Words and pics: Dan Newman, Julia Toms
From windsurfer to super yacht captain, this is the story of how windsurfing opened the door to luxury sailing for Dan Newman.
Windsurfing has always been my life and I have lived and breathed this incredible sport since a very young age. My dad can take most of the credit for this when he brought home our first family windsurfer back in the early 90s. We were already keen dinghy sailors so it was a natural progression that led us to become hooked pretty much immediately. From then on windsurfing literally took over everything. It was my job and my passion, so the decision to change direction and set sail on a different pathway didn’t come easy.
At the time I was loving life, working as a windsurfing equipment test editor and also instructor trainer for the RYA, among many other things. Windsurfing had already given me so much, it had taken me to some amazing places around the world, it had introduced me to some awesome people, I’d achieved notable success on the competitive circuit in a range of disciplines and I was enjoying absolutely all it has to offer. When the opportunity to evolve and experience something a bit different was presented it was just too tempting and one I couldn’t ignore.
How it all began and my introduction into the world of super yacht sailing has an awful lot to do with my windsurfing background. It was while working at Rutland Watersports as Chief Instructor that I first met the yacht owner who would become my future employer and completely change my career path, opening the door to a whole new world of sailing.
Several years ago while I was running one of my usual level 1 windsurfing courses at Rutland there were four students attending. The conditions were perfect and everyone had an awesome time. One particular student was so impressed with how it was all delivered that we got talking after the lesson. To cut a long story short it turned out that he owned a large progressive company and after some discussions we were commissioned to deliver a watersports and live entertainment event to his employees. We successfully did this for a few years. Fast forward and we got chatting again. At the time I was rigging up a spinnaker on a Hobie catamaran when he commented on how small it was in comparison to the spinnaker on his new yacht. He then went on to invite me sailing, which I obviously accepted, but at the time didn’t think too much of it. The next day, however, I received a phone call from his PA, and just like that, a week later I was boarding a private jet heading for the Italian Riviera.
Later that year I was offered a full time job aboard, so jetted off to the Caribbean to join the boat as first mate and embark on my new career. It was a very steep learning curve but I’m always up for a challenge. Among many things one of the biggest differences is the sheer size of everything. Sail size, for example, was a considerable leap when the largest one in my windsurfing quiver is a 5.7m. Now I’m handling a whomping 600m2 spinnaker on a 96ft, 70ton super yacht!
Things couldn’t have gone any better. I progressed swiftly through the ranks and became captain within six months. Whilst I was loving it, I had been starved of all windsurfing action so the first thing to change, now I was in charge, was to get some kit on board and start taking advantage of the stunning locations and awesome conditions that we discover around the world.
Space is always an issue, even at 96ft, so choosing the right gear took some serious consideration. The guys at Tushingham were really helpful and sorted me out with awesome Starboard and Severne equipment. I needed one board that could do everything, so it had to be the Kode 94 and I love it! Flat water blasting and freestyle, bump&jump or waves, it delivers and I’ve had some great sessions in a variety of locations all over the world with it.
We also went with a couple of Starboard inflatable windSUPs, which are absolutely perfect and tick every other box (especially the storage one). Anyone can enjoy them in paddle mode and with a sail fitted they windsurf extremely well too. They also make the perfect form of transport for getting ashore to visit the beach bar and grab a sunset Pina Colada!
Using a sailing yacht as a windsurfing platform unlocks a whole new element of adventure and really enables you to explore far more. It’s not always straight forward but that adds to the challenge and the excitement. The freedom that you get from the yacht is a very unique experience. Once you venture offshore it is very much just you and the elements. The only thing that matters is the journey and you can properly get off grid until you arrive at your destination. You then find the perfect spot, anchor up and jump in… Windsurfing is just one of the many activities we enjoy on location; kitesurfing, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, snorkelling, diving and fishing are also possibilities. Then following the fun, unwind on deck with a fine bottle of wine or G&T.
Unfortunately it isn’t all games and work does have to be done sometimes. So for me as a commercial captain and professional racing skipper windsurfing now has to fit in around my day job, which consists of a very busy sailing schedule featuring super yacht regattas, offshore races, luxury cruising and sailing around the world, always chasing the endless summer. It’s a tough job (no seriously, it actually is) but someone’s got to do it!
See you all on the water soon, somewhere in the world…