Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 review

We just got 12 inches of snow, and the trailer is buried - looks like the windsurf season is over for the year. Time for a review! This will be a long post, so here is a short version for the impatient reader:
  • Sailed 2900 km (1800 miles) in 105 sessions
  • Checked out a number of new local spots: Ninigret, Pleasant Bay, Chapin, Skaket Beach, Old Silver Beach, Chatham
  • Had a longer windsurf season here in Massachusetts - any day with air temperatures above freezing is a possible windsurf day
  • Enjoyed windsurf trips to Bonaire, Maui, the Gorge, Cabarete, and Hatteras (with Hatteras being my favorite trip)
  • Got more comfortable in higher wind (30-35 mph) and chop
  • Using smaller boards: my "big board" now is a 110 liters (vs. 205 l in 2010) ; the small "go to" board now is an 82 l slalom (vs. 120 l in 2010)
  • Learned to sail a 62 l speed board (a great confidence booster for sailing boards in the 80 l range)
  • Picked up a few new tricks: Carve 360; light wind: push tack, duck upwind 360, clew first pile driver; can now do most of my light wind tricks on a 110 l freestyle board
  • Started the "Fogland Speedsurfers" team in the GPS Team Challenge
  • Met a lot of great new people and old friends
Bottom line: a great year! And now to the long version...

2010 Goal Review
I had posted my goals for the year here at the beginning of the year, so let's have a look:
  1. The speed loop: next year. I worked on low-wind "loop crashes" a couple of days, and on high-wind crashes another day or two. Some of those ended up with pretty harsh crashes onto my back - however, the board was never in danger (after the first, early try, where I let go of the rig and damaged the nose of the board). I have a pretty good idea what I need to do next, and there's a good chance that I'll make a loop if I get a few days with great conditions.
  2. Nice duck jibes:need some more work. I did a few decent duck jibes, but no really nice ones where I planed through. Somehow, this trick just is not so attractive to me.
  3. Speed: ok. My goal was to get my 5 x 10 s averages above 50 kmh, and my current best is 51.19 kmh. I got a couple of boards, fins, and sails that should enable me to go quite a bit faster. I did not get to try these under ideal conditions, but the main limitation seems to be a certain lack of skills. The minimum goal for next year is to break 30 knots.
  4. Chop hops: ok. I got quite a bit of practice this year, so I am feeling more comfortable in the air. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but I should also try pops with turns and sliding for new-school tricks.
  5. Get better in high wind and chop: ok. This year had quite a few sessions in 30+ mph winds with high chop, and there's a definite improvement. Being more comfortable on small boards definitely helps, too.
  6. Tricks: ok. I only picked up one new planing trick, the Carve 360 (and that one required quite a lot of tries and close calls before I got the first one). In light wind, I learned a few more things, including the push tack, duck upwind 360s, and clew first pile driver. Last year, I did all my light wind tricks on big gear (160+ l). This year, I spent a few days re-learning them on a Skate 110 l board. Andy Brandt says that smaller board grow 5 liters which each hour of practice, and that seemed to indeed be the case. Still, going down 50 liters meant about 10 hours of practice. This was time well spent, though - developing a better feeling for smaller boards is definitely a worth-while undertaking.
  7. Planing jibes: ok. My minimum speed improved a bit, but the biggest difference is in the success rate when the sails get small and the chop gets tall. My main limitation here seems to be in the head, not in my technique. When I go into a jibe with enough speed and dedication, things tend to work out. If I try to hold back because of high chop and wind, I usually end up with waterstart practice. When I watch the pros jibe big gear in slalom heats, though, it becomes obvious that there is still a lot of room for further improvement.
So I did not reach all of my goals, but I did ok. Some of my goals I did not work much on at all, so I made little progress; others took much more work than I had expected. The biggest difference for the year, however, was not even on my list of goals: switching to smaller boards. For light wind freestyle, I had doubted that going to smaller boards was worth the effort. But after seeing rather dramatic improvement in the skills of a few people who only used smaller boards (Martin and Graham), I bit the bullet, and learned a lot by doing the same tricks on a much smaller board. My other switch to smaller boards came almost by accident. When looking for a used slalom board for speed surfing, I found a 62 liter speed board instead that I bought. Learning to sail it took several days, but I eventually got comfortable on it. I did not actually reach my top speeds on this board, but knowing I could start and sail it gave me a lot of confidence when sailing boards in the 70 and 80 liter range. Last year, the smallest board I had ever sailed was 88 l, and the smallest board I'd sail several times a year was 96 l. This year, I bought an 82 l board that I think of as my go-to board as soon as I can use a sail smaller than 7.0. But in comparison to a 62 l board, 82 liters seems enormous. Funny though that the 62 l board can handle a 7 meter sail much better than the 82 l board.

There's a take-home lesson in this. As Mike Tyson pointed out in his guest appearance on the Ultimate Fighter, the number one key to success is confidence. I think confidence is one big reason why many young windsurfers progress very quickly, while older windsurfers stagnate or learn slowly. The "I can't do this" or "I'll try it but probably will fail" mentality seems to be much more prevalent in the older windsurfer's brain, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Younger surfers like Graham are not encumbered with this, so he'll go and try a Shaka before being able to do a really decent jibe. Ok, so he won't complete a Shaka right away, but I bet he'll be doing nice Shove Its and Flakas before me. His dad also illustrates that older windsurfers do not have to progress slowly: he started windsurfing this summer, and now is out there whenever he can, even when it gets cold and the winds are in the 30+ mph range and many more experienced windsurfers wimp out, showing them how to sail fast.

For those of us older windsurfers who are more prone to the "I can't / I'll fail" mentality, a good way to build confidence is by (a) stretching your boundaries further than you are comfortable with, and (b) keep trying, ignoring any initial failures and instead focusing on whatever bits of success you can find. If you make it through, maybe learning to sail a board much smaller than you think you could, or a sail much bigger, or in conditions that are much harsher, you'll be rewarded with plenty of confidence in a slightly less challenging setup. Of course, do it in safe conditions - don't try learning to wave sail in Jaws!

Fogland Speedsurfers

Our favorite local windsurfing spot in the spring and summer is Fogland in Tiverton, Rhode Island. The inside bay offers shallow and flat water in southerly winds, and really invites speedsurfing. Fogland also has Cesar, who loves to speedsurf and has inspired many local surfers to go deeper downwind and faster that they ever did before; and Dani, who is great at organizing beach barbecues. That provided the perfect gestation grounds for the Fogland Speedsurfer team, the only active US team on the GPS team challenge. Unfortunately, we founded the team just before most Fogland windsurfers ended their season, so it was largely up to Nina and myself to keep the team from being at the very bottom of the ranking. However, we later picked up a couple of new team members (Bart and Dean) who go really fast on a regular basis. Dean already taught me a bunch of things in the one session we had together, and I'm sure there is plenty more to learn from him. I can't wait until next spring, when we can have a number of Fogland Speedsurfers on the water at the same time!

