Windsurfing on Lake Isabella

Wind Surfing on Lake Isabella

This recreational guide is a work in progress and will be expanded as verified information is introduced!

| Publisher Note | Weather | Lake Information |
| A Wind Surfer's Concerns |

Publisher's Note

This begins Canyon Connection's stumbling efforts to finally produce a recreational guide specializing in the popular Lake Isabella sport of windsurfing. We hope to provide the proper information that windsurfing enthusiasts seek regarding their interest on the lake. If you would like to contribute any information or have preferences as to local info regarding this sport please contact me at: Any expertise is greatly appreciated as I am far from knowledgeable in this sport.

Lake Isabella is highly popular to windsurfers in that the "usual day" will find wind from 35 to 50 mph starting around 11:00 am and continuing into the early evening. Auxiliary Dam, on the southwest side of the lake is the area preferred by most boarders. Ample lakeside parking is available, although the general lack of trees means that some protection from the hot summer sun and late afternoon wind should be part of your beach gear.

Unfortunately, this area is not separated from other lake users, such as fishing boats, jet-skiers, etc. Thankfully, most water skiers prefer the main dam area, separated by a peninsula jutting out between the dams. It is hoped that some type of consideration will be given the windsurfing population by "the lake powers that be" in the very near future.

A Wind Surfer's Concerns

Much thanks to Michael Ernstoff for permitting us to publish the following letter to the Lake Isabella Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Ernstoff is pursuing the USFS and local Chamber of Commerce's to recognize and improve conditions for windsurfing recreationists on Lake Isabella. If you would like to join in his efforts, provide input, or voice your interests in the matter please email Michael at: . Or contact the Publisher and we will forward your message to Michael.

29 May, 1998

Lake Isabella Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 567 Lake Isabella, CA 93240-0567

I understand that the US Forest Service is planning a series of "improvements" to the facilities in the Lake Isabella area as a result of being allocated some of the funds collected as Lake Isabella boating fees. The purpose of this letter is to urge you to lobby the Forest Service to spend those funds so as to benefit the numerous sailboarders / Windsurfers that visit Lake Isabella. I believe that the town of Lake Isabella can benefit economically by making the lake and the town more attractive to those Windsurfers.

I've been journeying to Isabella from Los Angeles several times a year for the past six years because, in my opinion, Lake Isabella is, by far, the best place to Windsurf in Southern California for the intermediate proficiency sailor. It offers the unique combination of convenience, safe sailing and good winds. Unlike places such as San Pedro (a.k.a. hurricane gulch), Leo Carrillo State Beach at the Los Angeles / Ventura County line, or San Francisco Bay, the water is hygienic; you can't get blown into a shipping channel; there is no shore break to bust your gear; and you can leave your gear assembled at the water's edge when staying overnight.

While the sailors may like the lake, it would seem to me that the town should love the sailors. Most Windsurfers visiting Isabella are rather affluent. A typical sailing rig (board, mast, mast extension boom, two sails, wet suit, booties, harness and life jacket) represents an investment of at least $2000, and most people arrive with more than one. To facilitate enjoyment of the sport, the more experienced sailors usually have spent far more that amount on gear, custom trailers and motor homes. They're not camping because it represents a low cost vacation alternative.

At present, the biggest economic impact of the sailors on the Isabella community is probably in terms of money spent on groceries and dining out. (Unless you have a motor home, cooking and dining at the side of the lake is a chore at best, as the wind cools the food faster than the flames can heat it, and the gusts often throw serving platters to the ground.) In my opinion, the key to growing these expenditures is to make the lake more attractive to more sailors, especial for mid-week visitors, and to familiarize those that do visit with the town's offerings. I believe a win-win situation is possible for the sailors and the town. My suggestion is that the town consider exploiting this relatively untapped resource by paying closer attention to the issues discussed on the attached sheet, especially to the suggestion for permanent fire pits. Feed-back on my ideas would be welcomed.
Very truly yours,
Michael Ernstoff

Boating Safety - There are relatively few places on the lake where the wind is fine, and it is easy to launch a sail board, a.k.a. Windsurfer. The most popular spot is the beach behind auxiliary dam. Unfortunately, far too often there are conflicts between jet ski and windsurfers in the area immediately behind the dam. Most sailors can tell stories about how they have been cut off, buzzed, and etc. by motorized boats "having fun." Greater separation is needed. On weekends, the shore patrol is often a welcomed sight.

Personal Safety - When dismounting a beached boat or sailboard, or when just walking on the sand, one hopes that there is nothing sharp or hot underfoot. Glass bottles, rusty nails, fish hooks and hot coals from the previous night’s bonfire are man-made hazards that good habits can minimize. Signs need to be posted to remind people not to bring glass bottles and nail contaminated firewood onto the beach. Permanent fire pits would help if placed where they would be used. Consideration needs to be given to prohibiting fishing from those sections of beach heavily used by sailors.

Sanitation - The fact that the toilet areas are cleaned regularly is well appreciated. Consideration should be given to a back-up water system, because closed bathrooms invariably lead to violations of sanitary standards.

Security - A major attraction of Isabella is the ability to leave your sails rigged for several days. Although I've never heard of anything being stolen, it is a constant fear. One needs to make sure that as the popularity of the sport increases, casual "visitors" are inhibited from circulating in an unrestricted manner. Many people that I’ve spoken to have said they would not object to a modest camping fee to pay for police patrols on weekends during the most popular summer months. (I can't offer a personal opinion; I avoid Lake Isabella on weekends.) However, a rate structure like that at Lopez lake would bring complaints, because it includes a daily per board fee whether or not the board ever enters the water.

Wind Forecasting - Repeat business is built by having satisfied customers. When one is skunked after journeying from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara or Vegas for a few days of sailing, one is hesitant to make the trip again. Accurate forecasting of lake winds is undoubtedly impossible, but any indicator is better than nothing.* The local media (radio) should be encouraged to broadcast forecasts for lake wind conditions. Perhaps the LA Times could be encouraged to expand its Isabella forecast beyond merely a temperature projection.

Ecology - Most sailors seem to be sensitive to the fragile nature of landscaping in the Auxiliary Dam area. Admittedly however, it is not universal. Most of those ready to chop away at the fauna to give themselves a better place to park seem to drive the huge, often fifth-wheel- pulled semi-permanent mobile homes. Thought should be given to encouraging the gargantuan mobile homes to use pre-graded parking sites.

Comfort - The Auxiliary Dam area is windy; that’s it’s attraction. But, when it stays windy into the evening hours, camp fire activities become a drag. Construction of stone wind breaks and fire pits just above the highest water line might migrate the hazards associated with bonfires away from the areas where people most often walk with bare feet.

*Publisher's note: Canyon Connection is currently negotiating for wind reporting permissions from Wind on Call. If authorized, it will be added to this section. The above letter will also be delivered to USFS office at the Lake Isabella Visitors Center.

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