Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Surprise Fun

The wind has been pretty light this summer, so when I saw gusts above 20 mph today, I just had to go sailing. Despite a few light wind freestyle and longboard sessions, my withdrawal symptoms were strong enough to overlook a few minor issues. Kalmus was the only spot showing halfway decent wind, but the wind was from the northwest - offshore and not a good direction for Kalmus. According to the iWindsurf meter, it was rather gusty:
Gusty, offshore, best wind probably in Lewis Bay: a longboard day! When I got to the beach, I could see lots of white caps a few hundred meters from shore, so I rigged the Loft SwitchBlade 7.8. That's usually not my preferred longboard sail, but 3 cams and tons of stability meant I did not have to worry about strong gusts. What followed was more than 2 hours of fun in what felt like my most-powered longboard session ever. Here are the tracks:
At times, I was in both back foot straps on holding on with all I had, 10 feet of board fully out of the water in front of me. At times, I briefly thought that a slalom board might have been fun too, but almost every time, the wind would drop to sub-planing within a minute or two. The speed graph shows the variability quite well - I was mostly just going back and forth on a beam reach, where the board speed is typically close to the wind speed. On a slalom board with the same sail, I probably would have slogged often, which is no fun; on the longboard, I felt lightning fast most of the time. In gusts, the wind was strong enough for deep downwind runs, but the chop was about a foot high, which slowed the longboard down with every little wave I crossed. Threading the chop on a course close to a beam reach ended up a lot faster, and less scary.

As much fun as that was, I am looking forward to September, when the crowds are gone, all beaches are open for windsurfing again, and the wind (hopefully!) returns. Just three more weeks! Lots of fun action in September, too:

  • The ABK Camp Hyannis from September 8-10. I hope all you local windsurfers have signed up already - the camp has sold out every year in the last 4 or 5 years!
  • The East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod on September 16-17. Fun races, freestyle competition, GPS racing, and probably some cool demo gear - sign up and join the fun! We'll start this year with a "Beer Social" at Kelly's on Main Street in Hyannis on Friday, September 15, at 7 pm.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Borderline Breaks

The things we can learn from board repairs ... for example where you should not put your feet. Let's start with the end:
This is my blue Skate 110 which I bought to replace the white Skate 110 that I wrote about in my previous post. The picture shows the end result of my latest repair attempt. If you click on the image to see the larger picture, you'll notice a slightly different blue in the repaired area, which extents from the back of the pad to the edge of the board at the "F", and extends forward to the "N".

I discovered a soft spot towards the rear of this area last fall. Upon exploring, I discovered that the glass and the PVC foam underneath had a break. I dug out the core foam all the way to the sandwich at the bottom of the board, filled the void with polyurethane (PU) foam, and glassed it over. The PU foam is harder than the original EPS core, forming a hard "plug" that connects the bottom and the top - good enough, I though.

When putting the fiber glass on top, I noticed bubbles forming: the new structure had several little "pinholes". The inside of the board was still under a bit of pressure, and the air coming out pretty much kept the little holes open. I tried to fix this with an extra coat of epoxy while the board was cooling off, hoping this would pull the epoxy in and close the pin hole in the process. However, this did not work as expected, and I saw bubbles forming after a few sessions.

The next repair attempt including removing the glass around the pin holes, and glassing the entire area over again. This repair held for a couple of month, but then I noted a new soft spot right next to the initial repair. I used some Solarez since it was freestyle time, but that barely held for one session. So .. time to try again.

When I opened the board up, I saw that the initial repair was still intact; however, the top glass fiber layers were broken right at the edge of the repair. When I made the initial repair, I did not rebuild the PVC sandwich layer because I had neither divinicell nor the vacuum setup. I figured that having the PU plug extend to the bottom would make it stable enough; but what I had not considered was that I would have a hard plug right next to the somewhat softer, slightly elastic sandwich construction. This create a "Sollbruchstelle", which then indeed created a break.

This time, I tried to do things right. The first step was to open up a relative large area that included the previous repair area, and digging out all the soft EPS foam. I then hooked up the area to a vacuum pump to see if I could draw any moisture. This removed some slight dampness from the top of the EPS foam, but the vacuum trap remained empty after several hours. Fortunately, very little water had gotten into the board.

