WORTHINGTON - To put it simply, Skip Boman is passionate about windsurfing.
Boman, who has traveled around the globe in pursuit of the perfect wave, is in Worthington this week for the first time to take part in the 20th annual Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival. It was a long trip for Boman - he drove 25 hours in his van from the San Francisco, Calif. Bay Area - but it’s an adventure he wasn’t going to miss.
Life has been a series of adventures for Boman, who caught the windsurfing bug when he was young.
“When I was in seventh grade I was in Maui, and that’s when I first saw it,” Boman said Wednesday morning of his initial exposure to the sport. “I was at Hookipa … which for years has been the most photographed spot in the world for windsurfing.
“I thought that just looked awesome, but I couldn’t afford it,” he continued. “So I went back to California, and my friend’s sister had a board. I tried it, took off and loved it. I loved it so much that during that school year ... I sold so much candy that I was able to buy my first windsurfing setup. That was it, and I was hooked.”
“Hooked” is an ideal way of describing it. Boman would later live in such locales as France, Mexico and the Dominican Republic while chasing his windsurfing dreams. He now calls Benicia, Calif. - the town in which he grew up - home. He is a former physical education teacher who worked hard and saved money, and subsequently purchased rental property and now manages those.
Boman’s first competitive success in the sport came in 1994, when he competed at the national level and placed third in the U.S. He captured the California state championship, and also won the prestigious Southern Crossing Race on Lake Tahoe.
While still at the top of his game, though, Boman opted to cease competitive windsurfing. He moved to France and remained active in the sport, but only for fun. Then, about two and a half years ago, he decided to challenge himself once more.
“I went to an International Windsurfing Tour event in Rio Vista, Calif. … and pretty much got first in all my divisions.” Boman said.
Many of his rivals on the water have never stopped racing competitively, he noted, saying it will be “interesting” to see the age range of windsurfers testing their skills on Lake Okabena, which is hosting US Windsurfing National Championship action for the fourth time.
“I love it and it keeps me young,” Boman said. “There are a few people that, because you’re in Minnesota, may think there won’t be any wind and take a risk by coming here. But I couldn’t wait to come here .. and wanted to go and support a great event.”
Boman was also enthusiastic about introducing Regatta-goers to a new division of windsurfing known as hydrofoiling, which first started to take hold about three or four years ago. A foilboard, or hydrofoil board, is a surfboard with a hydrofoil that extends below the board into the water. The design causes the board to leave the surface of the water at various speeds.
To say Boman is excited about hydrofoiling is an understatement, and it can be easy to be taken in by his excitement.
“If you see it - oh my God, it’s crazy,” he said. “It’s so quiet and it just takes your breath away. It’s mind-blowing - it’s like you’re flying like an angel above the water. On a lake like this that’s incredibly flat, it should just be incredibly fast and quiet.”
Earlier this week, Boman got to meet Worthington’s Craig Bergh, who coordinates the annual Midwest Speed event. Boman had earlier purchased a speed watch from Bergh.
He also got to meet Regatta co-founder Bill Keitel, and on Tuesday night enjoyed a night of social activity shortly after arriving in town. Before even setting sail on the lake - he was to do so later Wednesday morning - he was content to have made the trip.
It was a trip he didn’t have to make, given what has transpired in his life recently. Boman was diagnosed three months ago with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, and his wife also just recently had surgery for melanoma. His wife’s mother is providing assistance at home with the couple’s two young children (ages 5 and 7) while he made the solo trip to Worthington.
“I want to live strong and keep doing what I want to do and contribute what I can,” the 49-year-old Boman said. “I told my doctor that my great aunt had the same thing and lived to be 96 … I’m keeping a positive attitude.”
That attitude extends to whatever weather Mother Nature delivers to Sailbord Beach over the duration of the festival.
“I’m ready for foiling and since a lot of people haven’t seen it here, I really want to show it off,” he said. “But even if we’re unlucky and don’t have good wind, I brought my race board. I’m just happy to be here windsurfing.”