Vacation Spot Ratings
We took a bunch of nice trips this year, although they were all just a week or two. Here's my ranking, based on this years trips:
  1. Hatteras. We spent 2 weeks there in great company. We had a lot of days with great wind, and I just love the endless runs in shallow water you can do there.
  2. Bonaire. Always a favorite. Can't wait to be there again.
  3. Gorge. Loved the beer and the variety of sailing spots. Did not like how gusty the wind was, but it sure was interesting.
  4. Maui. I had the least fun sailing there - it's this confidence thing again. This was our first trip to a really windy place this year, and I'm sure I'll like it better next time. But except for windsurfing on the really windy days, I loved Maui.
  5. Cabarete. I love Cabarete, and the only reason that it's at the bottom of this list is that the wind just was not great when we went there in August.
One thing that weighs heavily in the rankings above are the people we met and spent time with at the different places. There were great people we met everywhere, but I distinctly remember many friendly strangers in the Gorge (they all assured us that conditions were unusually harsh, almost every day :). I'll end this post with thanks to just a few people I met this year who taught my something new:
  • Dean taught me how rig my KA Koncept sail and how to go faster in chop, based on many years of racing experience. Looking forward to many more speed days next year!
  • Ron made us go to Skaket Beach, a great west wind spot that we absolutely love. He also gave me the ideas to use nylon mitt shells over gloves with cutoutson the inside for the really cold days.
  • Hardie showed me how to put electric tape around the top of the boots to minimize water entry. Worked great when I tried it, and I really regretted skipping this step the next time I went out.
  • Coach Ned reminded me many times that "It's all good". I hear this all the time in my head on a great day, and it always makes me smile.
So, that's it for 2010. We were fortunate this year that we could extend two business trips into windsurf vacations at great spots, and I thought there was no way next year could be as good. But then, we got lucky, and arranged a 7-week house swap in Maui - so there may be even more windsurfing next year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Nose control

We went skiing for Nina's birthday a few days ago - here is a short video:



This was the first time in many years that we hit the slopes, which gives a bit of a different perspective. I noticed a few similarities to windsurfing that I had not noticed before. The biggest one was "nose control" - how to distribute your weight to keep the nose of the skis or the windsurf board under control. On skis, I tend to sit back, taking the pressure off the tips and making them nervous and hard to control. I sometimes have similar problems when speedsurfing - too little pressure on the nose of the board makes it bounce too much, and limits top speed. In either case, letting this go to long can lead to harsh landing on resp. in the water.

Obviously, the mechanism how to put pressure on the nose/trips is different between windsurfing and skiing. But what's similar is that a well-balanced stance helps in each case - although the balance on the windsurf board has to involve weight in the harness and pressure on the mast foot.

Being the geek that I am, I could of course not refrain from bringing my windsurf e-toys, the GPS and the GoPro. Well, at least that gives you a view of Nina's lovely backside, so you don't just have to read my words :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Foil speedsurfing?

AHD has been playing around with foil windsurfers for a while, and may release a production version soon. Here's the AHD video:


Well, foil surfing looks cool, and the obvious question is: what's the speed potential? The reduced surface of the foil should theoretically allow for great speed. The AHD video seem to focus on speed at low winds. Some web pages mention minimal power in the sail while the board is riding on the foil, also indicating great potential.

However, there's one potential problem with the foils. On a conventional windsurfer, it's possible to go faster by reducing the water line and the surface area in contact with the water. A formula board at high speed will ride pretty much only on the fin. Yes, dedicated speed boards are very thin, too, but even wider slalom boards can reach amazingly high speeds through proper shape, rocker lines, and tricks like cutouts. For the foil windsurfers I have seen in videos so far, there is a problem: the foil is entirely in the water, and surface reduction is not possible. If the foils gives enough lift to get going in 15 knots, it probably would generate too much drag and/or lift to go 50 knots.

Here's a simple proposed solution: a multi-foil windsurf board, with maybe 2-4 foils at different depth levels.

At slower speeds, all foils are in the water and provide lift. At higher speeds, as the board rises out of the water, the upper foils are in the air instead of the water, minimizing drag and increasing top-end speed. A larger number of foils (perhaps 3-5) could have the same effect as multiple gears in the car - go faster in higher gears. Of course, the foils may be as fancy as the little airplanes on the AHD AFS-1.

An added bonus of the multi-foil concept could be that the individual foils could be smaller, and therefore less dangerous. The lowest top-speed foil on a speed board could potentially be really small. The hydrodynamics of such a setup are not trivial, but I think it's worth trying out. Maybe 5 years from now, the water speed record will be held by a foil windsurfer, not a kiter :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Staying warm at 32F

We went windsurfing today at Skaket Beach, despite temperatures that barely made it above the freezing point. But after not going yesterday and missing a perfect day, staying home again would have been too hard. I ended up sailing for 90 minutes, and being perfectly warm the entire time. Air temperatures were between 31 and 33F, water probably around 40-42F, wind 20 mph with gusts to 27 - and it was sunny.

This is the first time in more than 25 years that I went windsurfing when it was this cold. I did, however, remember from the last time that I was nice and warm, despite the cold temperatures. Still, being twice as old as back then, I was just a bit skeptical...

The only parts of my body that got cold at all were my face and my fingers - but not any colder than on an average day of skying. I took a few short breaks to shake my arms to get the blood back down into my fingers, which are clearly the weakest link. I first sailed in O'Neill 3 mm gloves, but my lower arms got tired too quickly, so I switched to what seems to work best: neoprene gloves with the inside of the fingers cut out, and nylon mitt shells (based on a post by Ron C. on iWindsurf). The combination worked perfectly fine, although I may play around with waterproofing the shells a bit for longer swims.

The cold today did wonders for my jibe success rate. At least at first, most of my jibes were dry. Being on my most-used board-sail combination (Skate 110, Matrix 7.0) helped, but I sure tried harder not to fall. Of course, I did fall a few times, including once where I had to swim back to my board for a couple of minutes. I barely felt the water temperature, though, through my dry suit and several layers of polyester underneath. I may even have been a tad overdressed - most of the time, I was sweating a bit. Not bad for a freezing day!

I'm looking forward to (hopefully) many more days of windsurfing this winter - the wind certainly is great this time of the year, with averages in the 20s or higher about every other day. For all those who might think about joining us on the water, here is a list of what I was wearing today:
  • O'Neill Boost dry suit. Baggy, breathable, affordable (~$420).
  • 7 mm O'Neill boots. Very warm. I also wound a couple of layers of electrical tape around near the top to reduce water entry, which worked very well. About $60.
  • O'Neill 3mm Coldwater Hood, $46. Creates an (almost) watertight seal with the neoprene neck of the dry suit. My head is usually hot, even after falling into the water.
  • Neoprene Gloves (Aleutian) with fingers cut out ($20)
  • Nylon Mitt Shells (made from EMS Mitts by cutting the stuffing out)
  • 2-4 layers underneath. Long sleeve "performance" underwear (Old Navy, Target, $10-$20). T-shirt ($8, Old Navy). Fleece pants ($20, Target, Old Navy, Ocean State Job Lot). 2 Fleece sweaters (LL Bean, Old Navy, $15-25). Everything is 90-100% polyester, which wicks away sweat and stays warm even when wet.
Most of the stuff was from Sailworld Cape Cod, although I had to order some things that Jim did not have at amazon.com. Everything together costs less than a new sail at suggested retail prices, and definitely less than a new board. It will allow you to sail on great days like today, when you have the water pretty much to yourself - no crowds like on late summer days. Hope to see you out there soon!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Low tide at West Dennis

Wednesday gave us a rare SE wind, predicted to be in the upper 20s. For December 1st, the air temperatures were nice, too, in the low 50s (~12 C). West Dennis is one of the best spots for SE winds on the Cape, and low tide was in the early afternoon, so we went there.

On the way to the beach, we stopped at the little restaurant next to Inland Sea for an early lunch. Nina soon discovered that the (kite surfing) waitress was not only from Germany, but had grown up in a town just a few miles from her home town. Small world!

