Sunday, October 5, 2014

Andy and Caesar movie

At the ABK camp Cape Cod in September, Andy Brandt and Caesar Finies gave us a little demonstration what light wind freestyle can look like. Conditions were not ideal, with gusty winds from 5-20 mph; furthermore, both Andy and Caesar were on unfamiliar boards. That did not keep them from putting on a great show - here is a short video:

It's interesting to see the rather different styles in direct comparison. Andy does a lot of "old school" tricks like fin-first upwind 360s that are technically quite difficult, but take 10-15 seconds to complete. In contrast, many of Caesar's tricks are sail-throws or sail-body movements that take only a second or two. In the 10 seconds that one of the "old school" moves takes, Caesar strings together a whole bunch of different moves, often mixing simple ones like sail-body 360s with hard ones like Jaw Breakers and Ankle Biters. Andy's style is super-clean and very technical; Caesar's is fast and furious. I'm just glad that this was a demonstration, not a competition where we had to pick a winner! Many thanks to Caesar and Andy for showing us what you can do on a windsurf board in light winds.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall windsurfing

Check the picture above. Do you see the long sleeves? The mittens? Fall is here! I think that's just great.

Fall arrived yesterday. It had been warm for most of September, with temperatures often in the 70s (around 25ÂșC), lots of sun, no rain for weeks, and little wind. Yesterday, the wind came. So did the rain. We looked at the wind meter readings: low to mid 20s (mph) - let's go sailing! We looked out the window: NO! Rain, clouds, general nastiness - why not stay home? Nina stayed home, I went sailing.

I arrived in Duxbury half-deaf from the rain drumming on the van. Big van = lots of drumming. Nobody there - I'd have the whole bay for myself. First runs out - nice power! Time to check out the north side ... then the wind takes a break. Schlogging my 96 l board is work. I almost give up and drive home, but decide to give my Skate 110 a chance to shine. It does - and then the wind picks back up again. Fun on the Skate! All alone in the rain and fog, I play it safe, mowing the lawn instead of freestyling. But who cares - nobody sees me, anyway, and I'm having fun. I'm happy to be back in my warm Ianovated suit (with the tubes removed) - it's overkill, but so comfortable. I'm warm - who cares that it's raining hard? My Gath visor helmet keeps the rain out of my eyes.

The great thing about northeast winds in the fall is that they tend to stick around. When we woke up this morning, the wind was still there. The rain had left us, though - well, mostly, at least, with just a little drizzle every now and then. So today, my lovely wife decided to join me for the trip to Duxbury. We launched from the Shipyard Lane Beach for a change, since the local windsurfers told me many times that it's a better launch. Indeed, the parking lot is nice, and it has a grassy rigging area. But in today's NNE wind, there also was quite a bit of wind shadow close to shore, not too different from the usual Powder Point Bridge launch. What was different, however, was the chop. Even near low tide, there was a lot more of it. Nice for jumping - not so nice for speed or freestyle. Nina, Jeff, and I decided to sail upwind to look for smoother water, which we finally found about a mile upwind. We stayed there for a while, now closer to our usual launch from the bridge than to Shipyard Lane Beach. The wind was plainly fantastic, nice and steady in the upper 20s. It made planing through jibes easy; even if you messed up a bit, there was always plenty of power to get going again right away. Nice!

We stopped after three hours, when Jeff had to leave and Nina started to feel pain from a pulled muscle. I could have sailed more, but with about 120 km sailed since yesterday, my endorphin levels had been sufficiently replenished to stop. Here are today's tracks:

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!