Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flowstyle 101

When Caesar Finies visited us here on Cape Cod a couple of weeks ago, he filmed a few minutes of Flowstyle from the same view point that I used in my recent video - the nose of the board. We even did some of the same tricks - but that's where the similarities end. His raw footage is much more interesting to watch than my heavily edited video. The remnants of my scientific education prompted me to study the "why" (beyond the obvious answer that he is much better looking). I will present my findings to you in a minute. Let's look at a very short fragment showing Caesar in action first - about 12 seconds. There was too much going on in these 12 seconds, so I added a slow-motion repeat, and annotated it:


Here's a list of the moves:
  • Sail-Body 360
  • Ankle Biter
  • Sail-Body 360 (from leeside sailing)
  • Clew push-through
  • Sail flip and sail duck (Reverse Sail 360)
Interestingly, most of these moves are pretty simple. The exception is the Ankle Biter, which is one of the harder light-wind freestyle moves to learn; but with proper instruction and equipment, an advanced windsurfer can learn the Ankle Biter in a few days. Nevertheless, the sequence is quite amazing.

What makes it amazing is that moves flow seamlessly into each other, without breaks in between. They also all go into the same direction, which "enhances the flow". Going back to my video, I started with a similar combo, a Sail 720 into a Sail-Body 360. But in my sequence, the sail rotation was going one direction, the sail-body rotation the other direction, making the sequence much less smooth. 

During Caesar's sequence, the board turned through the wind, without any visible effort on his side. One could argue that not having a fin in the board helped him - but sailing the board without a fin is in itself not entire trivial. When I tried, I had to concentrate quite hard to keep the nose from turning into the wind. Having the board turn "automatically" in the middle of a trick sequence not only adds to the magic, but it also sets up for a move repeat (the Sail-Body 360) from a different starting position, which makes the move look quite different.

In summary, here are some of the basic "Flowstyle 101" rules:
  • Keep moving! Flow from one trick into the next without breaks.
  • Keep the direction of flow! If you start going clockwise, add other moves that go the same direction - don't suddenly switch to a counter-clockwise move.
  • Mix the categories! Don't just go through endless series of board 360s, even if you change things like sail or board orientation. Instead, mix board moves, sail moves/throws, and sail-body moves. Two upwind 360s with a sail throw (Ankle Biter or Chacho Throw) in the middle look way cooler than three different upwind 360s in a row.
  • Learn variations of basic moves! After learning the Sail-Body 360, try it going around the other way, and starting from leeside (backwinded) sailing. If you got the Ankle Biter, learn the Clew First Ankle Biter. The same basic principles generally apply, but the moves often look quite different, making your routine much more interesting. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Light wind freestyle video

Here's a short video from a recent light wind session at Duxbury:



It's put together from about 40 minutes of Clew-View / GoPro footage. I tried to cut out the boring parts. Even with the cuts, it is quite far away from Flowstyle. My brain and body just don't work that fast. But even my slow style was a lot of fun. If you wonder why I got excited about the Ankle Biter at the end - that was the first clean one I ever did. Thanks for getting me there, Caesar!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Are You Bored Sailing?

What? Did she really say that? "Are you bored sailing?" I said "What?" many times. She repeated herself until she finally asked "Are you hard of hearing?".

She seemed like such a nice old lady. Why would she ask me such a thing when I was de-rigging in the parking lot? Ok, the wind had been light. Sure, it was not my best day, and I did fall a lot. Yes, I spent the last 20 minutes trying to go upwind, hardly making any progress. But boring? I was not bored! I even got 3 or 4 Ankle Biters and a Jaw Breaker. Most Jaw Breaker failures were tame, with the sail just refusing to come back up, and lying down on the water instead. Maybe my sail was bored? Only once did the sail gently wipe my face when the clew whipped around, reminding me why the move is called "Jaw Breaker" and "Guillotine".

Finally, the old lady spelled it out for me - she had asked if I was "boardsailing". Digging deep into my memory (which is racing my hearing for the "fastest decline" trophy), I remembered that this is a term sometimes used for windsurfing. Yes! I was not bored sailing, I was windsurfing! The nice old lady then explained that she had been the first windsurfer in Massachusetts, boardsailing in Hingham Harbor and later on Cape Cod. We chatted briefly, before she took off in her car that seemed to be the same vintage as our Fanatic Ultra Cat.
Sunset at East Bay

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ECWF Cape Cod impressions

Many things at the ECWF Cape Cod impressed and amused me - here are a few random ones:
  • Caesar Finies skipping his lunch break to demonstrate Ankle Biters and more on the beach to a large crowd of onlookers; some of them later did the move on land
  • Mike Burns putting up an amazing show in the pro freestyle heats, making Caesar work very hard for the first place in pro freestyle
  • Phil Soltysiak racing on his small freestyle board and 5.x m freestyle sail, and always coming in in the top 1/3rd of the pack, even when winds were light 
  • Eric Skilbred upping his performance in every heat to eventually steal 1st place from Niko Kley, who had dominated the earlier heats with flawless duck tacks, back-to-back, and jaw breakers
  • Caesar pumping like mad to get on a plane in marginal winds, and ending up way ahead of everyone else on the last mark - but being caught by longboard sailors on the final upwind leg in shifty and weak offshore winds
  • The crew from Makani Fins who came from Canada to participate in racing and freestyle with big smiles on their faces, and to let everyone interested try out Makani fins
  • Pam Levy, who had again come from Michigan to help with running the event, but who also participated in both racing and freestyle - and who kept her smile even when her car had to be towed to a repair shop when she was on her way to the event, towing the rescue jet ski
  • Nina whipping everyone into shape on the megaphone, making sure that we stayed close to schedule and earning many remarks for how well organized the event was
  • Mike Burns beating Caesar in the second-to-last freestyle heat because he had chosen a larger sail, and had just enough power in the gusts to throw amazing new school tricks
  • Caesar fighting back in the last heat in lighter winds - when Mike drew large cheers for seemingly never-ending turns and cool rail rides, Caesar answered with never-ending ankle biters, explosive railride into Matrix combos, and his trademark "Hail Mary" attempts 
  • Jeff Bull absolutely dominating the first day of racing on his ancient Mistral Superlight, leaving all kinds of slalom boards and longboards in the dust in 4 of 6 races
  • Jeanne Baumann, the old and new Queen of the Cape, showing the guys how to race with 4 placings in the overall top 5 - she would have taken 3rd place in the Men's 7.5 division, and 1st place in the Men's Open division
  • Seeing the Kalmus parking lot filled up with windsurf vehicles 
  • Lots of beautiful sails on the water during races
  • Nikita putting family first and taken both of his kids out for a sail instead of competing
  • Mike Burn's catapult over the finish line when his fin caught the anchor line of the buoy
  • Freestyle Fred skillfully taking down Jerry Evans with a sail throw in a freestyle heat
  • Having competitors come from Bonaire, Canada, Vermont, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and lots of other places
  • Seeing competitors ranging from 16 to 72 years in age competing in the same races and freestyle heats
Here are a few pictures from the event:
Race start - PWA sailor Phil Soltysiak ahead of the pack
Great weather, lots of colorful sails
Caesar Finies demonstrating moves on land

Pro freestyle heat - Caesar and Mike on the rail

Caesar on the boom during a Matrix
Phil and Mike Burns getting ready to race
Women's freestyle

Cape Cod sailor Jerry Evans chasing Caesar Finies

Caesar going for a Hail Mary

Novices competing with PWA pros - all had lots of fun