by Ron Kern
Gene Scanlon in Albuquerque, NM, is a force of nature in a near waterless desert teaching windsurfing to those who forgot it even existed!
In the early 80’s Gene took a windsurfing class for one credit hour at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. It inspired him to learn to teach and he became an instructor as well as a participant. He moved to Hawaii for a couple years, windsurfed there and then moved back to the desert, married, raised kids and kind of forgot windsurfing for nearly 20 years.
A few years ago as his kids had grown, he passed on the sport to them and reawakened the joy he got seeing the grin on people the first time they windsurfed. He decided he wanted to see the over 100 sails on Cochiti Lake like there had been in the 80’s. He started teaching again and really enjoyed sharing the stoke he has rekindled in himself 20 years later.
Reading the reviews from his students you can understand why. That was 3 years ago. Today, he has taught about 1,200 people to windsurf or paddle board. Now, there are about 30 active windsurfers on Cochiti Lake, about 25% of what he hopes to accomplish in the coming years. Setting up his teaching hasn’t been without hurdles, but just like his students, Gene has persisted. It took two years to finally get the attention of the recreation services department at the University of New Mexico who had forgotten they used to offer a class!
The sign I saw on campus is how I found Gene. I was hoping to go for a sail on my road trip and had no idea Cochiti Lake even existed. During a friendly phone call with Gene, he told me where the lake was and a bit about his program. The main way he’s promoting is his Facebook page, Sol Boardsports. Getting the permit to teach at the lake was not without issue and has some quirks that both he and his students must deal with, but after all, windsurfers are a determined bunch and there were plenty of students in front of Gene when I stopped back by the lake on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Gene was on a special high as his daughter had just received a marriage proposal aboard a standup paddle board!
I was witness to Gene’s enthusiasm and hope that others will follow his example and join the ranks of teaching and learning the sport!