NJWWA hosts 6th Annual Fun Fest in Brant Beach
Members of the New Jersey Windsurfing and Watersports Association welcomed visitors to Bayview Park in Brant Beach, to partake of a variety of water sports and lessons on Sunday, July 13, as part of their sixth annual Fun Fest Series. This was the second of four events in the series, the first having been at Seaside Park in the beginning of June.
NJWWA is a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization that has made its mission to promote windsurfing and other non-motorized watersports in the state of New Jersey.
“Windsurfing is a terrific sport, and we want to help other people learn and enjoy the sport like we do,” said Eleni Vittas, a NJWWA member who has been windsurfing since 1986. “Bayview Park is a really good place to learn because of the calm water, and the people I have met here are phenomenal.”
The beginner and intermediate windsurfing classes were led by local favorite Jack Bushko, who has been a watersports instructor for 38 years and participated in Fun Fest for the past four years. Bushko was assisted by the NJWWA treasurer, William DeStefano.
“The first thing you need to know about windsurfing is that it is the most counterintuitive thing you will have done in your life. What you think will happen, the opposite happens,” Bushko said before going over the parts of the board and sail.
All of the equipment used for the event was provided by Bushko, Terry Deakyne and AnnMarie Deakyne from Island Surf and Sail in Brant Beach.
Kaitlyn Rojas, 10, was the youngest participant in the beginner windsurfing classes. Despite this being her first time windsurfing, Rojas applied the balancing skills she had acquired from surfing and held her own as she learned how to stand, turn and glide over the water.
“The wind was pretty strong,” said Kaitlyn. “The further we went out, the stronger it would get, so it was harder to get back in and to turn back to the shore. But I got the board to turn a lot. I got better, and I plan on doing it again.”
Nicknamed “Thermal Bob” after thermal winds, which are ideal for windsurfing, NJWWA member Bob Copec commented that windsurfing is an incredibly demanding sport.
“Reacting to the wind takes all kinds of skills and maneuvers,” said Copec who has been windsurfing on the Island since 1993. “You never really become an expert. It is just a continuous learning experience.”
Alasdair Gilfillan, one of the NJWWA founders, led the standup paddleboard lessons, also referred to as SUP. While his sister was windsurfing, Brandon Rojas, 13, participated in the SUP lessons and later went kayaking on the bay.
“Every event we have a few youngsters, which gives me a great feeling because I regret that I didn’t get involved in this earlier,” said Jacek Polubiec, the NJWWA event chairman. “I was a sailor for a while, and it took me a while to get into board sports. This is probably my fourth or fifth year.”
Polubiec said Bushko was his first instructor, and after just two lessons, he knew he wanted to become more involved with windsurfing. Despite living in Yonkers, N.Y., Polubiec frequently visits Bayview Park to windsurf.
“There are places closer to where I live along the Hudson River, but there is something magical about this spot,” he said.
After the beginner lessons, six eager participants stood, board and paddle in hand, ready for the annual Standup Paddleboard Race. The race was officiated by NJWWA member Barbara Bauer. This was her first time officiating the SUP race; she usually participates in it.
The participants were to paddle out to a nearby wake buoy and circle around it clockwise before returning to the shoreline.
“You don’t win until the board and the paddle are back on the sand,” Bauer warned.
Jeff Bauer placed first, and Alasdair Gilfillan came in at a close second. Both received medals for their efforts.
“The key is you got to run as far out as you can before you hop on the board,” said Jeff Bauer. “I was kind of surprised when I got out there by the buoy; the wind shifted direction.”
Later in the afternoon, the intermediate and veteran windsurfers rigged up for the Jibe Clinic, led by Bushko. Kay Chiang, a NJWWA member and windsurfer of 20 years, explained that jibing is when a surfer changes footing on the board before turning the sail while windsurfing.
“There are many other ways to jibe, not just the one way,” said Chiang. “Everyone can do it their own way, really.”
She said that from her very first lesson, she always jibed by turning the sail and then stepping with her feet, opposite of the traditional method.
“When you are turning, it is the most critical point of the sport, so I just do what feels natural,” said Chiang.
Chiang commented that she has surfed at other beaches but the beach in Bayview Park is the one she loves going to the most.
“At other beaches, no one would help me when I first started,” she said. “This is the beach where everybody helped me. I really appreciate all of their help over the years. Without their help, I would not be here today. I would have given up a long time ago.”
The NJWWA will host two more events this summer as part of its Fun Fest Series: in Lakes Bay on Sunday, Aug. 3, and in Sandy Hook on Sunday, Sept. 14. For more information about the NJWWA or upcoming event, visit windsurfnj.org.
— Shayna Innocenti