Lake Travis

Mustant Quarterback Garrett Gilbert had a solid night Thursday throwing for 265 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. After a rocky start at Texas, the transfer to SMU  has proven to be a refreshing start for the Lake Travis High School graduate.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

The last time Garrett Gilbert had this good of a game, he was in high school.

The former Longhorns quarterback looked like the prolific passer he was at Lake Travis High School, throwing for 265 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in SMU’s 72-42 win over Houston Thursday night in what was, by far, his best performance since he decided to transfer from Texas last September.

“The sky’s the limit for us,” Gilbert said. “I still think offensively with us and the playmakers we have and the running back we have in Zach [Line], and the offensive line continues to gel and get better and better each week. Tonight things just went our way.”

He couldn’t remember the last time he threw as many as four touchdowns in a game. It had been a while.

He last accomplished the feat when he was a 17-year-old leading Lake Travis to a 48-23 victory over Longview in the 2008 4A state title game, his 30th straight win as the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback. The game took place in Waco, halfway between where he began his college career and where he’s trying to salvage it.

A two-time state champion at Lake Travis, where he went 39-4 as a starter, Gilbert attracted the attention of many top-notch college football programs. He had his heart set on Texas, where he went 5-7 in his first full season as a starter in 2010. After making two starts in 2011, Gilbert underwent shoulder surgery and transferred to SMU.

“Texas is the biggest and the best,” Gilbert said. “SMU is a program that obviously, in the past, has had some success but has had a little bit of a period of — I don’t know what the word for it is — but a lot of losing. You don’t see 100,000 people in the stands because we only have a 32,000-seat stadium.”

Earlier this year, Gilbert revisited his alma mater at Lake Travis, where he enjoyed the sustained success he hasn’t had in college. Gilbert couldn’t walk through the gates before shaking the hands of dozens of red-and-black-clad Lake Travis faithfuls, smiling the whole time. He seemed comfortable, at home and at ease there at Cavalier Stadium. They love him there.
“It’s a cool place to be, man,” Gilbert said. “We used to not be able to make it past the first round of the playoffs. Now you go into the season, it’s 16-0, state championship or bust.

There’s a lot of high expectations, but that’s what happens with the success.”

If anyone’s familiar with high expectations, it’s Gilbert. He claimed they weren’t too high while he was at Texas, refusing to make excuses for his tumultuous Longhorns career. But after taking 27 hours of classes this spring so he could be immediately eligible at SMU, he brought that career to an end.

“It was tough. I think my grades suffered a little bit,” Gilbert said. “I didn’t do anything. I went to school, I went home and I lifted weights. That’s it. If I would have been doing football stuff and that type of thing, it would have been a little more difficult.”

It wasn’t until 10 months after his surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder that Gilbert felt fully comfortable throwing a football. But once he was, he didn’t want to stop.

“No one’s really excited about two-a-days, but I was excited to put the shoulder pads on again,” Gilbert said. “I hadn’t played in so long. I was really happy to just be able to go out and compete again.”

Gilbert threw for 286 yards and two touchdowns in his SMU debut but was also picked off twice in a 59-24 loss to Baylor. He took the field with his younger brother, Griffin, for the first time on separate sidelines when TCU beat SMU, 24-16, a few weeks later. The Mustangs have won two of their three games since, improving to 3-4 on the year.

“I’ve been a little conservative with him, trying to guide him along. I just said it’s time to throw it,” SMU head coach June Jones said after the Mustangs’ win over Houston. “I tried to be a little more aggressive for him and let him throw it down the field. I’m glad he saw some of the things he saw and executed the throws.”

Gilbert stays in touch with his former Texas teammates and even reaches out to his former high school coach, Chad Morris, from time to time. Morris now serves as Clemson University’s offensive coordinator and is the nation’s highest-paid assistant coach.

“He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around,” Gilbert said. “Coach Morris deserves everything he’s gotten. You don’t see meteroic rises like that from a state high school coach to the highest-paid offensive coordinator in the nation. It’s unbelievable.”

