Catrin Williams from Caernarfon has become the first Menai Dragon to join the RYA’s British windsurfing squad at the age of 13 after taking up the sport through the activity club at Plas Menai, the Sport Wales National Outdoor Centre for Wales.

She joined the activity club when it was set up in 2014, and has since seen the sport grow in popularity throughout the North Wales coast.

Menai Dragon Catrin with her trophies

Menai Dragon Catrin with her trophies

Another Dragon, Elis Glyn Jones, has also become a member of the Welsh windsurfing squads, while the number of young people taking up watersports activities through the club has gone up from six to 50.

The Plas Menai Menai Dragons club has certainly shown what can be achieved in a short space of time with the right facilities and commitment from all involved.

It also reinforces what OnBoard is all about, bringing in people from non-sailing or windsurfing backgrounds, introducing them to the exciting sports and supporting them to develop into regular participants, instructors and taking their first steps on to the performance pathway.

Created by Plas Menai Community Development Officer Charlotte Falck and developed along with senior instructor Matt Beaumont, the club activities are run bilingually by a team of highly qualified, enthusiastic instructors who have developed an excellent rapport with the Dragons.

“What we have done is try to take the best our old T15 windsurfing club and combine it with the best of our OnBoard club, so people can have the opportunity to give all sports a try but then also get progression after that, if they want to,” explained Falck.

“This year we introduced the Menai Dragons squad at Plas Menai for those who wanted to develop their skills further in sailing or windsurfing. We went to the OnBoard festival and a few of the CYRC’s (Club Youth Racing Circuit) this summer. Next year we will do all the CYRC’s, the OnBoard Festival and some national events.

“When we started the Menai Dragons the intention was to provide local children with participation opportunities through a pay and play multi activity club that included sailing and windsurfing.

“Introducing the children to competition at the North Wales OnBoard Festival and the CYRC’s has allowed those who want to take the next step to do so, and the racing squad has become a great success helping to develop the individuals further.

“We entered CYRC and OnBoard events, Catrin and Elis got noticed and have gone on to be picked up by the national squads. Elis went into the North Wales squad and then Wales, while for Catrin to be picked up by GB is something quite new for Welsh windsurfing.

“That was not the intention when we set up the Menai Dragons, but the fact they have done so well shows what the race squad has become.

“As soon as Catrin went to the OnBoard festival in Bala she became very interested in competing and started doing the winter training with RYA Cymru Wales which was her way into higher things.

“We really never thought the Menai Dragons would do anything like that, so it is great to see children we have taught progressing through the sports performance pathway to the regional squads and now GB level, it is brilliant.

“Catrin is 13 so she went to her first OnBoard festival at the end of last year. Ellis is 16 and so this is his last year.

“Some of the older ones are starting to get involved in coaching, we don’t want to lose them when they turn 18 so we are trying to develop them as instructors.

“We started with around six people at the club, so to go on to win club of the year is really, really good. We have a racing squad of up to 24, but we have 36 kids who come on the Saturday and another 12 on the Sunday.”

Both Catrin and Elis have started competing at national level at events like the Eric Twiname Championships, where Williams finished in the top 10.

The success of Menai Dragons is not limited to Windsurfing. Some of the other club members have been offered places in the Regional Optimist and Topper Squads, Nathan Williams from Llanfairfechan in Conwy has gone on to buy his first Topper and trains and competes on the Topper circuit.

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