None of them had been sailing before; many had started the week feeling slightly afraid of the water; and some were excited just to see and feel green grass.
Twenty-one children from across NSW were treated to a four-day camp on Lake Macquarie which culminated in a surprise sailing lesson from a local legend.
Fresh from his win in the Sydney to Hobart classic aboard Comanche, Kyle Langford, 30, of Coal Point dropped in at Point Wolstoncraft Sport and Recreation Centre on the last day of the camp (Friday, January 24) to give the kids a sailing master class.
That, and to show off the SailGP Championship trophy that Langford helped the Australian team to win last year, and which he hopes to win again next month on Sydney Harbour.
SailGP partnered the state government, through the Office of Sport, to deliver the first ever SailGP Inspire Learning Camp. And the kids loved it.
The idea was for the children to learn sailing aboard RS Cat14 catamarans - a non-foiling, smaller version of the high-performance F50s that the international teams race in the SailGP global championship.
Among the young participants were four children from drought-affected areas in NSW who were invited by SailGP Inspire to take part in the camp at no cost.
They included Connor Williams, 10, of Quirindi.
"This is the first time I've been sailing in my life," Connor said.
He admitted to being scared, at first, of capsizing.
"But one of my friends capsized, and he loved it."
He said there had been lots of technical lessons to learn, and a few surprises.
"I didn't realise if you pull the rudder one way, the boat turns the other way," he said.
Ebony Harrison, 12, of Nelson Bay, said she was anxious at the start of the camp.
"I thought I would die," she said, smiling.
"I don't really like going in the water where I can't see the bottom."
But her confidence had grown so much in four days that jumping off her catamaran into the water had become one of her favourite things to do.
Langford spoke to the children about his sailing career journey, and fielded questions - several of which related to capsizing.
"As a kid, the biggest thing that I enjoyed about sailing on Lake Macquarie was being out on the water, that feeling of freedom, and being with my mates," Langford said.
"That's what I was trying to stress to the kids. It's not about any competition, it's about having fun.
"Talking to the kids, seeing their excitement and enthusiasm... it takes me back. I have a lot of fond memories of being out on Lake Macquarie as a kid and having that same feeling.