The meteroic rise that many have waited for Gilbert to have has not happened yet. It may never come. Recapturing the magic he created in high school is much easier said than done. But, for a brief moment Thursday, that magic returned.

Printed on Friday, October 19, 2012 as: A second chance: Former Longhorn QB Garrett Gilbert trying to salvage career at SMU 

A UT nursing senior from Austin was killed last weekend in a boating accident.

Quynh Pham, 21, was riding on a pontoon boat with members of her family, when she fell from the front at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday according to Jennifer Glynn Schlattle, spokeswoman for the Lower Colorado River Authority. Pham was pronounced dead after EMS officials responded to the scene. Officials said it was the first boating fatality on Lake Travis this year.

“They were pulling a tube behind the boat. When the operator turned to look at it, the boat hit a wave and [Pham] fell overboard,” Glynn Schlattle said.

There were 12 people on the boat celebrating a family birthday party at the time of the accident.

“No alcohol or drugs were a factor in the accident, and charges will not be filed,” Glynn Schlattle said.

She said Park Rangers headed the investigation of the accident and representatives of the LCRA responded to the scene with EMS officials.

Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: UT nursing student suffers fatal boating accident

Despite recent rainfall, Central Texas remains in a drought, with Lakes Travis and Buchanan less than half full.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

Local authorities, environmental groups and the University continue to pursue water conservation policies even after heavy local rainfall in March.

With lakes Travis and Buchanan still less than half full, Central Texas remains in a drought, said Clara Tuma of the Lower Colorado River Authority, which provides wholesale water to the City of Austin. Austin is still under the enhanced stage two water use restrictions set by LCRA, she said.

“Enhanced stage two allows landscape watering no more than once a week,” Tuma said. “Enhanced stage two occurs when the combined storage of lakes Travis and Buchanan falls to 750,000 acre-feet or less.”

The recent rainfall raised water levels in those lakes, but it did not fall far enough west in the crucial aquifer recharge zone, said Tyson Broad of the Sierra Club.

“It appears that the rain fell in the low parts of the [Colorado River] basin, not in the major recharge area of porous limestone that helps the lakes stay up,” he said.

It is unlikely that Austin will return to the less severe stage one restriction, said Michael Frisch, the University’s senior building energy and water conservation project manager.

“It’s more likely that we will move to stage three,” he said. “There probably won’t be enough rain to warrant a move in the other direction.”

The stage three restriction, as it is currently defined by the LCRA, is not designed to address a long-term water shortage, said Jason Hill, spokesman for Austin Water.

“The stage three restriction code is intended to respond to a catastrophic event,” he said. “If stage two is not enough, the groups involved are looking to make changes to the code.”

Hill said the diminished water supply results from events in nature, not the mismanagement of resources. He said Austinites should be proud of the extent to which they have conserved water since the onset of the present-day drought.

“Stage two restrictions have been very effective in decreasing water consumption, and we applaud our customers,” he said. “If we haven’t done the best job [in implementing water conservation among other Texas cities], we’ve certainly been very competitive.”

Frisch said the University has been doing its part to reduce water use. He said a new irrigation system installed in response to the drought conserves water and reduces the University’s water bill.

“The new system measures how much water is evaporating from plants and knows how much rainfall there has been,” he said. “It also detects leaks and sends a signal to the main control system. We then deploy an irrigation technician to check out the problem.”

The improved watering system saves the University from consuming 50 million gallons of water each year because it prevents leaks and unnecessary irrigation, Frisch said. With the University paying $11 per 1000 gallons, according to Frisch, conserving that much water saves the University a significant amount of money.

Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: Conservation policies continue despite rainfall

Boats float in Lake Travis last Wednesday before recent rains came through the area. Despite the rain, Lake Travis is still only 39 percent full, and the low levels have contributed to a decline in the business activity of the area.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Although recent rain in Central Texas is steadily filling drought-stricken waterfronts, the lakes and related businesses are still a long way from stabilizing.

