IT IS seen as the birthplace of windsurfing, and now 10,000 spectators will head to Hayling to watch the stars of the sport battle it out on the water.
The National Watersports Festival begins today with amateurs and professionals from a range of watersports competing and sharing their knowledge.
Now in its eighth year, the festival provides a huge economic and tourist boost for Hayling.
Allan Cross, the event director, said: ‘We come back to Hayling Island year after year for a number of reasons.
‘Hayling is seen as the birthplace of windsurfing and where, in 1958, 12-year-old Peter Chilvers is credited with inventing the sport.
‘We also choose Hayling because of the support of Havant Borough Council, which has been an incredible sponsor of the event, providing the venue and its support throughout the huge build-up to the weekend and throughout the festival.
‘Hayling Island also boasts the exceptional West Bay, which is regarded as one of the best kitesurfing beaches in the UK and where our kiting will take place.
‘Lastly, and certainly not least, are the residents themselves.
‘They welcome us every year, despite the disruption to their roads and their favourite bars being knee deep in visitors.
‘They help us to make the event such a success and for that we thank them enormously and welcome them along.’
More than 500 competitors will take part in windsurfing, stand up paddle-boarding, kayaking and kitesurfing races over three days.
It attracts the biggest stars of the watersports world but is unique in that participants of all abilities can compete.
Festival-goers camp on the island and most events are based around the Inn on the Beach, Sea Front.
Hayling councillor Andy Lenaghan said: ‘I’m looking forward to it.
‘It’s brilliant for the island.’