We almost expected to be the only ones on the beach, but a couple of kite surfers were there already, and so was Hardie, already planing on 5.8/84 l. A few minutes later, Dean pulled in, and Jeff and Graham showed up a bit later, despite being short on sails after a Hatteras vacation. We knew that Dean was coming, but had never actually met him - he had signed up as a team member for the Fogland Speedsurfers after reading my invitation on the iWindsurf forum. He turned out to be a really nice guy, who also happened to know a lot more about speedsurfing than I do. With his help, I finally got my KA Koncept 5.8 trimmed right for the first time, which made it a really pleasure to sail.

We ended up sailing for almost 3 hours, with the wind picking up the entire time and reaching averages in the low 30s. I experimented with gloves a bit, trying out Ron C's suggestion to use nylon mitt shells over cutout neoprene gloves. The combo kept my hands really warm, but it felt a bit slippery on the boom, so I later switched to O'Neill gloves. These were warm and stuck nicely to the boom, but made my lower arms a bit tired. Well, the lower arms need training for the upcoming freestyle camp in Bonaire, anyway, so as Coach Ned says, it's all good.

I love speedsurfing even more when it gets colder, since I don't really want to work on new freestyle tricks when falling into the water is no fun anymore. Also, getting of the board to turn around and take short breaks is a highly regarded practice in speedsurfing, which gave my lower arms time to recover. In one of these breaks, Dean suggested that I should bear of 10-15 degrees more during my speed runs. This was somewhat a funny suggestion: I knew that I should to deeper for speed, but since I had not been trying hard to go upwind, I always was just going back and forth at more or less right angles to the wind. Another kind-of-excuse I had was that the water was not exactly flat. Low tide at West Dennis means you can stand several hundred meters out, and I actually could touch the ground every single time I fell - but we still had a bit of chop, and even some waves on the outside. But with Dean's example and prompting, I did go deeper off wind right away. Here is what the initial GPS tracks looked like:

Notice that I got my best speeds going out, against the waves. I was bearing off more - not for speed, but to go to the downwind section in search for flatter water.

After Dean's advice, I went for some speed runs going in, with the waves:

Right away, I increased my top speed by 4 miles, nice! The polar graph indicates that I probably could have gone even faster by bearing off more. I dug up some GPS tracks from "real" speed surfers to check this, here's an example:

The track is from Tom Hammerton, downloaded from the HAM Speed Challenge site. He reached his top speeds at much deeper angles, from 133 to 147 degrees. This is consistent with what other sites say, that top speeds are often at 130 degrees or even further downwind.

When going back through some of my saved GPS sessions, I discovered that I had reached my fastest speeds so far without going deep enough - typically at 100 to 110 degrees. Comparing my tracks with Tom's, it also obvious that I do not go hard enough upwind - the pronouced S-shape is missing. That gives me a couple of things to work on next time :)

Well, Wednesday was another great day of sailing: we had a lot of fun, met old and new friends, and I was faster in chop than ever before. It also showed me quite nicely how little I know about speed surfing technique - Dean easily beat my speed by about 5 mph. I can't blame it on my equipment anymore, either - both the board and sail have been clocked at more than 40 knots, and my 28 cm Select Supersport fin, which work beautifully, should have been faster than Dean's weed fin. Dean did have a larger sail (6.7 m vs. 5.8), but he felt that his sail was too big, and I also think that my sail size was probably more appropriate for the 31 mph averages. Clearly, speedsurfing is not just about the equipment - there's quite a bit of skill involved, too. It was great to have help from Dean to get started on learning some of these. And mostly thanks to his speed, we don't have to worry about being dead last on the GPS Team Challenge ranking for this month :)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Skaket Beach - The west wind spot


At this time of the year, we get a lot of fast-moving front passing through, where the wind turns from SW or WSW to NW within a few hours. This has posed a problem for us - where to windsurf? We like Kalmus and West Dennis for SW and WSW, and Kalmus is also ok for W - but as soon as the wind turns WNW, it tends to get weaker and really gusty in Kalmus.

Unfortunately, computer models and iWindsurf metereologists are bad at predicting the exact timing of the direction shift, so we have gotten skunked by an earlier-than-expected turn several times. Today was one of these days, with computer models in disagreement about the exact wind direction. After seeing good SW readings in Chapin recently, we thought we'd give it a try. But the wind showed up later than forecast, and at 11 am, the Hatch Beach sensor had much better readings than Chapin. We also saw Ron C.'s post on the iWindsurf forum where he predicted a great day for Skaket Beach, so we decided to give it a try.

The first surprise was that the drive took about the same time as the drive to Chapin (and just 15 min more than driving to Kalmus), even though Skaket is further out on the Cape. But most of the drive to Skaket is on Rte. 6, while the drive to Chapin includes a long, slow stretch on Rte. 6a and then through residential areas.

When we arrived, the wind was down a bit, but a few whitecaps could be seen, and we rigged "big" (7.0 for me, 5.0 for Nina). After the first few runs, the wind picked up, and we were planing all of the time. By 2 pm, averages where in the mid-20s, the chop/swell had built up since we were getting close to high tide, and the sails were getting a bit big. Nina sailed for 1 and 1/2 hours without a break, but ended up getting catapulted while in both straps, and landing hard on the mast, but she made it out ok. I took her 5.0 sail out for a run, and was fully planing with it. Since I'm about 50% heavier than Nina, it's obvious that the sail was too big for her.

Air temps were only around 38 F (according to the Hatch Beach sensor). However, we were nice and warm, thanks to dry suits, 7 mm boots, gloves resp. mitts, and hoods. At the beginning, when the sun was out all the time and the sailing easy, I was actually sweating for a while. Nice!

Skaket has quite a few things going for it in addition to the great fetch, and the location further out on the Cape (where the winds are often stronger this time of the year). When we started, the water was shallow for a few hundred yards out, and nicely flat. As the tide came in and the winds picked up, so did the chop/swell, but it's definitely much more orderly than in Kalmus, and easier to sail. Towards the end, there was a bit of shore break and a few semi-breaking waves on the outside, but nothing bad - just enough to practice if you're not an expert wave sailor, and to have some fun. Another thing that I loved was the long runs you can take. I always turned after about a mile or earlier, but you could do 6-mile runs across the bay, and end up behind a sand bank that probably makes a great speed strip. Will have to try some other time.

Below are my GPS tracks for the day, and a couple of pictures we shot before leaving. Thanks, Ron, for helping us discover this great spot!





Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Windy welcome to Chapin

With a NW forecast in the upper 20s, we decided to finally go windsurfing in Chapin today. Well, the actual wind was a bit higher:

We windsurfed from 10:20 to 11:40, Nina on 76 l/3.7 m and I on 82 l/4.2. High tide was at 12:40, and we had a bit of shore break in the last 30 minutes. The last time I went out, it took me quite to few minutes to make it through. Nina, who had a decent first run, did not get through the shore break on her second try, and decided to cut the session short. We went for a lovely lunch at the Optimist Cafe, checked out a possible alternative launch spot that did not look good, and then went back to Chapin. By then, the temperature had dropped a few degrees and was barely above 40 now, and the condition report from a windsurfer who came in was pretty bad ("very gusty and way too choppy"), so we just took some pictures and called it a day. Here are a few random shots:








After getting back home and checking the wind readings, I noticed that today's wind averages (35 mph) and gusts (44 mph) were the highest that I have recorded for any of my 164 session since 2009 - just by a mile or so, but still. In that perspective, the choppiness really was not so bad at all; nor it is too surprising that the 4.2 sail sometimes felt a bit big. What a windy welcome!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Super!

Q: "What do you want for Christmas and your birthday?"
A: "I don't know."

So, both Nina and I were facing the problem of what to get for two upcoming occasions. I was starting to fear endless hours of clueless shopping in the near future... but then, we stumbled into a great solution.

