Jo Wright has quite some experience for someone of only 20 years of age. With a taste of PWA competition under her belt she is definitely someone to be keeping an eye on in the future.
Name: Jo Wright
Age: 20 years
From: Stoke on Trent, near Alton Towers
Years windsurfing?: 9
Favourite discipline: Tried all of them but at the moment probably freestyle. After the summer I expect it’ll be wave.
Local spot: Carsington is where I did most of my sailing as a kid, but now if ever I’m in Stoke (which is extremely rare!) I sail at West Kirby.
Occupation: Student studying Geography at Exeter Uni
Sponsors: Sam Ross Windsurfing, Tushingham, Starboard, and then Exeter Uni help me with entry fees for events. Neilson has helped me out loads in the past.
How did you get into windsurfing?
My dad won a Neilson voucher when I was 11 so we went on holiday to a place called Nidri in Greece. We had the choice of going sailing or windsurfing and I chose windsurfing. I was the only kid who chose windsurfing and it was ideal wind for learning. I had an instructor called Jan Veldhuizen, the most enthusiastic instructor in the world, all to myself and just absolutely loved it.
Following that I joined the Carsington team 15. There were 4 of us my age and we just windsurfed all the time. I started racing with them and from that got selected to join Zone Squad. I raced in the squad for a year and did all the racing events around the UK on the Techno. I didn’t really like the light wind side of it, I always wanted to be planing, and at the time formula windsurfing was pretty big in the UK and there was a lot of cheap second hand kit knocking around. So I brought some cheap formula kit and started to race that. I really enjoyed the challenge and it suited my style of windsurfing much better, when I was about 16 I started to do international events.
Unfortunately when I was in 6th form I couldn’t really commit to doing the full international tour and due to other distractions around the same time, I ended up taking a break from windsurfing. Huge mistake and something that was ended by winning a windsurfing holiday to Antigua. Out there I tried some wave sailing and freestyle, and on my return home I sold all my race kit and with the money brought a car and some freestyle kit and started driving up to West Kirby, whenever it was windy. After 6th form I went out to work for Neilson for the summer in Lemnos. That was awesome; I just windsurfed every day. I was meant to go to Uni in September but I loved it so much I decided to take the year out to windsurf. After Lemnos I went on to do my advanced instructor with Sam Ross in Dahab and ended up staying there for the winter. It was Dahab that I really got me into freestyle; I learnt to Vulcan, Downwind Three, all that sort of thing whilst I was out there.
Then, after Dahab I went Ortakent in Turkey for the summer. Out there I got into Slalom quite a bit. My manager’s girlfriend called Lena Erdil was Turkish number one, we sailed together a lot and she said I should try competing at the PWA event in Alacati. Originally I was said ‘no way!’ but then my manager Simon said I should go for it and Neilson would sponsor me. Sam Ross heard about it and said he would help me out with kit and he wrote me an 8 week training program to follow in the run up to the event. Following on from Ortakent, I finished an 18 month stint abroad and started Uni at Exeter.
How did your first experience of a PWA competition go?
Before the event I was convinced I was going to be dead last and started to question why I was even doing it. We went out and sailed at Alacati a few days before the event, Karin Jaggi was down too, so Karin, Lena and myself did lots of speeds runs and practice courses. They both helped me with my kit set up, pretty much re-rigged my sails and it made a big difference; I was a lot faster after that. The first start was terrifying; lining up against people like Sarah-Quita, but it turned out alright. In the first race two girls were over the line, which meant they were out, so I realised I only had to beat 3 to qualify for the final. I made it through to my first final and that gave me loads of confidence for the rest of the week. A big group of Neilson people came down to support and that was really motivating too.
There were about 6 days of competition in total. It started off really windy and I did pretty well, but later in the week the wind dropped a bit and I went down a few places. Then we had this mental day, peaking at 50 knots, and I managed a 4thÂ overall. At the end of the week I finished 12th out of 20. I was pretty happy with that.
So will you carry on and do more PWA competitions?
Not this year. I’m going away to Dahab and Tenerife for the summer, but maybe the year after. This year I haven’t had a car, so have been very reliant on other for lifts to the beach and as a result haven’t had the time on the water when it comes to slalom. I was one of the youngest at the event so I’ve still got a few years.
Tell us about your plans for the summer?
Well, unfortunately the Neilson Dahab centre is closing this year in June. So just before it closes I’m going out there for three weeks to say bye to everyone and do some freestyle. Then I’m home for 2 weeks working in the UK. After that I’m going to El Medeno for 8 weeks with friends from Uni Alex and Rach and my boyfriend Josh. We’re doing it massively on the cheap staying in a one room flat, going to be pretty cosy. The aim of the summer is to build up my wave and freestyle so I can come back and do the BWA events in Tiree and Gwithian, hopefully better my third from last year.Â Also I want to do some freestyle events like Windfest.
The BWA at Gwithian last year had a good turnout in the women’s competition. Do you think the women’s fleet is growing?
I think the main reason for there being so many women at Gwithian last year was Amy Carter. In the run up to the event I think I got about 10 e-mails from her checking I was coming, and not going to bail out. There are loads of girls that came to their first event because of her. I just think it is going to continue to grow. My friends from Uni, Alex and Rach I’m pretty sure will both compete after seeing it last year.
There are a lot of women out there who have the ability to compete; they just seem to think you have to be a lot better than their ability, but you don’t. As long as you can sail out catch a wave and sail back you’ll be alright. If you can ride consistently you’ll do well. You don’t have to be doing big forward loops and stuff.
I was hoping to run a women’s clinic in Dahab with Flow this summer but unfortunately due to Neilson closing it’s not going to happen. Hopefully I will do something next summer, and Sam Ross is hopefully getting involved. Watch this space!
Goals for the summer?
Definitely want to get front loops nailed. I lack a lot of bottle with them but hopefully with everyone in the summer going for them I will be a bit more courageous. Then just make my wave riding a bit slicker.
In Dahab over Christmas I got my first Spock. So I want to get them more consistent when I’m back out in Egypt. Then I guess flakas and grubby.
You’ve spent quite a bit of time in Egypt have there been any particular highlights?
My favourite place I think I’ve ever windsurfed is the Blue Lagoon (Ras Abu Galum). It’s about a 3 hour trek away from Dahab. When I was working for Neilson a few of us went done there for a few days and it was just incredible. We had a few perfect 4.7 days and everyone was landing loads of moves.
Have you ever had any setbacks in your windsurfing career?
When I was about 14 I was on skiing holiday and had someone skied over me, my bindings didn’t release and I ended up tearing a ligament in my knee, resulting in being out for about 4 or 5 months. Other than that just cuts and bruises, but nothing else major.
What are your plans for the future?
Hopefully just keep improving my wave, slalom and freestyle; whilst travelling to lots of new places. Do better on the tour and just generally get more people loving windsurfing.
By Will Jones