Students get taste of Alberni’s outdoors through class

Sandra Gentleman

Sandra Gentleman

Surf’s up for students in the Grade 11 outdoor education program at Alberni District Secondary School.

Class was in session at the Totally Board surf and skate shop on Johnston Road for the seven girls and four boys on Wednesday.

The students listened as Wild West Watersports owner  Sandra Gentleman and shop owner Tracey Chester gave the students practical lessons in outdoor sports.

Gentleman contacted Chester for class space and asked her to join in teaching after receiving a request from course instructor Karli VanVliet.

Gentleman operates the budding kite surfing business that opened at the old plywood site last year, while Chester is an avid surf enthusiast and businessperson.

“I wanted to introduce different options that are available to students right here in Port Alberni,” VanVliet said.

Kite surfing is fast displacing wind boarding as a water sport, and the Valley is an idea spot for it, Gentleman said.

“It’s more accessible than Nitinat Lake and Port Alberni has the same constant thermal winds in the afternoon,” Gentleman said.

Kite surfing has slowly built a following and become popular.

When Gentleman first started kite boarding 10 per cent of people on the water kite boarded while 90 per cent windsurfed.

“Today 90 per cent of the people kite board.”

The sport isn’t just a leisurely pastime.

Kite boarding is also slated to be part of the 2016 Olympic Games, Gentleman said.

Students were shown basic kite boarding equipment as well as a kite boarding video.

Chester discussed the basics of surfing with students, who surfed the previous day in Tofino.

Chester also held a discussion with students on the basics of surfing,

But having options like surfing and kite boarding in Port Alberni also gives students something more: a bit of pride.

“Port Alberni got a really bad rap as a one of the worst places to live in Canada and it isn’t true,” Chester said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com