The 2021 Irish Kona Nationals, sponsored by Surfdock, took place earlier this month at Malahide Yacht Club, just north of Dublin. Local hot shot Joe Galeckas took the win in a nailbiter finish against good friend and archrival Robbie Walker (these two have been trading 1-2 finishes for the past three years)! We asked Joe to tell us about that day, the local scene, and his days growing up in Lithuania too!

I feel blessed to be part of such an incredible Kona community. It’s just very special, and an incredible way to enjoy this amazing sport.

Joe Galeckas

Dublin, Ireland

Story: Joe Galeckas | Photos:  Tony Murray Pix (cover), Margaret Fay (gallery).

My name is Joe Galeckas, I’m 40 years old and I’ve been windsurfing for 27 years. I’m delighted to be the 2021 Kona National Champion in Ireland and win the Alan Harris Memorial Trophy for the second time in three years!

Here in Ireland, most Kona windsurfers are based in and around the city of Dublin. If you look on a map, you’ll see that the city is divided into North Dublin and South Dublin by the river Liffey. So naturally, we have northsiders and southsiders among us windsurfers, depending on where we train. My club, Malahide Yacht Club, is to the North, so I’m a northsider, like fellow club members and past champions Cormac O’Brien and Andrew Christofides. Southsiders, for their part, practice all year in and around Dun Laoghaire, honing their skills and biding their time at Royal Saint George and National Yacht Club until our yearly joust.

You’ve probably guessed it already: There’s a healthy rivalry between northsiders and southsiders. We love to trade nonsensical gear tuning tips and off-the-wall race tactics. Someone even offered to replace our dagger gaskets with lead tape this year!

Banter didn’t come naturally to me. I was born in Birzai, a small town in northern Lithuania, and we Lithuanians are better known for being stoic. Stoicism is what got me through my first summer on a windsurfer: I was 13 years old, the board was too heavy, the cloth sail was too baggy, and I couldn’t make sense of the whirly winds on the lake. The family friends who owned the equipment didn’t know much more than I did, so I had to figure things out on my own. I got hooked. You know you’re a lifelong windsurfer if you’re still grinning ear to ear after spending a whole summer making a fool of yourself. Over the next few years, I spent all my spare time windsurfing long boards on lakes all over the country. At 19, I ran out of lakes in Lithuania and I emigrated to Ireland.

The Malahide estuary immediately became my home spot, and that’s where we duked it out this year for the 2021 Kona Nationals. Needless to say, I know every inch of this place. And when the conditions turned out to be light – an 8-13 kt south-easterly breeze with clear skies, just like the conditions I grew up sailing in Lithuania – I knew I had a shot.

I won the first race over last year’s winner, Robbie Walker (a southsider!), but he won the next two. I won the next two and claimed the overall victory by a single point. It’s not like there were just the two of us out there: Des Gibney (3rd) and Damien Dion (4th) were always in the mix and ready to pounce on our mistakes. The battle is always tight at Nationals, with the title almost always up for grabs in the last race of the event.

Let me tell you about the Alan Harris Memorial Trophy. Alan opened Surfdock in Dublin in 1981, and it’s been a dream shop for us windsurfing and watersports enthusiasts on the island. Alan never wavered in his support of our community, and I’m very grateful for the support he provided me personally when I moved to Ireland. Tragically, he passed away a few years ago, but his legacy lives on thanks to his son Colin, who runs the shop now and continues to sponsor great community events like the Kona Nationals. Alan Harris and his family mean a lot to all Irish windsurfers, and I’m really honored to have my name etched on a trophy in his name.

I am delighted that this year’s dedication and training paid off. I feel blessed to be part of such an incredible Kona community. I truly believe that Kona is the grassroots of windsurfing: to be able to go out and race in any condition, light or heavy, on the same equipment and no matter what age, weight or skill level – that’s just very special, and an incredible way to enjoy this amazing sport.

I hope to see you on the water soon!

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