In Ninigret 3 days ago, the guys who where having the most fun in gusty conditions were on slalom/freerace equipment (Starboard iSonic & S-Type). Wouldn't it be nice so have something like that? Paying $2K for a new board is not an option right now, though. But during this year's visits to Sailworld Cape Cod, a used, $500 JP Super-X 82 was always smiling at me, begging me to take it home. A few years back in Cabarete, a Super-X board had been my absolute favorite, even more so than the SuperSport boards that replaced them (and which I also like a lot). A bit of research on gps-speedsurfing.com showed that Super-X boards can go faster than 70 kmh, which would be a rather dramatic improvement of my current PB.

When the wind forecast for today predicted upper SW 20s, we decided to go to the Cape, which tends to have much steadier SW winds this time of the year than other places close by. My Skate 110 tends to be a bit too bouncy for such strong winds and the resulting swell in Kalmus, and my only alternative was my old 96 l JP, dating back to about 2001. The board is ok, but not exactly fast, and too big if the wind picks up into the 30s. Nina is set up better, with a newer JP 76 l wave board that she sails a lot and loves. It so happens that she bought the board earlier this year used at ... Sailworld Cape Cod.

When I started looking at the Super-X at the beginning of the year, the volume of 82 liters seemed a bit low for me. Since then, the wind & waves in Maui and the Gorge pretty much forced me to sail boards in the 85 liter range during our vacations there. That helped to get comfortable on the smaller boards; but what helped even more was learning to sail the F2 Missile. Compare to the 62 liter Missile, an 80 liter board is huge, and really easy to waterstart and sail.

With all signs pointing the same direction, it was only a question of time, and so I finally bought the Super-X yesterday. It helped a bit that I had a fin to return which did not fit properly, so that I did not have to put down the entire $500. What helped even more was that Jim told me I could return the board if, against expectations, I would not be happy with it.

Today, we got up early, and made it to Kalmus at 9:30 am. The wind was a tad lower than forecast at about 22 mph, but I wanted to take the Super-X out, and rigged a 5.5. A few minutes later, I was planing in the typical Kalmus chop, and having fun. My second jibe attempt of the day was dry (which is pretty good for me in Kalmus on a choppy day), and my overall jibe success rate was higher than on any other board I had sailed there in similar conditions. At one point, when I mishandled the sail a bit at the end of the jibe, I looked back with the luffed sail and was amazed that the board just did not stop planing. Cool!

I had rigged smaller than usually, since I wanted to make sure I had a sail that worked well with the board. Nina was out on her 76 l wave board with a 5.0 (typically, I'm on a 7.0 when she's on a 5.0). When the wind died down a bit and neither of us was planing much anymore, she switched to the Super-X, and soon was planing most of the time again. I think the actual volume of the board is closer to 90 liters than to 82, but the fact that it was made for early planing certainly helped, too. When the wind picked up again later, the Super-X got a bit bouncy for Nina in the Kalmus chop, so we switched back, and I got to have some more fun. With my additional 50 lb, the board was well enough behaved, although it was a bit bouncier than a wave board. We can't wait to take the board out in flat water!

So we ended up with a new board in our quiver that we both like. Nina can use it as her "big" speed board, and to work on jibes and carving tricks when her Skate 100 gets too bouncy.
I'll use it when the wind picks up a bit more so that she wants to switch to her wave board (or maybe the Missile :). Since we'll both use it, we decided to give each other one half of the board as a present for our birthdays and Christmas, which solves a number of problems at the same time: the issue that I did not really have the money to spend on another board right now, and what presents to get each other. Another great windsurfing Christmas present! And just like the Tricktionary Trickpack and the GoPro HD from last year, we get to use if before Xmas, since we'll probably take a 2-month break from windsurfing around here just about then.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gusted!

We went windsurfing at Ninigret Pond for the first time today, after hearing great things about it. Forecast was for mid-20s, with some gusts - ha! We sailed from 1 to 3 pm, here's the iWindsurf chart:

Lulls of 6, gusts of 25 according to the wind meter - actual gusts were probably closer to 40 (I ended up being overpowered in gusts on a 5.0, which I can hold without problems to 35 mph). So, sailing was mostly fighting today. I tried to use the F2 Missile, but starting it was almost impossible, with winds way to low for a while, and then gusting so strong that a controlled start was impossible.

I had many interesting falls today; here's a short video of one:


After making it back home, I discovered that the wind readings for West Dennis for the same time were close to perfect - averages of 25-30, lulls 22, gusts mid-30s or lower. Next time, we'll be at the Cape again!

On the bright side, all the crashes gave me plenty of opportunity to test my new O'Neill Boost drysuit. It passed with flying colors, definitely a good investment. The weird "shrink-wrapped" feeling when in the water will need some getting used to, but the suit is a lot more convenient than my semi-dry, and with the option to add or remove layers as needed, it will keep me nice and warm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The doc says: windsurf more!

At my physical last year, my doctor "encouraged" me to do more sports. I interpreted that to mean "more windsurfing", and did my best. So far this year, I've had 98 sessions, and sailed > 2700 km. That's on track to be twice as much as last year.

Yesterday, I had another annual physical. My doctor was very happy with me: I lost 12 pounds, blood pressure went from 130/82 to 110/78, and minor health annoyances that I thought were unavoidable as we get older pretty much disappeared. I'm generally much happier, too - and not just when windsurfing. The weight loss was just from windsurfing more; with regular sessions (2-3 per week on average), I ended up being able to windsurf longer in each sessions, and still feel less sore afterwards. If helped that I adjusted my technique to use avoid strain as much as possible, but the primary factor was just training more.

Bottom line: windsurf more to get healthier!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Redemption

The day after I wrote about a couple of bad days in Duxbury, the bay redeemed itself with some great wind. Today's winds were in the 30s, a bit more easterly and steadier. I was nicely overpowered on a 5.0, Nina with her 3.7. Just love our North Ice sails - they handle very well when overpowered. Even though I felt a bit out of control most of the time, I set new personal bests for 1 and 2 seconds, with 33.4 mph. Just a tad above my previous best, but every little bit counts :)

Temperatures were a few degrees lower than yesterday, and the stronger wind made it feel a lot colder. Nevertheless, I was pretty comfortable the entire time, largely because of two small modifications:
  1. A short-sleeve neoprene shirt under my 5/4 semi-dry suit. Much better blood circulation in the lower arms than with a long-sleeve shirt, and plenty of warmth.
  2. I wore cheap, yellow latex kitchen gloves under my open-palm neoprene mittens, so my hands stayed nice and warm the entire time. The kitchen gloves were thin, but kept the water away from my skin, which made a big difference. Here's a picture:
Another thing that helped a lot today was that we parked and started at the ocean side of Powderpoint Bridge. The harbor master drove by a number of times, but we did not get a ticket, so I guess it's probably ok to park there after labor day, at least when the lot is almost empty. We stayed at the north side of the bay, and got a mix of nice flat water and well-formed small swell, nice!

The forecast for tomorrow is NE 25 mph. Since NE winds in Duxbury get a clearer fetch than N winds, they are typically steadier, and often ~5 miles higher than the forecast. Should be a great day for sailing in the south side of the bay, with some bump & jump in the middle and some nice long speed runs on the ocean side of the bay.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bad Dux!

I've written several times about great sessions in Duxbury, so I guess I should write about two not-so-great sessions, too. One was today, the other one two days ago, on Sunday.

