MOUNT DESERT — Recently returned from the Olympic test event at Rio de Janerio in Brazil, windsurfer Carson Crain of Northeast Harbor still vividly remembers the moment he first resolved to compete in the international games 10 years ago. He heard Olympic medalist Paul Forester recount his experience at a youth regatta and held Forester’s gold medal in his hands. “That was when I realized I wanted to go the Olympics,” recalled Crain.
The 21-year-old windsurfer is now campaigning for the 2016 Olympics in the RS:X class and finished 24 out of 28 participating countries at the test event held in August.
Qualifying for the Olympics in this class is a two-step process, according to Crain: first, the U.S. athletes have to qualify the U.S. for a spot in the competition, then one of them is chosen to fill that spot. Nineteen countries qualified, and his goal at present is to qualify the United States.
Crain began his sailing career in a summer junior program in the Northeast Harbor Fleet house and began racing year-round in 2008 in Optimist classes. He progressed to Laser Radials, raced them for two years, then to Laser Standard, which is the men’s single-handed Olympic sailing class.
Crain switched to windsurfing in 2011 when he realized he wasn’t the right body size for the Laser.
“I was at a bit of a disadvantage whenever I was sailing it,” he said. “I realized the Laser was not going to be the best boat for me to reach the Olympics, and my goal has always been to go to the games.”
Even though the transition wasn’t easy for him, the appeal of it being “such a physical sport” drew him towards windsurfing.
“You can pump the sail full of wind until you’re too tired and you have to rest,” he said of the sport. “It’s physical, fast and really exciting.”
He had to adapt to a different strategy after years of sailing. Although the courses for the two were same, decisions while windsurfing need to be made a lot faster, he said. “It required changing where I would position myself in relation to other people.”
Crain attended Rice University for two years, where he majored in sports management and sports medicine, but he said he has put college on hold to focus on his campaign.
So far, his campaigning experience has been both challenging and rewarding, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to experience the unfamiliar conditions of Rio as much as he would have liked. The wind was “really shifty,” and the current made it difficult to “determine the fastest way around the course,” he said. “Rio is a very tricky place. As we get closer to the Olympics, we’re going to spend a lot more time there.”
Windsurfing has allowed him to travel all over the world, and Crain finds it to be a dynamic sport. “You’re surfing a board, and at the same time, you’re holding all the power with the sail,” he said. “You feel every wave you hit; you feel if you transfer your weight onto one foot from another. You can feel everything. It becomes a part of you.”
To support Crain’s campaign, contact him at [email protected]