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Our Story

What is SBSSA?

The Santa Barbara Sea Shell Association (“Sea Shells”) was founded in 1948 as a family-oriented group focused on teaching children how to sail and get them started in dinghy racing. For over seventy-five years, the Sea Shells have taught sailing, seamanship, self-reliance, and teamwork. In addition to the weekly Sunday regatta, there are picnics, instructional days, work days, parties and road trips. Skippers and families develop strong, long-term friendships.

For the first few decades, families generally built their own Sea Shell boats during the off-season and raced it during the summer. However, times change and the SBSSA has adapted. In the 1990’s, realizing that families generally didn’t have the time or space to build boats, the club transitioned to racing US Sabots. These provided an off-the-shelf, fiberglass boat small enough that an eight-year-old could still race. The majority of the fleet is still US Sabots, but we have added RS Teras and O’Pen Skiffs for more advanced solo sailors and RS Fevas to give older skippers a chance to sail two-person boats.

Sailing is an excellent co-ed sport and Sea Shells is open to skippers from 8 to 18 years old. For novice skippers, being with older, more experienced sailors is motivating. Every year, our skippers have more responsibility teaching novices (and even inexperienced parents) the basics of small boat sailing.