Monday, January 26, 2015

Texas!

We knew Juno would come. We did not know when, but that the media would describe the first big snowstorm of the winter as a "historic blizzard" was quite predictable.

So we escaped. We drove south, through 13 states, 2140 miles, 35 hours of driving over 3 days. But gas is cheap, and the weather was fine for driving. It was even finer when we arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas: air temperatures in the high 60s (20ºC) and sun - nice! We just had to go for a light wind freestyle session the day we arrived. Lovely!
Nina likes palm trees


We've been in Texas for a week now. Since getting and staying here is quite a lot cheaper than the Caribbean,  and since we can take our work with us, we'll stay a little longer. It's not a vacation, but we'll take some half-days off when it's windy. We're not too picky - if the weather is nice enough, we'll settle for 10 mph winds to practice light wind freestyle. So far, we've had three light wind sessions, and two planing days.

We had northerly winds on both days that we have planing conditions. Air temperatures dropped into the low 50s on day 1, and into the high 40s (8ºC) on day two. The water temperature in the shallow Laguna Madre dropped almost as rapidly, from the 60s down to the low 50s. Too cold for Texans, it seems - we only saw one other windsurfer on the water the entire time. But compared to temperatures on Cape Cod, it's nice and warm! We did not even bring our winter wetsuits, nor do we need them. Here's a short video from the second planing day, just to show the conditions:



So far, we have only sailed in the Bird Island Basin, where WorldWinds is located. It's a 15 minute drive from our condo, but it's a really nice spot. There are a lot of shallow areas, so you can always find a spot to turn or work on tricks where you can stand.

The weather forecast for this week looks great, with 70s and lots of sun. When the temperatures drop a bit at the end of the week, we'll get wind - just perfect for a mix of work and fun.

Great weather, great sailing, a nice condo - now what could make Nina even happier?
The answer: a German bakery within walking distance! And not just any old German bakery, but one that's run by a proper German Bäckermeister. You doubt me? Here's the proof:
Yes, he learned how to make good German bread (and sweet stuff :-). But most importantly, he learned this not just anywhere in Germany, but close to where Nina was born - so he knows how to make Laugenbretzeln just the way they should be made:
Now seeing this got Nina really excited. Laugenbretzeln are one of the things she missed most since she moved to the US - and these are just the way they should be (trust me, she has tried a few!). So, my dear friends who are currently in Bonaire, or will be going there soon - I hope you understand that we'll stay in Texas this year.

Since this is a windsurfing blog, I'll end with a couple of windsurfing pictures. After analyzing Martin's loop tries in one of my last posts, I played around a bit with wheelies and jumps/pops, concentrating on getting the front leg bent and the back leg straight at takeoff (or during the entire wheelie). For the wheelies, I found that I tend to lean back a lot, so perhaps this is not the best drill for loops (at least not for me). But for the pops/jumps, I think I made a bit of progress. Here's an example:
This is far from perfect, but the sail is open, the back leg straight, and the front leg is bent. Here's what this looked like a bit later:
In this picture, my front leg is straighter than the back leg - definitely the right direction. I only concentrated on the pop, and did not do any of the hand and arm movements for the loop - but nevertheless, the nose of the board has turned downwind by about 45 degrees. I find this quite encouraging - it's easy to see that the nose would go past downwind if I only move my hands further back on the boom, and extend the front arm towards forward-windward. I see some loop crashes in my near future - I hope the water is still warm when we get wind again!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Loop Takeoff

I had a chance to study Martin's loop try videos, and want to share my theories with you. Just to be clear: I am talking about learning to do a mostly horizontal spin loop in moderate chop or small waves.

