Fast and Fun introduces sailing to the masses

When you’re learning how to windsurf, the learning curve isn’t always fast. But it’s guaranteed to be fun.

U.S. Sailing didn’t exactly have this idea in mind when devising the Fast and Fun program in 1995. But, for the second consecutive year in Hood River, the free learn-to-sail clinic put on by Hood River WaterPlay and U.S. Sailing was plenty of fun for everyone.

And also slightly faster than last year.

“The wind may have been a little too strong for beginners,” said event coordinator and U.S. Sailing Master Instructor Jak Wilberscheid. “But, despite less-than-ideal conditions, we had a lot of people come out and give it a try.”

Kids from all over the state made their way to the Hood River Inn on Wednesday and Thursday to take advantage of 10 introductory windsurf boards and sails, 10 Hobie catamarans, and numerous sit-on-top kayaks from Ocean Kayak.

All activities were presented free of charge, and the total turnout was 361 — “a little better” than the 325 kids who turned out in 2002.

“We weren’t offering formal lessons, but I do think we sparked some new interest in sailing,” said Wilberscheid, who owns Hood River WaterPlay along with Carla Albright.

“Everyone was pretty charged, and at times, we had more bodies than equipment,” he said. “But most people were understanding and we received a lot of thank-you’s, which made it all worthwhile.”

Wilberscheid also thanked the Hood River Visitors Council, North Sports and Hi-Fly for contributing to a successful second year of Fast and Fun.

Wilberscheid and Albright will also be involved in some new programs that have been born out of the success of Fast and Fun.

An off-shoot program called “Sailing Smart” will likely start next summer, while another new program called “Brenden in a Box” will be introduced for kids with developmental disabilities.

Hood River WaterPlay will also help sponsor a pilot program later this summer that works with “beyond at-risk” kids to help them get redirected.

For more info, call 386-9463.

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