Massage, Magheroarty and Mayhem on the M1 Motorway

Yes the 2014 Magheroarty windsurfing courses took place but where did the mayhem occur this time?

Ten days of windsurfing, sun, some wind, a lot of fun - and no-one in A+E this year. The Donegal winsdsurfing courses ran again this year and were, in a less bone-crunching way, one of the most enjoyable yet. Unless of course you were Ming the Merciless Master of the M1 Motorway.......

This year we ran the improvers course first - a rather obvious plan which meant that improvers could, well... improve and then move onto some of the subsequent wave course. So obvious, that we'd never actually had the brains to think of it before.

And we had a good contingent from overseas, well over the Irish Sea anyway, and were glad to welcome Danya, Jez, Martin to the joyous job of not just meeting a load of new people - but figuring out why they all had 2 names, once of which appeared rather insulting. All good windsurfers (and quite a few bad ones) have of course a windsurfing nick name.

Once more we had the excellent Hobbits in the form of Phil and Danielle from Get Windsurfing who came over and slummed it in Ming's Donegal Palace. Not as you might think a rather dodgy Donegal oriental carry out, but in fact Chris's pad in Downings.

In fact they came over a week early and ran a course for the Cambridge students - probably while they were still sober (the students, not the Hobbits) before term started. The wind wasn't kind so there was a lot of surfing done while they all stayed in a rented house near Magheroarty. The highlight here was discovering that the garage contained a hearse! An omen for the soon to follow wave course? Well, as it turned out, more an omen for Ming's favourite Falcon board.....

The flat water course ran from Friday through Monday although many people who were with or who have kids naturally only did the Saturday and Sunday.

The Friday started rather sedately as the wind only came through late on, but the Hobbits were totally undeterred and cover a lot of theory to ready the troops for the weekend. And tans were topped up.

Tony, just called me Shipman, was supposed to appear, but didn't, causing much speculation around various drugs and human suffering.

The sun was blasting on Saturday. Normally this is a good thing, but it did cause a number of windsurfers who should have known better (the blokes) to wear shorts. Still, it did at least allow us to admire the scars on Ming's leg and reflect in the knowledge of how much pain his rope trick had caused him.

This was when we had the massive influx of what we normally call grommets IE kids. Problem is that some of them are now as tall as us (and pretty much all of them are taller than Phil - come on James, hurry up and grow). And they can now windsurf. The video showed the likes of Mathew and James Toland sailing really well (that's James junior - just to be clear). While Adam and Rory were doing classy gybes and of course young James Hutton continues to defy gravity and his pint size constitution to sail brilliantly - but then you'd expect nothing else from the Newtownards Windsurfer of the Year!

We also had some slightly older improvers including David Ross who has returned to the sport after a number of years in the wilderness. We suspect the reason for coming back is that his wife was nagging him about all that windsurfing junk cluttering up the garage. Either way he soon picked it up again.

Another returner was Alex Curry who almost stopped and was then transformed by the great course the Hobbits ran in July at Downings. Now she's buying more kit and we expect to see her on (and in and under) the waves next year.

On Saturday the wind did appear and, although rather gusty, allowed a full video session in the afternoon while Phil sat like a garden gnome without his fishing rod on one of the yachts out in the bay and filmed us all.

With so many kids out, the elderly had to watch out as it quickly became obvious that the starboard rule did not apply to under 18s.

The so called kids were of course very competitive. And they quickly adopted the policy of their elders of immediately using anyone who fell in as a gybe marker and gybing round them. Causing pain and humiliation is clearly an inter-generational thing.... This also caused Rory to finally bother himself into doing a gybe.

They also picked up another characteristic of their elders and betters - kit envy. Various plot were being hatched in dark corners and over a bottle or 2 of coke about how they could get their hands on all the kit that Phil and Danielle had with them. However Padraig at least managed to move from his normal toenail fascination (he did like to watch his feet - must have been the lovely nail varnish he was wearing) to Isonic fascination. He's got to have him one of those before too long.

There was much talk about freestyle and we elders waited with baited breath. However we needn't have worried about being shown up - the most they did was to sail 1 handed.....

Sean however impressed us a lot - he learned really quickly, possibly because unlike other members of his family he actually listened.

Possibly upset by us all laughing at his scars, Ming lured me to the other side of Sheephaven Bay and left me to have a long slog back as the wind dropped and planing became impossible.