A lesson I learned from working on jibes is that the problems you see are often caused by doing something wrong much earlier in the move. I think the same thing applies here. I will also assume that Martin's problems are similar to problems I have had when trying to loop, and to problems I have seen other ABK campers have. Let me start with a picture from an ABK camp in Bonaire in 2011:
This is the takeoff for one of my first loop tries. I got the nose of the board up nicely, which is good. But you can see that my body is angled very far back, which is bad. I never got the nose to go down and the tail to go up; instead, the board just dropped back onto the water tail-first, and I got catapulted around a bit. Now let's look at one of Marty'ns tries from the video I posted yesterday:
Takeoff #6
His body position is a little better than mine, but also looks wrong. The next picture shows how this try (#6 in the video) ended:
Landing #6

The board landed tail-first, and Marty fell to the inside. Now let's look at his next try. The takeoff:
Takeoff #7
Do you notice the subtle differences? We'll come back to that, but let's first check out the landing:
Landing #7
This time, the front half of the board hits the water first, and Martin's body is a bit more to the right side, closer to where it should be.

Now look back at the takeoff pictures. In the first picture, Martin's front leg is straight; in the second picture, his front leg is bent a little bit. This allows his body to be a bit more upright over the board.

Now let's look at Jerry's takeoff posture:
Jerry looping
Jerry's front leg is bent quite a bit, and his back leg is straight. That allows his body to be much more over the board. His upper body is also straight over his back leg, not bent forward like Marty's. Looking at the other "great loop" example in the video, we can see the same thing:
Joseph Pons demonstrating loop takeoff posture
Again, the back leg is straight, the front leg is bent, and the body is mostly over the board.

Once the board leaves the water, the legs should do two things: the back leg is pulled in to pull the tail up; and the front leg extends to push the nose down and downwind. It's easy to see how this would work in Joseph's and Jerry's example. But in Martin's takeoff #6, his front leg is already extended, and his back leg is already bent a bit; the only think he could do would be bending his back leg more, which would not be enough to level the board.

Amuse me for a minute, and assume that the analysis above is correct. To fix the problem, we need to have Martin bent his front leg more at takeoff, and keep the back leg extended. That will keep his body more over the board, making it easier to move the sail to windward - forward. Once the nose turns downwind, causing the sail to load up, his body will also be in a much better position to get thrown around, giving him a chance to complete his first loop.

The goal is clear - how do we get there? Our challenge is to over-write "bad" muscle memories from many, many tries.  But fortunately, Martin already has the necessary skills - he can do tail grab jumps, and he can pop the board in flat water. So here's the prescription:
  1. Do the "wheelie" crash from the ABK loop lesson (that's stopping the board by opening the sail and stomping on the tail; slalom sailors often stop this way). Make sure the sail is open, and try to stay as upright over the board as possible; the front leg should be bent much more than the back leg.
  2. Practice pops in flat sections. Think of a variation of Andy Brandt's "independent arms" - we're going for independent legs (and, of course, being over the board). About 20 should do.
  3. Try loops. Think of it as a trail grab pop, but instead of letting go with the back hand to grab the tail, move the rig to windward, look back, and hold on!
I changed the prescription a day after the initial post - I took out tail grab jumps, and instead added the "wheelie" exercise that Andy Brandt has as a part of the ABK lecture. The tail grab jump may help to learn the loop (Jem Hall thinks so), but in all jumps, there's a strong tendency to lean the body back to counter-act sail pressure. That's counter-productive in a loop, where we want give into the sail pressure to be thrown around. In contrast, I think the "wheelie stop" crash exercise may be a good way to learn to get the nose of the board up by bending the front leg. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I plan to try it out soon!

Visualization can also be helpful, so here's a video with a slow-motion "starboard" version of Josep Pons' loop:



---
Shortly after I posted the video about Martin's loop tries, his friend Nikita sent him an email with tips. Nikita actually knows how to loop (and Vulcan, Grubby, Spock, etc.), so I thought I'd share his comments here (I added the highlighting):
"Now, Peter says that there is a mystery as to why you can't loop. Watching the video, the culprit seems pretty clear to me - you stay way back when you jump! You have to move both you and the rig much more forward as you are going up the ramp. As it is, you are not even catapulting. If you are not catapulting, you won't loop. You seem to be trying to do it sort of safely, but you really have to be going for some serious catapults if you want to get there.
When we were all in Hawaii, I was going farther than you in my loop attempts, but was still not getting close. Sergei told me that I was jumping my normal jumps and THEN trying to move the rig forward in the air - wasn't working. Once I started leaning forward going into the jump, then my rotation really improved.
Obviously, if you lean forward as you are going up, there is no way to land safely, other than looping. You will 100% catapult. This is a very uncomfortable feeling, but the only way of doing it. You've got to be more aggressive and be prepared for those bumps and bruises.
It's actually very similar with all the other moves: Vulcan, Spock, Grubby, Flaka, etc etc. You have to jump way forward as you are taking off. Basically overcome your fear of the catapult and forgo any thought of landing a normal jump. That's probably why Andy has been telling Boris to not even learn to jump and go straight for the Vulcan - knowing how to jump properly keeps you too far back. I don't think I agree with his approach (jumping is fun in itself!), but the issue is clear - normal jumps and freestyle jumps are very very different, even on takeoff."

