I've just returned from a week away in Pembrokeshire, a week which didn't have a very promising forecast, but which turned into probably the best sailing and surfing I've had all year, and culminated in a trip I've longed to do for years to a 'secret spot' somewhere in Wales. So I'm pretty happy with that.
However I'm also pretty saddened by the news rumbling around the BOARDS forum that the magazine is basically being canned - down from 12 issues a year to just 2, and reading between the lines (or should that be spin), the printed mag staff are all being fired.
I probably sound a total hypocrite saying this as I don't buy it anymore but I think this is really sad. I practically learnt to read with the first issues of BOARDS, and as a teenager worshipped anyone who appeared in it. Its mountain biking supplement introduced me to bikes and a similar paragliding supplement left me itching to do that as well. I read every test and considered their recommendations the gospel truth, literally saving my pocket money for months to buy - at first (and I remember this clearly) an uphaul when I was about 11, a Gaastra CS1 (that's a sail for anyone who didn't grow up coveting windsurfing equipment) aged about 14, and a Gaastra MW5 (one of the first five batten wave sails - they only had a pink one in the shop) aged about 17. I was learning to drive at the time and missed the brake pedal when trying to park at Ski Surf 2000 in Colchester, crashing into the side of the shop. I knew everything there was to know about 'dedicated slalom boards', 'course slalom boards', elliptical fins, and I longed to try the mistral flex-tail.
It was therefore amazing to me when I saw an advert to join the test team five years later, and jawdroppingly unbelievable when one Bill Dawes sent an email asking to come for an interview. When I was actually offered a job working for the magazine as a result I'd long run out of superlatives. I felt like the luckiest person on the planet.
I wrote for BOARDS, and tested kit for about seven years. I hope I contributed something valuable to it over that time. I felt it was a great institution, to windsurfers right up there with the BBC. It was an honour to add to it.
Since I left it's been sold and Dave White replaced Bill as editor - changes which appeared to point to a strong future at the time. But the hopeful rebirth has been aborted. The institution all but chucked away.
It's demise is being blamed on the internet. The fact we don't really read magazines anymore. Not even on the bog. Is that true? Probably. Does that mean it was inevitable? Maybe, but I still see a lot of magazines in Smiths, many for markets as niche, or 'nicher' than windsurfing. Why are they still there, and BOARDS gone?
I wonder if braver decisions could have kept it fresher (mine included). I've nothing against Simon Bornhoft but he's been teaching people to tack the same way in every issue for as long as I can remember. Perhaps the creep from real editorial to advertorial, pimping sponsors, keeping advertisers happy all went too far? Perhaps too many people saw it as a means to make a name for themselves. To the point that most articles just - weren't very good?
Anyway. Hopefully this is all nostalgic negativity, and BOARDS will live on in its new format. I hope that it will contain some role for both Gary Crossley and Duncan Slater, who are the real heart and soul of the mag, who kept it going as a tradition in recent years.
But this Sunday night I'm still a strange mix of stoked on good sailing and good waves, and sad that the institution of BOARDS is castrated - ends - this way.
Here's some pix from Wales.