Windsurfing championships held on Lake Waconia this weekend
Rob Evans knows windsurfing, and he knows Lake Waconia. A 36-year veteran of the sport, the 49-year-old citizen of Excelsior splits his practice time between lakes Minnetonka and Waconia.
The 2012 Kona North American Windsurfing Championships will be held Aug. 24-26 on Lake Waconia, and Evans will be participating in the three-day, 10-race regatta.
Having sailed at Lake Waconia for over 35 years, Evans feels he knows the lake well, which perhaps may give him an advantage in his first appearance at the Kona North American Championships. With the large, round lake and flat land surrounding, Evans said the wind is usually a bit stronger on Lake Waconia, and less shifty.
“Lake Waconia is the best windsurfing lake in the Metro,” he said.
But he remains wary of his home-field advantage because he said the lake and the wind could change at a moment’s notice.
During the regatta, windsurfers will be awarded points based on their finishes in each race (one point for the winner, two points for second place, etc). The champion will be the windsurfer with the lowest score between the 10 events.
Evans is a fan of the Kona class of windsurfing and said the class is growing nationally and internationally because of it’s regulated sails and boards. Sail size is correlated to the surfer’s body weight, which makes the competition more even.
“It’s neat because it’s a one design class,” he said. “It’s the skill of the sailor that will determine who wins, not if you have the best board or not.”
Evans grew up on Lake Minnetonka racing sailboats. He got his first taste of windsurfing when he was 13 years old.
“One day I was on the lake and saw a windsurfer go by,” he said, recalling that he had never seen such equipment before.
He gave windsurfing a try, loved it, and purchased his first board the following spring.
One of the windsurfing pioneers in the area, Evans said the sport itself was challenging to learn without professional instruction.
“I just bought a board and had to figure it out on my way,” he said. “I got on it and kept falling off, and finally figured it out. And then it was no problem.”
Evans said it took him about two weeks to really get the hang of windsurfing, and he began competing soon after.
In the 1980s, windsurfing took off and became rather popular. As popularity grew, the sport the focus began to turn away from beginning windsurfers, but instead shifted to making the fastest boards and equipment for maximum speed.
Evans said as the equipment became more specialized, it made it difficult for beginners to learn, many of whom gave up. But in the last eight years or so, according to Evans, manufacturers have begun to make boards and equipment more user-friendly.
“Kona is a good example of that,” he said. “It’s not the fastest board out there … but it is easy to learn on.”
This will be Evans’ first Kona North American Championship regatta, and he said he’s excited for it to be held at Lake Waconia.
“The Kona class is really growing nationwide and worldwide,” he said.
With two small children to keep him busy, Evans’ last formal competition was the Mille-Lacs Challenge in the fall of 2011, where he finished second. Between spending time with his kids and running his own business (he is a co-partner at Membranx), Evans said he gets on the lake to practice windsurfing about once a week. But that doesn’t include the time he spends training and competing in sailboat races, kiting, ice and snow sailing, and ice boating.
Evans has a long list of accomplishments in his career, but he said his largest was being crowned the 1997 Ice and Snow Surfing World Champion. He was also a member of the 1992 pre-Olympic team and is a nine-time Inland Lake Yachting Champion.
Evans said windsurfing, and its winter counterparts, intrigue him because of their unpredictability.
“Every time you go out you’re dealing with Mother Nature, and you never know quite what’s going to happen,” he said.
The surprises keep it interesting and the sport is a great workout, according to Evans. He said the more time an athlete spends windsurfing, the better he or she becomes.
“You can always get a little bit better and a little bit faster,” he said.
Hosted by Fleet 8, a Minneapolis-based windsurfing association, and Kona Midwest, the 2012 Kona North American Championships will be held at Lake Waconia Regional Park Aug. 24-26. This will be the first major windsurfing championship in the Midwest since the 1980s. Lake Waconia’s first windsurfing competition was the Windsurfer District 5 Championships in 1978.
For more information, see the special insert in last week’s Waconia Patriot or visit fleet8.com.