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Lake Garda, the cradle of windsurfing  

Vasco Renna tells us how this sport started between Riva del Grada and Torbole sul Garda and his son Nicolò’s achievements

The birth and rapid growth of windsurfing on the Trentino shores of Lake Garda are closely related to Vasco Renna’s story. Torbole was a fishing village and sailing was considered an elite sport: few people could afford it.

“Then one day in 1975,” Vasco Renna tells us, “When I was 18 years old and fishing on the lake, I suddenly saw an Austrian guy going out on the lake on a surfboard. Nobody knew what windsurfing was. I was immediately fascinated by this sport. I noticed how the windsurf sail was powered by the wind and I decided to deepen my knowledge on the sport.”

Vasco therefore started looking for a windsurf in America and bought it through a well-known sailing shop in Riva del Garda. “My friend Sandro Tomasi and I were the first to have one here.”

The lakes in Trentino: the story of Nicolò and windsurfing on Lake Garda

"We have turned the wind into an opportunity"

Three years later, Torbole was literally teeming with windsurfers. “It was amazing. The windsurfing heyday was the 1980s. There were more windsurfers than the lake surface could accommodate. The police closed the road between Torbole and Limone several times because there were too many windsurfing enthusiasts, who came mainly from Germany. I can still remember the camping tents on a rocky spur, under which a tunnel passes.  Windsurfing was a very strong passion, almost an obsession.”

And Riva del Garda and Torbole are ideal places for windsurfing: “The Ora, Lake Garda’s thermal wind that blows strongly from South to North in the early afternoon make the Garda Trentino a truly unique paradise for people who love the wind as well as for wind-sport enthusiasts.”

And so, in 1978 Vasco Renna decided to focus on the growing interest for windsurfing: “I asked Cavalier Santoni, who at the time was the President of the Torbole Sailing Club, to allow this sport to be practised in the club. He welcomed the idea and we soon started organising events and regattas.”

The lakes in Trentino: the story of Nicolò and windsurfing on Lake Garda

Nicolò Renna, silver medallist at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires

This was the start of the enhancement of Lake Garda and windsurfing thanks to the close collaboration between the territory, political and technical bodies.

And the opportunity provided by the lake winds was seized by Vasco’s son, Nicolò, who after winning several World and European prizes, two years ago won the silver windsurfing medal at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, a goal that was attained during the 40th anniversary of the Torbole Surf Club.

“Nicolò was already surfing when he was 4 years old and, now that he has just turned nineteen, he is an internationally renowned top athlete.” Vasco, his father, says proudly.

Nicolò used to see his father go off on his windsurfing board and he wanted to follow him. “He wasn’t afraid of being on a surf board all alone. He would surf entire afternoons until the wind would allow him to sail and wherever it took him. I would often have to go and look for him in a dinghy and take him back to the shore. I had written my telephone number on his life jacket, so every now and again someone would call me to tell me on which shore of the lake he had ended up.”

Now, Nicolo studies at the Sports High School in Castelletto di Brenzone, where he trains with the Italian national team and, when he is at home, he is lucky to be able to practise on our beautiful lake, which is one of the most important training areas in the world. Nicolò is coached by instructors of the Italian Sailing Federation, but his father’s role is always extremely important. “I try to give him my advice and support.”

You always need your dad, even if you're a great champion!

Published on 28/05/2020