Rusty Kingon, Lifelong Sailor and Leader UCSC Summer Sailing Camp
My first taste of sailing was aboard a Sunfish dinghy on a small lake in Northern Michigan as a kid with my family. Fast forward a few years to college and a week-long trip to the Florida Keys had me hooked. After becoming a certified American Sailing Association instructor and a licensed Coast Guard captain, I began working for Pacific Sail (then known as Pacific Yachting and Sailing). Shortly thereafter, an opening with UCSC as a sailing and rowing instructor appeared and 20 years later, I am still doing what I love.
Sailing means different things to different people. A perfect day for some may be in a small dinghy, sailing blissfully up and down the harbor, mingling with folks you come across. It may be racing against identical boats (called “one-design” races) to see who is the fastest on any given day, or it may be chartering a boat for a week with friends and family in some far-flung corner of the world. At UCSC, we give students of different ages (juniors, college students, community adults) the opportunity to learn and try any or all of these varieties of sailing. We are the only organization in the Monterey Bay area that teaches basics on a small dinghy as well as coastal cruising on a live-aboard vessel. We also have a vibrant club that allows members to use our vessels on the weekends based on one’s current skill level.
While our primary focus is providing opportunities for UCSC students to learn sailing, rowing, and kayaking skills throughout the school year, we also provide those same opportunities to community members. We have been safely offering summer programming to local youths and adults for over 30 years and have taught thousands how to sail in that time. My old-timer moment recently came when a woman I had taught how to sail as a UC student is now enrolling her daughter in one of our youth classes.
Our junior classes are a great way to introduce kids to the sport.
While being on the water is not without risk, our goal is for the students to feel safe, comfortable, and wanting to learn more about the sport when they finish a two-week course. Building junior racers is not a focus of our program. If students want a more competitive environment, those options are certainly available, but skill development, team building, and having fun are our primary goals. We also impress upon students the need to be good stewards of the environment and spend considerable time talking about the uniqueness of our Bay and the diversity of the marine life within.
I typically teach the adult evening classes while my assistant, Aria Lange, oversees our junior programming. Aria teaches all levels of small-boat sailing at UCSC and as a former UC sail team member and youth sailing instructor in Massachusetts, brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our program. Creative and engaging, Aria and her staff create a fun and safe experience for all of our junior sailors.
We encourage anyone who is interested in learning to sail to check out our web page, https://recreation.ucsc.edu/boating/index.html, which lists a full summer class schedule.