Friday, January 2, 2015

Loop Try Videos

Below is a short video with some of Martin's loop tries. Keep in mind that this is footage from sailing in Hyannis on New Years Day 2015. Air temperatures just above freezing kept even some brave souls that do sail through the winter off the water. I took the cold as an excuse to not try anything. Martin tried loops - one thing where you are guaranteed to get wet:

Here are just some brief thought about Martin's loop tries:
  • He tries to move the board around with his feet - it looks more like an old-school jump jibe than a loop. He's gotten pretty good at turning the board this way, sometimes getting it to turn 180 degrees.
  • The nose-tail exchange never happens - the nose always remains above the tail.
  • In several tries, the sail powers up after the board is in the water again. That's something I have seen many times when ABK campers tried loops. It often happened to me, too.
For comparison, I added some footage from Jerry Evans, who throws beautiful loops almost every time I get to sail with him. Jerry's loops are often very vertical, end-over-end. That is not the best loop to learn, unless you got great waves and are really comfortable with high jumps. However, the technique as Jerry shows it is very similar to a more horizontal loop. The big difference is where you move the sail: more to the nose of the board, and it's vertical; more to windward, and it's horizontal. But Jerry's loop was also filmed with a Clew-View mounted GoPro (big surprise - Jerry makes the Clew-Views!). I also added a couple of loops from Joseph Pons' video which are more horizontal for comparison. He really shows the rig movement to windward very nicely.

The loop try video did not hold surprises - this is what Martin's loop tries have looked like for a while now. We made the video mostly so he can also see what his tries look like. I think he has all the technical elements he need - he can jump and pop well enough; he can pull his back foot up and stretch the front leg to get the nose down; he can move the rig to windward; and he is starting to get good at turning the board with mast foot pressure, even when the board is back in the water (where that is a lot harder than in the air!). He "just" needs to put the pieces together, and unlearn some bad habits (the jump jibe-like board turn). The only thing I did not see in the video was exposing the underside of the board to the wind - but I have seen him do that at other times.

So, Martin, get around already, will you? Otherwise, I might grow a pair and loop before you!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

It is nice to have friends who are crazier about windsurfing than I am. Marty made the two-hour drive to Cape Cod this morning, even though temperatures were below freezing and the wind forecast predicted just 18-19 mph. But it was sunny! I obviously had to join him.

By the time we got to Kalmus, temperatures had climbed to a balmy 34ºF (1ºC), and the wind was between 25 and 30 mph. Close to low tide, the water was shallow and flat on the inside, with some nice ramps on the outside. We rigged 5.3 (I like power!) and 4.7, and off we went.

I was just mowing the lawn, happy about every dry jibe, happier still about the occasional planed-through jibe. Marty played around - 360s, duck jibes, and the obligatory loop tries. We put the GoPro on his boom for most of the sessions, so we'll have some fun diagnosing why Marty can't loop. It is a mystery. He can do much harder tricks. He even tries loops on a regular basis! Even the great Andy Brandt has been dragged into hour-long discussions about this topic. Will video evidence help? We'll see.

A fantastic day it was. We windsurfed for two hours, until it got dark. The hand warming tubes in our Ianovated suits got plenty of use today. Yes, they worked well. Do you think Marty would have tried loops with cold hands? He's not that crazy! Me, I was just lazy. Carrying all those extra pounds I gained from Nina's fantastic Christmas cookies is work enough! I barely fit into my suit and harness anymore. Maybe that's one reason I gave the GoPro to Marty today :-)