We had our first video feedback session in the helpful location of the Harbour Bar. For those of you who haven't experienced it, this is the key to the successful training. Your every mistake is exposed and in the case of Phil, commented on in a friendly, supportive and constructive manner. You know the type of thing - 'well I know you crashed your gybe and went through your sail while you were doing this - but at least you had your front arm straight and were looking where you were going - which is good'.

Your so called friends however will tell it like it is. 'You stupid bollox, how bad was that plonker' or words to the same effect. It's a sobering way to learn, or it would be if you weren't on your 4th Guinness by this stage.

After a while our dark side banter must have seeped into Phil's psyche as he started asking sons to critique their fathers and younger brothers to tell it like it is about their older brothers. All good family fun - if you like a good domestic. So we entered into the spirit of the thing and and  got him to critique Danielle - which he did with just a little too much relish.

Clearly the video shows up bad habits and the stand out here had to be Rory 'Arnie Arms'. Clearly allergic to keeping his hands together Rory always seemed to be sailing with his arms so far apart he was almost kissing the boom. The result of course was that his arms were always sore - but with muscles bulging, hence the Arnie Arms.

Satisfied with a good night of family splitting abuse, we all went and enjoyed a big meal at the Beach Hotel.

Still no sign of the missing Shipman, causing much speculation about whether the police were onto him.

Sunday dawned, sunny, hot and still no sign of Shipman.

As positive as ever Phil and Danielle gave us more dry land stuff including some new bits on wetsuit choice (it was actually bikini weather, but fortunately Ming wasn't wearing his) and on board repair. Now this last one is an area of great interest to those of us on the wave course. So we listened intently, although sadly they didn't cover motorway damage.

We did hear a couple of class lines as Ming, or to be exact his son Adam, had one he'd prepared earlier ie he'd cracked on of his father's boards. The milkman can stand down, he's clearly his father's son. So we all sat around with huge interest and not a little trepidation as Phil explained to us how to fill in Chris's crack.

Ming's crack

And the first thing he said was that the best way to get the moisture out was to suck it. And he proceeded to demonstrate. Clearly the sun had gone to his head.

With little wind, the Hobbits ran a tacking class in the bay, but Ming, Gary and I ran off to the far end of Rosapenna in search of waves.

Now there are a lot of secret locations in Donegal but Crock of Gold, or should that by now have been crack of gold, is right up there with the best of them. Ming led us down a narrow long lane and into what was basically someone's house. He went and leered into the window and was waved onwards - no doubt to get rid of him. So we drove through a number of fields and across what in winter is a total bog before ending up at the back of some sand dunes about 2 miles down Rosapenna beach.

Ming, Gary and the grommets took up surf boards and mountaineered over the dunes and into some beautiful waves. Being a lazy sod, I rigged my 6.9m wave sail on my SUP, breasted the mountains and joined them. The wind was 6-8 mph cross on but the sets were lovely and well spaced. And the sun was out.

The boys and Ming surfed, with as usual young James showing the rest of us up.

I struggled a bit at first with so little wind but was soon riding wave after wave. Mast high it wasn't, but it was beautiful. And still no sign of Shipman.

We stopped for soup when Adam disgraced himself by taking out a frying pan to cook it. He'll perhaps not make someone a lovely wife. But we soon realised that he was in fact a chip off the old block when he was seen beating the daylights out of his board just because he fell off a wave.

And talking of making someone a lovely wife, Padraig made soup to die for.

Monday, the last day before the storms of the wave course saw us all on the beach at Downings waiting for the late Alex Curry. More non planing tacks for the dedicated but some of us headed on to Magheroarty in the hope of some waves and possibly finding the errant Shipman. But it was flat and Tony was nowhere to be seen.

The gentle breeze was forecast to pick up and once it did I discovered that my SUP will plane - given 6.9m and a good wind. It was mostly slalom sailing, although Andy came out and sank on 8.6m but ever the one to hang on until dark, Ming finally got a good sail on his 6.9.

As was to be the pattern for the week, Magheroarty was very crowded. Celebrity windsurfer and voice of windsurfing Peter Hart was running courses so each day there was a serious collection of vans, mostly with English plates. It was there that I overhead my favourite quote of the week, even better than filling Ming's crack - "I love Magheroarty but I always get terrible van envy there".

