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Here is where we dispel the myths about wave competition and give you some top tips on how to get through your first event.

Myths about wave competition:

1. I have to be a wave riding legend

If you understand the concept of top turn and bottom turn and do your best to wiggle up and down the wave, you’re ahead of the game! Seriously though, if you can handle yourself in reasonable size waves (i.e. bomb proof waterstart, like a good rinsing), you will be fine.

2. I’ll turn up and it will be mast high, super windy and I will be forced
to go out.

Brandon Bay, 2009: Conditions so extreme only the top Pros were allowed out by the Head Judge and even they were scared. However, further down the bay the waves were 3ft, nice and clean so the Amateurs, Masters and Ladies had a cracking day of competition later on that day. So, if it is massive you will find the Judges will decide on your behalf.

3. I have to be able to forward loop

Not true. Many an amateur competition has been won by a sailor that couldn’t loop but was the best rider in the waves. Of course it helps, but remember that at some down-the-line locations the Judges will only be asking you to wave ride with no jumps to count so please don’t be put off if you can’t loop. However, come the excitement of the day, just going for one in your heat will score you points regardless of the landing (unless you’re a Pro)!

4. It’s all a bit cliquey for me.

Windsurfing is a small sport. The world of competitive windsurfing is even smaller hence everyone knows everyone else. So it can feel like your first day at school come Registration when everyone other than you is chatting away, giving each other big hugs, talking about where to go drinking that night etc. Everyone was a newbie at some point and the best thing to do is to introduce yourself to the ‘crowd’ at the earliest opportunity.
BWA will also have a representative at each event to welcome you and answer any questions you have. But if it still seems a bit scary, bring a friend...bring lots of friends and get them to enter!

5. I need loads of spare kit.

John Skye turns up to events with 6 boards, 10 sails and numerous booms and masts – lucky fellow. Mere mortals can get away with a lot less. (See table below)

6. Why would I want to compete?

Sarah Finney, a veteran of three windsurfing competitions tells you why she does it:

“You learn to become more of a ‘thinking sailor’. Rather than just going out and letting your session ‘happen’ you will find you start sailing with a plan of what you want to achieve in your head. You also find yourself sailing in conditions that you might not normally go out in – not just bigger but in marginal winds, wobble/ride out conditions, which will improve your sailing massively.

You get to see how the Pros do it, inspiring you to try new tricks and pushing you (literally into) forwards! You might also get a prize at the end of it and you will certainly have a good party!”

6. Flag, Streamers, Stopwatches….can’t cope with all that.

Listen, if our sun beaten, travel weary Pros can cope with the system, intelligent folk like you should walk it!

At each event, sometime between Registration and the start of competition, there will be a chat by one of the Pros going through the whole system but here’s a taster.

Once all the entrants have registrared, the Judges write out the heats for each fleet, seeding sailors based on the last event or last year’s rankings (if first event of the season) then randomly placing everyone else who hasn’t entered before.

A Heat Order is also written often with no breaks until the finals have been run. Fleets are often intermingled so you can get Pro Heat 1-8 followed by Amateur heats 1-8, then Masters heats 1-8 then back to the Pros for heats 9/10/11 etc…It’s all wonderfully co-ordinated so the finals of each fleet occur back to back at the end of the day (this keeps the media/camera crew happy).

Because there is no break, you hear people talk about having a Rolling Clock. Let us explain with an example:

Let’s say Heat Length for that day is: 10mins
Time between heats: Always 2mins
You have checked the heat order and you’re in Heat 5.
Each heat takes (10+2 = 12mins). So when the very first hooter for the very first heat is sounded you have (12x4=48mins) till your heat. It’s simple Maths but you’d be amazed how many sailors cock it up.

Buy yourself a watch with a repeating countdown so when you set it at 12mins it goes all the way down to zero then starts at 12mins again. When that hooter goes, set it going and heh presto, you’re in time for the whole day with your very own rolling clock! It’s also a good way of controlling the nerves when your watch perfectly co-ordinates with the flags and hooter.

