You may have seen recent postings about our new windsurfing/kitesurfing inspired wetsuit? Never ones to sit on our laurels we’re always looking for ways to evolve and grow. In tandem with the new suit we’ve also added to our roster of team riders. In this instance we’d like to welcome accomplished windsurfer Mark Kay to the fold. We caught up with the world, national and club level champ to get all the goss.
Tell us how you first got into windsurfing – what was it that sparked your interest?
Back in 1979 my Dad first started windsurfing and bought me a board and sail a year later. We raced at the local sailboard club just following everyone else. From there I went on a summer camp to Rutland Water for a week training, came back and went from strength to strength winning everything in the northwest region. In 1981 by luck someone mentioned a national event at Axbridge which I took part in and never looked back. 35 years later I’m still at the top of my game – winning and representing the UK at international events.
What’s your local launch like and what does it offer windsurfers?
West Pennine Sailboard was the local lake back in the day but now Hollingworth Lake in Rochdale, Lancashire, is the main hang out. My children have just joined the RYA Team 15 club on a Tuesday night which helps kids develop their windsurfing ability. They provide all the equipment needed to get started and most of our weekends are spent heading off to some sort of windsurfing event – be it national racing or training camps held throughout the UK.
How did you discover your love for competition?
Once you start racing and you pass someone, don’t finish last, the bug will bite. All you want to do is beat the next person in front until you win. It then becomes even more addictive.
Why the raceboard discipline? Do you ride any other type of windy kit?
Raceboard is the most tactical discipline of windsurfing there is. You need a vast amount of knowledge to out sail your competition hence why I think it is the best and most rewarding. When I do get time I do like to sail short boards as well. Wave sailing is fun, although I still end up trying to beat the person sailing next to me. I think I was born to compete.
Talk us through your results to date.
Cup Series 2015
2015 UK National Heavy Weight Champion Gold
2015 UK National Raceboard Master Champion Gold
Inland Series 2015
2015 UK National Inland Raceboard Heavy Weight Champion Gold
2015 UK National Inland Raceboard Vice Master Champion Silver
Cup Series 2014
2014 UK National Heavy Weight Champion Gold
2014 UK National Raceboard Vice Master Champion Silver
Inland Series 2014
2014 UK National Inland Raceboard Champion Gold
2014 UK National Inland Raceboard Master Champion Gold
2014 UK National Inland Heavy Weight Champion Gold
Cup Series 2013
2013 UK National Heavy Weight Champion Gold
2013 UK National Raceboard Vice Champion Silver
2013 UK National Raceboard Vice Master Champion Silver
Inland Series 2013
2013 UK National Inland Raceboard Champion Gold
2013 UK National Inland Raceboard Master Champion Gold
2013 UK National Inland Heavy Weight Champion Gold
Cup Series 2012
2012 UK National Raceboard Champion Gold
2012 UK National Raceboard Master Champion Gold
2012 UK National Heavy Weight Champion Gold
Inland Series 2012
2012 UK National Inland Vice Raceboard Champion Silver
2012 UK National Inland Vice Raceboard Master Champion Silver
2012 UK National Inland Heavy Weight Champion Gold
Cup Series 2011
2011 UK National Raceboard Champion Gold
2011 UK National Raceboard Master Champion Gold
2011 UK National Heavy Weight Champion Gold
Inland Series 2011
2011 UK National Inland Raceboard Champion Gold
2011 UK National Inland Raceboard Master Champion Gold
2011 UK National Inland Heavy Weight Champion Gold
2011 Vice World Masters Champion Barcelona Silver
Cup Series 20110
2010 UK National Raceboard Champion Gold
2010 UK National Raceboard Master Champion Gold
2010 UK National Inland Raceboard Champion Gold
2009 UK National Inland Raceboard Champion Gold
2009 UK North Sea Cup Overall Champion Gold
Took a break for 7 years once my daughter was born (you needed it by the extensive list of results! – ed)
World Champion 2002.