Because the Lower Colorado River Authority is still under the Emergency Drought Relief Plan, officials will evaluate water levels of Lake Buchanan and Lake Travis and distribution capacities of lake water again today, said South Texas LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma. Tuma said the LCRA typically only evaluates the water levels in January but was given permission by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to re-evaluate the water levels for disbursement to farmers in south Texas. According to the drought relief plan, if there is less than 850,000 acre-feet of water in the lakes, the water supply from Central Texas will be cut off from South Texas farmers. Tuma said the lakes are at 846,000 acre-feet, so water will be cut off to farmers in the Garwood district, northwest of Galveston.

“We have been communicating with the farmers in Garwood for months, so this should not be a surprise,” Tuma said. “The combined water storage has gone up 50,000 acre-feet this winter. An acre-foot is just a little less than 326,000 gallons, so that’s a significant amount of water, but the lakes remain less than half-full, so the drought is by no means over.”

Tuma said Lake Travis is 39 percent full and Lake Buchannan is 45 percent full, and the amount of rain needed to fill the lakes is hard to predict because other conditions must be taken into effect.

“There can be a lot of rain, but if it does not fall somewhere where it can drain into the lake, it will not increase the lake level,” Tuma said. “Soil conditions are another factor that play into the water’s ability to reach the lakes. Don’t get me wrong, we need rain everywhere to help this drought, but not everywhere will help the lakes.”

Farming is not the only industry affected by the low water levels. Riviera Marina president Steven Allen said the low water level of Lake Travis has effected business and become an expense because the marina has had to relocate to follow the receding shoreline.

“The drought has affected every marina on the lake and every business around the lake,” Stevens said. “Not to mention Austin and the surrounding cities. Not many people think about the effects on businesses outside of Lake Travis, but it is huge. People come to Austin for the lakes and the music.”

Stevens said business was good last summer but not great, and he is hopeful that wet weather predicted for the spring will help business for the upcoming summer.

“2012 could be a devastating year for businesses on or around Lake Travis if we don’t gain 20 feet of water at a minimum,” Stevens said. “This summer will depend on the rain. We will see.”

Nutrition sophomore Meredith Furst said she grew up on Lake Travis and her family still owns a boat there, so the drought has created a hassle for the storage of their boat and has allowed for less time on the lake.

“It’s really sad, because we used to go out on our boat every weekend almost religiously,” Furst said. “We’ve had to change marinas because the water got so low our boat was just sitting on the rocks. The recent rain has brought relief to me, but the lake is so low it’s pretty much going to take a monsoon to get it back to normal.”

Printed on Thursday, March 1, 2012 as: Lakes continue to suffer drought despite rain

Austin Yacht Club member Kurt Carson exits the cabin of his sailboat Wednesday afternoon at Lake Travis. Lake Travis is only 36 percent full, its third lowest level in history.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

For sailors of the Austin Yacht Club, comfort comes in the sound of water rhythmically lapping against the sides of a boat and looking off into the distance at a horizon of homes dotting the hills that hug Lake Travis. In a sailboat, Lake Travis, which has been troubled by an unrelenting drought, doesn’t feel desolate — it feels like a haven.

Lower Colorado River Authority spokesperson Clara Tuma said Lake Travis is currently at its third lowest level in history at 36 percent full. Lake levels have remained fairly consistent this month, with each day ranging between 626 and 630 feet above mean sea level.

Mean sea level, a standard of lake elevation measurement, refers to the elevation of the ocean halfway between high and low tide. Lake Travis’ highest recorded level was 710 feet above mean sea level in December 1991. The lowest recorded lake level was 614 feet above mean sea level in August 1951 amid a decade-long drought.

Though lower lake levels may pose some challenges, the sailors at Austin Yacht Club continue to raise their sails and spend hours on the water to escape the stress of land life. The club also offers free sailing classes most Saturdays.

Ray Shull, Austin Yacht Club sailing instructor, said there’s still plenty of water to sail despite low lake levels.

“Most of the shallow water areas are marked or are pretty obvious,” Shull said. “The best advice is don’t sail into the brown water, if the bottom is so near that the typical blue water is brown, you should turn around.”