Sunday was cloudy, with air temps around 43F (6 C). By the time we made it out there, the wind and the tide were both going down. As a result, we were underpowered most of the time. The tide was pretty extreme, so tidal currents were unusually strong, and Nina, Fred and I all got swept under the bridge at least once. Scary the first time it happens, but no big deal, the pillars are far enough apart. Worst thing is that we ended up in the wind shadow of the bridge, but we were on large enough boards to uphaul. Very gusty winds, but still being underpowered most of the time with a 5.5, I spend a lot of time in the water, and ended up getting cold in my 5/4 semi dry suit.

Today's session had decent north winds, ranging from 16 to about 35 mph. Pretty gusty, but not really bad. Even though it was warmer than Sunday, with temps near 50, I decided to wear a long sleeve neoprene shirt under my suit. I soon regretted that - blood circulation in my lower arms ended up being so poor that my hands and arms got tired almost immediately.

Wind averages were near 30 when we started, so I tried to sail my F2 Missile with the 5.8 KA Koncept sail. Would have been nice, except that we started from the public parking lot at the land side of bridge. Once again, the wind quality near shore was too bad to get going, so I switched to a larger board. Still not happy, we went from the north side to the south side, were I finally had a few good runs. With barely usable hands, I really did not like having to waterstart a cambered sail, though.

Eventually, after switching to my Skate 110 because the winds went down even more, the water was filled with reeds that the high tide had collected on shore, and the outgoing tide was now pulling towards the bay inlet. Reads in the water were perfectly lined up for efficient collection, so that I had no chance of planing anymore, despite a weed fin that has so far worked very well - with weeds, not reeds that are (a) much longer, and (b) light than water, and hard to push under water. Even Nina, with a shorter weed fin, started having a hard time planing, despite enough wind for her 4.2 sail.

Lessons learned:
  1. Don't sail Duxbury bay this time of the year when the tide is very high, and outgoing. Things were fine 30 minutes after high tide, but basically unsailable about one hour later. Things probably got better again later, but I did not stick around to check.
  2. Get a dry suit. Nina was perfectly comfortable in her O'Neill breathable dry suit, whether on the water, in the water, or on land. I was warm while windsurfing, still got cold on land after a few minutes, and my lower arms were really hurting from the two constricting layers of neoprene.
But tomorrow is another day. Wind forecast looks better than today, we plan to sail before the high tide, and I'll try using a short-sleeved neoprene shirt under the semi dry suit to see if that keeps me warm without killing blood circulation in my arms.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Missile surfing

Last week in Hatteras, I finally had an opportunity to sail my F2 Missile speed board for a few hours. When I bought the Missile a few weeks ago, I had no clue if I could actually sail it - with 62 liters, it's 12 liters smaller than the smallest board I had ever sailed.

I had gotten just a couple of runs on the board in where I was in both footstraps and harness before leaving for Hatteras. We put the board inside my Honda Civic for the trip, together with 4 booms, 2 sails, and our luggage. The other 3 boards we brought were on top of the car, together with 5 masts and 5 more sails.

I finally sailed the Missile in Hatteras when we got a day with 25+ mph winds. I first sailed it with the stock fin, which inevitably led to spinouts from seagrass on the fin after a few hundred yards. The next windy day, I bought a 28 cm weed fin, which however required an hour of sanding to fit into the tuttle box, so I first tried sailing the stock fin again (my Skate was in the shop for repairs). I also let a few others try it, including Meredith and Andy.

After finally switching to the weed fin, things got a lot better - I could finally do nice long runs. The hardest thing about surfing the Missile was starting it, especially in the lulls. With a weight of 90 kg and only 62 l volume, I needed a bit more wind to get going on it. Once it was planing, it was easy enough to sail, albeit rather lively in the (small) Hatteras chop. Both Andy and Meridith used "scary" when describing the ride. I think it gets less scary after a while.

My top speed on the Missile was not great, only about 30 mph. I blamed it on the chop, but it's probably more due to my lack of skills. Here's a short video:

While I thought I was doing ok, Andy easily beat my speed on his first run on the board, without using the harness lines. I started using longer (30 in mono) lines in Maui, and kept using the long lines for my freestyle board. For speed, they are way too long; my form is more like a 'C' instead of the '7' that it should be. Meridith, who did not use the lines because they were so long, has a much better form in the video. As a result, the board bounces around a lot less.

Still, riding the Missile was a lot of fun, and easier than I thought. When powered, going upwind was no problem at all. I did not try any deep downwind runs because of the chop. I can't wait until I can try riding the Missile in really flat water with shorter lines and a better stance!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2 weeks in Hatteras

We just returned from 2 great weeks in Hatteras. Coming back to the cold weather in Boston is a bit depressing, so I'll just list some more or less random thoughts and observations.
  1. Small board light wind freestyle: boards grow 5 liters per hour! We had a couple of light wind days during ABK camp, so I finally spent a few hours doing light wind freestyle on my Fanatic Skate 110. Within two days, I went from feeling like a total beginner to making most of the tricks I could do on a bigger board, including tacks, heli tacks, various jibes, boomerangs, and switch stance sailing. Some of these tricks improved a lot, since the smaller board enforces more precision. Just like Andy Brandt said, the board seemed to grow 5 liters for every hour of practice. And yes, practicing light wind freestyle on a small board will improve your feeling for the board and your sailing in stronger winds.
  2. How to make 80 l boards seem big: sail a 62 l board for a while. I took our my F2 Missile speed board on a couple of days where the wind was good. Day 1 was a bit frustrating since weeds inevitably caused spinouts after a few hundred yards, but day 2 with a weed fin was great. I also got the opportunity to try an 80 l RRD Slalom board, which felt amazingly big and easy to sail after the 62 l board.
  3. Fanatic Free Wave boards are fast fun. I love my Skate for freeriding and carving, but when I got a chance to try a Fanatic Free Wave 95, I loved the board even more. It felt comfortable from the first moment, and it was turny enough for some wave riding in the small Hatteras swell. I also got my top GPS speeds for the day on this board, without ever getting the feeling that I was close to the board's top speed. I later also got to try a Fanatic New Wave Twin wave board, which was fine, but to twitchy for my taste. The Free Wave 85 is on my wish list for next year.
  4. Going fast requires skill, too. On several marginal days, I did well freeriding my Skate with a 7.0 Gaastra Matrix, staying on a plane longer than I though possible, passing most other windsurfers, and getting reasonable GPS speeds. When on the F2 Missile, it took a few hours to get comfortable on the board. The board handled the chop at 25-30 mph winds quite well, but my speeds were limited. Andy took it out for just one run and easily passed my best speed for the entire day, despite not using the harness lines and being on this board for the first time. He later explained a few things that I need to change, both on the equipment setup and in my stance, to get better speed. I'm dying to try it, and hope we get some more nice days here.
  5. 360s are fun. I finally got my first carving 360, after working on it for about 5 or 6 days. I almost drove the ABK guys crazy by getting really close for a few days in a row. On the upside, nobody doubted that I finally got one when nobody was looking. I'll have to practice it some more, this seems like a fun trick.
  6. Learn to loop in Hatteras. Some very good windsurfers get the speed loop in the first few tries, but for less talented and more hesitant folk like me, learning it involves a large number of crashes, including some catapults where you are ripped out of the straps, and the rig may be ripped out of your hands. There's a decent chance that you damage the nose of the board in the process, which I did early on. I think I had some hidden damage that was revealed when running aground while sailing fin first to shore - I had a 5 inch break line on the underside of the nose afterwards. But the best board repair on the East coast is in Buxton, at Fox Watersports. I got my board repaired within 2 days, for $80, and it looks like new again. The loop, however, will need a few more tries.
  7. October in Hatteras may shorten your sailing season. We had many days with air temperatures in the 80s, and water temps in the upper 60s/low 70s. Back in Boston, air temps are now in the 40s, and water temps in the low 50s. That's a bit depressing, and makes it hard to go sailing here again. If we had remained here, we would have gradually gotten used to the colder weather, and kept going until early December. Now, going back out the first time will be hard. But then, I sailed about 300 miles in the 2 weeks in Hatteras, despite a few off days and several light wind days. And if you typically stop sailing in October, then a week or two in Hatteras is a great way to end the season.
  8. Long board racing is fun. We used one of the light-to-marginal wind days for long board racing. Lots of fun, quite a different skill set, great addition to the camp.
  9. We love you guys! Lots of thanks to Andy, Meredith, Brendon, and Tom for inviting us stay another week. It was also great to meet Coach Ned, Jake, and all the other guys in the house and at camp. Can't wait to see you all again in January, and we'll certainly miss those of you who won't be in Bonaire.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time to mix it up

