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Stage hand: Janssen one of original Lake Okabena windsurfers

Marc Janssen (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Among the ranks of the many volunteers who help each year with the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, there are a few windsurfers -- not a lot -- but a few who occasionally test the wind and waters of Lake Okabena.

One such is Marc Janssen, although his volunteer effort has little to do with the windsurfing. Each year, Marc, with a small band of intrepid helpers, constructs the stage that serves as a platform for the performing musicians, sundry announcements and other festival happenings.

Windsurfing was an interest Marc picked up as a young man. A native of Rushmore, he graduated in 1981 from Adrian High School. He met wife Darla at Worthington's Silver Skate Roller Rink, and they've been married for 28 years. They have two sons, Chad and Craig, and two grandchildren.

Marc credits --or blames? --his brother, Mike, who lives in Florida, for getting him hooked on the water sport.

"I was about 22 years old, and we were down there in Florida, and he said, 'I'm going to go windsurfing. Let's go and try it,'" recalled Marc. "I fell off the board 100 times, I think, that day. My knees and back were sore from climbing back on. But you got used to it.

"I must have been working at Koppy Motors then, and I left there in 1993 and had been there 10 years," continued Marc, trying to pinpoint a timeline. "Anyway, Mike sent me a sailing board up on a truck one day. But it was a big old heavy board that he sent, and it didn't work very well out here. I told him, 'I'll give you a couple hundred bucks, and you send me a little newer board.' Then I could get moving across the lake."

Consequently, Marc was one of the first windsurfers on Lake Okabena, and among the group that Regatta organizers Bill Keitel and Jeff Hegwer summoned to talk about promoting the sport locally.

"Bill said we should get together and get something going," Marc remembered. "I just thought that if there were a bunch of us, we should get a group going, have a club. It got bigger than what I thought it was going to be. I just figured we'd get a club started, a bunch of area windsurfers, and all of a sudden, they have U.S. Windsurfing involved, and it turned into this."

The group decided to call themselves Worthington Okabena Windsurfers --WOW for short.

"I got the idea from my brother," said Marc. "They group they've got down in Jacksonville, they call themselves JAWS --Jacksonville Area Windsurfers."

Pretty soon, the WOW members were not only promoting a Regatta, but also a music festival on the shore of the lake. Marc volunteered to help construct the stage and has been doing it ever since, aided by his father-in-law Allen Kruger, son Craig and whoever else is willing to swing a hammer. He takes time off from his job at Jaycox Implement to get the task accomplished. The stage is constructed on top of semi trailers provided each year by Smith Trucking.

"We've got all the boards that Lamperts donated years ago, still using the same boards," he said. "We've got them all marked, and as long as we keep getting the same trailers to stick them in, we can just get them lined up and put together."

The process takes a few hours, and the stage comes down a lot quicker than it usually goes up.

"Sometimes you just stand there and scratch your head because that board doesn't fit there, so then you have to move it over here. No mishaps --not yet," he said, pausing to knock on wood. "But we have gotten it down just before it rains, and up once just before it rains."

Marc also takes responsibility for storing the stage supplies from year to year.

"We throw all the wood up in the haymow," he detailed. "Each year we have to throw it all down, load it in the trailer and haul it to town. Then when we're done, we load it back up, take it home and throw it all back up in the haymow."

In addition to his job at Jaycox, Marc also farms about 300 acres and has a cow-calf herd. In spite of this year's variable weather, he's got all his seed in the ground, but has been helping out some neighbors who haven't been as lucky.

Five years ago, Marc was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Having lost both his dad and mother-in-law to cancer, he is grateful for every annual checkup that shows him to be free of the disease.

Between work and farm, Marc doesn't find much time to windsurf these days. His last excursion on the lake was a year ago, but he hopes to find a small window of opportunity to take out his sailboard sometime soon.

Marc finds the sport both challenging and relaxing at the same time.

"Windsurfing out here is more of a challenge, because the wind direction changes on the shoreline," he said. "In Florida, you're along the coast and there's just this nice steady one-direction sea breeze. Out here, you have to be careful or that sailboard will flip over on top of you. ... You have to watch the ripples in the water for the wind gusts, because if there's one coming, you've got to lean a little harder and get ready for it. You notice if the sun gets covered up by a cloud, because you'll get a little more wind, too. You don't notice that on dry land, but on the water you do.

"But I like just being out on the open water, I guess --kind of scooting across the water like that," he continued. "Once you get used to it, it's relaxing. You can lean back into it and let the wind do the work."

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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