According to Tuma, another challenge declining lake levels pose are the resulting smaller lakes that boats have to share. However, Shull says one of his favorite parts of sailing in low lake levels is the low boat traffic on the water as boat ramps dry out and become unusable.

Shull has been a sailing trainer with the Austin Yacht Club for two years and has been sailing for over 30 years. He loves sharing his passion for sailing with beginners. On Saturdays, Shull takes out his J-29 sailboat and shows students the ropes of sailing, though you won’t catch him calling them “ropes.” In sailing, ropes are called sheets or halyards, depending on where they’re located.

“Half of the difficulty of sailing isn’t the actual sailing, it’s learning the lingo,” said Shull as he leaned back against the rails of his boat with his hand resting loosely on the tiller, the lever that steers the boat.

The sails on Shull’s boat carve through Lake Travis’ notoriously shifty winds while the wind meter, a skinny metal arrow atop the boat’s mast, struggles to stay still. As the wind changes directions, so too must the sails. Shull’s new crew of students quickly learn the essential sailing practice of tacking, or shifting the main sail from one side of the mast to the opposite.

Jorge Martin-de-Nicolas teaches the classroom portion of Austin Yacht Club’s sailing class and has been sailing for over 15 years. He feels fortunate to have Lake Travis to sail on and pinpoints the surrounding hills as a reason for its variable wind patterns.

“Sailing on Lake Travis, you will learn about the wind and what to do when the wind shifts and changes direction,” he said. “This is very common in inland lakes such as Lake Travis.”

Varying wind patterns seem to be the biggest difference between Austin sailing and coastal sailing along the northeast. “Lake sailors are typically more in tune with wind shifts while coastal sailors are typically more in tune with currents and the effect of the tides,” Martin-de-Nicolas said.

Rachel Loziuk, one of the students onboard Shull’s boat this past Saturday, started sailing in August of last year and has been eager to be a part of the Austin sailing scene. She grew up spending summers at her family’s lake house with a love for the water. “Sometimes, I would see a boat out in the distance following the coastline, and I would think, ‘Gosh, I wish I could be out there on it,’” she said.

Eager to build her sailing experience, Loziuk took her turn to steer Shull’s boat and enthusiastically called out what seems to be every sailor’s rite-of-passage command, “Prepare to tack!”

“I never thought I would be able to sail without having lots of money to buy a boat or take expensive classes,” she said.

Despite the extravagant images the name, “Austin Yacht Club,” may bring to mind — 65-foot yachts, bottles of Cristal and other things P.Diddy’s party planners dream of — Shull says the sailing scene in Austin is nothing like that. “I think the biggest misconception is that most sailors are stuck-up ‘yachters,’” he said. “Most sailors are regular people who have a love for sailing.”

Martin-de-Nicolas agreed with Shull. “On a typical Saturday morning we have two choices: mow the lawn or go sailing. So the choice is really pretty easy,” he said.

Printed on Thursday, February 23, 2012 as: Despite drought, sailing remains smooth

Outfielder Cohl Walla swings at a pitch. Walla tore his ACL in a collision during practice last week and isn’t expected to play this season. He hit .229 last season.

Photo Credit: John Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Junior outfielder Cohl Walla has torn his ACL and will miss this upcoming season.

The injury took place during a collision in the outfield during a practice last week.

Walla played in 50 games last season, batting .229 and notching 18 RBI. The former two-sport star at Lake Travis enjoyed a much better freshman campaign, hitting .316 while racking up eight home runs, 20 extra-base hits, 14 stolen bases and posting a .491 slugging percentage.

Walla earned a spot on Baseball America's second-team freshman All-American team in 2010 and checked in at No. 65 on College Baseball Daily's preseason list of 2011 Top 100 college baseball players, joining teammates Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green.

The Longhorns were set to bring back all three of their starting outfielders with sophomore right fielder Mark Payton and junior left fielder Jonathan Walsh returning to Austin this year. The vacancy in center field could be filled by a few players. Senior outfielder Tim Maitland, who has been used as a defensive replacement most of his first three years at Texas, has batted .190, driven in nine runs and registered one extra-base hit in 79 career at-bats.