The next step was rebuilding the foam core with PU foam:
That was followed by sanding the excess foam off, and removing additional foam to allow re-building of the PVC sandwich. After some filling, glassing, and sanding, here's what the repair area looked like:
When you look closely, you'll notice a slightly different color along the top and right side. This is the edge of wood veneer reinforcement. It extends about two thirds of the way to the edge  near the front of the repair area, but not nearly as far at the back. The original soft spot that had developed had definitely not been covered by wood.

Using wood veneer as reinforcement under the rear footstraps makes a lot of sense, since wood has excellent mechanical properties to absorb and distribute the impact after jumps. Extending the wood past the padding makes sense, too: the padding under the foot pads is not very wide, and my size 12 feet need to be quite deep in the foot straps for my heel to be on the padding. Most of the time, however, I sail with just my toes in the foot straps, so my heel rests on the board next to the foot straps. I must say that I find it somewhat peculiar that the wood reinforcement did not extend further back. There are several possible reasons for this, like to much deck curvature, or "interference" by the fin box. Whatever the reasons were, it seems my heels were often positioned right next to the reinforcements, which eventually led to damage. It's no surprise that the damage was on the right side of the board, either: my home spot Kalmus had starboard jumps most of the time. Even when not jumping, just going over the chop there would put a lot of stress on the back heel, which does not even have any padding underneath.

I am quite sure that the reinforcements in my older Skate 110 were quite different. I use the old Skate a lot more often than the new one, and often with bigger fins, which lead to more outboard foot placements and more back foot pressure, but the old Skate never got soft in the back. The old Skate seemed to have a lot of carbon reinforcement, while the new Skate seems to have wood veneer instead (although the areas I repaired on the two Skates are different). But mainly, the old Skate 110 actually had two sets of footstrap positions, including a more outside one that's missing on the new Skate; and the padding on the old Skate extends further to the rails. So placing the back foot more outside on the old Skates was not a problem, but it appears to be a problem on the new Skate, at least when sailing in heavy chop or jumping a lot. Maybe I just need to go to tiny little freestyle fins to enforce a more centered foot placement and less back foot pressure...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fixing My Favorite Board

In 2010, I got a white Fanatic Skate 110, and it has been my favorite board ever since. But last year, I discovered that the deck near the front foot straps was getting soft. My favorite board repair guy, Donnie in Hatteras, did not want to repair it, so I figured I'd use it to learn board repairs on. The first installment was a big nose job last fall. A while later, bubbles started to come out near the soft area, so it was time to learn new stuff - soft deck and sandwich repair! Most of the things I did are based on the excellent instructions on "The Board Lady" web site.

The first step was to take the padding under the front foot steps of:
That took a while. I started to understand why Donnie did not want to do the repair.

A small exploratory cut was next:
You can see the sandwich construction: a few layers of glass fiber on top, then a thin (~4 mm) layer of high density foam, a single layer of glass, and the EPS foam core. The sandwich looks good, but there's a big air gap that should not be there. It seems the EPS foam got compressed just too many times and eventually tore apart.

I enlarged the cut-out area, but the soft area was quite large, so I decided to treat most of the affected area with expanding polyurethane foam, introduced through many little holes that are covered with blue tape in the next picture:

You can see the foam expanding all the way into the cut-out area. In the cut-out area, I removed some of the damaged EPS foam, so I had to build the area back up, also with marine polyurethane foam:
I just love playing with the pour foam. You mix together a couple of liquids, and then you have about a minute to inject it before it expands about 50-fold. Fun!

After sanding down the PU foam, the next step was to rebuild the sandwich layer. I used one layer of glass and two layers of thin divinycell. To press everything together, a vacuum setup is needed, as shown in the next picture:
Once you have the stuff and know how to use it, this is easy. The PVC foam must be covered with three layers of different plastics: perforated release film, then "breather" material, and finally vacuum bagging film. This was the first time I did this, so I made one small mistake: I put the sticky stuff that connects the vacuum bagging film to the board to close to the treated area. That made it a pain to take off later!

I also had to close all the little holes I had drilled to get the PU foam into the board to fill the air spaces. That required some sanding first, and then some epoxy and lots of small little glass fiber discs:
Once the epoxy had hardened, each of the little holes needed to be sanded again to smooth things out and to get a good feathering connection between the new and the old glass.

