Words: Pete Davis
Pics: Pete Davis, Dave White, Barry Rivett
Many will be familiar with Pete Davis – other half of World Champ speed sailor Zara (who we profiled in our very first issue), active UKWA board member and organiser of Weymouth Speed Week. He also has a spot on the World Speed Sailing Record Council (The WSSRC). But there’s more to Pete than simply being part of Zara’s entourage. Pete is a long time windsurfer himself, who’s had significant success over the years. No slouch across all areas of sailing we thought it high time the spotlight was shined on the man himself – over to Pete…
I was introduced to windsurfing in 1985 by an old mate of mine, David Bedford, who is a retired Olympic runner. He bought a board on a whim and we both learned together. Not sure if he is still windsurfing, I doubt it! But I really got the bug when I joined Brogborough Windsurfing Club in Bedford where I honed my windsurfing skills. It’s miles from the sea but one of the most active clubs in the country.
I still love the sport with a passion, but not so much the competition side now. In the past I have competed at National level in slalom and raceboard. But speed is what I was good at – competing in the ISWC World Championships (and tour) from 2005-2011. I am still officially the 6th fastest man in the UK and up until 2015 I was 28th in the world over 500m. I am a rubbish wave sailor but it’s the wave board that I choose to be on most of the time now.
Moving to the West Country to marry Zara in ‘96 we live in Clevedon on the Bristol Channel. We can windsurf from the house but conditions are much better a few mins away at Weston-Super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea. If you ignore the brown colour of the water both are great bump and jump wave spots. Downside is the massive tide. We only get a few hours either side of high and it doesn’t work that well with the wind from a SE direction.
The years have been kind and I am very lucky to have windsurfed in many amazing places around the world from South Africa to Australia. But number one has to be Maui. For its beauty and the wind/wave conditions it is still the mecca of windsurfing.
Back in the day (early 90’s) I spent a lot of time training in Lanzarote. We were slalom sailing with local hotshots Bernardo and Nino Navaro at Costa Tequise when we were joined by the newly formed PWA racers all arriving for an upcoming race. It was like a who’s who of windsurfing. Anders Bringdal and Bjorn Dunkerbeck were blasting around, showing off, and having a great day. The bonus came later that evening when we were in a local bar. Up on the big screen they had been filming us all and there I was, with my hero’s, laying down gybes and grinning from ear to ear.
I have just come back from El Medano in Tenerife where we spend our winters. Whitey, Jamie Dodds and Colin Dixon were all staying with us and John Skye popped over for the day from his home in Gran Canaria. We all had a great wave session up at ‘the wall’. It was some of the best swells we have had had for a while and we made the most of it. But the best part was just being out there with mates pushing the limits and having fun.
Without sounding smug winters over the last few years in Medano have been awesome. In 2016 we admittedly had wave kit from 3.4m to slalom 8.6m, which meant we sailed every day, bar 6 days in the 3 months we were there. Can’t ask for better than that!
It is a truly amazing place to windsurf and very close for UK sailors with cheap flights a plenty. You have three areas to choose from in Medano, south bay, which is where most of the schools are and where the world’s best slalom sailors come to train over the winter with TWS. The wall, which is up-wind of south bay, is the best for wave riding and super safe. Then there is Cabezo where we have a house. This is the location for the PWA Wave Championships. Great surf and good for jumping but not for the faint hearted. It has a nasty rock called Godzilla that has eaten more fins and boards than you can shake a stick at. We love it. There is always something to do with good surf/SUPing, cycling and mountain biking. In addition our dog, Ziggy, loves being a Spanish perros!
Really looking forward to this season. Zara has a lot planned which I will be helping with. She is currently taking part in the La Palme WSSRC Speed World Record attempt in the south of France. We did two weeks there on our drive home from Tenerife to the UK. The wind angle was not the best so all the competitors were well off their best but the wind can get strong. The jury is out and we are on standby until the end of April so let’s see what we get.
With my ISWC president’s hat on, we have the World Speed Championships in Fuerteventura, June, which is always an exciting event with a good showing of Brits. It’s also great to have Luderitz back on the calendar in October. Closer to home, I am an instructor and race coach for my local T15 squad – the Axbridge Animals – and we are hoping to repeat the success of last year where we won the National T15 Club Championships. No pressure then!
