Free classes in the sport of windsurfing are in full swing at Shell Point Beach, on Apalachee Bay east of Medart, in Wakulla County.
The classes are offered by the Shell Point Sailboarding Club (SPSC) for the remainder of the summer. Students sign up for four hours of professional instruction, on a single day, and after that participating in open club practice days is encouraged to continue learning technique.
This 72-member social club is the longest in existence for this activity in the Southeast. It operates on the public beach maintained by the Wakulla County Department of Parks and Recreation. With Gulf access and optimal sea breeze, this coastline provides ideal conditions for a wind enthusiast,
Lessons include orienting the board; up hauling, or lifting, the sail; and ways in which to tilt the boom to catch the wind. This sport does not require strength, or a specific body size, just developing surefootedness and “remembering you have knees,” said member Andrea Schewndinger.
Sailboarding differs only from windsurfing by its design. The latter became popular when the joint that attaches the sail to the board was trademarked in 1970, making equipment viable downwind. People were sailboarding before that, but the mast was fixed, as on a sailboat.
Many principles, however, are the same as with boating. “You tell the board where to go,” said Bill Olson, a professional instructor at SPSC.
“Part of it is muscle memory, and the other part, is a realization of the wind,” he said.
In addition to lessons, the club hosts several events.
On Sunday, August 12 is an old-fashioned beach party, for kids and adults, called the Rum and Root Beer. And in October, anyone can join the fun and frivolity of its Endless Summer Sailboard Classic that includes a competition both for experts and for novice boarders. Distance races are ongoing, and a musical “Wind Ceremony” kicks off the season.
“If you go to coastal places such as Pensacola,” said founding member, Perry Morris, “there are so many places to sail, but they are split up. Here, it is Shell Point that brings us together.”
For information about membership or club trips, contact Bob Graves at 850-508-1587. Lesson sign-up is done, on the club’s website, where a calendar, can also be found www.20knotsnob.com.