Editor’s Note: 5.2

I stumbled onto a wonderful movie entitled “Contact” where the heroine was accused of Windsurfing across the Universe.

american_windsurfer_john_chaoI HAVE HAD the distinct pleasure of knowing Michael “Gebi” Gebhardt (our cover boy) for more than a decade. I’ve followed his career for fifteen years and observed first hand the evolution of this talented windsurfer and uniquely gifted human being. 

Growing up in a broken home, Gebhardt transcended the stigma of a dysfunctional childhood to accomplish the unique distinction of representing the United States in three Olympic games. Twice a medalist, Gebhardt won a Bronze in Korea, a Silver in Barcelona and a sixth in Atlanta. For his achievements, he has shaken the hands of three different presidents and is poised to shake the hand of a fourth.

As long as I have known Gebhardt, he has been a windsurfer propelled by the wind. More specifically, he is a man driven by a cosmic wind. He is a Christian who takes in Hinduism, Taoism, a tad of Universalism and a bunch of Sai Babalism. For his potpourri interests and spiritual quests, he has been known to be called a religious . . . fruitcake.

Recently I stumbled onto a wonderful movie entitled “Contact” where the heroine was accused of Windsurfing across the Universe. (I screamed with laughter when the line referring to windsurfing was delivered by the character played by James Wood.) In the story, Jodi Foster plays am entrenched scientist seeking empirical evidence to prove the existence of higher intelligence in the Universe. Suddenly, a signal from deep space provides instructions on how  to build a space ship that can break the constraints of time/space and travel to galaxies thousands of light years away. To make a long movie short, a ship was built and she makes contact with a higher intelligence and with the experience, is transformed to a whole new level of awareness. But when she comes home and reveals the profundity of her discovery, she is touted by critics and labeled as a . . . fruitcake.

Imagine if the wind is blowing over 35mph and you just had the most exciting windsurfing sailing of your life. The intensity of the experience transforms your perspective and when you describe the power of this epic trip to people who have no idea what you’re talking about, they might just look at you and think you were a . . . fruitcake.

Now, you are so elated by the thrill of this high wind experience that you begin to proclaim sailing in 35mph wind as the only form of windsurfing. Others, discovering the same elation also claim that fulfillment can only be found when the wind blows 35mph. They congregate on the beach and sit, awaiting the second coming of the almighty wind. Those who are out enjoying the rides of a lesser wind, are sneered at as beginners and labeled as non-believers, even mocked as . . . fruitcakes.


We are all finite creatures caught up  to champion the illusions of our limited world. We live, die and experience life on many levels. We undergo multiple cycles of transformation, while our minds have the freedom to expand with wonder or contract with fear. People like Gebhardt are unique in that they do not hold to the dimensions of this life nor do they accept that their finite ways are forever. Instead, they put their trust in their heart and break down limitations while their will, soars over adversities with the forces of a higher love. As a windsurfer, he is enlightened. When the wind is light, he can enjoy the sport and sail like an Olympian and when the wind blows strong, he is transformed into an aerial acrobat. Like everyone, Gebhardt struggles with life. But as an accomplished windsurfer, he is equipped by the lessons of his passion.

To some he might be a fruitcake, but the world looks quite different when you’re hooked in to the back of a windsurfer. And when you have struggled to capture the wind and have made peace with its power, you will have made contact with the cosmos. For in that moment, you will experience what it means to be a master of your own destiny.   

— John Chao

by John Chao

Publisher/Editor of American Windsurfer is a former photojournalist for GEO, National Geographic and Time-Life Magazines.