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Special to The Washington Post
Little Apple Bay, Tortola, British Virgin IslandsUpsets and life-changing surprises hit the Conch world here in Tortola during the last few days. Though I didnt smile when one of my favorite persons failed, I think I did have an inward grin of sorts.
Upsets: The picture tells it allat least for a Conch. Four competitors stand by Nat Young, 52, an international surfing icon. These competitors are the finalists in the Bic Longboard Shootout organized by Hi-Ho. (Hi-Ho stands for Hook In and Hang On, and refers to the extraordinary windsurfing event hosted here in the BVI each summer by Hi-Ho Watersports. A hundred wind surfers race island-to-island for seven days. Their families and other supporters trail them in dozens of sailboats which become party headquarters at night.)
The Longboard Shoot Out, with Nat Young as a very VIP judge, takes only one day. It took place below my balcony right here in Apple Bay, a setting Van Gogh would have painted if hed ever visited. Fueled by the remnants of a great northeastern swell, sturdy young surfers from five countries competed for cash prizes and tickets to other longboard events. The competition went on for hours. I couldnt help wondering if the collective age of any five of the participants even equaled my age.
J.C. Pierce, the man in charge of our Conch events in December, also participated. J.C. is affectionately called the Mayor of Apple Bay because of his celebrated surfing skills. J.C. is not in this picture, however; plagued by a serious shoulder injury and a weeks bout with the flu, he failed to advance beyond the semi-finals.
Because J.C. at 35 is more than half my age, I mourned his defeat until the final standings were announced. Gaze again at that picture: The Bic Longboard Shootout, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, focusing on finding the best surfers in these conditions, according to Hi-Ho honcho Andy Young, was won by the shortest, baldest, oldest competitor in the picture. Excellent! Lets award Guillermo Real, 50, from Puerto Rico, a Conch salute.
Probably more exhilarating was the life-changing event which literally fell into Lexi Hursts lap Saturday two weeks ago. As you may know, Lexi is a 22-year-old islander who is training with us for December (you can read his journal on-line at our site). He quite frankly hasnt had many breaks in life. Until one week ago, Lexi was working as a yard man at Frenchmans Key, a great resort here. But on his own Lexi has been learning to cook, part of his plan to become a chef. A week ago Saturday, while working on a friends computer, Lexi mentioned his desire to be a chef. The man, who respected Lexis determination in life, said nothing, but quietly called a dean of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College here in Tortola. Our college is unique in the Caribbean. Besides the normal curriculum, it maintains programs with respected educational institutions around the worldincluding the New England Culinary Institute. Paul Bocuse himself has hired graduates from the Culinary Institute and speaks highly of the Institutes teaching skills.
Turns out, as Lexis friend remembered, there was an unexpected opening in the two-year culinary programstarting in two days right here in Tortola. Saturday night, Lexi interviewed with the dean. Sunday the Culinary Institutes staff met to review his application. And Monday morning last, Lexi Hurst became a chef-in-training.
I attended Lexis opening classes and felt the great energy that program director Joey Abitabilo brought to the group. Then I nearly burst out laughing when Chef Abitabilo reviewed the first item in the Culinary Institutes course description: Health and wellness. The food service industry is physically demanding, and can be quite stressful, says the course description, as it outlines the Culinary Institutes schedule for personal fitness goals and a documented Health and Wellness Activity program.
Shoot, every decent Conch knows that the food service industry can be demanding and stressful: Its hard eating as much and as poorly as we do!
Thats why were asking Lexi Hursts culinary class both to train with and then to feed the Mighty Conchs who will be in Tortola in December. Now theres poetic justice!
I think the Hi-Ho event has it right: we have to hook in and hang on, whatever the opportunity, whenever it comes. Like your Conch training commitment.
What to do right now:
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