And so we settled into the inevitable pattern. Huge Loch Altan fried breakfast, shop across the road for provisions, fight for a parking space at Magheroarty, windsurf and talk bollox, back to the Altan for a dose of pints, video feedback and abuse, a Loch Altan burger (not for the fainted hearted - or the unclogged artery-hearted) and more Guinness.

It's a tough life.....

Wookie' relatives showed up

On Tuesday (still no sign of Shipman), the wind was light so it was SUPs and big boards. Now I have to say that I love windsupping in waves. It's all a bit slower, so more chance of control and you can certainly ride some big waves and for some way. Best of all, no damned paddle. So I had a ball, but every time I passed Andy (normally down wind and in the shallows) all I could hear was 'windsupping is sh**'.

Mind you Ming might well agree with him as he managed to break a mast and go through an Ezzy. Not an easy thing to do in 12 mph! Naturally the Hobbits had caught it on camera and it was a bit of a freak - the incident, not poor old Ming. He came off in the shallows on a tiddler, got his harness line caught on his fin and before he could do anything the next bigger wave hit. Crack went the mast as the board went through the sail. Painful and expensive.

We are always glad to see Alan Yeates join us, although there were a few sad mutterings about no soup (he's now a retired soup dragon). And Raptor showed up and proceeded to try out the 120 ltr wave board Phil had brought over as a demo. That tells you a lot about the conditions when the runt of the litter needs 120 ltrs. Mind you, he could make it do stuff on those waves!

We had some great new people with us and one couple introduced themselves as Danya and Jez. It's great to see more female windsurfers (that's Danya in case you were confused) but Jez's name really got us going. To windsurfers of a certain age, the name Jez is famous of course. That's for Jez's Knob which was an early plastic mushroom thingie that hire companies fitted to their boards as a mast deflector. So there was a certain amount of quiet sniggering. And that was before he went on the water in his bright green wetsuit. By his own admission it looked like Kermit was on the water.

And so was born, Kermit the Knob....

Now we're not going to be too hard on either of them. They drove for a day to get here, did the flat water course and then bravely joined us for their first time in waves and did really well. The photographic evidence shows both of them riding waves and not just once or twice. KTK was also seen doing early top and bottom turns!

However on this first day we also discovered his swimming skills as he got hit by a wave, lost his kit and had a long green swim to the shore.

Another of the new kids on the block was Jim. He only had a couple of days on the waves and was determined to get his first wave. Actually, he was so determined that he stayed even later than the, by now in tears, Ming to try and get his first wave.

We also had an Essex boy with us.  Martin was his name, but we soon noticed that he liked to bargain. 'Make me an offer' was his catch phrase and soon he and Ming had locked horns over some fancy racing kit. Offers were made and accepted.

With the wind really dying at the end of the day, Wookie managed to persuade Phil to give it a last last lash and pair of them wobbled out. Wookie was of course hoping for some damage to ensue, so it was poetic justice that he managed to get stung by a weaver fish. He insists on wave sailing in his bare feet and even his fur doesn't extend right down over his feet. So there was about 2 hours of pain and 2 hours of looking up the effects of weaver fish before 'the worst bee sting I've ever had' just vanished.

On Wednesday it finally happened. Shipman rolled up to join us, having no doubt given the authorities the slip. Actually he brought an accomplice in the form of Fred.

It was another light day but with bigger waves and my SUP started to pay the price. Two huge dents in it where waves hit and the boom crunched. But Andy really earned his Blue Peter badge with an excellent temporary repair where he even cut a neat, but replaceable, piece out of the deck rubber. So I too had my crack filled and went back on the water.

Today's injury was Ming again who got his foot trapped between the mast and his board and got some really nasty bruises. But it was OK in that Shipman was now here and so the Chemical Brothers got to work and Ming sailed on until the end of Sunday with a foot coloured like a 2 week old pizza and no sensation available to him below the waist. Windsurfing without drugs - not practical.

Synchronised swimmers

There was a beautiful, almost poetic, moment on the waves. I was upwind of Wookie when we both spotted a lovely big one coming in (a wave, not Andy). So being a nice, well mannered gentleman, Wookie said 'your wave Lord' and on I gratefully jumped. Only for him to also grab it a couple of yards down wind of me. We sailed in, turning like a couple of synchronised swimmers (without the bright lycra swim wear I hasten to add) while each trying to knock the other off their board. We ended up in a tangle in the shallows splitting our sides.

