Long Beach is known for its wide, open stretches of sand, good wind, and gentle waves. These conditions combine to make the area ideal for kite surfing.
In fact, Belmont Shore is “the kite scene,” according to www.socalkitesurfing.com.
For the past 10 years, international companies have gathered at the Claremont launch ramp in Belmont Shore for KiteFest, a two-day event created as a way to share equipment and trends in the kite surfing world. Like an auto show, the festival gives kiters an opportunity to “test drive” new paraphernalia and interact with designers.
“Kiteboarders get to try out all the latest gear and attend a social event where they can talk to company representatives,” said Dan Corbett, president of the Windriders Foundation. Windriders Foundation is the nonprofit offshoot of the Southern California Kiteboarding Association (SCKA).
Many people attend the annual event and its fundraiser dinner. The last event took place in May 2019 due to the COVID-19 cancellation of Kitefest 2020. For the past four years, Windriders has donated Kitefest proceeds to local lifeguards. Although the festival was not held this year, Windriders decided to maintain the tradition and offer a $5,000 essay scholarship for lifeguards.
“They keep us, and all the beach goers, safe,” Corbett said. “I honestly wish we could do more to demonstrate our support.”
Lifeguards were asked to submit an essay describing either their best day on the beach or their future college plans. A panel of three judges was charged with reading all submissions and selecting the most compelling entry.
This year’s Windrider scholarship winner was Jeremy Rocha, a 23-year-old now spending his fifth summer as a lifeguard. Rocha, who is currently attending Long Beach City College, said he plans to use his scholarship to pay for the Fire Academy at Rio Hondo College. Rocha’s winning submission described his experience as a Junior Lifeguard instructor and the inspiration he derived from one of his determined students. Rocha said this student “taught me through her efforts that the only limits you have are the ones you place on yourself.”
Long Beach Marine Safety Chief Gonzalo Medina said he is extremely proud of the work Lifeguard Rocha has done. Medina said that in addition to his work on the beaches, Rocha has offered frontline assistance at COVID-19 testing sites across the city.
“I was not surprised when I heard he was being recognized,” Medina said of Rocha. “He is truly a great role model for the city and the Fire Department at large.”
Medina also expressed his gratitude to Windriders and SCKA for their support of the Long Beach lifeguards. He said that lifeguard interaction with kiteboard instructors and kite boarding equipment is very advantageous. Two or three times a day, Medina said, kiters need some sort of assistance from lifeguards.
Corbett said that Windriders originally started offering lifeguard scholarships to help guards learn how to kitesurf and gain understanding of their gear, in case they needed to save kiters on the beaches or in the water.
“Lifeguards who are familiar with the sport have an easier time assisting a kiteboarder with an emergency,” Medina said. “The more our guards interact with the kite boarders, the better we can work together to keep the beach safe as well as provide a great place for kiteboarders.”