Kona Class: Making it fun as it should be

Published on October 31st, 2017

We are big fans of windsurfing, and after having witnessed the rise and fall of its one design class racing, we’re always stoked to hear of the pockets in the USA where windsurfing is on the return.

The Kona Class has helped this resurgence with equipment and tight rules that emphasize tactics rather than costly gear and physical strength. Different sail sizes negates weight advantages, allowing for big fleet racing where adults and kids can race together.

US Windsurfing president Jerome Samson delivers the latest update.

The Florida city of Clearwater loves windsurfing — and windsurfing loves it back!

The city with the sugary white sand hosted the Kona Gulf Coast Championships on October 28-29 at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, one of the most vibrant windsurfing clubs in the country. And for bonus points, the 2017 edition doubled up as the North American Championships for the class!

The Gulf Coast Championships have only been on the early fall racing calendar for the past three years, but the combination of Florida weather, Halloween, and the all-around laid-back vibe of the place is simply irresistible.

The first edition in 2015 catered to 25 mostly local competitors, but 50 intrepid racers showed up this year, driving all the way down from Maryland, Indiana and Canada, or flying in from Texas and California. Even Sweden! Besides the racers, fifty more windsurfing enthusiasts came to chill with everyone at the club, and we had ourselves a party!

“Kona racers showed in this major regatta that they can govern themselves to a high Corinthian level,” observed Bruce Matlack from San Diego, CA. “In the very beginnings of the class, ten years ago, I insisted that it be a no-pumping class, and it was incredibly rewarding this weekend to witness great discipline on the course in the light conditions.

“It was so refreshing also to see the number of youngsters racing and the good manners they exhibited. It reflects very well on the constituents and parents of a great community sailing club, who are making it fun as it should be!”

The Kona class is a grassroots class, and while the competition at the top is nothing to sneeze at (there are always Olympic-caliber competitors in the fleet), the whole point of having these events is to bring people together — professionals and amateurs, wily veterans and young guns, long-timers and those who have never set foot on a Kona board before.

Try and show up at any other continental-level sailing championship with zero time-on-the-water in the class, and see how far that takes you!

The fleet stretches out in the easterly breeze. ©George Cretekos

While the scoreboard was thin on races, after two high-stakes ‘snakes and ladders’ races in a balmy 8–12 knot easterly breeze on Saturday and blown-out conditions on Sunday, the camaraderie in the class was on full display.

The constant banter, cheers, and playful needling on and off the water kept the fun going well into the nights! The ridiculous Halloween costumes had something to do with setting the mood, and the bottomless supply of beer from local brewery 3 Daughters Brewing probably helped a bit too!

The enthusiasm bodes well for next year when the 2018 edition will be the World Championships for the class, which motivated a Canadian contingent to drive down to Clearwater for the weekend.

“We were eager to become familiar with the area, the people and the conditions in preparation for the 2018 Kona Worlds,” notes Andree Gauthier of Toronto, ON. “We want to have a big group from our club (Toronto Windsurfing Club) to attend the Kona Worlds next year.”

Final resultsKona Class information

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