Mind you, I had another wave ride in which was rather surreal when my sail fell but I somehow stayed on the board and the waves and bent double rode it in rather undignified by still vaguely controlled fashion into the shore - mostly with my bottom stick up instead of the mast.

Jim finally got his wave - as the video proved - just before he had to leave. However Danya had a bit of a bad day losing her kit in some pretty large waves and not being sure what to do. Fortunately I'd fallen nearby and so managed to grab her kit and help her in. It's not a nice feeling losing your kit, but after a bit of a rest she was back out on the water - and the waves.

We all enjoyed watching Wookie today as he had some massive swims. The only thing is that he trains that much that he's a very good swimmer and we began to think he was doing it deliberately which sort of takes the fun out of it for us.

Now that he'd finally joined us, Tony got a lot of waves with the aid of copious amounts of pumping. However it was noted in the bar that Andy and Nigel never got their hair wet. Because they never went out. Fred however showed them all up by catching his first waves - and catching them well.

Now you may by now be wondering about the massage bit of the title of this year's piece. The big news is that Danielle is now a fully qualified masseuse. And she brought her massage table with her. She'd clearly looked around the old crocks and ambulance fillers of last year's course and figured she'd do good business. Naturally top of her hit list was the Emperor Ming and indeed, as already related, he did various injuries to himself and his kit. But no-one took up the offer so Magheroarty has yet to experience its first massage.

Now there's a good reason already to book for next year....

Thursday  and Cormac joined us. Now that always means wind and we were hoping to get the by now traditional photo of Cormac abandoning his kit at 20,000 feet.

Orca in the air

And indeed the forecasts said wind and excitement levels (and Ming's drug levels) were high. But it didn't happen for ages. Andy bravely let me out on his 115 ltr Starship (fabulous board) and others were on SUPs or big kit. There were some very good waves but there was also a virtual conveyor belt of people walking up wind on the beach because all you could do was get out, ride down the line and then walk up.

I've mentioned the lack of parking at Magheroarty. Fred decided to take a space right beside the track down to the beach and so we warned him that his car was in danger of being smacked by a boom or a sail. But would he listen? No. And so it was that his car was smacked - but as it happened, Fred did the smacking....

We got good waves but then most of us gave up. However Danya and  KtK stuck at it and then next thing we know he's riding waves. And at long last the forecast wind arrived and some of us had to rig up again and get out. It was a good late afternoon session although most people were on fairly large sails still. The wind kept rising and rising and there were some very tired people crawling off the water. Andy was shattered, but with good reason having ridden some great waves.

And Ming naturally was last off the water at a near dark 7pm.

Regular readers may be wondering why I haven't mentioned those stalwarts of these courses - Ali (I've broken 2 *** ing bones in my hand) Todd and Nigella the ginger minger. Well they were there and I would of course write about anything interesting they did (regardless of whether in truth they actually did it). But they never did very much - no visits to A+E, no puff ball hands, no sneaking up and stealing Andy's waves. All very boring I'm afraid.

Friday saw bigger waves but less wind. And once more we all wondered where Shipman was. Actually there were quite a few people missing and it transpired they'd succumbed to breakfast in Dunfanaghy and some good coffee. The only thing Tony likes more than inflicting pain on people is good coffee.

Despite the poor wind there was a lot of sailing done and a lot of waves ridden. Raptor was of course sailing really well - and as it turned out, this was despite having loose nuts. His words, but we think he was referring to his deck plate.

My good luck continued when I was wobbling in with one of Harty's crew near me and a rogue monster wave jacked up behind us. With no power and nowhere to go we were munched. When I surfaced (why does it always seem like an eternity) my kit was a gentle swim away and completely undamaged. The Harty man wasn't so lucky and had to drag his kit, complete with broken mast, up the beach for ages.

Wookie managed some great waves and his super commitment in the bottom turns drew admiring comment. At least I think it was the turns and not his bottom they were commenting on.

This was up at the reef where Ming too sailed and managed a Duracell wave. It was caught on video and he just rode this 1 wave forever. Certainly minutes and into double digits of turns.

