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Yes, windsurf right here! We have the best inland windsurfing lakes in the Southeast, along with certified instruction and an equipment retailer, right in our own back yard.

>> Warning: Do not try this sport unless you are ready to change your life. <<

Like its first cousin, wave surfing, it is one of those sublime, free-riding, passion sports. It puts you in touch with the Source, and awakens something deep within your soul. We've seen it happen too many times. From the hard-core outdoor sports enthusiasts who-have-seen-and-done-it-all, to the casual sun-and-fun types, they come off their first fully-powered windsurfing experience blown away with the wonder and awe at what just got hold of them. But one thing is consistent, they all have to have more!

Windsurfing is unique. It's you with the elements -- not you against the elements. You do not need a motor to make it work nor gravity to pull you forward. It is you and the forces of nature, wind and water, working together to have the best time in your life.

So, rejoice, you live in a great place to pursue this exquisite sport. The Augusta to Columbia, SC oval - and on over to Atlanta -- is about as good an inland windsurfing location as can be found anywhere. You can have just as much fun sailing in a lake -- on "flat" water -- as out in the ocean. Of course, it's also a pretty short, easy drive to the coast where there's some really hot locations for all skill levels; but, both Clarks Hill and Lake Murray and several other area lakes have excellent, convenient venues for windsurfing.

The prime season on our lakes is long -- from early Fall to late Spring. Both lakes are beautifully positioned, geographically speaking, to catch the higher, steadier winds of cold fronts during those seasons. These fronts almost always sweep across the area within several compass points of a northwesterly direction. One of the nice things about inland lake windsurfing is that the windy days are quite predictable. Just look for that blue-studded cold front arc on the national weather map somewhere from the midwest to New England, and in three days or so when it sweeps across here, the wind is usually going to blow stiff and steady -- sometimes so hard you think it's going to pull the hair right out of your follicles.

But, high winds are not required anymore. The manufacturers have introduced new ultra-light-wind gear that can get you on a skimming plane in very light airs. As WindTracks Journal put it: "Recreational windsurfers can dramatically increase their sailing time with the recently introduced light wind gear.... You could easily top 100 [sailing days] a year and hold down a full-time job, raise a family, make the mortgage payment -- you know, the regular stuff you're supposed to do."

Water and air temperature are hardly a concern anymore, even in the dead of winter. When a shorty is not enough, the new high-tech, lower cost, pliant dry suits will radically change your attitude about winter forever. On a strong frontal wind of 25 knots, it is not unusual at Clarks Hill to see a dozen windsurfers cavorting on the lake when the air and water temp are both in the mid-forties. Get a taste of the ecstasy in this sport and "lake wind advisory" will replace "moderate temperatures with low humidity" as your favorite weather forecast.

Windsurfing is Easy to be Hard.

Windsurfing is attainable for everyone short or tall, old or young, male or female, thin and, uh, not thin. Yes, this sport does have a learning curve that is considered relatively tough in this instant gratification world of ours; but, hey, fun is cheap; however, there is very little true joy that comes without some effort in this life. It compares to snow skiing in it's learning curve. Anyone can be up and going the first day and progress quickly.

Actually, windsurfing is harder to explain than it is to do. Windsurfing involves the near effortless balance, often in a stiff breeze, of several square meters of sail which is attached to a curved mast fastened to a surf board with a universal joint, in such a manner that, due to the pressure and placement of your weight on the board in harmony with fin dynamics, you will skim across the water, often quite fast.

It's a lot easier if you don't get off on the wrong fin, so to speak. Many people's first taste of windsurfing has been on a heavy rental rig in either a too-calm, or too-windy, lagoon at some resort without the benefit of any instruction at all. This is not a sport to pick up on your own or learn from a friend. Also, many young male muscular types take a combative approach to learning and give up in frustration while a lightweight female with an open, listening, surrendering attitude can often progress quickly to the advanced level. Major breakthroughs have been made in both instruction and beginner equipment making it possible to learn in 3 hours what used to take 6 months. It's about technique, not muscle. Major upper body strength simply is not a requirement as most people believe. Check out our intstruction page.

A Sport for the Ages

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that windsurfing is one of the outdoor participation sports rising in popularity while many other are declining. Reasons why may include

  • its clean and pure
  • its a sport for all of your life, all age groups
  • there is no "peak of achievement" to define, much less attain
  • define the sport yourself, from light wind cruiser to wave shredding ripper

Call it extreme if you like -- it certainly can be-- but it can also be a peaceful, sublime experience. But, most importantly, it's accessible to all, close-by, year-round FUN. Just add wind!

Local Windsurfing Venues

What makes a good windsurfing spot? Obviously, a body of water with as long a fetch as possible. (Fetch is the distance wind or wave is able to travel without physical interference.) But then you also must have vehicular access and a place to rig your equipment. Here are the best on our lakes...

Clarks Hill Scott's Ferry Landing one mile north of Thurmond Dam on S.C. side off US Hwy 28. This Corps of Engineers maintained area is a little-used boat ramp that is THE premier windsurfing spot for all cold front winds from SW to N-NW. Security patrolled, parking, great rigging area, and easy boat ramp launch Be here on the next lake wind advisory day this fall and you'll see a dozen fanatics or so shredding the chop with abandon.

Modoc Shores end point of this residential area, about 5 miles further north on Hwy. 28 above Thurmond Dam in S.C. Good N - NE sailing but more difficult rigging and poor launch arrangements.

Lake Springs (Center Point) excellent site in all categories for N to less-common easterly winds, that is, when the park is open. Off Hwy 150, one mile west of Thurmond Dam.

Ft. Gordon Recreation Area*** off Hwy 104, one mile S. of Little River Bridge, enter and drive all the way to the end point. Almost a "secret spot". Best on due W and E, but this is an excellent site for beginners (with a friend) in almost any wind direction, except S. Added feature of two nifty little sandbar islands about 100 yards out on the left and right side of the point make convenient jumping-off spots. ( *** In Fall ' 01, a military ID was required to get in. When security relaxes, it may change back to open access for everyone.)

Lake Murray Columbia's lake has a huge, wide-open fetch 5 and miles on the prevalent W-NW cold front winds. That is almost twice as long as can be found at Clarks Hill. It doesn't mean the wind is harder, but it definitely produces waves bigger in breadth and height. I've sailed in legitimate, consistent 4 footers there. I've sailed Murray and Clark Hill on the same day in 20-25 knots and it is two different experiences. (Don't know why, but the water is noticeably colder in Murray, too.)

SCE&G Park Lake Dr. N (Hwy 6) about two miles N of Lexington, 20 minutes from downtown Columbia. On NW wind, super-convenient in all categories: secure parking, grassy rigging, bathrooms, phones, but cost is $3.00 each time you enter. Swimming area rope to cross or you can launch above it.

The Atlantic Coast From N. Myrtle Beach to Savannah there are countless great places to sail, especially at Folly Beach and Hilton Head. But one premier spot within easy driving distance that warrants special mention, is Station 29 (one of the numbered roads perpendicular to the sea) on Sullivan's Island just north of Charleston. A unique combination of offshore sandbars, curvature of the beach, and tidal currents, this venue can accommodate agressive beginners in the cove within the sandbars and experts can get radical with true wave sailing and huge take-off ramps out beyond the further sandbars. On 15 knot plus days, there's always lots of very, very friendly local sailors.

Need more inspiration? Take a look at our "what is windsurfing" page.

 
 
 
Chuck Hardin
(706) 860-0639

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