Windsurfing’s return to relevance
Published on April 13th, 2015
Two-time Olympic medalist Charlie McKee, now the High Performance Director for the US Olympic sailing program, sees windsurfing as an essential step for learning to sail. “It’s the most organic way of sailing and teaches great skills like balance, agility, and feel for speed, which are all skills that can be transferred to any boat if desired,” he says.
Charlie was quoted in the March/April 2015 edition of Sailing World magazine, where columnist (and Scuttlebutt editor) Craig Leweck wondered why windsurfing wasn’t a staple of the sailing scene. “We often talk about what we can do to keep sailing alive and thriving, but the answer is right in front of us. Windsurfing is fun, affordable, and has easy access to the water. It checks all the boxes.”
The good news is that after windsurfing arrived in the 70’s, only to gradually erode general interest with a focus on advanced equipment and competitions, finds the grassroots crowd gaining control again with good vibes and gear for the masses. Integral to this revival has been the Kona One Design, which bans pumping and uses a clever system of matching different sail sizes for different weight sailors. The end result has been to equalize the racing, regardless of sailor size or strength.
One of the events that is enjoying the revitalization is the Calema Midwinters Windsurfing Festival in Merritt Island, FL. Here is a report on the event by Tinho Dornellas…
The 2015 Calema Midwinters and Kona North Americans took place during the first full weekend of March, and marked the first major multi-class competition of the year in the USA. More importantly, it’s a windsurfing “family reunion” that has faithfully taken place over the last 29 years.
As organizers, we face a yearly paradox. It is honestly a dreaded moment when we reach November and December, and are faced with the monumental task of running a large and complex event with limited resources. It is at the same time a “must do” event for us, as we have known so many over the years who have the Midwinters as a special mark on the year’s calendar, something not to be missed. And so we continue the tradition. Our kids have grown up from the time of diapers to full manhood, we have seen old friends prosper and disappear on the horizon of life, and are now witnessing a new resurgence of young windsurfers, just as keen and full of energy as our fellow competitors of 30 years ago.
Think about this. A 40 year old stallion of windsurfing back then is now 70. The best part is seeing this 70 year old kick butt among much younger competition. Old tricks and treachery, meet raw talent and energy! The result is not always predictable. This is thanks to the Kona One design class which used the event to run its North American Championships. As it was 30 years ago, when we ran the Mistral One Design Midwinters, we have gone full circle and are now witnessing great competition on a much simpler board, yet way more fun when the wind pipes up.