Looking at my last few posts, it seems that I have been concentrating on speedsurfing recently. So when I read Peconic Puffin's post "The Legend of Frank and Lauralee", I thought is was a nice reminder that there is much more to windsurfing than just going fast. By chance, that was exactly the same feeling I had after a few days of great windsurfing in Kalmus over the weekend.

We had several days of a lovely SW setup where the wind in Kalmus often is a lot stronger than predicted, and stronger than anywhere else in the area. Last Friday, averages in the afternoon were up to 35 mph, with gusts just above 40. On Sunday, averages stayed at 30, with gusts around 35. High tide was in the early afternoon, which meant a lot of high chop both days. Nina sailed our 3.7 both days, I was on a 4.2 and 5.0, fully powered to overpowered.

I was tempted to seek out flat water near the breaker or over at Egg Island for some speed runs. Fortunately, I had tried this the last time before when we had sailed in Kalmus, and it had not worked out well: the wind turned WNW, so instead of perfectly flat water, I got nasty high-frequency chop. That day, I had a lot more fun after turning around and sailing in the chop in front of Kalmus beach, which was higher, but also much better organized and easier to sail. So on the two windy days, I stayed there, too, and worked towards two of my goals for the year: better chop hops, and getting more comfortably in high chop. Not surprisingly, a couple of nice practice days close together resulted in some progress. I sailed old JP 96l board both days, which was ok, but a slightly smaller (and newer) board would have been better. Still, I started feeling much more comfortable and relaxed in the high wind & chop conditions, and at the end of the second day, I managed several dry jibes in a row on the outside, in the high chop. They were not as pretty as my flat water jibes, but dry is dry. The funny thing is that I know well enough what to do - but as soon as wind and chop pick up, I get intimidated, and revert back to old bad habits. As Mike Tyson recently said on the Ultimate Fighter - it's all confidence (and practice). With a couple more days like this, I'll call my goal of being comfortably in high wind and chop accomplished.

It was really nice to see a whole lot of ABK campers show up on Sunday, including Martin, Jeff, and Cliff, along with many other windsurfers (Gonzalo, Vadim, Michael, and a few more). There were a number of kite surfers there, too, which was ok, since they mostly stayed out of the way. Of course, one stupid fellow had to be the exception, and show his supposed superiority by passing windsurfers in the water at a distance of a couple of feet, spraying them while he passed. I did not see the guy myself, but both Nina and Jeff, who spent more time in the water, had the "pleasure" of his close encounters. What an idiot - everyone, even the best surfers and kiters, loose control sometimes, and kiting so close to someone risks serious injury. I heard about this only at the end of the day, otherwise I probably would have asked the guy what he was thinking. On Sunday, I was passing every kiter on the water at will, so it would have been easy enough to be a pain in his ass if he had kept up the attitude. But he was just one bad apple, and I've been sprayed by similar idiots on windsurf boards. If you want to prove you're a great kiter or windsurfer, show it by keeping a mast length distance when passing. If you pass close enough to spray someone in the water, especially when there's plenty of space, the only thing you prove is that you are an inconsiderate idiot.

But back to the fun parts. Good old bump & jump sailing in the chop was a lot of fun. Even if your primary focus is on speedsurfing, there's plenty of reason to mix it up sometimes (i.e. often enough to get comfortably in unusual conditions). For example, practicing chop hops will teach how to control the board in the air, which can be rather useful when a speed board take off from some unexpected chop. Practicing jibes when fully powered in difficult conditions helps to build the skills and confidence needed to jibe at very high speeds, which then lets you reach high alphas and better long-distance averages. And of course, the feeling in a nicely powered jibe is a thousand times better than any chicken jibe or fall, even if the water is shallow enough to stand. If your jibe is already great, keep going on to duck jibes, 360s, donkeys, loops, and new school tricks. Martin showed very nicely why both day - he tried a lot of different things, but when he just jibed, all the extra skills helped him to get around in a really beautiful and fun way.

Another example why one should mix it up is what happened during our last trip to Fogland. Hoping that the wind would pick up just a bit more, I used my big board and big sail, only to be bored to death between the three or so runs that I got onto a plane. Nina instead picked her 76 l board and 5.0 sail, and went to practice Geckos, tacks, heli tacks, and uphauling on a small board. Guess who had more fun and learned more? No contest.

But if you've never done any GPS speedsurfing, you should try it, too, especially if you're at the intermediate level. Here are just a few reasons:
  • To get speed, you have to go deeper downwind than you otherwise would. You'll get more comfortable at this angle with practice, and you may see that planing through jibes gets a lot easier with more speed.
  • To make up for the downwind runs, you'll have to learn to go upwind better, too, so you'll increase your effective range while sailing.
  • You'll be looking for really flat water, which can then help you planing through your jibe and with all kinds of carving moves.
  • For speed, you'll typically want to use larger sails, so you learn to sail better when overpowered, which can give you a security reserve if the wind picks up unexpectedly (or just save you from having to rig a smaller sail).
  • If you find a spot where you can do longer speed runs (like Duxbury in east winds), you'll have plenty of time to experiment with stance and equipment adjustments to learn how to sail more efficiently. If nothing else, this will allow you to use smaller equipment at other times.
The more you mix it up, the more fun you'll have. I always have to think about Dave White here, who has held a number of speedsurfing records, appeared in trick surf instructional videos (despite being "Larger than your average WWF wrestler"), and wave sailed even in hurricanes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall speedsurfing

The last week has brought a lot of wind our way - three days of southerly winds and two days of north to northeasterly winds. The south wind came first, and we sailed two days in Fogland and one day in Duxbury. The common theme for all three days was a lot of variation in the wind.

The first day (9/28) in Fogland was the best of the south wind days. I used a 6.2 sail both for light wind and fully powered, and also an 8.5. Worked a bit on jibes, using a Mistral Screamer 116. After replacing the stock 39 cm fin with a 28 cm Select Supercross fin, jibes got a lot smoother, and I managed a new personal best for minimum speed in the jibe (11.2 knots). I also tried sailing the F2 Missile, but the unsteady winds did not exactly help. I managed to get the Missile planing and either be hooked in or in both foot straps, but not both at the same time. Still, a bit of progress.

On the second Fogland day (9/30), the meter readings looked great, with averages of 25 and gusts in the 30s. I rigged another new piece of speed gear, a KA Koncept 5.8 m sail with 3 cambers. I was nicely powered at first, but the wind quality soon got worse, with 2-second long gusts that were just to short to get going, and too far apart to stay planing if by some luck I managed to get onto a plane.

