While many people flock to Cape Cod beaches to unwind and soak up the sun, others come seeking ocean thrills. Whether you crave surfing, scenic stand-up paddle boarding or exhilarating windsurfing and kiteboarding, there are plenty of Cape businesses ready to fulfill your quest for ocean adventure.By Robin Clarke | Photography by Julia Cumes
Surfing photos (including above) courtesy of Fun Seekers
It is the perfect morning for a surf lesson at White Crest Beach in Wellfleet—warm sun, incoming tide and beginner-friendly waves. A group of teens sits on the shore listening intently, if a bit impatiently, as instructor Eric Gustafson reviews the basics of wave and board dynamics, paddling and the “pop-up” on their surfboard that would launch them on their first thrilling ride.
For 26 years, Gustafson has been introducing locals and visitors to water sports through his company, Fun Seekers. Gustafson loves the Outer Cape for its excellent waves. “We have fantastic kitesurfing conditions,” says Gustafson. “With ponds, tidal rivers, the ocean and bay, there are lots of choices for water sports.”
In addition to surf lessons, he teaches kiteboarding, windsurfing and stand-up paddle boarding. He also leads SUP tours along the scenic marshes of Wellfleet, Truro and Eastham. Every lesson begins with a safety talk: “What’s the weather doing? What are my obstacles?” He discusses surf etiquette, rights-of-way and safety for students.
During windsurfing lessons, he begins on land with a simulator rig demonstration. Then he follows students on his SUP board and gives instructions while they’re out on the water. Even when it doesn’t seem very windy, students are thrilled with their progress as they sail back and forth along the shoreline. Gustafson also welcomes the opportunity to teach people who are disabled or facing personal challenges. He works with the organization First Descents, which brings patients from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to the Cape for surf and SUP lessons. He finds this type of work very rewarding. “It’s as satisfying as having a great day on the water myself,” he says.
Every new student renews his enthusiasm for the sport. “As experienced windsurfers, we’ve forgotten the excitement beginners feel just being propelled by wind on the water. No motor, just mother nature, propelling you,” says Gustafson.
His favorite pastime is kiting waves in the ocean, where he sometimes sees whales breaching in the distance. A sport can’t get more exciting than that!
Fun Seekers is by appointment only; to schedule, call 774-722-0764.
Inland Sea Windsurf Co.
Phil Mann teaches kiteboarding and windsurfing along Nantucket Sound in West Dennis and on the bay side at Chapin Beach.
At age 13, Mann began windsurfing in Lake Champlain, Vermont. He opened his first windsurfing shop in 1996 in Lake Champlain and eventually moved the business to West Dennis in 2003. When interest in kiting started to grow with “outliers” as he calls them, he began selling kiting gear as well.
Mann and his instructors provide kiteboarding, windsurfing and SUP lessons. In most cases, the student and instructor are equipped with helmet-to-helmet communication. “People pick it up much faster that way. You can tell them immediately what they’re doing wrong,” says Mann.
One chilly but sunny day last November, a student named Max was working on his kiting technique at Chapin Beach. He was just learning to get up on the board, which isn’t easy since they’re typically the size of a fat skateboard. After his instructor Noel waded in the shallow water and talked him through his attempts on a headset, Max eventually got some satisfying rides out into the bay and back.
“I love the fact that no matter what’s going on in your day, it’s time to disengage from everything,” says Mann. “All you’re thinking about is being on the water. “
Mann also loves the camaraderie of the sport. Last year, he helped arrange for a group of kiteboarders to gather at West Dennis Beach for a “downwinder” to Hardings Beach in Chatham. They kited down the shoreline in a colorful squadron. The event, named the Cape Crusade, raised a little over $8,000 as part of the Joe Sharron Challenge, named for a kiteboarder who was paralyzed in Mexico from an unrelated injury.
At his store, Inland Sea, just a seagull’s swoop from West Dennis Beach, Mann sells kiteboarding and windsurfing gear, and sells and rents SUPs. His new obsession is foils—a smaller fin that attaches underneath a surfboard or kiteboard. “You can kick off a wave and start pumping, then go around and catch another wave,” says Mann. Basically, as long as there’s some swell, you can keep riding an endless wave.
Inland Sea Windsurf Co.,
291 Main St., West Dennis,
A stone’s skip over the Bourne Bridge, Pam and Jim Ballantyne run Sailworld in Buzzards Bay. After beginning his career as a certified windsurf instructor in Austria, Jim followed his passion for the sport to Lake George in New York, the Florida coast, and briefly, to Hatteras, North Carolina.
Jim opened his first Sailworld store in Hood River, Oregon, with his bride, Pam. In 2001, Jim and Pam settled in Buzzards Bay because they felt it would be a great place to bring up their young son, Kaylen. Today, Sailworld has become a family business. Kaylen, now 25, helps run the store and give lessons while Pam stocks beach clothes and swimsuits in their shop.
Jim and his crew give windsurfing lessons on Buttermilk Bay, a protected inlet nearby where it’s easy to learn. “What I love most about teaching is that in one hour I can have you going back and forth,” says Jim. “The key is having the right equipment and instruction.”
Jim sells the right equipment through his shop. “Worldsails are our design,” says Jim. “We’ve been building them longer than we’ve had the store.” Now, he’s added a custom-designed SUP called Covester that can be used with a sail to windsurf, or as a paddleboard. Named after their cocker spaniel, the Covester has a paw-shaped pad on the front where a dog or child could sit. “It’s conducive to tooling around, and if the wind dies, you can paddle back,” says Jim.
Sailworld also sells and rents mountain bikes since Kaylen has turned pro at the sport. “The mountain biking scene has exploded,” says Jim. “It’s a completely new market for us, but complements windsurfing in that it gives thrill seekers a land sport” when the wind and waves aren’t happening.
Still, windsurfing is Jim’s favorite sport. “I love the sensation of flying across the water,” says Jim. “It’s one of the most thrilling sports there is with the least amount of danger. It’s thrilling, it requires skill and it is safe.”
Sailworld Cape Cod,
139 Main St., Buzzards Bay,