Porth Eirias was constructed along Colwyn Bay Promenade last summer, providing a new focal point along the seafront, intended to bring new life to the prom to count against the once glorious Victorian pier which is ruinously sitting further along the prom. Colloquially referred to as ‘Watersports’, Porth Eirias was hailed as a Watersports centre, however I personally had spent a lot of time around there and hadn’t, for a long time, witnessed much aquatic activity. The centre does in fact currently offer rental, coaching and sessions for Kayaking, Canoeing, Windsurfing, Sailing, Power boating, Stand-Up Paddleboarding.
I was recently asked by a friend if I wanted to go Windsurfing, of course the answer was yes so I enquired on the location. “Colwyn Bay” he replied. I went along for 9:20 on a Monday morning at the new Watersports centre, where my friends were gathered around a round table chatting, after sitting among them for a bit before our instructor for the day, Sammie, a Scottish surfer dude with long wavy dready hair and a friendly smile walked over and talked us through what we were going to be doing. Just as we were about to leave the table, one of the desk clerks brought over a tray full of hot drinks. Sammie warned us not to get our hopes too high, because Windsurfing was the hardest sport he’d ever tried.
After we got changed into our wetsuits in the pristine changing rooms, we strutted across the beach; still early there wasn’t many people out to witness how cool we looked. We got to the waterline and Sammie showed up how to stand on the board, before pairing us up and telling us to drag our boards into the sea and in our pairs take it in turns to stand upright on the board. There was many splashes and laughs as we all tried to clamber on a wobbly floating board, after try after try I was standing upright on the board pretty comfortably and I looked around to see that most the others had gotten the hang of it too.
We then engaged in some fun group activities. In groups of 5 we all tried to get on a single board, while we tried to organise ourselves to all get sitting on the board one by one before standing up, we all fell off time after time, but I don’t think the point was to succeed in this just simply ‘get to know’ the boards better.
We were brought out the water and shown the ‘Sail’ of the windsurfer. I tried my best to concentrate but due to my wandering attention span I zoned out a couple of times and really got confused as how to attach it to the board. Luckily my partner was listening and under his instruction we attached the sail to the board, and dragged it back into the water. Sammie demonstrated how he stood up on the board and pulled the sail up, along with how we should be standing and where our hands should be. As a kinaesthetic learner this wasn’t much help to me, as I struggled to stay balanced with my hands in a comfortable and efficient position and I kept falling off.
After asking my partner who had the surfing position down to a tee straight away and a lot of falling in I was stood up with my body in a ‘7’ shape, both arms straight leaning back from the sail. “That’s perfect” confirmed Sammie. I was pretty pleased with myself at this point, and then after moving my sail to catch the wind, I did indeed start to move. I was successfully windsurfing. Enjoying the fruits of my hard work, I then realised I was moving pretty far away from the group, “no problem” I thought “Now I need to turn it around”, so I moved my body and the sail to try and turn the the windsurfer so I could get back to the lesson.
I fell in. I could get back onto the board and get the sail up, but I hadn’t yet got a handle on turning. Luckily where I was my feet could still touch the floor so I walked/jumped/swam back to the group. “this is going to take some time” I thought to myself. Just then my partner came bounding into the depths to give me a hand.
(que Lord of the Rings style Frodo and Sam rescue). We got the board out of the water, all of us fairly exhausted. We thought it was time to get back to the centre and recover, but not before one last activity.
Sammie floated a board into the water and instructed us to make a circle around it. We were shown a game in which two people would grab either end of the board to steady it, while two opponents would sit on the board facing each other, each opponent then grabs the other’s shoulder and has to wrestle each other while everyone in the circle chants “Sumo! Sumo! Sumo!” and splashed the combatants. While my partner excelled past me in windsurfing, I can contently say that I did in fact win the sumo wrestling.
Afterwards we walked across the beach carrying our boards and sails in our wetsuits looking awesome, put our equipment back in storage and got showered and changed.
We met back at the table we met up on, more very appreciated hot drinks were brought out along with cookies. We had a chat to Sammie. He told us that the water sports centre offered loads of well priced activities and they were after keen people to volunteer in exchange for free lessons and use of the equipment, it would give us a chance to get some experience and first choice access to the centre’s awesome facilities. Most of us applied to be volunteers.
Considering how hard windsurfing is, only me and my partner out of the group actually managed to get sailing, but for a taster session of only £10 each it was well worth it, and everyone had made steps towards being able to competently control the windsurfer. Now that we had made a start we were all interested in coming back and doing a longer course, I know I was keen to learn how to do it properly.
The quality of teaching was outstanding, Sammie’s friendly, down to method of tuition using jokes and games in order to teach, making the training activity even more fun. It wasn’t until afterwards that he told us that was his first time teaching windsurfing, we wouldn’t have known because the entire session was absolutely spot on.
Colwyn Bay Watersports centre is a well needed revamp and saving grace for the underused seafront, and although is just establishing itself currently, with renovations to the beach under way, along with the highly anticipated Porth Eirias Café under construction. The centre is surely going to be a hub of activity and sports in Colwyn Bay, and I highly advise everyone to get involved.
It is my firm belief that the watersports should get as much positive exposure as possible. Offering new opportunities for locals to get involved in something exciting and fresh. It is my expectation that this centre will inspire an influx of interest in watersports activities, doing absolutely wonderful things for the town if it continued to be operated in a friendly, accessible manner.
This along with Surf Snowdonia Wavegarden which is being constructed in Dolgarrog, means that North Wales may soon be a British Capital of Watersports.
Feature image credit:https://www.flickr.com/photos/texaus1/