Chipping away #2 – being the other half, with Gina Chippington

Words: Gina Chippington

Pics: Simon Chippington

Having delved into the life of RRD slalom/speed sailor Simon Chippington (autumn 2017 Windsurfing UK mag) this time round we’re speaking with Simon’s better half Gina. Gina isn’t a windsurfer. By her own admission she’s not interested in saltwater (much). But she’s super loyal to hubby and travels to many events, cheering him on and offering support. We’re pretty sure there are countless other windsurfing widows around, who probably know more about the sport than you, regardless whether they indulge or not. We wanted to find out what being a windsurf widow is like these days and get some insights from a non-sailor’s point of view. Over to Gina…

I met Simon in the hairdressers where I worked. He seemed an unassuming chap, so much so it took him a decade to ask me out! In the whole time I’d known Simon he had never let on that he fancied me or that he was into windsurfing – talk about poker face. It was fairly soon into our relationship that Simon’s passion began to rear its head and my house became littered with all of its paraphernalia – not always ideal for a neat freak like me.

I wasn’t always enthusiastic about tagging along to events because when it’s really windy it’s not all that comfortable to be spectating but after some negotiations we have managed to find a happy medium (a nice bolthole for me is a must ). I love Marazion (Cornwall) and Tenby (Wales) because they offer lovely coastal walks along with some history and they both provide no shortage of places to grab a cream tea or glass of fizz.

Being comfortable is a big thing for me. I hate being anywhere worse than my own home and calling it a holiday, so I don’t travel light. I pack some nice cushions and a throw for the van, download some music or a film and a book and feather my nest for every eventuality. Not forgetting ample snacks for me and Simon. Once settled I can then go off and amble if the weather permits. I’ve normally scoured the web for places of interest.

All of the sailors are friendly without being in your face. I think most of them are pretty absorbed in the chat and banter for me to really figure, which is how it should be! One of the first people to welcome me in to the fold was Leigh Kingaby. He has the enthusiasm and energy of five men which is hard not to like.

My fellow windsurf widows are all lovely. Some will keep themselves to themselves while some are happy to chat. If I can organise a mutiny to a nearby pub I feel my weekend away has been all the more worthwhile. Sarah Sibley really welcomed me on a particularly windy weekend in Tenby. Her passion for the sport was clear and she frankly puts me to shame with her support – top marks Sibbers for your dedication.

Windsurfers clearly love what they do. This is the case with a lot of niche sports. Windsurfers help each other along with shared knowledge of hot spots and rigging tips – it’s heartening that competitive people aren’t all about throwing you under a bus.

There’s been a lot of talk about windsurfing dwindling but I don’t think that’s true. The numbers seem to have increased at BSA events which is great but there could always be more. The most obvious thing to me is the blow your own trumpet thing on social media. Just about everyone has some kind of account so no excuses. A great picture and a hashtag are all that’s needed and something everyone can do whatever the skill level. This may help getting numbers to swell #tryit #itreallyworks. The BSA could do with an Instagram account. Andy Stallman is always at large snapping great pictures, hint hint…

I think less women are involved in windsurfing (or have been) for a number of reasons. Initial perceptions may suggest it’s a bit of a lad’s pastime, not true I know, and as I’ve said already social media could dispel that myth. Some of the advertising going back less than a decade was distinctly sexist and that in turn was/is alienating. I’m glad to see less of it.

Getting me afloat isn’t really very likely. I hate it when my hair gets wet. It does funny things like with Monica from Friends when they went to the Caribbean. I’m not especially competitive either and I definitely would need to see the bottom or I’d freak!

Zara Davies has had an amazing year. I can’t believe she hasn’t been snapped up for an ad campaign by a non-windsurfing brand. That would be a brilliant for raising the female profile. It’s also great to see the likes of Jenna Gibson and Sarah Jackson being great ambassadors – all’s boding well for the women if they’re anything to go by. Watching the youngsters it’s quite amazing. Do they realise how good they are? They’re only getting started so who knows what the likes of Sam Anstey and Scotty Stallman can achieve.

Although I think windsurfing is a fairly costly past time there’s nothing to stop someone giving it a go on knackered kit. It would be a good place to start. There must be ton of stuff sat in garages nationwide no longer in use. The likes of T15 might be able to put it to good use. There are often outward bound days touted at schools which could also. Perhaps the likes of T15 or any other water park business could stick their neck out and offer a skills day?

Holidays are what Simon and I are good at. We normally take it turns to choose a destination. Our criteria is opposing so we find this the fairest way to do things. Simon is totally off the chart with excitement (think badly trained Labrador) as we are off to Mauritius for him to compete soon. As you can imagine it’s a stretch for me to lounge in the sun at a lovely hotel, gin and tonic in hand but compromise I must! My ultimate destination is Croatia: culture all around, great food, beautiful coastline and a bit of wind to keep the surfy one happy.

Whilst on the Dalmatian Coast about five years ago I had a go a stand up paddling and to my surprise I enjoyed it, the bonus being you get an all over tan. I have tried it at home but I’m strictly flat water and fair weather.

I think windsurfing events could possibly do with more input from local businesses and a little more clarity/commentary from the organizers. Often I’m not aware what race is on and that’s the case with some of the racers too.

When I’m playing the dutiful wife I love reading, cooking, watching classic films and visiting art galleries. If I could do that in Tuscany (Italy) it would be heavenly. I don’t really try too hard to involve Simon. If he wants to great but you can’t or shouldn’t make someone do something they’d rather not. When Simon competes it’s often a good time for me to meet with my more aesthetically minded friends – birds of a feather and all of that.

The secret of a happy marriage to a windsurfer is give and take. Be prepared to be flexible. If the wind gets up suddenly your plans might change. However, speak your mind and develop some good negotiation skills. Combine this with a long memory and you might have him (or her) over a barrel next time you want your own way!

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