Making a Big Splash in the Windsurfing Game by Pete Freedman, Miami Herald

Making a Big Splash in the Windsurfing Game by Pete Freedman, Miami Herald

 

 

As an 11-year-old at summer camp, I seemed to master everything but windsurfing. After a week of lessons, all I had learned was the art of falling gracefully.

 

 

If I was going to delve into the sport again, I needed a guarantee that this time would be different.

 

 

Sailboards Miami has such an offer. You’ve probably even seen it painted on the side of their faded, yellow supply truck parked not far beyond the Rickenbacker Causeway toll plaza: “Learn to Windsurf in Two Hours — Guaranteed!”

 

 

”We’re kind of like a pseudo-landmark,” said owner Ovidio DeLeon.

 

 

In his board shorts and T-shirt, his laid-back personality seemed to fit with the ideals of the sport. I just hoped he wasn’t offering a pseudo-guarantee.

 

 

Nonetheless, I gave DeLeon, or Vid as he said he’s often called, the benefit of the doubt. For $69, the two-hour lesson was worth a shot.

 

 

What did I have to lose? My ”teachers” at summer camp were disinterested 16- and 17-year-olds who got kicks out of watching our flailing arms splash in the water. But with DeLeon, who has been windsurfing for 20 years and instructing for 13, I believed I finally stood a fighting chance.

 

 

The first half-hour of the lesson came on dry land, with DeLeon laying out the terminology of windsurfing — the mast holds the sail, the windsurfer holds the boom. Then he used a miniature toy windsurf board to illustrate how to stand on the board (always with your back to the wind), which direction to sail (perpendicular to the wind, never directly into it) and how to turn (point the sail in the direction you want it to turn and shuffle your feet to allow the board to turn under you).

 

 

Then DeLeon explained how to raise the sail by grabbing onto the rope attached to the mast and pulling. It’s probably the hardest part of the sport.

 

 

”You lean too far back, you go in,” DeLeon cautioned. “You lean too far forward, you go in.

 

 

My camp counselors never told me that. This guy was good.

 

 

”You want to go on the water,” he said, “not in the water.”

 

 

I was eager to see what I could do. On my first few attempts to raise the sail, I fell off the board. Slowly, though, my stance grew more confident and my sail caught more wind, thanks to instructions shouted out by DeLeon, who was wading in the water by the shore.

 

 

Before long, DeLeon had upgraded me to a larger sail — more wind means more speed — and slowed the frequency of his shouted instructions.

 

 

As I skimmed across Biscayne Bay, one tip seemed to make everything fall into place: ”Use the mast as the steering wheel,” he said, “and the boom as the gas pedal.”

 

 

Now, I was moving swiftly — and not falling. I felt like a pro, using the remainder of the lesson to self-critique my methods. ”That’s the beauty about the sport,” DeLeon said. “No matter how long you’re around it, you’re always learning.”

 

 

My two hours complete, DeLeon’s guarantee proved valid; I had finally learned to windsurf — a whole 10 years after I’d originally set out to learn.

 

 

”Not bad, huh?” DeLeon asked as I came on shore.

 

 

Not anymore.

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