This is the first in what I hope will be numerous articles about the many windsurfing communities in Florida as I plan to travel around the state this summer to visit, windsurf and meet new friends.
Tampa Bay are my home waters. I can say many positive things about the area and conditions but the best thing about Tampa Bay is the windsurfing community! We have many wonderful windsurfers as well as newbies like myself and we also connect regularly with the great folks in the Clearwater. We have a great time staying connected and chasing the wind and if you visit Tampa Bay please reach out to our community as we always enjoy meeting and windsurfing with new folks. A great place to start is North Beach Windsurfing.
Like much of Florida, fall and winter are the windy season with a bit of carry over into spring. Cold fronts bring strong northerly winds and sometimes weaker cold fronts help to pull strong winds from the south. In summer we hope for good east winds in the mornings and of course summer storms in the Gulf of Mexico can produce spectacular opportunities.
Tampa Bay offers a great number of windsurfing options with flat water free riding being the most popular but foiling has become very popular over the past couple of years and the right conditions send the experts into the Gulf to wave windsurf. The one item that is must have in Tampa Bay is a weed fin or two! Shallow water is a great option especially for beginners but you don’t want to drag a fin especially on plane unless of course you wish to practice catapulting!
The Locations link on the website will direct you to many of the great spots we take advantage of but I can say our favorite is the Scenic Skyway (anything East). We also enjoy Tierra Verde (S or SE) but due to construction this location is closed to us for most of 2019. Northwest locations are many and probably provide the greatest number of windsurfing options. Two of my favorites are 75¢ near Ft. DeSoto and Emerson Park, great flat water windsurfing.
Great community, great water, warm weather and beautiful locations make a visit to Tampa Bay one of your best options for Florida windsurfing. Hope to see you soon!
In January my wife and I enjoyed a week in Bonaire. Bonaire is best known as one of the best locations in the Caribbean for Scuba and Snorkeling but on the east side of the island is a small bay that is a paradise for windsurfers. Consistent strong wind, beautiful water, a couple of great rental shops and the bay is protected by a reef that creates ideal flat water conditions for ripping.
That is my ad for Bonaire but I went to Bonaire to test out short boards, specifically Fanatic Geckos. I needed to do this because in the spring of last year I purchased a used 2006 JP short board which turned out to be quite a mistake. I really struggled with this board as it was too hot for me and as a result I lost confidence and ended up selling the board. Fortunately I was able to return to my Kona and was able to regain my confidence and continue to build on my skills.
For non-windsurfers, short boards dominate the sport and can be used for a wide variety of conditions. The advantage, speed and maneuverability but as you can imagine they are more challenging to master.
So by November, my confidence was returning and it was time to start testing short boards again but I thought it might be fun to accelerate this process so off to Bonaire for a week of windsurfing in ideal conditions or so I thought. My first day in 20+ MPH winds was challenging to say the least but by Day 2 I was making progress and continued to improve. I played with a few boards, had a great lesson and ended up really enjoying the experience.
Long story short, I’m the owner of Gecko and I’m having a great deal of fun gaining new skills and a couple of weeks ago set a new personal speed record of 29 MPH and hopefully will master the carve gybe (fast downwind turn) with a bit more time on the water.
So my lesson, progress comes in small steps.
This weekend I took advantage of the beautiful weather and light winds and went sailboarding around Shell Key and Fort DeSoto near St. Pete Beach. (Windsurfers are sailors first and only when the wind picks up do we advance to surfing or windsurfing.)
Florida has so many beautiful islands, bays and a wide variety of water access that you just have to get on the water and enjoy these wonderful locations. Paddleboarding is a great option but when the winds pick up a bit (8 – 12 MPH) I like to switch to sailing. The key is you need the right equipment and I’m fortunate to have a Kona One one of most popular all-in-one boards in the world and perfect for sailing in light winds.
One real advantage to sailboarding is this is a great option for beginners to our sport. A person with good lessons and the right equipment can be sailing in a weekend. (I’ve seen Northbeach Windsurfing students enjoy the pleasures of sailing in a weekend even in pretty strong wind.)
Sailboarding allows you to move quickly and easily around the inland waterways, which are typically shallow here on Florida’s west coast. One can enjoy the beautiful views and see more in the water and stop as you like to explore or just take a break. The speed is moderate and you have a great deal of control so what are you waiting for – Get out and Sail!
Check out the Resources page for where to take lessons with the right equipment in your favorite FL location.
It isn’t everyday one gets to windsurf with an Olympic Gold Medalist but more importantly Bruce Kendall is a wonderful “dude” and we had a great week at the WSA (World Sailing Association) and sailing in Clearwater. Thanks Bruce!
I’m a big fan of an all-in-one board and I wish Bruce and team great success with the Glide 2990. My hope is that this category of boards will be commercially successful and continue to be great options for all levels of windsurfers.
