Words: Meggie Kraft
Pics: Andy Stallman, Dave White
Kraft…you may have heard the name within UK windsurfing circles. But it’s not just dad (Ian ‘Krafty’ Kraft in case you’re wondering) who’s handy with a board and rig. Daughter Meggie is also pretty swift round a race course and loves nothing better than a full power blast. WSUK hooked up with Meg for a catch up.
Tell us about your windsurf beginnings. How did you get into the sport and what did you like about it?
Before I participated in the sport I had been to many events, national and international with my Dad. So, I guess I had been around the scene for a long time before I became a part of it. From watching I thought it was cool and it was something different to all the standard hobbies (for girls) out there. With that in mind (and some encouragement from my Dad) I had my first ever taster session aged nine.
And now? What keeps you hooked?
Eight years on and I’m still windsurfing. The thing that keeps me hooked is the fact that every session is different. This could be anything from the kit I am using, the conditions, the location or the people I am on the water with. All these factors are different every time meaning I never get bored. I also enjoy the fact that every time I go on the water I can see an improvement in the way I windsurf.
Where did you learn? Is it somewhere you still sail?
I learnt at Spray Watersports Centre, Eastbourne. This is now called Buzz Active and has grown across two sites. I haven’t had much of a chance to windsurf there lately, however, when I am in the area it is still somewhere I like to ride.
What are your favourite conditions?
My favourite conditions are 18-25 knots on flat water. This is because I can work on conditioning my speed and work on my gybes. In the winter storms, I also enjoy taking wave kit out and try some bump and jump stuff.
And location to sail?
For flat water I enjoy sailing at Weymouth because there is a lot of room inside the harbour walls to work on speed. For bump and jump West Wittering is a great location because at low tide it has The Trench. I can dip in and out of the waves as I see fit. Eastbourne also works well for bump and jump if the conditions suit.
Talk us through your kit – what are you using and why?
For slalom sailing I have Tabou and Vandal kit. The boards I have are as follows: 2016 Tabou Speedster 85 (128 litres), the 2017 Tabou Speedster 75 (118 litres), the 2016 Tabou Rocket wide (108 litres) and the 2017 Tabou Rocket wide (100l). The sails I use are Vandal Missions (twin cam) in sizes 6.8m, 7.8m and 8.8m. I found that after some careful kit tuning I have some very quick combinations of kit that are durable and look great out on the water.
For bump and Jump I have a range of kit. The boards I have are: 2017 Tabou 3S (96 litres), the 2017 Tabou Pocket Wave (86 litres) and the 2009 Tabou DaCurve (79 litres). The sails I use for bump and jump are the Vandal Riots. I have these in sizes 3.6m, 4.2m, 4.7m, 5.3m and 5.8m. I also have a Vandal Enemy 3.3m for when it is really windy. This huge variety allows me to get out regardless of the conditions, it means I can practice my Bump and Jump skills and get used to being in the waves.
Generally I have all bases covered for kit meaning I can get out whenever I have the time.
Do you compete? If so, what draws you to comps?
I have competed since I was nine years old. I started out in the RYA racing programme called ‘Team 15’. This allowed me to race with other people of a similar age and ability over a series of four regional events. If we as a team, The Spray Sprites, won three or more of these events we were given the honour of attending the National Windsurfing Championships, previously known as the Champions Cup. As a team we were incredibly successful and I attended the National Championships in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. I joined the RYA East/South East Techno Zone Squad in 2013 and trained with them for three years. Whilst with this squad I attended two Eric Twiname Championships (ET’s). In 2016 at the ET’s I placed 5th and won the title of first girl in the 7.8m Techno Class, helping my team win the event overall. In summer 2016 I also competed in the Techno 293 European Championships in Sopot, Poland. This was a great experience that offered me the chance to race on an international level. As of 2017 I am competing in the British Slalom Association events. This is a new discipline for me. I am excited to try racing on new kit and with new people. I am a competitive person generally, so I enjoy racing and I enjoy the social side of the events, for example meeting and getting to know new people.
Any plans to take this further – PWA or Olympics for instance?
I would like to place well this year within the British Slalom Association amateur fleet. My future plans are to inspire and encourage new people into the sport by being a windsurfing instructor. My first season of instructing will be at Buzz Active, which is the place where it all began for me.
Got any wind heroes? Who do you look up to?
At the National Watersports Festival 2012 I was partnered with Nik Baker for the Turbo 15 floodlit night race. We worked together well and we managed to win the race and a big trophy. Because windsurfing is a sport with so many different disciplines it is hard to pin point one role model. All the pros at the top of their discipline are looked up to by so many people and it’s great to see such a wide range of people always willing to help others up their game.
How is it being a female sailor? Do you feel you have to prove yourself to the boys?
