U.S. Windsurfing National Championships in Worthington

  • Article by: LISA MEYERS MCCLINTICK SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
  • Updated: June 12, 2014 - 2:44 PM

Wind-swept Lake Okabena boasts a kaleidoscope of colors this weekend with a national windsurfing competition blowing into town.

hide

Windsurfers and windmills harnessed the abundant winds of southwestern Minnesota.

Windsurfing competitors from across the nation have converged on Worthington’s Lake Okabena to show off their skills this weekend.

This is the third time this unassuming town of about 12,900 residents has hosted the U.S. Windsurfing National Championships, which usually takes place in coastal communities such as San Diego, Calif.; Maui, Hawaii; Cocoa Beach, Fla.; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Cape Hatteras, N.C.

When locals Bill Keitel and Jeff Hegwer suggested an annual regatta dedicated to the sport 15 years ago, “we were considered wild-eyed dreamers,” says Keitel, a recreational windsurfer from Worthington and vice president of U.S. Windsurfing.

The landscape at the time had a few wind turbines pinwheeling on the horizon, but it was nothing like today, with 196 wind turbines churning across Nobles County, he says.

“We’re between two of the largest wind fields in the nation,” Keitel says, with one stretching to Fargo and the other to Des Moines.

It takes looking at a topographical atlas to see Buffalo Ridge, an expanse of rolling hills on the southeastern tip of Coteau des Prairie, a 100-mile-wide plateau that sprawls for 200 miles across northeastern South Dakota into southwestern Minnesota. Even Joseph Nicollet, the first European explorer to map the area in the 1830s, noted in his journal that “the wind is elastic, and there are no trees to stop its progression,” Keitel said.

The beautiful but often overlooked coteau topography enriches the scenery straddling the South Dakota and Minnesota border, but those virtues can be hard to detect in the flat-looking prairie farmland surrounding Worthington. But that magnificence can certainly be felt in the wind that funnels into the area, shutting down Interstates during winter blizzards and inspiring recreation by summer.

Fun for spectators

More than 100 competitive windsurfers are expected this weekend, with past participants coming from Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Malta. Closer to home, they come from Fond du Lac, Wis., Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs and Saylorville, Iowa — all places that host windsurfing events.

The community expects about 10,000 spectators throughout the week, says Ken Moser, president of the festival. While the event has grown, organizers try to keep it welcoming and not overly commercial. The weekend also includes an art fair, bike ride and food vendors that reflect the town’s ethnically diverse population with Hispanic, Asian and African influences.

The small size of Lake Okabena, 750 acres, makes it an easy place to plunk down a lawn chair and a blanket to watch the windsurfers from Sailboard Beach or a three-block stretch near downtown. Spectators often get a chance to try windsurfing and see what the sport is all about on a lake that’s always been the heart of this community. It regularly hums with runners, anglers, bikers, walkers and cruisers who use the 7.3-mile circumference like a community track.

At flashier coastal locations, it’s harder to see the action, which is usually a few miles offshore, Keitel says, rather than just off a comfortable lakeshore dotted with several parks.

While Mother Nature isn’t predictable — one year it skunked participants — the second week of June is historically the windiest. The wind usually begins blowing around 11 a.m. until early evening. Organizers try to run several races each day, zigzagging the mile-and-a-half-long lake in a figure eight or other configurations to emphasize control and speed that ranges from 30 mph to 65 mph.

“It is astounding,” says Keitel, who likes to quote a Chinese proverb that says flying a kite (or holding a giant kite-like sail) “is like holding the wind in your hands.”

The Worthington Windsurfing Regatta also runs in conjunction with the Unvarnished Music Festival that fires up each evening as the wind dies down. The music offers participants something to do and adds to the congenial, welcoming atmosphere with free stage acts until 10 p.m. From 10:15 p.m. until midnight, jam sessions and spontaneous busking take over in casual clusters that form around lakeside tiki torches.

