« Good Practice Guide
In an emergency:
If you see someone in difficulty tell a lifeguard or call 999 / 112 and ask for the Coastguard
If you lose your windsurf, report that you are safe to the rescue services (call 999 / 112 and ask for the Coastguard) so that they do not spend time looking for you
If you get into trouble never abandon your board (it will keep you afloat) stick your hand up and shout for help.
The Dorset coast is a world-class windsurf venue, hosting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic windsurfing events and the famous Weymouth Speed Week – one of the longest running annual windsurfing competitions in the world. The coast also hosts several other windsurf competitions throughout the year at locations such as Christchurch, Poole, The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy and Overcombe Corner.
In total there are over 20 top windsurfing areas along the beautiful and vibrant Dorset coastline, so wherever you are in Dorset, you will never have to travel far to enjoy a day out windsurfing. You can use the iCoast map to see where all the windsurfing areas on the map. The iCoast map can also show you where all the slipways are for you to launch from and where the closest car parks to the windsurfing areas are so you can make sure you don’t have to lug your kit too far.
What do I need?
- Board –Windsurfing boards come in lots of shapes and sizes – if you are a learner then a long and/or wide board is more stable.
- Sail –These also vary in shape and size – if you have a big sail then it can give you lots of power and speed but you don’t want one that is too big if you are learning because it will tire you out.
- Wetsuit, windsurfing shoes and a neoprene hat – these all keep you warm out on the water but the hat will also protect you in a collision or wipe-out.
- Buoyancy aid – learners and people who aren’t very confident at swimming should always wear a buoyancy aid.
When is the best time to do it?
Windsurfing can be done all year round but you should always check the weather, tides and currents before you go out. During winter months the water is colder, winds stronger, there are rougher seas and less hours of daylight – this all needs to be taken into consideration. iCoast has a great water sports weather forecast and links to webcams along the Dorset coast which makes it easy for you see when and where you will get the best conditions to windsurf.
What to look out for
The Dorset coast is not only fantastic for windsurfing, it is also amazing for seeing wildlife such as seabirds and seals, and dolphins in their natural environment and for enjoying the unique World Heritage status geology along the Jurassic Coast. The waters can get busy, especially close to amenity beaches, so it is important to respect wildlife, other users and the environment while you enjoy windsurfing on the Dorset coast.
Do your bit:
Watch out for wildlife and the environment
Please follow these steps to make sure that you do not disturb or damage wildlife while you are windsurfing on the Dorset coast:
- If you are going to be windsurfing at any areas that are important for wildlife, then respect the wildlife that is there.
- We have several areas that are important for birds on the Dorset coast including a Special Protection Area at Poole Harbour, between the mean high and mean low water mark. The western and northern parts of Portland Harbour are also very important for over wintering birds. It is important not to disturb roosting or nesting birds at high tide at certain times of the year:
- Between November and March birds are “overwintering” and need to conserve energy reserves.
- Between mid-April and the end of June birds are breeding. If birds are disturbed during this time then birds can abandon eggs or chicks.
- Don’t linger for too long when you are close to wildlife– by all means look, but then move on.
- Avoid eelgrass sensitive areas – Within Poole Harbour, close to Whitley Lake, there are some eelgrass bed sensitive zoneswhich are marked with buoys. It is important that windsurfers do not windsurf or trample the seabed in these areas because eelgrass beds:
- Provide a sheltered habitat for lots of invertebrate species, cuttlefish, fish, and spiny and short-snouted seahorses.
- Provide a food resource for overwintering birds such as brent geese, wigeon and mute swans.
- Stabilize the sediment in Poole Harbour
To find out more about eelgrass beds in Poole Harbour see the Poole Harbour Eelgrass leaflet.
- Report live strandings of cetaceans, and injured/entangled marine mammals to British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) on 01825 765546 (24 hours). Report all other live injured or entangled animals to RSPCA 0300 1234 999.
Watch out for other users
- Look out for other windsurfers – Windsurfers can travel at very fast speeds so it is important to know the “rules of the road” so you know what to do if it looks like you are on a collision course with another windsurfer. The following rules also apply when you meet a small dinghy:
- Port tack (when the wind blows onto the left side of the board) gives way to starboard tack (when the wind blows onto the right side of the board)
- Windward boat keep clear of leeward board (the one closer to where the wind is coming from gives way to the one downwind)
- If you want to overtake a windsurfer then you must keep well clear while going past.
- When windsurfing in waves, the windsurfer going out has priority of the sailing coming in.
- Look out for other water users –
- Swimmers and surfers have right of way over windsurfers in all circumstances.
- Kitesurfers do not have a clear port or starboard configuration so they don’t necessarily follow the “rules of the road” therefore give them plenty of room, especially if you are downwind of the kitesurfer.
- Windsurfers can manoeuvre faster than larger sailing boats so be courteous and keep out of the way of sailing boats.
- Large powered boats such as ferries, fishing boats, ships and tankers all operate in Dorset waters, stay alert and keep out of their way when windsurfing.
- Look out for other beach users –
- Always take your board to the beach first and make sure you push it down into the sand if it is windy. An unattached sail rig should never be left on the beach because they can blow away quickly and could injure someone.
- Look around the beach, if it’s too busy then don’t launch.
- Launch from black and white flags – this means that the lifeguards can still keep a safe eye on you and there shouldn’t be any swimmers. Use iCoast to find out which beaches have surf lifeguards on the Dorset coast.
Only windsurf if you:
- Are a competent swimmer
- Are wearing a helmet and a buoyancy aid
- Have checked all your equipment and repaired any damage
- Have a signalling or communication device so you can call for help if you need to
- Know that the conditions are right for your capability. Check the weather and tides and make sure you are aware of local hazards – learn to interpret tide tables and weather forecasts
- Have told someone responsible ashore where you are going and when you will be back. They will be able to raise the alarm by calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard if they get worried and you are not back on time
- Have written your full contact details on all your equipment
- Know your limits – do not get in the water in conditions above your capability
- Be sun smart
- Always wear SPF factor 30 and above waterproof sun cream. Reapply frequently
- Drink plenty of fluids as you dehydrate faster while exercising
- Consider taking a rest and seeking shade during the hottest part of the day
- Never go too far out to sea, make sure that you would be able to swim back to shore if there was an emergency
Make sure you come ashore before dusk or in fading light
Help, I’ve been stung!
- Weever-fish – If you feel a sharp scratch on your foot while in the water that becomes more painful you may have stood on a weever-fish. Don’t panic but find a lifeguard for treatment. If there’s no lifeguard, place the affected area in water as hot as is comfortable. Test the water first so you don’t cause scalding.
- Jellyfish – Do not rub a jellyfish sting, as this will cause the pain to intensify. Lightly spray the area with seawater and apply a cold compress if available.
For more information about learning how to windsurf the RYA has some useful advice.
Explore the Dorset coast with iCoast