People Profile – Get on Board

Claire Frawley, Graphic Designer & Windsurfer

I was born in Woking and my parents moved to Cranleigh when I was a toddler, aged18 months. My Dad was a quantity surveyor at the time of our move, and Mum was at home looking after the family. They’d purchased a large section of a garden in Woodland Avenue, to build a new home and we lived in a caravan on site, while it was being built which was great fun.  I don’t have many memories of that first year though I recall playing on the diggers and dumpers and all the tools and other paraphernalia around the site.  With no TV my Mum would come up with games to entertain us including  catching rain in a cup out the caravan window.  My brother always won!

Windsurfers at West Wittering © Simon Bassett 2XS Ltd.

As well as building our new home, my dad worked full-time, doing the house in his spare time, in the evenings and at weekends.  It was a family affair; my grandads and uncle got involved too. We learnt how bricks were laid and how to mix cement even at that young age. 

Calshot Activity Centre

We loved Cranleigh from the time we moved here; it’s a nice place.  My earliest memories are of playing outside and cycling all over the village.  I spent a lot of time down at the swimming pool too.  I loved it so much my parents bought me a weekly pass.  I’d cycle to the Leisure Centre and swim just for the fun of it.  In those days the ‘Fun Splash’ was absolutely legendary! I also did quite a lot of sponsored swims for charity but didn’t ever join the swimming club.

Years later, when I was about 11 years old, my parents sold the house in Woodland Avenue and bought some land to build another house, in New Park Road, Cranleigh.  This time however they rented a house in Summerlands while it was under construction.  As I was older, I was able to contribute more helping my Dad paint the fascias, clambering up and down the ladder.  That wouldn’t be allowed these days!  

In the early days of teaching my brother

I went to St Cuthbert Mayne school to start with, then Longacre in Shamley Green and  St Catherine’s, in Bramley at secondary school age.  I learnt to play lacrosse at St Catherine’s which was new to me, as well as enjoying rounders and swimming. One of my favourite subjects was Art. 

Learning to stay upright is key

We had a school trip one year to Calshot Activity Centre, near Southampton.  It was a multi-activity holiday with all my friends and it was great fun.  There was a ski slope, velodrome, climbing, kayaking and windsurfing.  The Centre is situated on Calshot Spit, in Fawley.  It was old RAF base and there were a lot of old buildings there, left over from the war.

Me blasting in Rhodes, Greece

The first year we visited we camped in big canvas tents, right beside the sea and it was just heaven to me.  I loved the freedom of being outdoors at the coast and learning all the water sports.  It was quite a turning point for me as the new sports, combined my love of water especially the windsurfing which captivated me from the start.

Young members and instructors at West Wittering © Simon Bassett 2XS Ltd.

After that initial visit I went every year until  6th form when my parents drew my annual trips to a halt.  But that didn’t stop me.  I saved up for my own kit and purchased a wetsuit and board in a sale.  By that time I’d passed my driving test so I strapped the board on to my car and headed to the beach.  I would go as often as possible at weekends and in the holidays, sometimes with my brother or sister on a day trip.  

A wind surfer becoming airbourne © Simon Bassett 2XS Ltd.

I qualified as an instructor and for a couple of seasons I taught the sport at 2xs at West Wittering. I really enjoyed teaching children, the youngest I remember was only 4, which was very young.  As long as a child is happy and confident in water and wears a life jacket, it’s fine.  They schedule the lessons when the water is shallow so they were only in knee deep water.  The equipment there is all proportionate to their size. The age range of windsurfers is almost limitless, learning from a very young age and I’ve known people still windsurfing in their 80s. Anyone can do it,  I once taught someone with only one leg ! 

Wingfoiling is the latest craze © Simon Bassett 2XS Ltd.

You can hire everything at the club at West Wittering, or become a club member. They have various membership packages for individuals or family.  This club is one of the few places in the country, that has specialist children’s kit with really tiny sail sizes. They also have safety boat cover if you need it. It’s absolutely vital to inform family or friends when going out on the water and when you plan to return. For example, if I’m at West Wittering club  I inform them and know people will be watching me.

Teaching the family

I’ve had some fairly scary experiences out on the water.  You have to be respectful of the sea because it always wins!  I’ve been caught out in storms.  One minute it’ll be nice and sunny and then the wind becomes gusty and a storm blows through with nil visibility and hail.  You can become disorientated by it but you just have to keep calm and wait it out.  Generally the conditions calm down as quickly as they began. You have to know your limits and always check the forecast.

Kitesurfing, paddleboarding, windsurfing – it’s all happening on the South Coast

I was out on the water once with my sister, at Hayling Island.  It was a really busy day with loads of people on the beach.  We were messing about on the water, near a sandbar and decided not to head back to the busy beach but wait until the crowds dispersed.  We lay down on the boards enjoying the sunshine.  Within minutes the Life Boat came charging towards us, from the other side of the harbour, assuming we were in trouble. I think a member of the public had alerted them.  The lifeboat team reached us, all guns blazing only to realise it was a false alarm and we were just sunbathing and relaxing!

You can always hire different kit before buying © Simon Bassett 2XS Ltd.

Anyone who sails regularly in the Solent will know all about Solent mud.  When the tide goes out, the mud goes on for miles.  I was out once in Langstone harbour, windsurfing with friends, ‘happy as Larry’.  We kept going up and down, really enjoying the day.  The tide was going out and we were going out with it, getting further and further from the jetty.  When the wind died we obviously needed to get back but there was just nothing but mud between us and our starting point.  We had to pull all the kit probably over a mile, carrying it through thick mud back to the jetty and car park.  We absolutely stank and were covered in filthy black, Solent mud – it’s all character building!

Teaching family and friends is always fun

There’s always new trends in watersports including kitesurfing, paddle boarding and currently wing foiling.  I’m learning to wing foil at the moment. It’s very exciting learning a new sport. It’s a sail a bit like a kite and a surf board that lifts out of the water so you are skimming over the top of the waves. 

Heading for the beach

The health benefits of windsurfing are tremendous – well-being and fitness. It’s a whole body activity yielding upper and lower body strength.  As you know, open water swimming has become very popular and people report how amazing it is just swimming in the sea.  It’s like that every time I go windsurfing! I feel alive and invigorated. 

Can I come too?

Watersports are constantly changing.  You will find one that suits, so if you like the sea then go for it!  There are safety features to consider like wearing a lifejacket or some sort of bouyancy device.  With GPS watches, cameras, smartphones there’s plenty of tech too that’s helpful. You can even make your own video and record the day if you want to.  

Paddleboarders at West Wittering © Simon Bassett 2XS Ltd.

When you start up it’s best to take some lessons and then try different kit. There are quite a few demo weekends over the summer months on the south coast, so you can try different equipment and get advice. There are lots of purchase options with cheap second hand kit on eBay but the best is the newer equipment and you’ll learn much quicker on it.  Most water sport enthusiasts are keen to share their passion and encourage other people to take up the sport. There are also quite a lot of clubs on the south coast – Littlehampton and West Wittering for example, who welcome newcomers. You get more of a social scene at the clubs too and some days enjoy an evening barbecue together after a day on the water. 

I’ve been lucky enough to windsurf all over the world and meet some great people along the way. I still enjoy the sport as much as I did when I first started, possibly more.  The love of being at the beach, out on the sea and meeting others involved with the same interest in the sport, we are quite a community.  There’s nothing else quite like it!

For further information contact  or visit:, T: 01243 512 552
2XS Ltd., West Wittering Beach, PO20 8AU

Calshot Activities Centre, Calshot Rd, SO45 1BR

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