Come on in - the water’s lovely!

The Sling Swing class.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves

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It’s a sunny morning and the stillness of Langstone Harbour is only interrupted by sailing boats sat in a line.

As the wind fills their sails, budding sailors aged from eight to 16 are soon just specks in the distance.

The Portsmouth Watersports Centre in Eastern Road, Portsmouth.

The Portsmouth Watersports Centre in Eastern Road, Portsmouth.

The children have been spending time at the Portsmouth Watersports Centre.

Tucked away just off Eastern Road, the venue offers sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, kayaking and canoeing for youngsters and adults alike.

As the summer holidays have just begun, the centre is brimming with activity as children from across the city and beyond try their hand at being the next Ben Ainslie.

Nathan Staley, 30, lives in Stamshaw and is the manager of PWC.

He says: ‘As an outdoors activity centre, we offer a range of sports and courses for people to try, mainly to help them manage on the seas. We can cater for eight-year-olds up to adults.

‘We’re the biggest watersports centre in Portsmouth and we want to try and highlight these sports in the city.’

The centre is part of Parkwood Leisure, along with other local venues including Wimbledon Park Sports Centre, the Portsmouth Indoor Tennis Centre, Mountbatten Leisure Centre and Eastney Swimming Pool.

PWC has been on the Eastern Road for the past 45 years and under its current name since 1995. Nathan explains: ‘We live on an island and our aim is to give as many people as much opportunity to get out on to the water. We put on youth clubs and one, two and five-day courses.

‘The history of Portsmouth is very sea orientated. It’s the perfect place at Langstone Harbour ecause it’s a protected area. It’s sheltered too, and there tends to be wind, so it’s good to learn to sail here.’

For adults, there are taster sessions available as well as beginner, improver and advanced training in sailing. Other activities include learning how to sail with spinnakers and racing.

There’s windsurfing and kayaking for beginners as well as canoeing courses. Visitors can learn how to use a powerboat, which is highly recommended if you wish to hire a boat, and there are rowing weekends throughout the year.

But there’s also a lot for kids to get involved in too.

‘In the summer holidays we do a lot of courses for youngsters,’ says Nathan, ‘whether they are here for a day or for a week. Anyone can come along and get involved.

‘We want to give kids the opportunity to do something that they wouldn’t normally get to do, and it’s the same with adults. It’s always fun to try new things and we do try to make it an affordable experience.’

Youth clubs at the centre include the T15 Windsurfing club, the kayaking Paddle Power club and the sailing On Board club.

Nathan adds: ‘With T15 it’s for children up to 15 years old and we hope to take them around the country and take part in races. The others are also for children, and anyone who thinks they have an interest in the sports can get involved.’

Nathan says not being a strong swimmer shouldn’t hold anyone back.

He says: ‘Ideally we are trying to be an inclusive sport so we ask them to be able to swim 25 metres, or be water confident.

‘You have to be happy to get your head wet occasionally, but then of course everyone is always protected.’

As well as offering activities and courses, PWC is also trying to reach out to those in the local community who wouldn’t necessarily think about learning watersports.

Nathan explains: ‘I’d like to see us get more people into the sports, and make it as fun as possible. The biggest thing for us is that people don’t know we are here, yet we are on the doorstep.

‘There’s a big following of watersports in Portsmouth, but I don’t think some people realise how to access it or how to find out more about getting started.’

Staff from the centre will be at the National Watersports Festival from August 30 until September 1 on Hayling Island to speak to locals. Nathan says: ‘We’re running taster sessions and kayaking, windsurfing and sailing sessions.

‘We’re also at the Southsea Show next weekend where we will be running competitions and giving people the chance to win sessions at the centre. ‘

The centre is also hosting the Dragon Boat Festival, run by the Wessex Cancer Trust, on September 7.

Nathan says: ‘It’s important to reach out to local people.

‘We want to let them know that watersports are not elite. Anyone can have a go.’

The Portsmouth Watersports Centre is based by Langstone Harbour, just off Eastern Road in Portsmouth.

As well as offering courses ranging from beginners to advanced, there are also instructor courses, shore-based courses in navigation and seamanship and the chance to hire classrooms and equipment.

Adults and youths can become members of the centre for an annual or monthly fee, which means using the facilities on a regular basis and getting 25 per cent discount on professional courses.

For more information, call (023) 9266 3873 or e-mail portsmouth.watersports@parkwood-communityleisure.co.uk.

Jake Biggs, 26, lives in Fareham and is the chief instructor at the Portsmouth Water Sports Centre. In charge of all of the activities and the staff, he believes their purpose is to welcome children, and adults, to the sport.

Jake says: ‘We have kids’ camp, which is about land-based activitie for children, as well as the sailing and the windsurfing. Visitors can try every single type we have to offer.

‘We are trying to encourage children in particular to get involved. The fact is we have something running for them every single week, so there’s always something for people to get involved in.’ Offering children the chance to take part in watersports means they can meet new people and maybe boost their confidence.

He adds: ‘It gives them the chance to do something that they would never normally dream of doing. Watersports is open for everyone now.

‘Children come along and it can may be quite an intimidating sport. They go out on a boat in the middle of the harbour, and it can be a bit scary. But they soon realise how amazing it is to be out there.

‘It breeds confidence and they can meet other children too, so it’s good to build on that.’

The National Watersports Festival (NWF) is the UK’s largest participation water sports event and covers kayaking, kitesurfing, stand-up paddle boarding and windsurfing.

Running on Hayling Island from August 30 until September 1, and sponsored by Havant Borough Council, events include races for all ages and abilities, taster sessions for beginners and on-water and land-based coaching clinics.

As the largest trade show in the UK, it will showcase the latest equipment from top manufacturers.

The weekend also offers camping, VIP parties and live entertainment on both Friday and Saturday nights.

For more information go to nationalwatersportsfestival.com.

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