Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1386, (22 - 28 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Wind and waves

Despite wild weather conditions, Alexandria’s Mediterranean coast hosted Egypt’s windsurfing championship, reports Ameera Fouad

 

As the 2017-2018 season drew to a close, the Egyptian Windsurfing Federation on Saturday announced the finalists of the winter championship at the Yacht Club in Alexandria.

Seven clubs participated in the championship: Alexandria Yacht Club, Cairo Yacht Club, Muqaweloon Al-Arab, Ismailia Club, Maadi Yacht, Alexandria Fishery and Arab Academy.

The winter season saw the rise of many female champions and juniors who were competing for just their first or second time.

“It was a very strong competition. We are really happy with the participation of many juniors as the sport has become more popular than ever before,” Egyptian Windsurfing Federation President Amr Abul- Soud told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“At present we are preparing our players to compete at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) and to represent Egypt at the World Cup so lots of intense training and preparation is on the table,” Abul-Soud added.

Seventy players joined the championship in fierce weather conditions which were characterised by two extremes – either strong winds which provided exceptional sailing power, or dying and dripping wind which made players unable to beat the current. Despite the difficulties, the winners claimed the titles of the competition which ranged in different categories: Optimist, Laser Radial, Surfing, Techno, Laser Standard and RSX.

Salma Al-Ashmawi, 16, won the first medal for Techno for females and is one of the promising players who in less than two years claimed many titles and earned top rankings. She is also one of the players who qualified for YOG, representing Egypt in Argentina this September.

“Although the competition was tough this time, especially in the first round when the water was very still and the wind was almost static, it depended mainly on our physical abilities and fitness to steer the boats,” Al-Ashmawi said.

Al-Ashmawi was one of Egypt’s national team swimmers before falling in love with sailing and windsurfing. “I remember when I went to Moons Beach at Ras Sudr with my friends and I just tried it once and I felt the joy of directing the boat with the splashes of water. I tried to stay on for the longest possible time and then I fell off. It was so much fun,” she said.

“The moment you direct the boat and take control, is the moment of utmost triumph.

“I think because I was already physically fit and an ex-swimmer, I was able to grasp windsurfing easily and excel in it,” she added.

According to world touristic recommendations for best countries to windsurf, Egypt tops the destinations, offering the best beaches and coastlines any time of the year. Though the sport is not very popular among Egyptians, it is indeed widespread among many tourists who might want to visit Egypt any time of the year for summer or winter water sports.

“Although Alexandria is not well known for its coastal water sports as Sharm or Dahab, it can indeed deliver perfect windsurfing conditions for wave sailors. Indeed, many national championships take place in Alexandria at the Yacht Club,” Hussein Ezzat, board member in the Egyptian Windsurfing Federation, told the Weekly.

“The club is called the father of all yacht clubs in Egypt as it helped in shaping many water sports in Egypt and in giving rise to windsurfing, fishing, diving, sailing and many other sports.”

Ezzat was a former champion who gave much of his life to boost the sport among younger generations. “I used to play and my daughter was a champion until she reached secondary school and left. I am very happy to see many females at the top of the sport in Egypt but I hope they can continue for many years later on,” Ezzat added.

“I think windsurfing is Egypt’s future not only in sports but also in tourism.

“Imagine if we host international championships in various coastlines in Egypt: the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Nile. How many people will get to know about these stunning coasts which offer great wind and beautiful sightseeing,” Ezzat asked.

Although a few Egyptian players are recognised internationally and topped the African rankings, including Al-Ashmawi, Youssef Yasser, Kholoud Mansi, Ali Amin and Mahmoud Al-Tanbouli, they are seldom mentioned in the media. “This is a real disadvantage. We are of course not looking for fame but we are looking for sponsors,” said Yasser, who was awarded the silver medal for second place.

Yasser, who is joining Al-Ghitani at YOG, explained some problems many players face when it comes to lack of sponsorship. “It’s a vicious circle. We need sponsors to finance our kits and our travels but those sponsors will not bother to support us unless the media is interested in what we are doing.”

Yasser, 17, has been playing four years at Muqaweloon Al-Arab. “What I enjoy most in this sport is the family feeling. My coaches are young players themselves. We all know one another. I can never find this in many other sports.”

Adds Yasser: “Though I know I will be competing against world’s top players who have been playing since a very young age, I am aiming for a high ranking.”

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