Being a female sailor is good because it allows you to work hard to beat the boys. It’s always nice to beat them in a race. Also, if you train with boys it means you can beat the rest of the women in the fleet because most of the time they will not race as hard as the boys do. Conditioning yourself to be able to match or almost match the speed of the boys means you are not going to struggle when it comes to racing against anyone. Everyone knows that racing is for fun, however. it is always good to beat the boys every now and again.
Do you think it’s harder windsurfing as a girl?
In some respects yes, however, generally it is an advantage. Most of the time the female competitors weigh less than the male competitors meaning we can get planing in lighter wind and on smaller kit. This means that in racing we are able to get away from the start line or hit the gybe mark quicker.
What do you think could be done to make the sport easier for ladies?
The development of kit has helped because it has made things easier. This is everything from smaller volume boards, smaller and lighter sails and well-fitting wetsuits to keep us warm. The continued development of this kit will help women into the sport.
How would you go about convincing your girly mates to get involved?
I would ensure that the conditions are just right and then take them for a taster session. As I am a qualified Start Windsurfing Instructor I would offer to teach them so they had a familiar face showing them the basics. I would ensure the session has an emphasis on fun so that they would want to give it another go in the future.
Outside of windsurfing do you do anything else outdoorsy?
Currently I study Outdoor Adventure Education at Plumpton College. This means I am frequently kayaking, canoeing, climbing, navigating, mountain biking and dinghy sailing. I am very busy and it all involves being outdoors. I also had two expeditions to North Wales at the start of 2017. These included summiting Mount Snowdon (the biggest mountain in the UK) in the dark. We reached the top just in time for sunrise. We have also summited Yr Aran, the mountain opposite Snowdon. During these expeditions we got the chance to experience some white water canoeing on the River Dee and some extreme MTB at the centre, Coed Y Brenin. This summer I will also be embarking on an unplugged sailing expedition to Lake Runn, Sweden. This is a seven day trip where we will be sailing dinghies and wild camping. We will have no luxuries and no technology – phones and watches will be completely unplugged. As you can see I am quite an outdoorsy person!
How does the above compliment your windsurfing?
I sail a dinghy every Wednesday, with a group from college. Having previous windsurfing experience has helped with my sailing because I understand the theory. Overall this has made me realise the differences between sailing and windsurfing and this has motivated me to work harder in both sports.
What about windsurfing at large. Do you think it’s got the appeal of other disciplines like kitesurfing and SUP for instance?
I think in general the sport has a good appeal. This is thanks to social media, the press, the events put on and the people who are keeping the sport alive. I think youngsters in windsurfing also help because they are good at promoting how much fun it can be and the different pathways it can open up.
How difficult is it to windsurf as a teenager? Do you rely heavily on parents?
Unfortunately being a windsurfer as a teenager does have its limitations. This is because we do not have the ability to take ourselves to events or training, meaning we have to rely on our parents to put the time aside to take us places. Once I can drive I will have a lot more freedom and I will not have to rely on my parents. This is good because it means I can go training or just windsurfing whenever it is windy.
If you could be anywhere in the world windsurfing right now where it be and why?
There are so many places that are good for windsurfing, and I’m sure in the years to come I will get the opportunity to explore them. I would, however, like to visit Club Vass in Greece. This is because it is sunny and generally windy. There are also lots of people there who share the same passion for the sport, meaning I would get the chance to meet them.
Any final thoughts on windsurfing in general?
Windsurfing is fun. There are too many sports that are serious. Every session is different meaning it is always interesting and the people involved are friendly. All round it’s sociable and offers you the opportunity to meet new people and travel the world. I would definitely recommend windsurfing to anyone who wants to have some fun out on the water in the summer months.
Shouts and thanks?
My windsurfing journey has been a long one so far, with hopefully plenty more to come. So firstly, I would like to thank my family, and in particular my parents, who have supported me since day one. Thank you for driving me to events and training at stupid hours in the morning, for supporting me financially with kit, for showing up at events and cheering me on, but most of all for the all-round support. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents so I am incredibly grateful for everything they have done for me.
Secondly I would like to thank my sponsor. 4boards, www.4boards.co.uk have been supporting me with kit for the last three years. Without them I would not have all the equipment to get out on the water. I am very appreciative of all the support I have received from Bob and Stu. With additional thanks to Ross Williams for his support and encouragement as the Tabou and Vandal UK importer.
I am pleased to announce that I have a new sponsor for the 2017 season. The man who’s father invented windsurfing, Guy Chilvers, is now enjoying a new lease of life in the renewable energy industry. His new company, Richmond Green Energy Limited, will be supporting me this season.
Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who has coached me throughout my time on the water. This includes everyone from Charlie Holman who delivered my first ever taster session at Spray Watersports, to Paul Sibley who has known me (and coached me for a few years) since I was two years old as he was competing in the UKWA series with my Dad. Also thanks to Sam Ross, Ben Lee, Ali Masters, Graham Colam and Lewis May who coached me whilst I was in the RYA Zone Squad. Huge thanks to everyone who has helped me out on and off the water, I just wanted to let you all know that it is hugely appreciated.