The divinycell also needed to be sanded down and glassed over. I used two layers of glass, but no carbon. The original construction appears to have a layer of carbon cloth on top, but it's very thin; you can see in the next image that I accidentally sanded through it at a few spots.

The board came with two sets of foot strap positions, inner and outer. I never used the outer positions, so I simply filled the holes in the outer plugs with some epoxy mixed with low density filler (the brown stuff). The next step will be to add one more layer of glass over the entire center area; some sanding and filling; putting new padding down; and painting over all the little holes (more to protect the epoxy from UV than for cosmetic purposes).

This repair has already taken quite a few hours, and still needs more work. Someone who repairs boards professionally would have to charge at least $400-500 for such a job, and even that assumes he'd be a lot faster than I was, and that he'd charge an hourly rate much lower than what I have to pay a local car repair shop. How long the repair will last is an open question, so I can definitely see why Donnie did not want to do this.

For me, however, this was fun, and a useful learning experience. The Skate in the pictures above is not the "Team Edition" model, but this repair clearly shows that it still contained quite a bit of carbon - it looks like at least one thing layer of carbon cloth over most or all of the top. In contrast, the 2015 Fanatic Skate that I got as a replacement did not seem to have carbon reinforcements, at least not at the places I looked so far; instead, the 5 years newer models appears to use wood for reinforcing (more about that in a future post). I always had the impression that my blue 2015 Skate was not quite as lively as my white 2010 model - but the newer models seemed a bit easier to sail in very choppy conditions. I now think that this is because only the older model has the extra layer of carbon, which gives it a bit more stiffness. So I'll be very glad when I can sail my white Skate again on the lighter wind days!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reality Check

I'm venting. You've been warned.

Surfer 1 says to surfer 2: "I'm a much better surfer than you! I bet I was at least 3 knots faster than you!"

It's pretty funny someone would say such a thing, but this did indeed happen. Not only is surfer 1 faster than surfer 2 - no, almost every single day, he is a lot faster than anyone else at the beach! He must be a better windsurfer than all of them!

We could argue that surfer 1 is usually the only one on slalom gear on the beach, or that he sails more than 95% of the other windsurfers, but let's not go there. For the last 2 years, surfer 1 has used a GPS to record his sessions - so how well is he doing? Easy to find out on the GPS Team Challenge web site, which has rankings for 6 different speed disciplines:
Surfer 1 is highlighted in red, so we'll simply call him Chris M. from now on. Surfer 2 is highlighted in yellow. The astute observer might notice that this appears to be the writer of this blog - congratulations!

I'll readily admit that I am not a good speedsurfer. In the international rankings on the GPS Team Challenge, there are somewhere between 840 and 900 speedsurfers who are faster than I am. On our team, there are several guys who sail a lot less than I do, but have much higher top speeds, and will usually be several knots faster when we sail together, even if we are on similar gear. But I don't care much - I do my "slow speedsurfing" when it's fun, and my (equally poor) old school freestyle / freeriding when I want to fall a lot, or it's just too bumpy for my taste. After more than 3 decades of windsurfing, just going back and forth at moderate speeds still is utterly fascinating to me. I don't think I'll ever loose this fascination - fellow local Bruce has not, and he's 20 years older than I am.

But back to the rankings. As bad as I am as a speedsurfer, I still managed to leave Chris M. several spots behind me in 5 of the 6 categories. If I'm not good, what does it make him? The guy who is always on slalom gear? Let's check the overall ranking:
9th overall in a field of 27 (which includes a bunch of freestylers who "volunteered" to take a GPS so that we'd get a second ranking for the team). He barely manages to edge out the lovely Nina, who'll be on freestyle gear at least 9 out of 10 days, hacking away at Flakas, Vulcans, Switch Konos, and Switch Vulcans. I have no problem admitting that Nina has become a way better windsurfer than I am; the same is true for the guys ahead of me in the rankings, and for a few that place behind me (including Bart, Martin, and Graham, who is playing in a whole different league). But Chris M.? Now that's a rather funny thought. Maybe if he shows me a few planing upwind and downwind 360s, and beats me in the rankings. Not that that will ever happen - in the past two years, he has not been able to figure out install GPS analysis software, or use, or even to use the software after I installed it on his laptop.

