The Sunfish Club of Aruba

In honor of the upcoming Aruba International Regatta I checked in with the Sunfish Club of Aruba.

Apparently in the 80s the late Ernie Kervel who owned the dealership organized three world championships in Aruba and imported container loads of Sunfish to the island.

At the end of the championships the boats remained on the island and were sold locally, and that is how the Sunfish Club of Aruba was born.

The club meets once a month at Rodger’s Bay or Surfside and conducts competitions, usually attracting about one dozen competing sailors.

The Sunfish is very suited to Aruba’s ocean and wind conditions and young adults, from the age of 14 or 15, can handle the ropes and sails providing they have received some nautical instruction.

Richard van der Wal, a local retired family physician, famous for his dedication to Turtugaruba, is the island’s most proficient sailor.

He arrived here from the Netherlands in 1976 as an experienced sailor and remained the undefeated champion for the past 17 or 18 years.

His name appears on the Sunfish Championship Rotative Cup, more than anybody else’s.

Richard and his two sons-in-law, will be competing in the upcoming International Regatta, and would like to see more islanders going back to the sport, strengthening the relationship between locals and the ocean around them.

Officials for the Sunfish Club of Aruba are: George Winterdal, Activity Commissioner, Richard van der Wal, and Robert Jan Moons, Vice-Chairs.

Those with a good memory recall the Rembrandt Regatta sponsored by the defunct Rembrandt café, and those who can look further into the past report that in the Lago day, the Americans living in the colony brought Sailfish, an early model of the Sunfish, to Aruba, and raced frequently.

Consult the Facebook page of the Sunfish Club of Aruba for a complete schedule, and images from past monthly meets. Today, the club also welcomes Lasers, more modern dinghies, invited to compete. Both the Sunfish and the Laser may be launched from the beach, not from a pier and are fun to watch and/or operate.


In historical perspective it is interesting to see the contribution of Ernie Kervel to the sport. He died unexpectedly in October 2010, at 79, an honorable member of the club, its former president, and the main organizer of the world championships in 1974, 1980 and 1986. He was an avid sailor himself, and captained his own yacht, Ocean 505, around the island.


Some more information from the club:

Sunfish Club Aruba is the national sunfish class association for Aruba. Sunfish Club Aruba is open to anyone interested in the sport of Sunfish® sailing.



From 1944 to 1956 sailing with 12 feet sailboats was popular in Aruba. At that time, all sailors were members of the Aruba Yacht Club at Lago Colony. In subsequent years the 12 feet boats were replaced by the 14 feet wooden Sunfish which was equipped with materials such as bamboo masts and gaffs. In 1959 the fiberglass Sunfish was introduced. This period marked the beginning of the emergence of an enthusiastic group of sailors in the Sunfish class in Aruba.


However, it took until 1965 for the current Sunfish Club Aruba (SCA) to be established. On September 9th, 1974 Sunfish Club Aruba was officially founded as an association (Dutch: “vereeniging”) and it was legally recognized by at that time His Excellency the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles through state ordinance approval of May 6th, 1976, No. 10 (Dutch: “Landsbesluit d.d. 6 Mei 1976, No. 10”). At the time of the approval the board of Sunfish Club Aruba consisted of: M. Hagedoorn (chairman), D. Kerklaan (vice-chairman), F. Hogesteeger (first secretary), J.W. Gesterkamp (second secretary), T. Barmes (commisioner) and H. Kelkboom (commissioner).


Sunfish Club Aruba has hosted the Sunfish World Championship three times in Aruba being in 1974, 1980 and 1987. SCA member of honor, Ernest (Ernie) Kervel, was the driving force behind the organization of these world class events. Kervel chaired Sunfish Club Aruba for many years and he also was the second president of the International Sunfish Class Association (ISCA). The Sunfish World Championships were major events. Over 100 Sunfish sailors from all over the world visited Aruba each time. Whereas the event lasted one week, preparations typically started a year or more in advance. The races were held at Palm Beach across the Holiday Inn Hotel. The 1974 World Championship was won by Serge Marsole of Guadaloupe. The 1980 World Championship was won by Cor van Aarholt of The Netherlands who later settled in Curaçao. And the 1987 World Championship was won by Bruce Sutphen of Illinois, USA.


For each of the World Championships, the Sunfish manufacturer shipped about 100 new Sunfish boats to Aruba. After the World Championship most of these boats were sold locally to Sunfish enthusiasts. Sunfish is a durable boat and there is therefore a high probability, that the Sunfish which you possess today was imported to Aruba for any one of the mentioned World Championships.


Over the years Sunfish Club Aruba also organized several long-distance events. The sailing trip around the island of Aruba per Sunfish was held several times in the 1970’s and 1980’s when weather conditions permitted. The last times that these events were held were in 2019 and 2021.

Sunfish Club Aruba also organized three long distance trips from Aruba to Adicora, Venezuela in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Adicora is a colonial town and windsurfing center on the Eastern side of the Venezuelan peninsula of Paraguana. To cross the channel between Aruba and Venezuela the Sunfish sailors, departing from Rodger’s Beach, were to head windward first for about three hours to ‘Bajo’ (a shallow fishing ground South East of Seroe Colorado). From ‘Bajo’ they were to sail South West into Adicora avoiding the unfavorable shallow waters on Northern shore of Paraguana. The story from those days goes that the sailors caught fresh fish along the way and that the fish was prepared at their favorite restaurant in Adicora the same night!



Sunfish Club Aruba is an association which recognizes the following types of members:

– Regular members

– Junior members (below age 16)

– Members of honor

– Donors


Junior members are members below age 16. Upon reaching the age of 16 they are automatically registered as regular members. Members of honor are individuals who have delivered exceptional service to the association or to the sailing sport in general. Donors are individuals who intend to foster the sailing sport in Aruba and therefore support the association through periodic financial contributions. The membership fee for regular members is Afl 100 annually.


Donations can be made to:

– Account number: 92223509, i.n.o. Sunfish Club Aruba


– Country: Aruba



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July 12, 2022
Rona Coster