Two new players could also fill the void left by Walla in freshman Collin Shaw and junior college transfer Matt Moynihan, who has two years of eligibility left but has not yet been cleared academically. Shaw, like Walla, is a local product who lettered in both football and baseball in high school.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Shaw batted .487 and hit seven home runs as a senior for Westlake, earning him second-team All-State honors while garnering All-District accolades as a wide receiver for the Chaparrals during his junior and senior seasons. Walla, who was taken in the 43rd round by the Washington Nationals after graduating from Lake Travis was also a high school wideout. He caught 65 passes for 1,009 yards and 12 touchdowns — from former Longhorn quarterback Garrett Gilbert ­— during the Cavaliers' 2007 state title run, the first of five consecutive championships.

Printed on Monday, February 6, 2012 as: Walla likely to miss season with knee injury

Farmers, businesses, environmentalists vie for precious resource amid one of the worst statewide droughts in history

Rice farmer Ronald Gertson uses millions of gallons of water each year to maintain his crop in southeast Texas. A full Lake Travis is the lifeblood of marina owner Janet Caylor. The Sierra Club’s Jennifer Walker monitors water conditions throughout the lower Colorado River to ensure plants and animals continue to thrive.

As drought conditions worsen across Texas, these and other stakeholders who rely on the river’s reservoirs compete to ensure the Lower Colorado River Authority protects their interests. For the first time in more than 10 years, droughts are affecting every part of Texas, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Lack of rain combined with warm, windy weather have led to one of the worst droughts in history, causing wildfires across the state, said LCRA meteorologist Bob Rosec.

Last summer, the LCRA created the Water Management Advisory Committee to gather input from groups that depend on Lakes Travis and Buchanan to update the Water Management Plan, which determines allocation of the increasingly limited water resources. The two lakes are dammed sections of the Lower Colorado River that serve as the water supply reservoirs for the 600-mile section of the river the authority oversees.

It’s difficult to meet the demands of farmers, environmentalists, waterfront homeowners, business owners and others as the need for water increases with a growing population, said Mark Jordan, manager for River Management for the LCRA.

“Drought and the resulting potential curtailments cause a lot of emotions to fly,” said Gertson, a fourth-generation rice producer and committee member.

Gertson planted his crop last month, the driest March on record, according to the LCRA. Water keeps the soil saturated and prevents weeds and grasses from competing with the rice crop. During drought, Gertson and other farmers must take additional measures to ensure successful harvests.

“When we’re dry [during the] early season like this, we have to use more water in establishing the crop than we would otherwise,” Gertson said.

Rice farmers use more water from the reservoirs and pay less to access it compared to any other type of major customer, including cities or waterfront businesses, but the LCRA considers farmers interruptible customers, so their water can be cut off during drought. The authority guarantees cities, businesses and industries will keep their water even if droughts reach record levels.

The LCRA has not curtailed the farmers’ water supply, but Gertson remains cautious. With the rice industry in Texas smaller than it was decades ago, the growing demand of cities on the water supply could edge out the rice farmers, Gertson said.

Gertson’s great-grandfather moved to Texas from Kansas in 1908 and discovered a few years later that rice was a lucrative crop. Today, Gertson runs the business with his three brothers, their wives and his father. Gertson’s son Timothy, an engineer, has joined the family business against his father’s wishes.

“During Tim’s lifetime, there will be lots of times there won’t be crops planted as a result of a lack of water,” Gertson said.

Lakeside, waterfront property and business owners see rice farmers as culprits responsible for visibly low lake levels. When the authority maintained the downstream water supply to the rice farmers during the previous drought, waterfront business owners and homeowners felt an impact on their pocketbooks because of emptying reservoirs. The Highland Lakes area, which includes lakes Travis and Buchanan, is an economic engine for the state, said Janet Caylor, who is a member of the committee and owns a marina on Lake Travis.

