Cape Cod Wahines wind, wave, and kitesurfing

Wahine Sponsor Spotlight on: Sailworld

By Marietta Hitzemann

SailWorld

Question: What do you get when a body-surfing, scuba diving California girl transplanted to Florida meets a downhill ski racer turned windsurfing instructor from Austria?

Answer: Buzzard’s Bay’s Sailworld, one of the Cape Cod Wahines’ first sponsors!

Sailworld is owned and operated by Pam and Jim Ballantyne, a couple who have been windsurfing together for around 25 years. If you’re a serious windsurfer, you’ve probably used their web site to locate a piece of gear at some point. Additionally, they sell World Sails, a line of sails that Jim designs.

So how did they get to Buzzard’s Bay? I stopped by in mid-March to find out.

Two souls colliding, in Florida

Pam was born in California but her family moved to Florida when she was young. She spent much of her youth in New Smyrna Beach, a town with a 13-mile stretch of white sand beaches. “For years I body surfed every morning. I was on the beach every day before my family was awake, and some days I could catch waves for miles.”

She started scuba diving at age 17 and studied to be a marine biologist for awhile. But she changed her mind, got a degree in Education instead, and returned to New Smyrna Beach to teach.

Jim had been a professional skier and ski instructor in Innsbruck, Austria for nearly 10 years. And then, in 1979, Jim’s ski coach decided the team should take a break, try something new: they went to Lake Garda in Italy to try windsurfing.

Jim had a windsurfing epiphany and it was a life changing one.

Jamie and Matt

First he moved to the Lake, learned to windsurf really well, and began teaching. Then, decided to open a windsurfing school in the States. He started with lessons at a resort at Lake George in New York, but moved on to manage a program in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. There, Jim met a windsurfer from Key Largo who convinced him to move to Florida. After a few years of teaching in Key Largo and Islamorada, Jim moved up to New Smyrna Beach and opened a shop.

A friend of Pam’s discovered Jim’s place and learned to windsurf. Her stories were intriguing, so Pam went along for a lesson one day and eventually had her own windsurfing epiphany. After all those years of body surfing on New Smyrna Beach without ever feeling the pull of surfing, she too got hooked on windsurfing.

“I had so much fun body surfing and it was so freeing and it was my early morning experience before anyone else was on the beach… I never even considered taking up surfing. But once I saw windsurfing and tried it… well… I fell in love with both Jim and windsurfing at the same time.”

Girls just want to have fun

When Pam first started windsurfing, she used the long board from Jim’s school. “I would go out and just not come back. I would sail from island to island watching the sunset. One day I looked down and saw a dolphin come right up next to me and turn sideways and his eye was looking right at me and I was in heaven. And then the sun set and the wind died and I realized the next time I went out I should make sure I was closer to shore at sunset.”

Pam windsurfing

The day of Pam’s windsurfing epiphany was a high-wind day. Her friends (including Jim) were stoked. “They were all grabbing their equipment and running to the beach, jumping in the water, and they all told me not to go out – to stay on the beach. And I thought there’s no way I’m staying on the beach!  I grabbed the giant school board and the sail and went out there and I started flying. There were no foot straps on the board and I just had to hold on and that was it for me. I was hooked.”

“From then on I drove everyone nuts. ‘Is it windy enough? Let’s go!’ I wanted to go out every day!”

Destination Buzzard’s Bay

Pam and Jim’s path to Buzzard’s Bay was a circuitous one. Their first shop together was at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Then they moved to Oregon where they opened a SailWorld in Hood River. They also franchised a SailWorld in Boston. Eventually they moved to Massachusetts, took over the Boston franchise, and moved it to Buzzard’s Bay.

Jim said, “We were here to check on the store and could tell that this was the place. You could sense how enthusiastic people were about this sport and how happy they were to get just a little bit of customer service.”

And Jim’s approach to customer service?

“Sometimes people come in to the shop to sell their old gear because their friends tell them they should get something new. And sometimes they should. But when they shouldn’t – when their gear is fine and they’re using it and it’s working well for them even though it’s not brand new – I tell them that, too. I try to listen to people and solve their problems – not just sell them gear.”

Pam windsurfing

Advice for newbies

According to Jim, those same friends can be an obstacle when it comes to breaking into windsurfing. “You need to take a lesson and use gear that fits you. If you try to use dusty, ancient gear that’s been in your friend’s garage for awhile, your first experience with the sport is a frustrating one and most people give up and never try again.”

Pam says that another thing that sours people on the sport is when they’re pressured into trying it before they’re ready. “You should do this only if it’s something you want to do.”

Next: let’s SUP

Sailworld is located on the mainland side of the Bourne Bridge. Unlike a lot of gear stores it’s open year round. The location means the shop is on your way to the Cape or to whatever your destination might be when you’re traveling from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, or New York in addition to Massachusetts.

Their main focus is on windsurfing gear (and the World Sails) but they also have bikes, clothes, skateboards, roller blades, snowboards, and surfboards, including the SUP (stand up paddle) boards and paddles.

Speaking of SUP, Sailworld will be running the Wahine SUP clinics this summer. So if you haven’t been to the shop yet, you can check it out on the way to the clinic.

Pam loves to SUP and says that it’s fun even when you’re just learning how to paddle – that you can become mesmerized by the water and the ocean’s floor. It reminds her of when she was first learning to windsurf because there were days when she was just trying to get around rather than to go fast.

She said, “Sometimes I’d take my daughter and a friend and a picnic and we’d sail out to one of the islands. The person on the front of the board knew to duck the sail when we needed to turn…”

“That’s what I love about windsurfing. It can be as extreme as you want it to be. But it’s not hard or extreme at all if you’re just going for a picnic.”