Top tip: Once registraed and rigged up, don’t get into your wetsuit before checking that heat order and working out the Maths. It can be over two hours before you’re ‘on’ and sailing/standing around in your wetsuit for two hours before your heat is a bad idea (unless we decide to move the BWA Tour to the warmth of Hawaii).


When the competition is about to start, all the flags go up, the hooter is consistently blown and BWA Reps run around the beach screaming at sailors to get off the water.

All the flags come down a minute before competition.

Based on a 10min heat here’s what happens next:

Red flag UP: The sailors in Heat 1 have 2 mins till they start. You meanwhile, start your rolling clock.

Red down/Yellow flag up: The sailors in the first heat have 1min till they start.

Yellow down/Green up: The start of their 10min

Green down: Shows the competitors on the water that they have 1min left to go

Red flag up: Their heat is over and the two-minute countdown to the start of the next heat begins….and so it carries on and on.

Blue/white chequered flag goes up during a heat: Heat Postponed due to lack of wind and/or waves.

Red/White chequered flag: Competition postponed, maybe during a set break during the day or when the judges need to catch up on results and then finally at the end of the day’s competition.

Next to your name on the heat board will be a letter (Y, R, G and W). They stand for Yellow, Red, Green, White (genius system). Take the correct colour just before your heat and attach it to the end of your boom or the top of your sail. Go out for your heat and then please, pretty please, bring your streamer back to the heat board area.

Other things to remember….

Competition Sailing Area: two flags on the beach define the competition sailing area. The Judges position themselves somewhere between the two. Do your best tricks in front of the judges van and not right out the back (obvious really). When riding the waves in stay upwind for as long as possible till the last few minutes of your heat. If you sail downwind for your last wave in the dying minutes of the heat and are clearly out of the sailing area, the Judges will try their best to still see and therefore score you. Pick a wave in the first few minutes and burn off downwind and stay there for the rest of your heat then don’t expect to be going through to the next round!
Getting your result: By the time you’ve walked back upwind with your kit to the heat board area, your result will be in from the Judges via a walkie/talkie.

If you get through, check out when your next heat is and go and warm up with a smug look on your face.

If you don’t get through, take a few deep breaths, hold back the tears and congratulate your victor. You can ask to see the heat sheets and in a very few cases heats are re-run but only often in the Pro fleet. It is worth looking through the heat sheets over a beer in the evening. They will show you where you went wrong (or right) and also give you an idea of how the judges score and what they are looking for.

Rookie Chicks

The women’s category is probably the most informal and relaxed at the event. Attracting somewhere between 4 and 8 competitors the tiny size of the fleet means that the format is finalized at the last minute. Where it slots into the rest of the event is normally fairly flexible and negotiated between the girls and the judges depending on the conditions, how we are all feeling and even childcare considerations!

The equipment list.
Essentials Nice to have Going Pro!
70-85ltr Board 65-75ltr Board and 80-90ltr Board A selection of 6 Boards
3 Sails (3.7-5.5m) 3.3m Sail if you’re smaller; 6.2m sail if you’re a fatty! So many sails that you’re never quite sure which to rig!
Boom; Mast Spare Mast
More masts than you can shake a stick at!
Spare Deck Plate, Harness Lines, and rigging rope Spare Boom for rigging with a second sail on your spare mast Enough kit to rig a full quiver all at once only to find the judges change to a different beach at the last minute!
Stopwatch (with a countdown timer) Lap Top Mac!
Warm Winter Wetsuit (it can be a long day at the beach) Spare Wetsuit (that’s much nicer on day two!) Multi-coloured, Spiderman looking promo suit
Waterproofs Neoprene Rigging Jacket Big Helly Hansen Coat
Your weekly food (and alcohol) shop… do NOT underestimate the price of food in Ireland and Tiree
A full tank of fuel before leaving the mainland for Tiree
A Car Rent-A-Van Your own fully racked out and stickered up van for all your windsurfing requirements!