Kona on the west coast this summer!

2015 Kona West Coast Tour

2015 Kona West Coast Tour (organized by Kona USA + US Windsurfing)

As the Eagles song goes: “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…”

1971 was a remarkable year. Bernie Leadon, a Minnesota native, raised in San Diego and in Gainesville, Florida, made the trek to Los Angeles along with his Gainesville High School pal Don Felder to join what was to become one of the great rock bands in history: the Eagles.

At the same time, young guns Bruce Matlack and Matt Schweitzer were ripping it on the racing scene in Southern California and putting the original ‘Windsurfer’ on the map. Bruce went on to win the first-ever international windsurfing event in Mission Bay the next year, and those two didn’t let go of the top spots on the world podium for the next five years – until a toddler by the name of Robbie Naish grabbed the spotlight from them.

This summer, the same stars are lining up for the 2015 Kona West Coast Tour: Michael Fox, president of Kona USA (and hailing from Minnesota), is teaming up with Cody Steward, executive director of US Windsurfing (and a graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville) and, who else, the legend Bruce Matlack himself to bring longboard windsurfing back to venues up and down the dark desert highways of the West Coast.

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Kona racing in mild breeze downwind (credit: John Dornellas)

Don’t think of it as a hardcore championships tour, but as a series of grassroots events aimed at introducing the joys of windsurfing to a whole new generation – and reintroducing it to others who, somewhere along the way, fell off the windsurfing bandwagon. Kona is a great technical platform for beginners to learn to windsurf and for more advanced sailors to hone their competitive skills: it’s simple to rig, stable to cruise on, nervous and forgiving in the breeze. But the Swedish company is more than a gear manufacturer – access, lifestyle and culture are central to its mission, and it’s in that spirit that it’s sponsoring the West Coast tour: working with local shops, clubs and schools, bringing a fleet of equipment for locals to charter, doing demos on the beach, running friendly races for those who can maneuver their way around.

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Konas of all sizes (and colors) heading upwind in unison (credit: John Dornellas)

International racing is big on the Kona agenda, and its world championships are now attracting tons of competitors (120 in Islamorada last year and 150+ anticipated in Holland this year), but the folks at the helm know that the growth of windsurfing lies in local grassroots events. And next month on the West Coast of the US, that means (breathe in!) Oak Harbor, Seattle, Stevenson, Hood River, Foster City, Rio Vista, Redwood City, San Francisco, San Diego and Long Beach to finally culminate at the US Nationals in Cabrillo Beach, just outside of LA (breathe out!).

The charter fees are as follows: $25 for a 1-day event; $50 for a 2-days event; $175 for US Nationals (before July 15, and $225 after July 15). Just contact Cody at this address: steward.c@alumni.ufl.edu to arrange your charter. Oh, and if you book charter equipment for Nationals, it’ll be good for one more tour stop of your choosing.

With 23 days of windsurfing at 13 different venues in the span of one month, better know where the guys are going to be, and when, or you’ll find yourself standing on the beach, alone, with a harness in your hand and the sound of a mission bell in the distance. So here are the dates and venues:

Oak Harbor, WA
July 18-19: Oak Harbor Yacht Club
Whidbey Island Race Week
early bird registration here (before July 1)

Seattle, WA
Jul 21: Mt Baker
Jul 22: Sail Sand Point
Jul 23: Kirkland

Columbia River
July 25: Stevenson (WA)
July 26-27: Hood River (OR)

Bay Area, CA
Jul 28: Foster City
July 29: Rio Vista
Jul 30-31: Redwood City
Aug 1-2: St Francis Yacht Club

San Diego, CA
Aug 5: Mission Bay

Los Angeles, CA
Aug 8-10: Long Beach
Aug 12-16: 2015 US Nationals in Cabrillo Beach

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Bruce Matlack as competitive as ever (credit: John Dornellas)

Take advantage of this incredible opportunity to connect or reconnect with windsurfing! You know you have it in your blood. It’s like the Eagles’ Don Henley is saying: windsurfing is one of those things where “You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”

The 2015 Kona West Coast Tour is organized by Kona USA and US Windsurfing, and made possible by Aerotech (kindly providing an RV full of Kona gear for the Tour!) and Ghost Drone (wait until you see the footage and weekly updates!). To sign up, ask questions and get acquainted with all things Kona, check out the Kona ONE website.

(ndlr: for those of you who weren’t born in the 70′s, all Eagles song references are to ‘Hotel California’)

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