new board ended with me being blown over the front and putting the boom though the deck of the board. Luckily Robert helped me get it repaired and encouraged me to progress and join in with the racing. I was impressed by how well he sailed, as he was already winning races in the Southeast regional events. This was the start of an exciting time windsurfing together.
When I stared racing I had one board, my SST, and one sail, a 6.5 mistral rig. Everyone had a longboard and there were lots of people on the water. I entered the Southeast regional events, then IMCO and later LWA and UKWA. With each race I gained more experience and had great fun. In the beginning we had up to 80 people per event, good parties and free beer, what was not to love?
As I improved I moved on to a Mistral Superlight, then an IMCO board and rig.
We went all round the country competing, then stared competing internationally. I remember the excitement of my first event in France, being given a new board and sail to race with. Mistral provided all the equipment for competitors coming from overseas.
When IMCO became the Olympic board I took part in the 1995 Olympic trials and came 6th. I was very pleased with the result as I was working full time and had done little training. Penny Way and Howard Plumb went to the Olympics that year.
One of the biggest UK events on the longboard calendar was The Round Hayling Island Race with up to 400 people coming from all over the country to compete. The first time I competed it took me four and a half hours to circumnavigate the required 14 miles. In 2017 it took me two and half hours and I have held the ladies tittle for the last 8.
Robert and I ran the IMCO racing for a short while, before it joined the UKWA. It was around this time we had our two girls.
Windsurfing for me has always been a family thing; we went to the events with Rob’s parents in their big campervan and we all raced. I was desperate to beat Robert’s mum Pat. Now we have our own van and Emily 20 and Rebecca 17 are determined to beat me at every opportunity.
I enjoyed teaching my girls to windsurf at Calshot on a Mistral Windglider. It was so much fun with us all floating along together although they spent more time collecting and throwing seaweed than windsurfing. I am really proud how they have progressed and am happy to see that they love the sport as much as Robert and I.
When the girls were very young we took it in turns to windsurf, like a tag team. We even entered events sharing the racing, entering under Robert’s name so as to not upset anyone. At the LWA events we shared babysitting with other windsurfing parents. If there were four of us we all missed one race (our discard race) to take it in turns to look after the children. At some of the LWA event Bryony Shaw’s mum looked after the girls while we raced. Thanks Hazel.
My windsurfing racing calendar is pretty full. As a family we enter all the UKWA cup and inland events. All the LWA events. The Round Hayling Island Race and last but not least the LWA icebreaker series. The icebreaker series is a team event with four in a team. The last two years we entered as Team Kent and have won.
These days we only enter international events if they are not too far away. In 2009 the Raceboard Master Worlds were in Weymouth and I was first lady. Last year we went to Brest in France for the Raceboard Europeans and I finished first grandmaster and fourth overall in the ladies. This was a great event and we went as part of a strong British team of 19, including 9 youths. There was a great atmosphere, everyone had fun and enjoyed the racing and off the water entertainment.
I have been racing longboards for 30 years. I just love it. Travelling around to different locations, meeting new people and the challenge of each new race.
I am currently racing on the new orange tailed 337L Starboard Phantom and 8.5 XR Tushingham sail.
For short boarding I have the choice of 92L Mistral Syncro or a Goya 77lL freestye wave boards. A full range of Tushingham Storms and Rock sails
With four of us windsurfing we do, however, have a garage packed full of kit, including 11 short boards, six surfboards and 6 bikes between us! Rob keeps buying second hand stuff for the girls as they are good at breaking things. There is also a good second hand market for longboards, which has encouraged many youths into the raceboard fleet.
Favourite local spot
Lepe is one of our favorite locations for short boarding as the wind funnels up the Solent in a westerly making it windier there than many locations. It is one place along the coast that gets a good sea breeze. There is a dedicated gang of sailors that meet there: The Lepe Beach Surf Squad. With the help of the internet everyone assembles if the wind is right. As a family we love to short board and will go out every weekend and some evenings in the summer if the wind is good. We often stay out on the water for hours as we love it and because no one wants to be the first in. Some say we are obsessed!
Calshot is our local spot for longboarding. We regularity cruise from here upwind to Lepe and over to the Isle of Wight. Short boarding in a southerly is good from here, being safe in the shallow water at low tide. It was great for the girls to learn to waterstart here.
We love Vasiliki in Greece. It’s a fabulous spot and great for windsurfing family holidays. The girls first learned to windsurf here and where they improved their short boarding skills. It’s a real windsurfing mecca. We can’t wait to go back again.
In 2017 we had a family holiday where we didn’t windsurf! We learnt to snowboard instead. This was fantastic! Our instructor was surprised to teach a whole family who all lent into the turn the same way. We had to explain that we were windsurfers and could not help carving the board round the turns.
Surfing is another family favorite either at Woolacombe or Polzeath in the SW.
When there is not enough wind to windsurf I like to ride my mountain bike or go walking thought the New Forest.
I am a senior theatre nurse practitioner working at my local Nuffield Hospital. I work part time which gives me time to manage the house and van and ensure that we are organized for each event.
For the future
I am currently leading the ladies and aim to stay ahead and take the Ladies tittle in both the UKWA cup and inland series for 2017 (which she achieved – ed). This is becoming harder each year to achieve. I have to work extra hard to stay ahead of the youngsters, my girls included, in the light winds. In the stronger winds it is slightly easier although Rebecca is becoming a demon in these conditions. Last year I came 2nd the Cup series to Harriet Ellis but managed to hold the inland series by the skin of my teeth from Molly Howell. So far I have been 1st Lady in either the cup or the inland series for the last 8 years.
I think it is fantastic to see new people coming into longboard racing. The last couple of years has seen a surge in the number of youths joining the fleet helped by local training events. Mark Kay has been holding raceboard training in the north aimed at encouraging youths into the fleet. Rob and I have been supporting the LWA holding training days to encouraging all new racers in the south.
Rob and I are team riders and are very grateful for their support over the years.
24/7 board sports
The shop with the biggest range of equipment and spares I know, with friendly and helpful staff, nothing is too much trouble.
Bob and Sue and the team at the UKWA for all their hard work, providing excellent racing. Rod and Janet and the team at the LWA.