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All Aboard! : Windsurfing Is Up, Learning a Breeze

May 12, 1990|SHEARLEAN DUKE | Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Warm water, hot weather and windsurfing equal fun in the sun for hundreds of Orange County board sailors. Each May, as the weather heats up, so does the windsurfing action.

Ever wonder what it takes to skim along the surface of the sea, jump a wave or just coast along with a gentle breeze?

All it takes is an eagerness to learn, an ability to swim and a few hours' practice, according to Orange County windsurfing instructors who teach everyone from school kids to senior citizens.

"Actually, anyone can learn to windsurf," says Lynn Butler, who has been teaching windsurfing for four years. "There is not one person I have taught who couldn't do it. I've even taught blind kids to windsurf."

Butler, a 22-year-old student from Cal State Long Beach, teaches every summer at Hobie Sports in Dana Point, where she conducts classes 10 hours a day, five days a week. "The only requirement is that you must know how to swim," she says. "I teach you everything else."

Children who sign up for lessons not only must know how to swim, but they also must weigh at least 70 pounds, Butler adds. "That's because they must be able to lift the sail," she says. "It's pretty heavy."

Most windsurfing instructors start their students out on land-bound simulators that imitate the action of a sailboard on water. "It has spring suspension," says Terry O'Shea, who has been teaching windsurfing for six years in Newport Beach. "It acts just like a board does on the water."

Private windsurfing lessons last about two hours, and most instructors promise that you'll be out on the water by the end of the first hour. And if you have performed well, chances are you will be a certified board sailor by the end of the two-hour lesson. "Certification means you are able to rent (a sailboard) all around the world with no questions asked," Butler says. "For example, at Hobie Sports we do not rent unless you are certified."

Private lessons at Hobie Sports cost $40 an hour; an eight-hour group lesson costs $80 per person. At Newport Sailboarding School, O'Shea charges $25 per hour for individual instruction and $50 per person for a group lesson.

"We get people who just take a fast two-hour lesson, and when the instruction is one-on-one, you can learn about eight hours' worth in two hours," Butler said.

For $35, you can also sign up for windsurfing classes through the Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Department. For $80, you can take a weekend lesson at the Dana Point Harbor Youth and Group Facility.

Veteran windsurfers such as Fred Eck, southwest regional director for the United States Sailboard Assn., recommend that aspiring windsurfers begin by taking at least one lesson. "You should take a lesson from a good school," says Eck, who teaches windsurfing in the physical education department at Cal State Fullerton. "They have the right equipment so you can learn the mechanics of sailboarding. They'll have the right size training rigs and that is important."

O'Shea, who began by trying to teach himself to windsurf, agrees. "This sport can be so frustrating the first time that you may not try it again," he says. "I tried it on my own and thought, 'This is for the birds.' But then I went down to San Diego and took a lesson. It all fell into place and I got hooked on the sport. Then I began trying to figure out how I could pay for my addiction."

O'Shea has been running the Newport Sailboarding School, located on the beach at 18th St. near Balboa Peninsula, for the past four years. "For me, it really starts to get busy around Memorial Day," says O'Shea, who teaches seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., all summer.

Most windsurfing instructors provide all equipment, including the sailboards, wet suits and life vests. O'Shea suggests that you bring your own sunscreen, beach towel, beach chair, snacks and soft drinks. "You also need to bring quarters for the parking meters," he says.

Once you've taken that first lesson, Eck advises novices to "spend time out on the water." He also invites them to the free monthly clinics put on by the South Orange County Boardsailing Assn. at 5 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. Clinics are held on the beach at the west end of Dana Point Harbor, near the pier. The clinics are followed by races. For more information, call (714) 495-0368 or write the association at P.O. Box 6272, Laguna Niguel, Calif. 92677.

"The thing that amazes me about this sport is that there are people 60, 70 and 80 years old sailboarding," Eck says. "And children 10 years old. I think anyone can do it, really."

O'Shea believes that sailboarding is the ideal family sport. "Everyone can take a turn on the board," he says. "I would like to see more of that side of the sport because windsurfing can be intimidating. They see videos of people going at amazing speeds and doing loops and it looks crazy. A lot of people don't see how the whole family can go down and sail in flatter conditions and enjoy the sport. The high-performance end of it has scared people away. But really, the whole family can do it."

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