There are few things in this world more exhilarating than lighting out into the ocean on a boat under only the power of wind and the direction of your own hand. The unbridled elements of the natural world abound as you make your way farther and farther from the safety of shore, a practically primal feeling of freedom taking hold of your soul as the sail snaps in the wind and the boat, very much alive underneath you, rolls to one side and cuts confidently toward the horizon. Sailing, to put it simply, humbles you with large doses of Mother Nature while simultaneously emboldening you via regular surprises of self-realization about just how capable—with a little bit of practice and knowledge—you can become.
Lucky for us here in Santa Barbara, not only do we have a world-class oceanic playground in our backyard, but we also have one of the finest sailing schools around, tucked in the tranquil waters of our downtown harbor. The Santa Barbara Sailing Center, an accredited American Sailing Association (ASA) school that has twice been recognized as “school of the year,” offers instruction and certification courses for everyone from land-loving neophytes to well-weathered old salts.
Born and raised on an East Coast sandbar with a particular penchant for boats of all kinds, I could hardly be classified as a total rookie, but when I recently turned up for the Basic Keel Boat 101 class at the Sailing Center—the school’s beginners course that, in only 20 hours time, gets you more than ready for some adventure on the high seas—it had been more than a decade since I’d properly sorted my “broad reaches,” “beam reaches,” and “ready abouts.” However, after just a few hours in a small class with a humorous and helpful teacher and a curriculum that gets you out on the water the very first day, I was grinning ear to ear with the stoke of a kid on Christmas morning.
Two weeks later, when my course concluded—and, by the way, I aced the final exam, save for one moment of sheer, knee-knocking panic during an ill-timed downwind tack just west of Hope Ranch—the fun factor was even further off the charts with a lasting lesson hammered home into my memory banks: The ocean is an unrivaled joy meant for everybody, and the Sailing Center, with its classes, boat rentals, and pleasure cruises, is one of our better ways of connecting to that pleasure.
The Santa Barbara Sailing Center is located in the harbor near the boat launch. See sbsail.com or call (800) 350-9090.