The Day I Became an Instructor!
By Anna Vasta
This past weekend, instructor trainer extraordinaire Britt Viehman held a two-day WIPA certification session in Clearwater for a few aspiring instructors. If you’re not yet familiar with it, WIPA is the Windsurfing Instructors and Programs Association – or as founder (and US Windsurfing regional director) Ned Crossley likes to call it, “Windsurfing Is Pretty Awesome!” The old certification program was run by US Sailing, and WIPA built on that solid foundation to bring certification closer to the windsurfing community, streamline the overall process and add a few fun twists to it. Since its launch last year, WIPA has certified over thirty new instructors around the country, and as the 2019 season gets underway, many more are signing up to get their wings and spread the joy at their local beach this summer. One of WIPA’s most recent graduates is Anna Vasta, and we asked her to tell us a bit about herself and her experience!
My name is Anna Vasta, and I’m 20 years old. I’m a competitive windsurfer at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, and I just took a Level-1 WIPA certification class with Britt Viehman here in Clearwater. What a thrill that was! After just two days, I feel really confident and prepared to teach others how to windsurf, and the timing is perfect because we have summer camps at the club starting in a couple of weeks. It was really warm and sunny too, so a perfect preview of the next few months here in Florida!
We started out by learning how to teach students the basics, first on land and then on the water. By starting on land before going out on the water, you don’t have to worry too much about balance, and it’s a lot easier to answer questions and make corrections when your student isn’t floating away! As Ned Crossley says, “there are 5,000 maneuvers you can do on a board, and they’re all much easier if you have the fundamentals down!” I’m not going to review everything we learned (it would make for a super long article!), but I want to point out that we covered many things outside of pure technique: making sure that you’re constantly gauging your student’s energy level, for example, or breaking up the lesson into easy-to-digest sections, adding frequent water breaks, etc. Oh, and making sure that your students know where and how to turn around before actually getting them on the water!
What surprised me the most was to realize that as an instructor, you obviously have to know what you’re talking about, but you also have to be an excellent communicator. Being clear and concise is a challenge, at least for me, but is key to a successful windsurfing lesson. Britt showed us how it’s done: he has a witty style that’s hard to resist and he’s able to keep a whole group fully engaged. That’s something we’re all looking forward to emulate.
Being a teacher had never been on my radar. Growing up, I was a competitive gymnast, so I was used to regulations and structure, but it always seemed to me that coaching and teaching would be overwhelming. As a young gymnast, I was in the gym at least five days a week, always working on perfecting my routines. I certainly learned how to fall and get back up! Windsurfing involves a lot of trying and failing and trying again, so that part was totally familiar to me. I don’t practice gymnastics anymore, but being flexible and used to a rigorous schedule made it much easier for me to progress in windsurfing – and in rock climbing too, another sport I’m into these days.
The WIPA certification session taught me how to be an instructor, and I’m really excited for this summer! And I picked up a few tips for my own sailing too: seeing how we break down tacking for new students, I realized that I was generally taking too many steps in my own tacks. I’m going to work on that! The experience was so much more than I had anticipated. Do yourself a favor: subscribe to WIPA, reach out to an instructor trainer and schedule a certification session. You’ll come out of it fully energized and better equipped to share your passion for the sport with everyone around you!