2nd European Champion 2000
Regional Champion 15 times
National Raceboard Champion 12 times,
Unlimited Raceboard Champion 4 times
North Sea Cup Champion 4 x event Holland, France, Belgium, UK
What’s your most memorable competition and why?
Europeans in La Rochelle, France, saw my first ever overseas podium place. I came second overall and was sponsored at the time by Durex! I was known as Mr Durex, the atmosphere was electric all week and it all came down to a battle between my long-time rival Remco for the title.
How’s your 2016 season shaping up? What dates do you have pencilled in for further events?
2016 is full from March – Oct. There’s something on every weekend. I have the National Cup Series which are all sea events. Then the Inland Lake Series and raceboard training event where I teach anyone wanting to learn. I’ll also be coaching Team 15 and new comers to windsurfing. But I’ll be most looking forward to the Europeans in France later in August.
What kit are you using and why?
Demon Sails – The Dream
I have been using and help with Demon Sails product design for well over 15 years.
The best sails require time and dedication to craft. When they build your sail Demon Sail the team pay attention to detail, assemble with care and ensure that when it leaves them, it is the best it can be.
Starboard Raceboard – Rocket Science
The Phantom Race 377 Bat Wing is Starboard’s third generation race board. The board is truly innovative in many aspects. It features bat-wings, slanted mast tracks and heel extensions. Starboard continues its tradition of board race dominance – I wouldn’t want to use anything else.
And let’s not forget wetsuits by NCW!
What’s your favourite piece of windsurfing equipment – old or new?
Has to be my very first short board back in the early 1980’s – BIC Rock ‘N’ Roll. It was the fastest thing I had ever sailed and got me wanting to beat everyone on the water.
Tell us about the work you do with youngsters and the Team 15 squad you help manage.
We have a local lake at Hollingworth where we run a Team 15 Club. We help teach racing and help children develop their sailing skills on and off the water. I also coach adults and help them improve their racing skills.
Is it hard to attract young windsurfers these days? And what about racing – do you think kids get put off by the term ‘racing’?
Yes it is hard to get children in to windsurfing but once they find a friend that does it they and very easily persuaded to have a go and before you know it they have their own kit and are members of their local club. The term racing does put children off which is why we don’t push this term. We encourage them to get the mark quicker than the other sailors and naturally children want to beat their friends so the competition starts. Racing is just the next progression.
How many are currently in your squad? Any talent we should be aware of?
In the Team 15 we have around 14 windsurfers of which half are already competing at national level.
What do you think about the current level of pro riding across all areas?
Within the raceboard fleet there are no real pro’s as you cannot make any money out of this discipline. It’s a pathway to get all sailors moving to RSX – the Olympic class. Not all sailors want to go down that route though. Some simply don’t want the pressure of windsurfing becoming a job, but want to stay in the sport and race competently.
Do you think becoming a pro windsurfer is a viable career choice these days?
No, you cannot live on windsurfing alone. You need to have a job that pays. Only few sailors will ever make it to the Olympics. Teaching full time is an option but for me that would kill the passion.
Got any global windsurfing spots you fancy hitting up?
I would like to sail all over the world but being realistic I just enjoy the odd European or global event.
Who are your windsurfing heroes and why?
My Dad, of course, and my main competition: Ian and Keith Escrit who I always looked up to. Robby Naish, Bjorn Dunkerbeck and Jason Polakow are the main superstars I admire. I’ve watched all there DVD’s and try to learn from them.
Ever met any of them?
Met Robby Naish at the London Boat Show one year. He signed a shirt for me and seemed like a really nice guy.
Final thanks and shouts?
Has to be firstly my wife and family for all the support over the years 35 years of traveling the UK and overseas. Demon Sails who’ve been there though thick and thin most of my windsurfing life. Dave Hackford at Starboard UK for all the support and help and you guys at NCW.
To anyone else who has ever known me in the land of windsurfing I also thank you as without enthusiastic participation racing would not happen.