“When the lake goes down, visits to the lake drop dramatically,” Caylor said, who bought her first marina 13 years ago.

During the previous two-year drought, business owners had to relocate all floating restaurants and marinas, and lake-area property values declined, Caylor said. Two marinas and a restaurant went out of business when droughts caused combined storage levels in Lakes Travis and Buchanan to fall below 800,000 acre-feet in 2009, she added. An acre-foot is a measurement that describes the volume of a foot of water on top of an acre.

Waterfront business owners and homeowners want to increase the minimum amount of water stored for the two lakes so the reservoirs will serve their needs. Under the current water management plan, the storage level is permitted to fall as low as 200,000 acre-feet.

“The fact that the other interest groups can engage in the conversation where they think the volume in these two lakes should be drawn to the 200,000 acre-feet level is astonishing to us,” Caylor said.

Recently, residents and business owners with an interest in lake water levels formed a coalition to acquire more political clout and urge the authority to prioritize their economic interests in the new plan, she said.

“This is about preserving revenue for the state of Texas and preserving the livelihood for these hundreds of thousands of people who moved to the [lake] area,” Caylor said.

Jennifer Walker, a water resources specialist for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, said wildlife that live in the river are at risk. From an environmental perspective, drought is a normal, cyclical phenomenon. Walker, also a committee member, said environmentalists want to avoid above-normal drought conditions in the Colorado River and the Matagorda Bay downstream.

Walker said that the river and bay provide ecological services to support wildlife. Stakeholders and the LCRA must consider how the water maintains a level and saltwater gradient that supports wildlife in the river and bay, she said.

The committee has until the end of June to agree on a possible course of action, but with each player deeply invested in the river’s future management, it’s an emotional and difficult process. The authority won’t vote on a final Water Management Plan until November 2012. It will then go to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which will go through its own planning process before implementing changes.

At 6-feet-5-inches and 270 pounds, Taylor Doyle has signed, sealed and delivered his letter of intent to play Longhorn football.

The Lake Travis High School offensive lineman brings with him three Texas state championships, as well as confidence in Texas football and Texas coaches. This is in spite of witnessing a disappointing year at Texas, a 5-7 season marked by staggering losses and the exit of offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and offensive coordinator Greg Davis, two coaches that recruited Doyle.

“I was bummed out to see the departure of coach McWhorter and coach Davis because I know they have a lot to offer, but I understand the coaching changes,” Doyle said.

The recent hire of former Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin in addition to Major Applewhite’s promotion, who will work together as co-offensive coordinators, doesn’t disappoint Doyle.

“I’m really excited about this new coaching staff that was brought in,” Doyle said. “Now [we’ll] be getting the best from Boise State and the best from the Texas program in the past with Applewhite, so I think that can only benefit us.”

Doyle is expected to help rebuild a Longhorn offense which struggled last season. Texas ranked 50th in passing, 66th in rushing and 88th in scoring in 2010. The Longhorns will be under pressure to turn their offensive woes around. This will be something of a routine for Doyle, who has faced high expectations from a community that expects greatness.

“I definitely think there will be more pressure at the collegiate level, but our coaches at Lake Travis always stressed that ‘pressure makes diamonds.’ Without pressure, all you have is a lump of coal,” Doyle said. “I think pressure can only be good for us. It can either make or break. I know the new coaches are going to demand a lot from us, which I think will benefit in the long run.”

Amassing 85 knockdown blocks during his senior year, the all-state recruit was also taught a little about confidence during his time in
high school.

“At Lake Travis we knew how to win. Going into every game, we always knew we had a chance,” Doyle said. “I think it goes a long way when you go into a game expecting to win, while still realizing you have to work hard and play well to beat the other team. I think that confidence factor that they instilled in us at Lake Travis can carry over to the next level and help me be a leader.”

The all-state offensive lineman joins a recruiting class ranked third in the country according to <em></em>. While Doyle has been talking extensively to different coaches from the Texas staff, he’s also been able to meet fellow recruits and players throughout the recruiting process.

