Bill Bond said people are still surprised to learn Oklahoma has sailing opportunities, and the best one is right in the metros backyard. Yup, no ocean needed to get your sea legs just head to Lake Hefner.
Lake Hefner, believe it or not, is probably one of the top 10 sailing lakes in the nation, said Bond, who has headed up the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma Citys sailing program for a dozen years. When its got water in it, its fabulous.
And thats not the only Oklahoma lake in which to set sail. Bond also said Lake Texoma, Grand Lake and Lake Keystone are other options.
Karen Thurston, with Thunderbird Sailing Club, would add Lake Thunderbird to that list. She helped build and helps run the nonprofit clubs boathouse on the lake, where she also leads classes.
Both Thurston and Bond learned to sail on the Great Lakes, but theyve brought their expertise to Oklahoma, where they are teaching water-lovers in this landlocked state to be sailors.
The YMCA has offered classes for about the last 12 years, and Bond said its the only inland Y in the nation to do so.
Beginners classes start on dry land, but its 95-percent practical on the water, he said. Its all hands-on.
After learning the unique nomenclature of sailing, new students try their hands at knots, then learn how to steer the boat, tack (moving the boat upwind) and jibe (turning the stern of the boat into the wind). See what we mean about nomenclature?
Classes for adults run one night a week for five weeks on Lake Hefner, but weekday classes run for one week and are open to ages 8 and up. Classes run throughout the summer and start as early as next week.
Bond said students dont need to be members of the Y to sign up. In fact, 95 percent of the people that take lessons from us are not members, he said.
Students learn to sail on 14-foot boats, which he said prepares them to handle the larger boats.
Plus, he said of the smaller boats, theyre a lot faster; theyre a lot more fun. Its the difference between flying a fighter plane and a commercial jet.
After completing the course, students get certified through US Sailing on a boat up to 22 feet.
In this part of the country, thats really all you want, Bond said of the larger boats, many of which have a cabin onboard.
In Norman, Thurston said the Thunderbird Sailing Club teaches adults and also runs a summer kids camp for 9- to 13-year-olds.
start them out rowing, paddling canoes and kayaks, getting them to
understand turning a boat, she said. Then we slowly teach them how to
rig the boat, how to get on the water. Then, we let them go by the end
of the second day, usually, and theyre sailing by themselves.
kids stick to small boats called prams: They look like tiny little
bathtubs with sails, Thurston said. Theyre pretty stable, and they
dont go very fast.
adults, students learn on small, two-to-four-person boats like sloops,
but there are students who want to learn on the larger, 20-to-30foot
Most people dont need to be certified beyond the keelboat to accomplish what they want to do, she said.
To be certified by US Sailing, students have to pass both a written and on-the-water practical exam.
Sailor for a day
if youre not ready to be captain? Maybe cabin boy is more your speed?
Thurston said the Thunderbird Sailing Club offers a day of sailing as a
Families get their sea legs with a morning of canoeing and kayaking before getting onto the sailboat.
They sail for about four hours with an experienced sailor.
teach them how to steer and how to trim sails and the basics of
sailing and just introduce them to something they probably havent done
before, she said.
boats hold four people (sailor included), so this isnt for Duggar-sized
clans, but Thurston said families can take it in turn, while the others
play on the beach.
had a lot of people act surprised when she talks about sailing in
Oklahoma, but said its not just for the coasts and Great Lakes, but for
anyone whos curious and loves the water.
agreed that anyone can learn to sail. And the 300-400 people he teaches
per summer through the YMCA program attest to that. But he warns that
sailing isnt like other sports.
will only go where the wind will let it, he said. Youve got people
who think you can just put your foot down and go like you do in a
motorboat. So, theyve got to learn patience and they have to learn how
to solve the puzzle of the wind.