There were so many bright spots at the 2018 Kona Worlds in Clearwater, but one of the brightest was the youthful energy brought to the event by the kids from Toronto – or the 6ix, as the city is affectionately called these days! They were all between 13 and 15 years old and spent the summer honing their skills at the Toronto Windsurfing Club (TWC) Youth Windsurfing Camp, under the watchful eye of coach Max Robinson and his team. They made such amazing progress during camp that the idea of traveling abroad in the Fall to compete at a world championship event didn’t sound so crazy anymore, so a few of them twisted their parents’ arms to let them miss a few days of school, and with a little help from TWC and CCSC, the host club in Florida, and with Max as chaperone, the group (six-strong, incidentally!) hopped on a plane to sunny Florida. The bond between Toronto and the Clearwater area has always been very strong (many Torontonians escape the harsh winters north of the border to spend time in Clearwater each year, and the area has been the Spring training home of the Blue Jays for as long as anyone can remember!), but it’s safe to say that it’s grown even stronger now. Enjoy Coach Max’s report and insights!

It was the perfect event to start our youth team’s international careers!

Max Robinson

Toronto, Canada

Story: Max Robinson | Photos: Magi Foster, Øyvind Enstad Haga, TWC

Simply put, Clearwater is an amazing place!

The people, the architecture, the scenery, the endless amounts of fun things to do, and of course the windsurfing! I was lucky enough to travel there this past October to coach a group of young athletes from TWC for a prestigious event hosted by Clearwater: the 2018 Kona Worlds! It was our first international event as a team and my first time flying with the majority of the kids, not only acting as a coach but also as a chaperone. Needless to say, I was a bit stressed in the beginning!

Most of the kids just started to get interested in racing about halfway through the summer. They sailed mainly Bic Technos at Camp, but loved jumping on Konas too because that allowed them to mix it up with the adults at our regular club races. The breeze in Toronto starts to pick up in late August, and I noticed how they all started having massive breakthroughs in their sailing. It was really cool to see one kid after another start hooking in and blasting away! Stoked to test their mettle against the top guys at the club, many competed at our annual Mammoth Marathon long distance race in September, and they loved it! We started talking seriously about the Kona Worlds right after that event, and the kids were so keen that we ran extra training sessions every weekend in Sept and Oct, and many started showing up after school on weekdays too!

If you’re curious about what it was like for me to travel with a team of young windsurfers, it was actually fairly straightforward. We made sure that all the variables were sorted out in advance, and that made for an extremely smooth travel experience on both ends of the trip. Upon arrival in Clearwater, we got our rental van and drove directly to the regatta site. We picked up our chartered race gear without a hitch and went out for a warm-up session right away in front of the Clearwater Community Sailing Center.

It was everything the kids dreamed about. Warm, windy (well, maybe a little too windy for some that day!) and time off from school, what could be better? Any stress I might have felt beforehand quickly evaporated. After our awesome session, we headed over to our billeters’ house for the next six nights where the youngins were stoked to check out their awesome home away from home. Not only did they get amazing rooms to stay in, but they also had a pool and a hot tub to hang out in, video games, and a big TV area to lounge out after long days of racing!

Which brings me to the most exciting part of this story:

The racing was amazing! Without a doubt, it was an unforgettable experience for all of them. First time at an international event, imagine that! Thanks to the relaxed vibe of the Kona class, they felt super welcome and never felt intimidated by the event proceedings. I can safely say that all of them would do it again tomorrow if given the chance. One of the kids on the team was 13-yr old Alex Lee, who performed so well in all the conditions that he finished the event on the podium of the silver fleet!

“Kona Worlds was an amazing experience!” Alex said afterwards. “It was super fun to meet new people and have a competition on the water. It was also amazing to be able to travel to another country and meet other people who loved to windsurf! I had a lot of fun windsurfing in a new and different environment. Kona Worlds was so amazing! I can’t wait to go again next year!”

“I don’t want to leave this place!” said Jacqueline Keddy, who is 15, finished 3rd woman in the silver fleet and raced with a bunny ears hat on Halloween Day! Which, by the way, was far from the most outrageous prop that day on the water, as others took the occasion to heart and paraded in pirate costumes and other crazy outfits! There was even an older gentleman who raced with a large inflatable dragon (or was it a walrus?) tied to the front of his board! What other class is that cool?

It seems like the event left quite the impact on our young windsurfers. On the water and off the water there was always a good time to be had. With low stress and high fun, I would go as far as to say it was the perfect event to start our youth team’s international careers!

When the kids came home, they were so stoked that we continued training right into November! It gets pretty cold in Canada by then but the kids did not seem to mind. I can still see them huddling around the wood stove in the clubhouse, with steam coming off their wetsuits as they tried to warm up, giggling about all the fun they just had and making plans for the new season.

Check out all the fun and results right here and see you all at this year’s Kona Worlds in Lake Garda, Italy!

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