Those in the local sailing community say their sport and the Town of Gibsons are a perfect fit.
A years-long tradition has seen youth from the Coast take to the confines of Shoal Channel, learning to command the seas using wind power and personal might.
Some, like 17-year-old Jazz Chodak, head instructor for Learn to Sail, have even managed to turn those skills into a profession.
“I started in this program, and now I’m more or less top,” he said. “This is the best way for them to get experience at it for sure.”
Graduates of the sailing program often find the hobby’s usual barriers insurmountable. Few are fortunate enough to have the perfect training ground in their backyard, and sailing can be an expensive gig.
“Once you’re out of [the program], not many people do it. You get the odd person, which is unfortunate because it’s a great location for it. Wind’s always there, but it’s the other part of getting a boat,” Chodak said. “It’s pretty expensive.”
Teaching kids to sail has been a major objective of the Gibsons Yacht Club (GYC) for some time now.
Four sessions have been scheduled throughout this summer, welcoming 18 registrants each. Last year, that number was 22, and organizers say there are always more ready to jump in.
The fees associated with learning the sport have also risen compared to last year, but demand has continued strong.
On July 24, Chodak could be found out in the water, zipping sail to sail in a motorized boat and sharing his experience with the kids. The group welcomes students from age eight and up. Opportunities for the younger crowd are also sometimes available.
That day, Chodak and the other instructors were teaching concepts like tacking, using the wind to control the vessel’s direction. But the most popular lesson with the kids, he said, remained capsizing.
“The kids love capsizing,” he said. Each sailboat has a retractable dagger board beneath it. When the boat flips — often on purpose, as the kids frequently demonstrated — the task is to use your weight against the board to flip the vessel.
For veteran instructor John Roper, the unwavering interest in the sport has served as proof that room exists to grow the sport locally.
According to him, the program sold out “within a couple weeks” of being advertised, despite increasing the fees “quite a bit this year.”
The GYC has been vocal in its call for an Armours Beach improvement that could make sailboats a more regular sight in the waters around Gibsons.
“There’d be some boats over there and they could sail any day … the yacht club really wants that to happen,” Roper said.
The July 31 Gibsons council approved a grant application to seek matching funding for a renovation of the Rugby Club building at Armours Beach through the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund. Deadline for the application was Aug. 2.
The cost has been estimated at $234,000. A successful grant application could see the improvements made at half price. After that “we’ll have more time to go through the planning process for further amenities,” said parks director Wendy Gilbertson at a recent committee meeting.
Learn to Sail is organized by a GYC committee of volunteers. Registration fees and grants, including money from Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast Regional District, have provided the funds.