But being Ming he pushed it for too long and ended up getting caught up in the reef with absolutely zero wind. Totally in the Doldrums. Unable to uphaul, swim or do anything except fist his board, he was stuck there for around 30 minutes while we contemplated sharing out his van load of kit between us.

The last day of windsurfing turned out to be the Saturday. After the by now normal fry we headed to Magheroarty only to find it was light, off shore and really big. Kit crunching time.

So instead we drove to Rossapenna and filled up the tiny car park at the end of the golf club lane. The wind was very light but there were good waves further down the beach as the tide came in.

Big kit again, 6.3m on 110 FSW for me. It was hard work but Ming and Andy especially had some good waves. Phil came out and coached on the water and also really enjoyed the conditions. Michael too sailed well along with Cormac and Raptor. Actually I have to mention Michael's hat. We all wondered that had happened to big Ian's fedora hat now he has no need of it. Well, now we know - because Michael was wearing it to sail today.

The moment of the day came in the dying wind when Andy and Ming were wobbling out and were suddenly faced by a brace of really big waves. Ming went down like a nine pin but held onto his kit. Andy managed to barge his way through the first only to be flattened big time by the second and lose his kit. Ming by now was up again and managed to sail in eventually. Andy however was held down and when he tried to swim to the surface found he had kelp round his legs. Rather frightening but he did come up and had a rather long swim before emerging in Ursula Andress fashion from the water. Well he would have looked like Ursula if she'd been wearing a large orca-like wetsuit and covered in kelp.

Then the wind died off and we all came in and derigged. All except Ming, who in best merciless fashion, was convinced the wind would change direction and come back. We laughed at him and indeed Cormac and Raptor hit the road.

And then wind came back.

Ming was out like a rocket. I got back into a wetsuit and rerigged and Andy manfully said that since Suzy was with him he would forego the by now good conditions and go and take her somewhere nice. However Suzy knows well the man she's going to marry (yes, honestly) and told him to rerig. What a girl! Actually, she admitted that she couldn't bear the thought of having to listen to Andy moaning all evening if he hadn't gone out again. Now that, we do believe.

So, a further good session. At times I was struggling to hold my 6.3 and waves were getting good too.

It was nearly dark when the wind died again, this time for good. And so it was back to the Loch Altan for the last time to listen to Phil  suffering from burger envy. Don't ask, or at least not unless you've had a Loch Altan burger.

Sunday was our last breakfast and I departed while the last of us headed to Magheroarty for a bit of surfing.

And so, we thought it was all over - but little did we know that the most exciting bit was yet to come.

Now you all know that Ming has a lot of kit and of course he had a full roof rack. He knows all about the perils of roof racks as I remember getting a panic call from him on the M5 saying that his Isonic has come off the roof rack and was lying in lane 2 being attacked by speeding lorries. He was wise enough not to venture out to get it while no doubt being watched by the police on their CCTV . His board was of course ruined but no-one was hurt or prosecuted.

So an enlightened Ming checked his rack (and his roof rack) and straps (not his strap ons) before he set off from Donegal. He even stopped half way home to recheck. And it's a brand new and stronger roof rack. What could go wrong?

Well we don't actually know. What we do know is that he looked in his mirror while on the M1 to see one of his boards, actually his best Falcon board, rearing up and making a vertical dash for freedom. It took off, well he was doing motorway speeds, flew up and over the next 2 cars behind him. Fortunately it landed on the motorway and not on a car or anything. A couple of cars hit it glancing blows sending it into the slip lane and all traffic stopped.

No-one was hurt and no cars were damaged so soon everyone drove on. Poor old Ming was left to pick up his now ruined board. To add to the mast, sail and foot he'd already mangled.

I must give a warm word of thanks for Phil and Danielle. They've now got the hang this rather mottly crew of odd-ball windsurfers and know how to gently push us towards improving. They had a plan for each day, adapted for the conditions, and ran everything with great precision. The video feedback sessions were excellent - even if they did tend to feature too many of my crashes. And it was great to see so many young and newish windsurfers getting an injection of enthusiasm.

And if you want to get a brief view of what it was like, check out the excellent Get Windsurfing video.

 So there may have been no massage at Magheroarty but there was mayhem and mangling on the M1 motorway.

Plans are already advanced for the same again next year. Well, I'm not sure about the motorway bit, but certainly we will be running the 2 courses in the same order around the same time in 2015.