Profile: Windsurfing UK
Pics: Allan Cross, Chris Bilkey
Allan Cross is the people’s windsurfing champion. If you need evidence of this then simply scope out the National Watersports Festival where the everyday freeride participant is at the heart of why the NWF exists. But what about the man behind the event – Allan Cross? Windsurfing UK caught up with Sgt. Mjr. Cross to see what makes him tick.
Tell us when you first got involved with windsurfing – what appealed?
I attended a basic windsurfing course while serving in Germany back 1987 after witnessing my fellow gym staff, it looked exciting and fast! Very strange how my windsurfing career evolved as I was teaching people to windsurf the week after completing my own basic course. The unit I was serving were short of instructors while conducting their annual adventure training camp. I wasn’t particularly good. However, I just applied the lessons learnt from the previous week and then taught and coached throughout my army career.
You were previously into the competitive side of the sport and paid by the army to compete in various events. How long did that last and where did the comp side of windsurfing take you?
I attended my first windsurfing competition in the same year as I learnt, 1987. Back in those days if you wanted to do windsurfing as a sport within the army, you needed to compete.
I eventually raced for a total of 25 years while serving and in addition to racing I held a few appointments within Army Windsurfing being: Army Procurement Officer, Army Race Secretary, Army Coach and Team Captain. I soon realised if I wanted time to windsurf within the army then I needed to take on some responsibility and continue to develop the sport from within.
I balanced these appointments alongside being pretty active on the race scene. I held a total of 22 Army and Combined Services titles across course racing, slalom and speed. I also competed at the first London Indoor Boat Show, attended 2 x World Formula Championships (coming 5th and 7th master) in addition to being nominated as RLC Sportsman of the year in 2012.
What were your best results to date?
Strangely enough not a result so to speak – depending on how to look at it. However, I was awarded UK National Windsurfer of the year in 2006.
Do you still race? Are you more select about which events you attend or are they all game?
I do when it suits me. I don’t necessarily have the time to follow the British Slalom Association around on its annual tour. It’s strange when do you stop competing. Probably never if it’s in your blood. But to be honest, I just like being around the Formula 1 scene of windsurfing with its banter and atmosphere, on and off the water. A great bunch of people!
Is slalom/racing/freeride the most enjoyable area for you or do you like a bit of wave sailing as well, for instance?
Yes! Now living in Cornwall, there is not much of a freeride/slalom community down here using 9m sails. I do get involved in the local wave sailing conditions, can’t say it’s my natural forte but when in Rome.
A few years ago you had a health scare. Does this stop you from windsurfing full power these days?
I suppose a quadruple heart bypass is fairly significant and for sure it has affected my overall level of fitness. However, there are loads of people out there with ailments and issues enjoying their sport and life so no excuses not to live your life!
Describe your local sailing area and tell us what it offers the recreational sailor. Where’s your fave place to windsurf – home or away?
My local sailing location when at home is Par which is a more bump and jump to small wave. If you choose your locations carefully Cornwall has a lot to offer and not just the hardy wave sailor but those inspiring to get involved in a wee bit of wave wiggling. Daymer must be up there as an excellent location. A bit of everything in the bay but beware of outgoing spring tides.
Got any burning ambition to hit up overseas locations? If so where and why does it tempt?
I have a soft spot for El Medano but sadly haven’t been there for a few years now. I hope to put that right over the next 12 months.
Tell us when you got involved with windsurfing/watersports events. What was the first and how many have you been involved with to date?
I suppose I’ve been instrumental in delivering windsurfing events since 1992 up until the present day. Which is a fair bit of organising over the years. I suppose most know me from my development and delivery of the National Watersports Festival which all started back in 2006 as The Fat Face National Windsurfing Festival.
Tell us where you are with the NWF concept.
That’s an interesting one. I think we are in a very different place than we were 10 years ago, and while the NWF is all about the participants, the team that supports the concept is the watersports industry and its riders actively getting involved for the love of watersports itself.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 10 years there have been a few sacrifices made along the way and feel it’s time to get my work/life balance back into perspective. So yes the NWF model and associated workload need to change for sure if we are to continue and secure its success into the future.
Edit: 2017’s NWF has since been confirmed to take place at Rutland Water. See news piece here.
You’re a champion of the recreational windsurfer and NWF is specifically aimed at getting the everyday sailor into friendly competition. How important is this demographic and why?
Well, the freeride market is the heart and soul of windsurfing and without them we don’t have a windsurfing industry.
What else could the industry do to support freeriders and encourage new recruits?
Market better as an industry collective and produce cheaper and more accessible equipment to get people into windsurfing.
To some outsiders there’s a perception that windsurfing is elitist – do you think this is true?
No, I don’t think so. There is a natural level for everyone to participate and further develop their skills I have always found windsurfers one of the friendliest communities out there on and off the water.
More and more people are turning to windSUP on breezier days. Do you think this will ultimately help windsurfing’s numbers swell?
Yes, very much so as a cheap, simple option to get involved and also get other family members on the water. I still think one of the best introductions to the sport is from an enthusiastic participant, who has the correct equipment to bring some new people to the sport, and that’s where windSUP comes into play. We need to target the non-planning aspect of windsurfing to grow from grass roots – especially at inland locations.
Tell us about your work with Starboard UK. What does that entail?
I am the Team Manager responsible for management and development and marketing of its team riders across Tushingham, Starboard SUP & Windsurf, Red Paddle Co and Severne. I also work as part of the Red Paddle Co Junior Team assisting in the developing our Red Paddle Co Junior Academies.
Any plans to develop your role here further?
We’ll see – you never know what opportunities lie just over the horizon.
What about sports outside of windsurfing – practice anything else when it’s not blowing?
I try to keep active challenging myself at times as I seem to be having an addiction to the cab of my van these last 12 months while travelling. I like a little bit of SUP cruising and the odd ankle-biting wave.
Who’s your normal sailing crew – anybody push you into getting wet and going for a blast?
It depends on the location I’m visiting at the time as there is always someone keen to get you out.
And windsurfing heroes – who inspires you?
I don’t think there is just one name that springs to mind as there are so many who have contributed in making windsurfing the fantastic sport it is.
Any final thoughts on windsurfing general?
It’s a fantastic sport which is so addictive and I am so pleased to be part of its wider community and look forward to many more years contributing to the sport.
Shouts, thanks and praise?
There are so many: the industry as a whole who have supported the NWF model over the years. However, most of all Tushingham, who have helped Army Windsurfing since the 90s and also my various windsurfing appointments throughout the Army as a national team rider over the years.