I have been a board member of the UKWA since 2005 and my main involvement is speed sailing. I have been organising the UKWA Speed Championships since 2006 which is part of Weymouth Speed Week. More recently I have been involved in the BSA Slalom Series – doing the marketing and PR for them. Producing a promo video for each event is a big job, but it’s been worth it, swelling the numbers to almost twice we had a few years ago. It’s also a much better return for sponsors who bank roll events. Lastly, the part I really enjoy, is organising the annual UKWA Windsurfer of the Year Awards where a nominee is picked from five disciplines before a winner is voted on. This has been a great success and highlighted the fantastic work done by the UKWA and also the talent we have here in the UK.
Numbers on the water are holding well and as I said before slalom sailing is definitely on the up. The sad part is they are the same people that have been windsurfing for a long time and we are all getting older. I would encourage all experienced windsurfers to get involved with their local T15 club – if there isn’t one, start one! The satisfaction I get from working with kids and seeing them progress is fantastic – they are the future of our sport!
Encouraging youths to take up the sport is a good start. But we all know someone who used to windsurf and has given it up. Get in touch and get them to come and have a go again. The kit from all manufactures has gotten so much better in recent years. It’s easy to use, lighter and faster. Better still, bring them along to a UKWA comp or events like the NWF and get them to join in.
I personally have not tried foiling but my mate Farrell O’Shea has a couple and encouraged me to have a go, which I will do soon. They will become more mainstream with racers and organisers keen to use them in lighter winds. The big benefit is lower wind speeds you can use them in. But with the skills needed I personally don’t think it’s going to tempt new people into the sport. It will help the profile of windsurfing though as they are definitely attention grabbing.
I’m a BIG, BIG fan of windSUP. I have an O’Shea inflatable and it’s great to get out in light winds and improve your rig and board handling skills. If you want to encourage new people into our sport these are just the ticket. They don’t take up much space, being the size of a big rucksack, so people can chuck it in the boot of their car with no need for a roof rack or a big van.
Simmer Style sails have supported me for about 10 years now and I really rate them. The Icons are perfect for me – loads of low down power for my large frame but still controllable and light on the wave. Zara has a set of speed and slalom Simmer race sails, which I nick occasionally. They are super-fast and rock solid, especially when you combine them with her RRD X-Fire boards. I am sure she has an unfair advantage with them. We both use RRD race and wave boards with my favourite being the RRD Freestyle Wave 104L which makes me look OK – no mean feat. It has plenty of volume but turns like an 80L – I love it!
My fave old bit of windsurfing kit is the Arrows extension. We have had a set for almost 20 years now and they’re still going strong. I wish they still made them! New gear has to be my AL360 wave booms. They’re soooo strong and light and if you haven’t tried the new smaller diameter tear drop shape you are missing out. They are so easy on the hands and I couldn’t imagine going back to a standard style boom.
I am semi-retired now (old). We still have a small property development company that keeps me honest. But it gives me a lot of freedom to travel and do the odd bit of windsurfing.
We windsurfers are always trying not to commit too much just in case it’s windy. The ‘law of sod’ always makes it blowy when you can’t get out of a work commitment or on a Saturday when it’s your best friend’s wedding. My mate Paul Burgess, in West Kirby, has the best job for windsurfing. He is a tree surgeon and if it’s windy he has no choice but to ring the customer, explain it’s too dangerous to go up a tree in such winds, and then head straight to the beach! But we can’t all be tree surgeons so try and find the best work balance you can. Remember, you will never see on any tombstone: ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office’.
Windsurfing is a fun sport so don’t make it a chore. Secondly go on a windsurfing holiday somewhere warm and breezy – ideally with a good coach to hand. This will turbo boost your learning and improve skills. Finally, when buying your own kit purchase the best and lightest gear you can afford. It will make such a difference to your progression.
I’m still learning! That is one of the beauties of our sport – you never stop learning. But the best advice I had was the ‘head leads the way’. When gybing look out of the turn – it still holds true!
Windsurfing is fantastic. It has taken me all over the world and I’ve made some great friends from all corners of the globe. Learning to windsurf is not easy. When you see a windsurfer out there gybing and blasting about you know that has taken them a good deal of time and effort to get there. That for me makes windsurfers special.
Thanks so much to the people and sponsors that have supported me over the last 30 plus years. Special thanks must go to Farrel O’Shea, (Dave) Whitey, Graeme Fuller, Ceri Williams, Anders Bringdal, Allan Cross and of course my lovely wife Zara – your counsel has been invaluable. Thanks must also go to the windsurfing industry that has given so much to the events and projects that I have been involved in to make the sport we love better. As well as the aforementioned I must add Nik Baker, Tushingham and Tris Best from The OTC have all been great supporters of what we do.