Looking at the rankings reminds me of another funny story. Less than half a mile from Kalmus is Egg Island, which is a very nice speedsurfing strip. I've been there several times with different guys on from our team. The first sessions were with Dean, who did his usual complaining half the time, but still racked up several 35-knot sessions. Boro sailed there just a couple of times in lighter winds, but managed to set a 37-knot spot record the very first time he sailed there. Chris M., you ask? I've seen him there twice. The second time, the wind picked up a few knots, so when I go got to Egg Island a few minutes after him, he was standing on shore, complaining that he could not sail in "this shit", and that he was so far away from his next-smaller sail. He did a wonderful job at defining the opposite of impressive! When the guard came to tell him that he was standing on a private beach, he sailed back to Kalmus, never to be seen at Egg Island again.

Some of my regular readers may wonder about this post, since I usually try to write about positive or at least interesting things (which some non-geeks may, admittedly, debate). Well, I must admit that I have a very low tolerance for stupidity, arrogance, and selfishness. I'm do not really have a problem if someone is not intelligent or well educated. I have worked with mentally handicapped people, and they were some of the nicest people I ever met. I have also met many nice and good people who had little or no education. But people who are ignorant but think and proclaim they know it all? Like "real estate developers" who "know" more about climate science than thousands of scientists? Keep them away from me! The same goes for self-taught windsurfers who never in decades of windsurfing bothered to learn the rules, and think "oh, it's just like when getting out of the elevator". Really? How stupid do you have to be to think that's a good way when two people on windsurf gear approach each other at a combined speed of 50 mph or more? How stupid and arrogant do you have to be to yell at someone "there are no rules in windsurfing" because you don't know them? Someone who not only learned the rules when he learned windsurfing, but also is a certified windsurfing instructor with a rather good understanding of what US Sailing, US Windsurfing, the UK sailing association, the VDWS, and the top US windsurfing instructors have to say about this issue? Really, really, really stupid and arrogant.

But believe it or not, this entire thing was not really about rules - it was about attitude. I realize that there are windsurfers out there who don't know or understand what the rules are that apply when they are on a collision course. Even windsurfers who know the the rules and play by them sometimes mess us. Usually, we still figure out how to stay out of each others way. In the rare case of a near-accident or a forced fall, things can usually be sorted out with a few friendly words or an apology. But things are a lot easier and more predictable if you know the "right of way" rules, and play by them. There are plenty of windsurfers on the beach who can explain them - including anyone who ever did an ABK camp (and paid attention in the very first lecture).

But if you happen to be the "give-way" windsurfer in what could become a collision, and you force the other person to jump of the board to avoid the collision, you've got a problem. If you think you are a good windsurfer and the other person is not, and you force them off the board, something is wrong with you. If the other windsurfer is a (slightly) older lady, other choice words come to mind.

And still, everyone does stupid things sometimes, and a simple apology can fix things. If someone who feels you treated them wrong when you forced them off the board approaches you, a simple "I'm sorry" would do. Or if your understanding of what should have happened differs, you could discuss it, and perhaps ask others for feedback. But being dismissive and calling the other person a "bad windsurfer" instead? Or later calling the women that you forced of her board a "cranky old fucker" to their friends? That shows some serious moral and mental deficits.

And still, this all would have ended after my last post. I had revised my assessment of Chris M. from "a bit rough on the edges" to "ignorant sociopath", and decided to avoid him - there are plenty of nicer people to talk to on the beach. I am certain that my intentions were very clear, but Chris M. deemed them unacceptable. When we happend to both sail at Duxbury in a NE wind a few days ago, he just had to approach me to ask if we were "friends or enemies". My explanation that I will not be friends with someone who calls other friends "cranky old fuckers" had him come to the conclusion that we now must be enemies, and he proceeded to explain to me that "there are no rules in windsurfing", that "rules are just for races", that "it's just like when you get out of the elevator", and that "only bad windsurfers complain to me".  Given my low tolerance to ignorant idiocy, you can imagine the rest. Even the Duxbury Harbor Master stopped by to make sure we were not fighting; unfortunately, he had no desire to explain the sailing rules to Chris, either (smart man!).

Well, enough venting. I'll end this with a citation from the "Start Windsurfing Right!" book from US Sailing (2nd Edition, p. 103):
"There is also an unspoken rule among sailors which should be considered part of your sailor's code. When two boards meet, it is common courtesy for the more experience person to maneuver around the less experienced one".