If you build it, they will come!
After four exciting events this summer right off the beach at Crissy Field in San Francisco (in the shadow of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge), the 2016 Crissy Field Slalom Series concluded a few days ago, with Xavier Ferlet taking the overall win in A-fleet and Vincent Fallourd in B-fleet. Only in its 2nd year, the series is already making a real impact to re-energize the local scene. We asked one of the key instigators of the series, Steve Bodner, what his recipe was, and what advice he had for other organizers around the country looking to launch a racing series of their own.
by Steve Bodner, USA-4
A do-it-yourself guide to growing the sport!
For the second year in a row, our local windsurfing fleet is growing and we’re seeing more slalom racing on the San Francisco city front! It’s an easy to grasp format: if you can gybe, you can race! Come for the race and stay for the party. Or come for the party and stay for the race. Either way, all are welcome!
The social on the beach after racing is just as key as the racing itself. It’s a chance to bbq and invite the non-racers (read: potential new racers!) to see what’s happening even though they are not part of the race. I believe awarding the middle and the back of the fleet is just as important as the top guys in order to grow the fleet. It’s a concept we’ve tried to employ this summer at the Crissy Field Slalom Series and St. Francis windsurfing regattas. ‘Most improved,’ ‘Biggest catapult’… give it an award! Most people like the recognition and it keeps them coming back.
There’s a lot of behind-the-scene work that goes into planning, running, funding and keeping the Crissy Field Slalom Series alive. I’m going to share what we’ve learned to hopefully inspire others and grow racing from the ground up.
The team: It’s important! We rely on three individuals and countless volunteers to make it happen. Jean Rathle is the go-to guy, getting things done, like trophies, sponsors, pizza, bbq, shopping, prep work, etc. You need one of these guys on your team otherwise shit doesn’t get done! Soheil Zahedi is our technical guru: crunching the numbers after racing to provide immediate results and awards, acting as treasurer, posting and maintaining a website and weekly email reminders, and most importantly, conflict mediator. All essential duties! Finally, myself, Steve Bodner. I do most of the behind-the-scene work from crowdfunding and sponsorship, SIs, NOR, permits, insurance, securing a race committee boat and hiring a race officer. Finally there’s all the volunteers, from a scorer at the finish line for 2+ hours, to an extra hand on the boat the set the marks, a beach master to communicate between race committee and racers, and a grill master for after-racing bbq! Thank them and reward them any way you can. Without any one of these team members, the series suffers. It really takes a a very big group effort to pull off a successful event!
Crowdfunding: For the 2nd year in a row, we used Fundrazr to pre-fund the cost of the series. By offering racers a discount for pre-registration, we raised most of our season expenses before the first race. It’s a platform that worked very well to monitor the progress and attract sponsors. We upped the ante this year and created a sponsorship level aimed at the windsurfing industry, as well as locals in the fleet who had a small business and wanted to support us. A $250 sponsorship not only got you a spot on the line for racing, but you were now part of the team with branding opportunities.
The future: You always need to be evolving and tuning the event to stay relevant. Next year, we plan to reach out to kiters and foilers to break new ground on the slalom course. We also want to introduce a freeride fleet for newcomers, or those who don’t have access to race gear. The operative word is: inclusiveness! I’m sure there will be additional challenges, but it’s an opportunity to grow the fleet and expand the sport in a big way!