Multi-Generational Vibe at Kona Worlds

Published on October 25th, 2018

by Jerome Samson, US Windsurfing
The 2018 Kona Windsurfing World Championships, presented by Heritage Insurance, is coming to Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast on October 27 to 31. More than 100 competitors from 15 countries have come to Clearwater for five straight days of competition, and finish up in style on Halloween with a – what else – costume-clad final race!

The International Kona Class has held its marquee event in Florida three times before: Miami Beach in 2010, and Islamorada in 2014 and 2016. It’s hard to beat Florida’s sugar-white beaches in the fall, when the temperature cools down to 80°F and the winter breeze kicks in.

It will be a diverse fleet courtesy of the Kona system that matches sail sizes to the sailor’s weight and a no-pumping credo that places the onus on tactics rather than aerobics. The result is how everyone has an equal chance on the race course – regardless of age, body weight or wind speed.

It’s a formula that’s been honed for more than ten years now, and it works amazingly well. The Kona system is so well thought-out and so user-friendly that in the end, the equipment really doesn’t matter, and what’s left is, well, skill!

There’s a natural kinship between the Class and this Gulf region that’s been a hotbed of Kona windsurfing activity for years – not just World championships but local club regattas and youth development programs too.

Those development programs are bearing fruit: four kids from the Kona windsurfing program in Clearwater finished in the top-ten at the 2018 Kona North Americans on October 20-21 in Pensacola, in the panhandle of Florida. The event attracted many top competitors eager to tune up before the World Championships, and they were put on notice that they’ll need to bring their A-game to beat those kids on their home turf in Clearwater!

Alex Temko (above), all of 16 years of age and freshly-crowned Kona North American champion, will be among the favorites at the 2018 Worlds, along with 17-yr old Noah Lyons who burst onto the scene two years ago when he finished on the podium at the 2016 Worlds.

But no one will hand it to them: a strong contingent of wily veterans and young upstarts is flying in from Sweden for the occasion, led by three-time World Champion Björn Holm, Olympian Hans Nystrom and the guy who beat them all recently at the Swedish championships, Anders Pers.

In fact, both Anders and Hans are coming to Clearwater with their children, who will be competing on the same course, on the same start line and on the same board as their dads. It’s one of the most endearing aspects of this class of one-design windsurfing competition.

The organizing club is the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, and it’s not the club’s first rodeo with high-stakes sailing events: it hosted the RS Feva Worlds earlier this Spring, the Nacra 17 and 49er/49erFX Worlds and international Olympic qualifiers in 2016, and the RS:X Youth Worlds back in 2014, among a slew of other national and continental events. It even hosted the 2017 Kona North Americans last year as a lead up to this year’s big event.

The competitors will race off of Sand Key in the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Clearwater Beach, and in Clearwater Bay across the street depending on wind conditions.

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