Inevitably, a little breeze stirs up, and the sound of musicians — some of them windsurfers — carries across the water and disappears into the dark farm fields where the turbines keep churning, harnessing prairie winds that keep the regatta going.

 

St. Cloud-based Lisa Meyers McClintick, www.10000Likes.com, writes travel features and guidebooks.





 

  • related content

  • Windsurfing on Lake Okabena in Worthington.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Morrow 5
Cleveland - LP: B. Shaw 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 6
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 7
Miami - WP: A. DeSclafani 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: J. Papelbon 4
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: M. Garza 9
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 4
Minnesota - WP: T. May 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 4
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 10
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 6 FINAL
Arizona - WP: Z. Spruill 8
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 4 FINAL
Seattle - LP: C. Young 0
NY Yankees - LP: D. Robertson 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: D. O`Day 3
Miami 10 FINAL
Buffalo 29
Jacksonville 10 FINAL
Washington 41
Dallas 26 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Arizona 25 FINAL
NY Giants 14
New England 30 FINAL
Minnesota 7
New Orleans 24 FINAL
Cleveland 26
Atlanta 10 FINAL
Cincinnati 24
Detroit 7 FINAL
Carolina 24
St. Louis 19 FINAL
Tampa Bay 17
Seattle 21 FINAL
San Diego 30
NY Jets 24 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Kansas City 17 FINAL
Denver 24
Houston 30 FINAL
Oakland 14
Chicago 21 4th Qtr 8:44
San Francisco 20
Philadelphia 9/15/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
Boise State 38 FINAL
Connecticut 21
Indiana 42 FINAL
Bowling Green 45
Ga Southern 38 FINAL
Georgia Tech 42
Syracuse 40 FINAL
Central Mich 3
UCF 10 FINAL
(18) Missouri 38
Massachusetts 31 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
Ohio U 14 FINAL
Marshall 44
West Virginia 40 FINAL
Maryland 37
Kent State 0 FINAL
(23) Ohio State 66
Pittsburgh 42 FINAL
FIU 25
East Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia Tech 21
Louisville 21 FINAL
Virginia 23
Wyoming 14 FINAL
(2) Oregon 48
Air Force 48 FINAL
Georgia State 38
(13) Georgia 35 FINAL
(14) So Carolina 38
Arkansas 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 28
Iowa State 20 FINAL
Iowa 17
Miami-Ohio 10 FINAL
Michigan 34
Kansas 3 FINAL
Duke 41
NC State 49 FINAL
So Florida 17
Arkansas State 20 FINAL
Miami-Florida 41
Miss State 35 FINAL
South Alabama 3
Louisiana 15 FINAL
(10) Ole Miss 56
Minnesota 7 FINAL
TCU 30
Illinois 19 FINAL
Washington 44
Army 0 FINAL
(16) Stanford 35
Western Mich 45 FINAL
Idaho 33
Eastern Mich 3 FINAL
Old Dominion 17
Southern Miss 12 FINAL
(3) Alabama 52
Northern Ill 48 FINAL
UNLV 34
Tulsa 21 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 50
ULM 0 FINAL
(8) LSU 31
Wake Forest 24 FINAL
Utah State 36
Western Ky 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 50
TX-San Antonio 13 FINAL
(25) Oklahoma State 43
Purdue 14 FINAL
(9) Notre Dame 30
Kentucky 30 FINAL
Florida 36
New Mexico St 24 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 42
Tennessee 10 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 34
(17) USC 31 FINAL
Boston College 37
Navy 35 FINAL
Texas State 21
(12) UCLA 20 FINAL
Texas 17
Penn State 13 FINAL
Rutgers 10
Rice 10 FINAL
(6) Texas A&M 38
(15) Arizona State 38 FINAL
Colorado 24
(24) Nebraska 55 FINAL
Fresno State 19
Nevada 28 FINAL
Arizona 35
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Montreal 16 FINAL
Edmonton 33
Toronto 33 FINAL
Calgary 40
Winnipeg 9 FINAL
Brt Columbia 26
Saskatchewan 3 FINAL
Hamilton 28
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close