This year’s Vela T-shirt has the motto ‘Navigo Ergo Sum’ – Latin (sort of) for ‘I Sail, Therefore I Am’. To various degrees we all love windsurfing. There’s nothing like being out on the water feeling free and enjoying our favorite sport, and many of us identify ourselves with windsurfing. HOWEVER, most of us have those days where…..
We’ve heard it all before – not enough wind, too much wind; too rough, too calm; water’s too cold, wrong gear, too tired, maybe later – blah, blah, blah. I’ve been there myself, probably too many times, but hopefully no more. This week I met windsurfer Barry Honig here at Vela Aruba. Barry is totally blind, but I’ve met very few people who love going windsurfing as much as he does.
Barry and his family usually come to Aruba each August, but I was lucky enough to meet him and his son this past week. Despite being blind from birth, Barry has been windsurfing for around 25 years now. A typical session lasts 2 to 3 hours. An instructor rigs up two sets of gear, then sails with Barry (or sometimes I think it is the other way around). I’ve seen him out sailing in light and strong winds, calm water to light waves, upwind and down, but always with a smile on his face (unless a motor boat comes flying by too close). One of Barry’s favorite cruises is in early afternoon, heading a couple miles on the Blue Highway to where the snorkeling boats moor. All the captains know him by now as he stops and chats with some of their guests and manages to get one or two(?) rum punches for ‘energy and hydration’ in order to get back home safely. His current goal is to learn waterstarting, he says, "so that I can sail in bigger waves."
Always with a funny story, I asked Barry how he learned to windsurf.
"I wanted to learn because it seemed like something I could do as a blind person. I downhill ski as well, and I figured this would be a bit easier, as I wouldn't have to worry about falling off of a cliff or crashing into a tree.
It also seemed like a real challenge, and I like a good challenge.
I initially learned in Puerto Rico, with my friend Chris Cummings— may he rest in peace.
We just got a couple of boards and hung out in the lagoon at the Condado Plaza. I would try to get up, and then fall and then try again until I could do it. Chris and I had a game we'd play. We count the number of times each of us fell, take the difference, and who ever had more, would have to buy the guy with the fewest, that number of pina coladas that night.
I really started to learn how to sail much better out in Cutchogue and South Hampton, Long Island, NY at a windsurfing school. The instructors were actually pretty willing to teach me.
I made the most progress in my ability at Vela, when I started coming about 12 years ago. The guys were all great and very willing to work with me. My kids and I have developed great friendships with all the instructors down there."
Next time we’re down at the beach and procrastinating or complaining that things aren’t perfect, let’s all realize how great we have it! Be inspired by Barry’s success and enthusiasm for the sport and get out on the water and just have fun. Let’s sum it up with a few thoughts from Barry.
"There are fewer things I like to do more than windsurf. It is the one time in my life where I can operate a vehicle and feel totally free moving around. Once we are out on the blue highway, I generally sail without one of the instructors even talking to me. They just whistle a song or I sing. It is an incredibly liberating and peaceful feeling.
I would highly recommend to any person with a visual disability that they learn the sport. It is great exercise, very liberating, and lots of fun. The people who are involved in the sport are terrific and happy to help."
Note from Radar Tom – It’s not as important that we’re really good or have the latest gear, but it is important to go out and enjoy ourselves, having fun windsurfing!