“I had a chance to meet all guys during my official [visit], and it was cool to kind of be in the same situation. We’re coming in with a new coaching staff, so its like we’re all in the same boat,” Doyle said. “I got to meet some of the offensive line guys like Josh Cochran and Garrett Greenlea, and they’re all really good guys. I think Texas did a great job with recruiting because all these guys I meet have a lot in common with me. It’s easy to build relationships with them. I can’t think of one guy who I didn’t like.”  

Last winter on Lake Travis, there were 30 knots of wind, so much that advertising senior and UT Sailing Club secretary Jennifer Beazley had to take the main jib, or front sail, down from her boat, forcing the railing to go almost entirely in the water. Even though she almost fell off twice, she kept her composure and sailed on in spite of her biggest scare on
the water.

“It was a situation where you don’t have much control. You’re at the mercy of the wind, really,” Beazley said. “It’s like a roller coaster, in that even though it feels dangerous, you know you’re going to be okay.”

Poor conditions are not uncommon, as the UT Sailing Club has had to deal with extreme fluctuations in weather over recent years. This ranges from the drought that hit Lake Travis and put the club on the verge of collapsing to the highs when the water accumulated to a point that homes were almost completely underwater.

“More often than not, there’s a close call when it comes to weather,” said Joseph Peacock, Sailing Club instructor and government senior. “There’s definitely been a few weekends where you get caught out in a storm you don’t expect, but that’s the fun part.”

Beazley, like a majority of the others in the UT Sailing Club joined without any previous experience on sailboats. Paul Rowley, the Student Advisor and treasurer for the club, is a firm believer that teaching someone to sail is not only easy but expected when a new member looks to join the club.

“I went out not knowing [how to sail]; a majority of us don’t know how when we join,” Rowley said. “The actual learning to sail isn’t a barrier, just the time you’re willing to commit. It’s like any sport: the more you practice, the better you become.”

The level of experience is one of the aspects that distinguishes the sailing club from the sailing team on campus. Additionally, the club doesn’t actually race, whereas the team does, and uses a different marina on a different lake and receives more funding from the school. The club is 70-percent funded by UT RecSports, but the rest comes from the members’ own pockets.

Though the sailing club is open to all students, Beazley said the sport tends to attract like-minded individuals.

“There’s two types of people, sailboat and motorboat people,” Beazley said. “Sailboat people are slower paced, whereas motorboat people prefer speed, so that’s probably why we get a lot of engineers, since they enjoy doing things themselves and creating from scratch.”

This left-brained approach to the sport is what enables many students to become successful sailors in the club and safe on the waters.

“More than anything, you have to have the ability to think on your feet,” Peacock said. “You never know when the wind will change or when something on your boat might break.”
Because of the unpredictably of the water, each member must first pass a swim test, which includes treading water for five minutes, before determining boat selection. The club has a tiered system to establish boat use for the club members. The sunfish is a single-sail wide boat and is the most stable option for beginners. It’s built in such a way that a sailor can control it if it tips over. The laser sailboat is on the Olympic class level and is a little more unstable than the sunfish. The MC Scow is a fast plane boat, and the Hobie 16, 18 and J24 make up the top class. The Hobies are both catamarans, or flat boats, and the J24 is a 24-foot keelboat, or mid-sized yacht, clad with two sails and lead on the bottom for safety. Additionally, the J24 is equipped with a sleeping quarter.

“On Saturday sails you can go on the boat a level above your class,” Rowley said. “As long as someone puts in the time and effort, there’s very few that simply don’t get it.”

All of the boats the club has are exclusively from donations, with boats from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Since money doesn’t go toward purchasing new boats, a majority of the club’s money goes towards upkeep and overall maintenance.

“The boats are never pretty but are safe to sail,” Rowley said. “We call one the couch, because the whole thing sags when you get on.”

There is an overwhelming agreement among the members that the danger that sailing entails is one of the largest draw factors.

“When the winds are whipping and you’re flying over the water, it’s the best feeling in the world,” Rowley said. “Battling the wind is this dizzying feeling; there’s a sense of achievement when you’re out there braving it all.”

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