Sail to summer in Alexandria

With the Potomac River lapping on the shores of our city, Alexandrians have plenty of opportunities to have fun on the water in the summer, whether it’s sailing, kayaking, rowing, windsurfing or windsurfing. canoe.

One of the iconic water sports familiar to many families in Alexandria is the Washington Sailing Marina Sailing School. Amy Zang bought the Alexandria school in 1994 when she was 27 years old. Over 30 years later, the business is still booming.

The New York native and now a resident of Alexandria moved to the area for a teaching job in Prince George County, Maryland, across from Alexandria.

She combined her love of teaching with sailing, which she acquired during the summer camps in Massachusetts.

“When I went to summer camp in Massachusetts, it became my thing,” she said. “I liked it.”

At the marina, which is on National Park Service property, she owns 70 boats that are used for the sailing school and she hires all the staff, of which there are around 40 during the summers.

“I offer a service, I don’t have an office,” she said, pointing out that her office is a picnic table under a tree in the park. “This is my office. I come with the whole package. I have my own insurance, my own boats. I had a very good relationship with the National Park Service.

The school offers a variety of boats for hire and for lessons, including one and two person dinghies (also known as Sunfish); a Flying Scot which can hold four people; two-person catamarans and dinghies that are racing boats, as well as bowling and windsurfers.

Classes are available for all age groups. “We teach adults aged 16 and over on weekends and evenings – we’re open to everyone,” Zang said, noting that many adults who take classes are the ones who have been to camp when they come. were kids and now want to learn on a recreational level.

The school also offers team-building activities for companies and supervised sailing, after lessons, where the instructors are in safety boats to help those who rent boats.

“We want to make sure they’re in good shape,” she said.

New this year at the school is a program that offers free sailing for underserved youth, thanks to the school being named one of six sailing centers in the country, with donations for the program. of the US Sailing Association, the governing body of the sport. .

“Sailing still has that ‘rich white men’s sport’ aura,” Zang said. “I was selected to take the program in the spring, summer and fall at no cost to designated underserved youth aged 10-14.” The school is working with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority to identify students for the program.

“The Potomac River is in their backyard,” she says. “Sailing has so many benefits, so many life skills that you are learning.”

The school will open the first weekend of May starting with weekend classes, then weekday classes. The summer camp will begin in June and will run for 11 weeks of one week sessions.

“We start with kids who have never sailed before to advanced sailing,” she said.

Last year, the camp did not close during the pandemic. “We were lucky to be able to operate,” Zang said. “We haven’t had any cases of COVID.”

“I feel really, really lucky,” she said. “Last year we implemented changes to be open; fortunately, the changes did not change our program.

The camp teaches over 100 children every week during summer camp. “It’s amazing,” Zang said. “We are already three-quarters full.” Some of the staff who teach sailing are former campers she has known since she was 9 years old. “They stay with us at the university.

What is the future of the sailing school? “My hope is that everything will continue,” Zang said. “We don’t have a lot of room to grow, but we continue to build on the programs in the spring and fall. I’m here until I can’t be there anymore. I really love it, it’s been really good for me in so many ways. “

Water Sports in Alexandria

  • Alexandria Community Rowing, offers competitive and recreational rowing opportunities. 1 N. Madison St.,
  • Blue Octopus Dive, offers introductory scuba diving courses, certifications, equipment rentals, diving trips and more. 4154 Duke Street 703-461-3483,
  • Mariner sailing school offers sailing lessons, camps and boat rentals including canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and sailboats. Located along George Washington Memorial Parkway in Belle Haven Marina, 703-768-0018,
  • Washington Marina Sailing School, offers sailing lessons and camps and boat rentals at 1 Marina Dr. 703-548-9027,

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