Teenagers at a North Wales school are rising to a challenge involving watersports.
Nearly 100 learners from Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan in Abergele have sampled wind surfing plus catamaran and dinghy sailing, with many completing courses as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Awards.
The chilly Irish Sea dips, with qualified instructors from Colwyn Bay Water Sports Centre at Porth Eirias, are among the wide range of extra curriculum activities offered by the school, including skiing, trampolining, water polo and public speaking plus clubs for film buffs through to young scientists.
The school’s additional classes have previously been praised by inspectors from Estyn, who said the sessions promoted “the pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development”.
PE teacher Jon Blackford said: “Sailing is a real leveller and all the learners are out of their comfort zone, as none of them have really done it before. It’s a new experience and yet right on their doorstep. The Colwyn Bay Water Sports Centre is a fabulous facility and we try to use it as much as we can.
“The learners taking the Duke of Edinburgh Awards come here but we try to offer the course to as many as we can. They do have to pay something towards it but we ensure those less able to afford it still get a chance to take part if they want to.
“Every learner wears a buoyancy aid, so the ability to swim is not a prerequisite. It’s about having fun and learning new skills.”
He added: “They all have to work together as a team, whether it’s getting the boats down to the water or pulling them out. You can see their inter-personal and social skills all coming into play.
“You can also see some clearly flourishing in a way that you might not in traditional sports. For example there are learners who come along here who don’t like football or don’t feel at home in a gym, yet love being in the water.
“It has to be good for them and you can see their confidence being boosted. All the youngsters really enjoy the lessons and it’s something we will continue trying to offer. We have also just started skiing lessons on a dry slope.”
Fellow PE teacher Karen Duggan said: “It’s a level playing field in a way so girls can enjoy a sport or activity alongside their male peers. It’s nice to see the strong camaraderie that develops. They are all really good friends and that shines through.
“It’s also good to see their individual personalities come out in a way you might not see in the classroom or in school. The girls are clearly happy to adapt and grab the opportunities offered to them.”
Learner Jacob Riddle, 12, of Prestatyn said: “I’ve always liked water and living by the sea; so sailing and wind surfing is something I’ve always wanted to try.
“I enjoy PE but not really gym sports or football, so it’s good to have the chance to try something different.”
Year 9 learner Sophie Teasdale, 13, of Abergele said: “I’m quite active and I like sport so I thought I’d give sailing a try, even if the water is freezing!
“Windsurfing is my favourite activity so far. It’s fantastic that the PE teachers put these after school activities on and it really is something to look forward to.”
Jay Bagnall, 13, of Abergele added: “It really is something different and much better than going home after school and playing computer games.
“I like sports of all types and really enjoyed being involved. It’s amazing really that the school organises these after school activities.”
Cara Gaulton, 13, from St Asaph said: “I do a lot of sports, dancing, skiing and trampolining but sailing and wind surfing is really different and I really do enjoy it.
“I have done a little bit of wind surfing in the past but not a great deal. I like being with school friends and having a good time. And it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or girl, we are all the same when we are trying to stand up and wind surf!”
Junior triathlete Kieran Williams, 14, said: “I really enjoy trying new sports especially with school friends.
“Everyone gets on really well and helps each other. It’s really good fun too and no one minds if you get it wrong and end up in the water.”