Key Biscayne’s Pablito Muñoz, 13, making waves on the international sailing competition scene | Key Biscayne

There are no “Show and Tell” presentations in Pablito Muñoz’s seventh-grade class at the posh Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove.

Too bad. The 13-year-old Key Biscayne resident could certainly impress his classmates and his teachers with his impressive achievements as an international competitive sailor for Team USA, as well as his rapidly improving golf game, in which he has driven balls some 235 yards despite a deceptive 5-foot, 90-pound frame.


With his ability to drive golf balls some 230 yards, 5-foot-tall Pablito Muñoz, 13, estimates his golf handicap, if calculated now, would range between plus-3 to minus-3. Here he tees off at his home course, Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne.

Asked which sport he prefers, Muñoz took his time before answering. “I’m not sure … I really love both sports, and I feel like it’s a good balance. In golf, you’re pretty much alone, and (sailboat) racing has a team format (although it’s one person per boat in his Optimist class).”

Earlier this year, the son of residents Nieves Montes and Pablo Muñoz Sr. raced in the 2023 Optimist Racing North American Championship for Team USA off the Caribbean coast of Antigua and Barbuda. The second-place finish qualified him for the 2024 World Trials in St. Petersburg.

But, Muñoz considers his “biggest” victory so far was the third-place individual trophy, one of some 30 awards in his collection, earned at the Regatta of Champions (R.O.C.) last month off the coast of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, an event “where it’s really difficult to qualify.” Only he and local teammate Travis Greenberg (ninth) were Americans who finished among the top 30 competitors.

Pablo Muñoz Montes, known to his friends as “Pablito,” got interested in the sport by learning of his grandfather’s exploits in the larger 420-class sailboats in France. Born in Chelsea, London, the family relocated to the Key Biscayne area when he was 4.

“Living here near the ocean, my mom told me to give it a try,” he said.

It wasn’t until he turned nine that he enrolled in a summer program at the Key Biscayne Yacht Club, where he was taught the basics and safety of sailing in the Green Fleet program. He joined the competitive group in the Red, White and Blue fleets a short time later. He is the oldest of 13 sailors on the Optimist team there.

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Pablito Muñoz, who attends Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, recently placed third individually in the International Regatta of Champions off the coast of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, an honor the 13-year-old calls the best of his young career.

“I’m pretty small, so I’d like to stay in the Optimist class for as long as I can, probably until I’m about 15,” he said, knowing his next step is the Lasers or 420 vessels.

The Optimist boat, or single-handed dinghy, weighs less than 80 pounds, has a 7.5-foot mast, and the hull is roughly 6 feet long and 3.5 feet wide, with an estimated overall cost of between $5,000 and $6,000.

“It’s a pretty easy boat (to maneuver),” Muñoz said.

At least in ideal conditions.

“It’s pretty safe, but it can get dangerous,” he said. “Sometimes, it can get windy, and waves are 12-14 feet, bigger than the top of the sail, so not too unusual. I’m not really scared. When you start out learning, they don’t put you in those extreme conditions.”

In Germany, for instance, it was 37 degrees and raining, so he had to be aware of proper apparel while competing. There are occasions during an event that call for a sailor to hang off the boat to maneuver turns, so he’s prepared himself for that, but not with weightlifting.

“Mostly, doing bodyweight exercises, riding a stationary bike, and a hiking bench,” he said, to focus on building his gluteal and core muscles.

One crucial part of his strategy is getting off to a good start in races.

“Depends on where you’re sailing; some places are start-dependent, others maybe geographical, other days there’s an oscillating breeze,” he said. “It’s a lot easier not to be as consistent. It’s not easy to predict (the winds), so you learn to play all kinds of shifts.”

He credits his coaches from Key Biscayne, world-class sailor Édgar Diminich and Javier “Foco” Figueroa, as well as his private team coach, Fernando “Happy” Alegre, and his teammate, Greenberg, for much of his success. One of his schoolmates, Annie Ulmer, also is a “pretty good sailor,” Muñoz said.

To his credit, his entire family enjoys sailing on their small catamaran, including younger brothers Iggy, 10; Alvaro, 8; and sister Blanca, 4.

Later this month, Dec. 27-30, Muñoz will compete in the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta on Biscayne Bay, where 700 sailors from 21 nations are expected to compete. He recently won the Junior Olympic Festival in Jensen Beach.

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Pablito Muñox and others sailing in a regatta.

As far as golf, he’s a regular at the Crandon Park Golf Course, where he hits drives some 220 to 235 yards off the white adult tees. He estimates if he had a golf handicap at this point, it would fluctuate between plus-3 and minus-3.

Taking after his dad, “a pretty good golfer,” and his golf idol, Rory McIlroy, the younger Muñoz has won the Dominican Republic International Thanksgiving tournament, the Southeast Regional Championship, four local tour titles, and qualified for the US Kids World Golf Championships.

Looking to the future, he said, “I’d like to play D-1, either golf or sailing and see how far I can take it … and maybe (study) law, like my dad and mom (who are licensed lawyers in Spain).”

His report card of all A’s and a B+ in math attests to his focus on his studies and homework, which he is often pressed to make up while competing internationally.

The Olympics, of course, is always a goal for any sailor.

“I’m a little young, but I’d like to go … my first Olympics would be like 2030 if I make it,” he said.

Having sailed in oceans and seas off the coasts of Spain, Germany, Italy, Monaco, and in the Caribbean, Pablito has already compiled a treasure chest of memories, some not even his classmates can comprehend.

“We don’t really talk about (my sailing) much,” he said. “They’ll ask me, ‘How was the food?’ or ‘How was the weather?’ and that’s all. “The food tends to be really good everywhere.”

So far, for the record, his favorite location and his favorite dish?

“My favorite place, I’d say, is Lago di Garda, in Italy … and the best food there is probably the truffle pasta.”

See? Now, that would be an excellent “Show and Tell” treat.

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