A catch-up with Natalie McWilliams
Natalie is a seasonal insturctor at Cumbrae and, in September, became the first female to claim the title of Scottish Windsurf Champion. She’s 21 and currently studying at Aberdeen. She recently took some time out to provide some insight to sportscotland, below:
How did you get into windsurfing?
I got into windsurfing at age 11, when my mum enrolled me in a taster course activity day at our local lake, James Hamilton Heritage Park. On this day, I tried sailing, windsurfing and canoeing but of course fell in love with windsurfing so persuaded my parents to do the Start windsurfing course and from then on I became addicted and went along to the local Team 15 club where I improved and learnt in a fun environment.
What was your experience of sport when you were younger? What were the challenges you faced?
Sport has always been a big part of my live. From very young I was part of swimming club, athletic club, as well as dancing. All of which I got to a reasonable standard with. However, being an outdoors type of girl and loving to be near the sea I took every opportunity to jump to the sport of windsurfing. Windsurfing is sometimes seen as a mainly male dominated sport and it has been great to see more girls within the sport.
What does it mean to you to have become the first female Scottish Windsurf Champion?
It’s so amazing and such an excellent achievement. The weekend consisted of hard conditions and competitors who were on bigger sails and boards than me, making it a challenge to try and beat them.However, that is part of the fun and winning this event has gave me the encouragement and determination to go further and improve my skills.
What transferable skills have you gained, both from competitive sport and being an instructor?
As an Ex Scottish Squad member for several years and being in the British youth squad, I learnt a lot and had the chance to make friends from all over the world. This understanding of how people react and respond has in turn allowed for me to adapt and encourage people intowindsurfing, as an Instructor. It has taught me to participate and work as a team as well as developing leadership skills.
How do you balance training and competing with your studies?
To make sure that my assignments are performed to the best of my ability, I start assignments as soon as they are given, allowing me to spread work over a couple of weeks, rather than crushing it into the last few days before it is due. I have found this is the best way to balance my training and competing with university work.
Why do you think it’s important for girls to be involved in sport and physical activity?
I think it’s important because it helps lead to happier and healthier lifestyle and you can make lots of new friends and learn new skills. Also, physical activity is a good stress buster. Thanks to windsurfing I have also travelled worldwide seeing a variety of places, such as San Francisco, Helsinki and Cesme for example.
What do you think stops some girls from getting active, and what do you think might encourage them? I feel that some feel self-conscious about what other think and I believe no matter what shape, size, appearance and goals you have. You should do everything possible to achieve it, no matter what other people think.
What advice would you have for girls considering taking up a new sport such as windsurfing?
Find a local club or enrol in a course in the many activities offered at the National Centre Cumbrae…but most of all go have fun, go out with others and don’t be afraid to ask and talk to other budding windsurfers. Everyone is friendly and helpful.