There's never ill wind for these seasoned boarders

OUTDOORS

Outdoors

August 28, 2005|By CANDUS THOMSON

WHAT IF GIDGET and Moondoggie got married and moved to Maryland?

They'd most likely be hanging out on the shores of Gunpowder Falls State Park having fun, fun, fun windsurfing with the kids of BABA.

But, you say, these days Gidget would be a suburban matron with a job and young ones and responsibilities and an AARP card in the mail.

Well, then, she'd fit right in at the Baltimore Area Boardsurfing Association.

With 120 members, average age 45, the club has nearly as many whitecaps as the Chesapeake Bay on a fall day. The senior member, Bob Catzen, is 76.

BABA ranks up there on the senior circuit in other ways, too. As one of the oldest (and largest) windsurfing clubs in the country, BABA will host the East Coast Boardsurfing Championships on Sept. 25 at Mayo Beach in Anne Arundel County.

To borrow from the Beach Boys, Ba-Ba-Ba, Ba-Ba-Humbug to old age.

These boarders are hardly what you'd call sticks in the mud. In the first place, they look a lot better in a wetsuit than I do. (Mental image: a small Vienna sausage bobbing in the bay on a popsicle stick. Not a pretty picture, eh?)

Members take spring and fall trips to Cape Hatteras and some windsurfers go up the coast to the Jersey shore for action. They have an awards luncheon at the end of the season and a mid-winter party to remind everyone that water will return to liquid form sometime soon.

One dreary, near-windless Saturday in July turned into an impromptu party, when club chairman Marc Rosen had pizza delivered to the water's edge at the Gunpowder.

"I think I got to be chairman because I was good at the party part," says Rosen, 50, wrestling a cooler full of soft drinks to a picnic table. "I'm a terrible windsurfer, but I'm a good cook, and I love the cookout part of this."

The social element clearly ranks high with these folks.

Helen VanGelder of Annapolis started windsurfing seven years ago, when she was 59. She learned from her brother. Her older brother.

How long did it take her to grasp the basics?

"Don't ask," she says, laughing easily at the memory. "I loved playing in the water from the beginning so I didn't mind falling in. Now, I fall in less."

She met her partner, Bill Anderson, in the club and they rarely miss a race day.

BABA has nine races a season, but even when they're not competing, members show up to hone skills and socialize.

The club is an offshoot of Hal Ashman's windsurfing school, Baltimore Board Sailing Academy, which began on the beach of the Rock Point Golf Course in 1985. The school moved to the state park in 1987.

"We got here, and we couldn't believe our eyes," recalls Ashman, a tan, fit 44-year-old. "It was the most beautiful spot on the bay."

Beautiful, and perfect for teaching the sport to others. Smooth, sandy beaches. Nice shallows. No jellyfish. Few speeding boats.

"It's still a gem," he says, looking out over the water, where a dozen boards glided over the surface.

Ashman opened for business with one trailer of equipment. To create a windsurfing community, he founded BABA.

Word of his school spread, as did the pressure to open a shop to rent and sell boards and accessories. Ashman bowed to the inevitable and opened a shop at the corner of York and Padonia roads in 1989.

But squall clouds gathered on the horizon in the mid-1990s. In-line skating rolled over windsurfing and became the hot sport of the younger and non- traditional crowd. BABA shrunk from 100 members to 25.

"I was maxed out with the school, shop and the club," Ashman says. "Everybody was looking at the land and we couldn't get anyone to look at the water anymore."

Chuck Schnee got Ashman's blessing to make BABA independent of the shop and school and began recruiting members.

"There are so many choices in sports. It's hard to attract new members," the 67-year-old retiree admits.

That's where the pizza and partying come in.

"This is such a great place to practice. You can come here every weekend," says Mark Bandy of Annapolis. "When you pull up, you can't wait to be part of the scene."

If you see Gidget and Moondoggie, pass the word.

Weekends win out

Bowing to the wishes of the state's waterfowlers who want the maximum number of Saturday hunting opportunities, wildlife managers will recommend to federal regulators a Nov. 17 starting date for the Atlantic population goose season.

Two groups had asked for the 45-day season to start two days early. Organizers of the annual Eastern Shore waterfowl festival were hoping to draw more visitors by having the season coincide with their event. And several state lawmakers had made a similar request so that delegates to the national legislative sportsmen's caucus would get the opportunity for some Chesapeake Bay hunting.

But hunters who attended a public hearing or wrote to the Department of Natural Resources overwhelmingly favored a season with the maximum weekend opportunities. Moving the start date up would have sacrificed a Saturday at the end of the season.

The state Wildlife Advisory Commission also voted for the later date.

The split goose season will run Nov. 17-25 and Dec. 17-28, with a two-bird daily bag limit.

DNR managers also will recommend a five-duck rather than a six-duck daily bag limit and will include mergansers in the total to simplify regulations. Although the Wildlife Advisory Commission voted to close the canvasback season, wildlife managers have opted for a one-bird daily bag limit.

"We feel strongly that the canvasback population is well-understood and appropriate triggers are in place to flag a situation if the population were to reach a critical level," said Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto. "Maryland canvasback hunters are responsible for just 5 percent of the total U.S. harvest each year. Their impact is negligible. The season provides an opportunity for our diver duck hunters."

The duck season will run Oct. 8-15, Nov. 12-25 and Dec. 13-Jan. 28.

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