Last weekend may have seemed like a miserable one for most sport enthusiasts. Not only was it extra hot - in the 90s - it was very windy, with gusts reaching 40 miles per hour.
For water skiers it meant choppy water, for golfers it meant balls being blown off course, (or perhaps off the course), for tennis players it meant those perfect forehands were flying "out."Yet for sailboarders, it meant heavenly bliss. Because in sailboarding, the more wind, the better. It is a sport that thrives on wind. Without it, you're dead in the water. But there was plenty of wind this past weekend - in fact there has been more than usual in Utah all spring.
On a windy day, head out to Rush Lake, near Tooele, or up the canyon to Deer Creek Reservoir or down to Yuba Lake and you may find 100 or so colorful sailboards cruising and jumping in the wind. You can even find sailboards on the lake out near the Airport Hilton Hotel.
Sailboarding or wind-surfing as it has been called, is a young sport, about 15 years old. But it's been growing by leaps and bounds, especially the last five years or so. According to Bob Wade, who owns Bob Wade's Ski and Sail Shop, as many as 80,000 to 90,000 people take up the sport each year.
It's been described as the sport of "yuppies" Unlike surfing, which attracts the younger set - teen-age and college-age kids - sailboarding attracts many of those "young, urban professionals" in the 30- to 40-year-old range.
A lot of that may have something to do with money. A fully-equipped sailboard can cost as much as $2,000 and doesn't go much lower than $500, according to Wade.
Marv Evans of Jan's in Park City says, "It's not a totally inexpensive sport, but you can get a good board and sail for $500 to $1,000. You don't have to have three boards, seven sails, two masts and two booms."
Wade says that his customers are men and women, anywhere from 12 to 70 years old, although he admits most are in the 20- to 45-year-old age range. `Those in the yuppie age-group are our main customers."
A sailboard ranges from 8 1/2 feet to 12 1/2 feet. The shorter boards are used by the more experienced sailors and in stronger winds. Sails are measured in square meters, from 2.9 to 9 meters, but generally they're 12 to 15 feet high. The equipment can usually be stored on the top of a car, like skis.
Jerry Burns has been sailboarding for four years and any time there's any wind, he's likely to be out on the water with his sailboard. Although he's one of those types who is expert enough to get airborne 10 feet above the water, he says the sport is for everyone.
"One of the nice things about it is that anybody can do it," says Burns. "The first day is the hardest, the most discouraging. But every day after that, it becomes more fun. And the first time you start moving, it becomes exhilarating.
large waves and then crashing into the water.
"It's a really safe sport, but like anything, it's possible to hurt yourself," says Wade.
Some sailboarders wear helmets, similar to those worn by bicyclists, for extra safety. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about the sport is avoiding motorboats that don't follow the rules of the water.
Sailboards are the fastest sailing crafts in the world, according to Wade, with measured speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. On very windy days, sailboards can go as high as 10 to 15 feet above the surface of the water.
Burns says the further one advances in the sport, the more challenging it becomes. "It's not easily perfected."
But that shouldn't discourage someone who can only go sailboarding occasionally, he says.
"YOu can go out with one board and one sail and have just as much fun as the guy with three boards and 10 sails."
Perhaps the most challenging thing about the sport is finding where the wind is on seemingly calm days.
"It becomes a technique knowing where the wind is," says Burns. "Some days you'll do a lot of driving."
Of course to the serious sailboarder, it's all worth it, once he finds that wonderful wind that no one else seems to appreciate.