October 1st came with nice south wind readings ahead of a predicted sudden drop. We decided to try Duxbury in southerlies for the first time. When we got there, averages where 30, and gusts in the 40s. Lots of windsurfers there, all the guys on there small wave boards with 3.7 sails. We rigged our 3.7 for Nina, which meant I went out on a 4.2 Expression. The sail was just way to much in the gusts - I got almost blown out of the water, despite being on my narrow and heavy 92l Mistral Edge. No control, no fun - I stopped after a couple of runs. With 200 lb guys being out on 3.7s, and some of them saying they were overpowered or had no fun because the wind was too strong, it did not seem like such a great idea to send Nina out on a 3.7. She hesitated for a long time, but did well when she finally went out for a run on her 76l JP Real World Wave. By then, gusts were reaching upper 40s, and rain clouds were moving in, so we called it a day. It was not just that it was so much wind - the variability was very Gorge-like, with lulls near 20 in one minute and gusts of 45 a few minutes later.

Two days later, we finally got the typical fall winds - NNE, averages in the upper 20s with gusts in the low 30s in Duxbury. The forecast had called for NE winds, so we sailed the south side first, but the wind was too much out of the north for really flat water there. So we switched to the north side, where the direction was perfect for speed runs right next to the grass islands in the middle that created very flat water. On the Mistral Edge with a Matrix 7.0 sail and the Select Supercross 28 cm fin, I got a number of runs about 50 kmh, with a max (1 sec) of 53.36 km(33.2 mph, 28.8 knots). I ended up improving all my short distance personal bests, and I finally reached my stated speed goal for the year, a 5 x 10 sec average above 50 kmh, with an actual average of 51.19. Here's a screen shot of the GPS tracks:

We eventually stopped shortly before sunset - a great day.

This morning, the wind meter readings were even better - averages around 30 mph, gusts in the upper 30s. We headed back to Duxbury early, hoping to park on the ocean side of Powder Point bridge. Last time we had walked over, the sign there stated that parking was allowed for non-residents. Today, we discovered that the main parking lot was closed, the little parking lot on the side almost full, and the only sign threatened a fine of $250 for everyone without a resident sticker. So we had to drive back and start on the land side of the bridge, as usual. I was bumming a bit, since I had hoped to sail my F2 Missile in the flat water at the ocean side of the bay. Instead, I was back on the Edge, although this time with the KA Koncept 5.8 - very nicely powered, too.

I sailed around south and north sides looking for flat water for a while. The north side did not work, the wind was angled oddly to the shore on the far side and the grass island. I walked through the bridge and did a couple of long runs near shore on the south side, but the water had just a bit too much chop, and the wind angle was just a bit off, for top speed. I did, however, got a couple of nautical mile runs that were both over my old personal best, the better one at 45.56 kmh (28.3 mph). Getting back, I again wished that the wind had been just 10 or 20 degrees more to the east, and went back over to the north side where Nina was still sailing, and starting to get worried since she had not seen me for a while.

By now, the tide had dropped enough so that I could touch ground in large areas of the bay, so I decided to give the F2 Missile another go. With only 62 l volume, the board is quite a bit smaller than anything I had sailed before, so it required a few adjustments. Thanks to enough wind, I finally figured it out, and ended up planing comfortably, hooked in and in both foot straps. The chop on the side of the bay where I had to start was too much to allow real speed runs, but I got up to 45 kmh. Hoping for more, I tried to go over to the south side, but the wind shadow of the bridge was just too much, and I could not get going. Schlogging was not an option, either - I sink to my hips if I try, and would have hit ground (a thing I really try to avoid doing with speed fins). So I went back to the other side for a few more runs on the Edge - which, however, Nina was just about to take. So I took her 76 l wave board, and was in for a surprise. Before the missile, the smallest board I had ever sailed was a 74 l board in Maui, and that one just for a few runs. After figuring out how to sail the 62 l Missile, the 76l JP felt - big! I took the baby over to the flat water on the south side, and pushed it to 47 kmh on a couple of runs, but the little wave fin on the board was quite a mismatch to the 5.8 m cambered sail.

On my third try, sailing the Missile turned out to be surprisingly easy. The moderate chop on the "wrong" side of the bay was no problem for the board, and going upwind was surprisingly easy. In hindsight, I regretted that I had not taken the Missile out first thing, and tacked up to the flat water - a whole bunch of new personal bests would certainly have been the reward. But still, this was another great day, with a new personal best for the mile, and first time really sailing the Missile.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Forecasts, thermals, and inversions

September has been great this years - 12 days of sailing, 10 of them in nice strong winds, so far. That's not bad for someone who (a) should work 40-hour weeks, and (b) has to drive about an hour to get to a nice sailing site.

The forecast for last Saturday looked great - more than 20 mph for the entire day, warm temps, and sun. Last Wednesday, we had windsurfed in Fogland - that turned out to be the wrong choice, since winds were just so-so, while Kalmus had great, steady winds above 30 for the entire afternoon. No big surprise here - in late summer, Kalmus often gets thermals which boost the winds 5-10 miles higher than the forecast (and also higher than other sites on the Cape).

Saturday was just 3 days later, the setup was very similar, so I was really hoping for upper twenties in Kalmus. We decided to book a hotel room so we could start early, and sail until we dropped, without having to drive back to Boston. Since the wind was supposed to pick up early on Saturday, I even thought about going for a 12-hour GPS marathon session. Alas, the wind did not play along.

On Friday afternoon, after visiting the local windsurf stores to pick up warm gear for the fall and winter, the wind readings were much better for West Dennis than for Kalmus, so we windsurfed in West Dennis. I had not sailed there in ages, and Nina had never sailed there. I loved it - the wind was just perfect for my favorite 7.0, the swell nice and gentle, perfect for working on chop hops, and plenty of space for nice long runs. We had dawdled a bit getting there, so we sailed only a couple of hours until the fog got too dense, and the wind line moved out further onto the water.

Saturday morning, I got up at 6, only to see that we wind was not as good as promised. Nevertheless, we had an early breakfast and headed to Kalmus. As we arrived, a couple of guys were out having fun, but then, the long wind tease began. From 10 am to 3 pm, even the gusts refused to go above 20, and averages often sank below 15. Every now and then, a few puffs came through that almost had me planing on my 7.0. I was not the only one attracted by the forecast - a lot of the ABK campers showed, including Ed, Mike, Jonathen, Peter, Cliff, Jeff, Graham, and Martin. When I finally gave up and rigged my 8.5 m V8 to have some fun, the wind finally picked up. So instead of much fun, I was fighting for 20 minutes, before I went back in and got the 7.0.

The wind stayed nice for a couple of hours. The chop was not so nice, though, so I tacked up to the wall that protects Kalmus and went for some flat water speed sailing. With gusts still below 25, I did not get any great speed, but I still had a blast until the wind decided to take another break, and I headed back downwind without getting the great downwind speed runs I had hoped for. Still, first time I made it up to the wall, and I had the entire little harbor to myself. Without the expectations of 12 hours of great wind, that would have been a rather decent day.

So - what had happened? Apparently, we had a mixing problem, also called an inversion. The water is starting to cool down, the winds coming in were very warm, so they did not mix down well. This was worst in Kalmus - West Dennis, Chapin, and even Ned's Point had better winds, unusual for SW. I think this time, the fact that Lewis Bay is exactly in the wind direction increased the mixing problems, instead of helping the wind to be nice and steady. What a difference three days and a few degrees can make.

We had seen some indications of mixing issues the day before in West Dennis, when the wind line moved away from the shore as it got later. Fogland had had similar issues last Wednesday, with gusty & weak winds in the cove, but better winds on the south side and on the far side of the river.