Jonny, Eric and I had the pleasure of checking out the Glide 2990 at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center along with the all the great folks at CCSC (Thanks Justin!).
I’m not very good but I enjoyed sailing the Glide 2990. It was easy to sail, very responsive and though the wind wasn’t strong enough for me to get up on plane it was obvious the board wanted to jump up and go. Bruce had no issues getting the board on plane and showing what it was capable of and it was impressive.
My time on the board was short but I hope to get more time on the board this summer if I can make it up to the Cape Hatteras area where I believe the board will be sold in the US market. (I hope to report on that option later this year.)
Last post in October – OUCH!
Thanks for your patience and I will do better to stay up to date.
More Windsurfing news! The fall (windy season) kicked off with the Kona US Nationals in Pensacola and Kona Worlds in Clearwater. Bruce Kendall, Olympic Gold and Bronze Medalist is coming to Sarasota to demo the Glide 2990 Olympic 2024 proposal and now I find out that Andy Brandt and ABK Windsurf is offering a three day camp in Cocoa Beach from November 16 -18!
Normally you have to fly down to Bonaire to take advantage of this top Windsurfing camp and now it is going to be in our backyard!
I need to sign up before all the spots are taken. I have to talk to my boss, oh yeah that is me. Hopefully I will let me go!
Exciting news for the Sarasota/Tampa Bay region. Olympic Gold and Bronze medalist, Bruce Kendall is going to be in town for the World Sailing Annual Conference.
Bruce is in town to demo and advocate for the Glide 2990 to be the race board for the 2024 Olympics in Paris! Wishing him great success but what is really exciting is Bruce is bringing one of the first Glide 2990s to Sarasota!
If you haven’t heard about the Glide 2990 check out the website. This is a really exciting design and I can’t wait to see it up close and personal and maybe even take it for a spin!
We are planning to setup some demos and possibly a meet and greet with Bruce in the Tampa Bay area while he is in town. I will post updates and additional information on Facebook pages so stay tuned for more news.
Off to Kona Worlds this weekend. This is my second year participating in the races and I hope I do better (finish) this year!
The forecast is for strong winds on Friday (practice day) and Saturday as well. I hope the wind stays up for the remaining race days as taking a long board up onto plain is a lot of fun.
With more than 80 racers registered it is going to be a lot of fun, both on the water and off! If you are in the area drop by the Clearwater Community Sailing Club and check out a few races! Hope to see you there and if not check out the videos and images on the Kona Worlds website.
Time to celebrate the beginning of Windy Season! Tune up and update your equipment, reconnect with your windsurfing community and get back on the water!
(I visited North Beach Windsurfing yesterday to chat with Britt and Karen and update my equipment and plans for the upcoming season. A new 9.5 Ezzy Cheetah in my future! What are you planning for this year!)
But this year October brings even more exciting news to the FL windsurfing community.
Two Kona events in October
Kona North American – Hosted by the Pensacola Yacht Club on October 20-21.
Kona Worlds – Hosted by the Clearwater Community Sailing Center from October 26 – 31. I’m registered and will be participating in the Kona One series. Hopefully I will finish this year and not in last place!
Glide 2990 news
We have a surprise visitor to Sarasota, FL at the end of October. Bruce Kendall – two time Olympic medalist, Gold in 1988! Eric Jahn and I have been in touch with Bruce to discuss and learn more about the Glide 2990 that Bruce designed and is proposing for the 2024 Olympic games. Great news – Bruce is bringing a brand new Glide 2990 and complete rig to Florida! We need to confirm with Bruce his schedule and plans but once we do we will post information on this site and FL focused facebook pages.
Don’t forget to download the Waterspotr app. I’m looking forward to a few roadtrips and checking out some great FL locations.
October is going to be a great start to the Windsurfing season! See you on the water!
It always concerns me when someone reports via Facebook or other social media that an area has been closed to Windsurfing. We hear news that Lifeguards state we are a danger to swimmers and arbitrarily restrict access, City Councils that close areas to water related activities, etc.
In my opinion one of the best ways to counter these misperceptions of our sport is be active in our communities in a positive way. Local Sailing clubs in Clearwater, Miami, etc. do a great job of building awareness. Windsurfing events help folks to see the sport in a positive light but what else can we do?
Here in the Tampa Bay area the Windsurfing community has joined with Tampa Bay Watch on various clean up and social events. We need to do more of these types of activities as local environmental groups are usually well connected and do great work.
Saturday (9/22) is National Estuaries Day/International Coastal Cleanup and our little group will be participating in clean up activities in our surf areas, not just for us but for everyone that enjoys Tampa Bay.
Check out your local area for events during this Coastal Cleanup and let’s keep our water clean and create a positive image of our great sport.