The forecast for Sunday was not great - NE near 20 mph for Chapin and Duxbury for a brief period, below 20 most of the day. Of course, computer models and metereologists often under-predict the N and NE winds in Duxbury, so we stopped by there on the way home. At noon, the wind did not look convincing - some kiters on the ocean side had a hard time to get going. We almost drove home when we saw a brave windsurfer go out on a 7.5 with a 90 cm wide Fanatic board. He said he was working on getting in both straps, but he sure was doing fine. After his first run, he stated that this was the best run he had ever had, so we decided to also go out on our 7.0 and 5.0 sails. Gonzalo, whom we had met at a conference in Hawaii the first time and who had been in Kalmus the day before, also came while we were rigging. He was a bit disappointed that the water was so flat, but went out anyway.

The rest was just great - 3 hours of pure fun. The wind made it up to just above 20, with gusts of 25 - nice & steady. Perfect for long runs, so I worked on improving our mile and one hour postings on the GPS Team Challenge. Here's the GPS tracks:


Nina used the flat water and great wind to work on duck jibes for the first time, and had a lot of fun crashing into the water over and over again (although she did get close on a few). I sailed 86 km in 3 hours, with just a short break to switch boards. But even when I thought I was going fast on Nina's Mistral Screamer 116, Gonzalo passed me all the time. Not a surprise - he was on a Fanatic Ray 125 with a 7.3 m North cambered sail, a much faster than my freeride, camberless setup. And maybe the fact that he once trained to windsurf in the Olympics also had something to do with it :)

While I had a blast in Duxbury, the air temperatures were a bit chilly, and my 3 mm steamer was a bit thin for the weather. Time to get out the warmer gear - I surely would have been sweating in my 5/4 semidry.

So, one good day and two great days of windsurfing - I just love fall windsurfing in New England. South winds now can get a bit gusty with mixing problems, but N and E winds are typically super-steady and make for great flat water sessions in Duxbury. Hope to see more members of the Fogland Speedsurfers there next time!

Monday, September 20, 2010

I love Duxbury!

One great thing about the Boston area is that we have many excellent windsurf spots to pick from. Kalmus and West Dennis on the Cape are favorites, but in the spring and summer, I usually prefer Fogland - the winds are often almost as good, sometimes even better, you have a choice between the river and the shallow and flat bay, and the people there are great. Yes, there are very nice people at other places, too, but Fogland somehow lends itself to being more social than the other places.

But when fall approaches and the winds tend to come from the north or northeast, Duxbury becomes my favorite spot. N and NE winds are typically very steady there, often with averages that are higher than at most other spots. Just look at today's wind:

The range today was between 19 and 28, or 17 and 26 - not bad. On the best days, I have seen lulls of 27, with gusts of 33 - that's incredible steady, at least for around here. For comparison, here are the readings for Kalmus:

Gusts were a lot higher, averages sometimes a bit higher, lulls lower - the range was from 15 to 40. The sensor readings from Fogland were even gustier:


Ok, in both Kalmus and Fogland, there are spots where the wind will be a bit steadier than the sensor shows - but not as even as in Duxbury.

For speedsurfing, Duxbury also has several spots where the water is really flat. NE winds are better for sailing south of the Powderpoint bridge, where mile-long speed runs are possible. In N winds as today, the North side has some very flat spots behind some small islands. The flat area is barely long enough for 10 second runs, but the chop behind it is still pretty small. Here's a short video that shows the north side at low tide:

video

Speaking of tides - before heading out to Duxbury, make sure to check the tides. Within 1-2 hours of low tide, both sides can become unsailable, depending on how low exactly the tide is.

Duxbury has one more disadvantage to remember: non-residents can park & launch only on the land side of the Powderpoint bridge without risking an expensive ticket, even after Labor day. However, the is quite a bit of wind shadow on this side which can make launching on small gear challenging. Today, there were three windsurfers who had a lot of fun blasting around, and one poor fellow who came late, close to low tide, when the north side had become unsailable. The south side was still ok, but the wind shadow from the bridge in N winds like today is nasty, and he never made it out into the clear wind before he gave up.

I had a similar problem when I tried to sail my F2 Missile. The boards a bit small for me - 62 liters don't carry my 90 kg, plus rig. The wind near shore was too weak to get me planing, and the wind direction did not allow me to go downwind from the launch site. For fun, I stood on the board once, and sank until the water was past my hips. Nina tried, too, and for her, the board just barely sinks, but she also did not get going on it because the wind direction forced her to go upwind right away. There'll be another day with more wind and a slightly different direction.

So, if you're going to Duxbury and you're not great at sailing your sinker while sinking/schlogging, think about bringing a slightly bigger board and/or sail. In N or NE winds, it's flat enough for bigger boards, anyway. Hope to see you in Duxbury next time!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tricktionary on your iPhone

The Tricktionary is a great resource for windsurfers, and in particular freestylers, as I had previously discussed. For geeks like me, a great thing about the Tricktionary DVD is that it is easy to copy movies for the tricks that you're working on onto the iPhone or iPod, and review at them at the beach. One of the ABK campers asked me for detailed instructions, so here they are:

  1. Find the disc and "title" number of the trick you want to work on. You can find the title number using the VLC media player, or you can look at my PDF file with the numbers for the first two discs.
  2. Insert the disc in your computer. Quit the DVD or media player if it starts automatically.
  3. Start the video converter program HandBrake (free downloads at http://handbrake.fr/).
  4. In HandBrake's "Open" dialog, select the DVD as the source, then press "OK". Handbrake will spend a minute or so to analyze the DVD.
  5. From the "Title" pulldown near the top, select the number for your trick from step 1.
  6. Choose the format of the video you want to create. The easiest way is to use the "iPhone & iPod Touch" preset (click the "Toggle Presets" button on the top right if you don't see the presets).
  7. Click on the "Browse" button to select the destination file (where the new video will be saved).
  8. If you'd like to have the German audio rather than the English, click on the "Audio" tab, and select "Deutsch" as the source. If you do this, but don't speak German, stop here and go kitesurfing.
  9. Click on the "Start" button to start the encoding, and wait until it's done. If you want to encode several tricks, you can instead use HandBrake's queue.
When you're done encoding the tricks that you want to work on, open iTunes, drag & drop the movies you just encoded onto the iTunes window, then synch your iPhone or iPod, and your done.

Please do not post any of the movies you encoded as above to YouTube or other web sites. That would be a violation of copyright laws, and you'd be screwing Rossi and the others who put a lot of work into the Tricktionary.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three great days

We just returned from a wonderful three-day ABK camp in Hyannis on Cape Cod. The weather participated only partially. On the upside, we had two sunny days and one cloudy and cooler day; but we had planing-level wind only on one day, and there mostly in the morning.

The camp was quite a bit bigger than last year, with about 20 campers and 4 instructors (Andy, Brendon, Tom, and Ed). It was nice to see two other Foglanders there, besides Nina and myself. Compared to last year, the skill level in the top group was a lot higher. Four surfers (Cliff, Niko, Martin, and Graham) were doing tricks I had never even tried - great to watch.

For me, the highlights of the camp were:
  1. Meeting old and new friends.
  2. Andy Brandt's loop lecture .
  3. The guest lecture by Chris Eldrigde.
As the title of this blog might suggest, I have been thinking about the loop for a while. I've looked at plenty of YouTube videos, online and magazine articles, discussion forums, and so on. I must give Andy credit for getting me to think about the loop - before last year, I thought that was way out of my reach and/or my level of risk tolerance. The first loop lecture I heard from Andy then convinced me that (a) my concerns about getting hurt while trying the loop were justified (several campers who had tried it had gotten injured), and that (b) it is possible to learn the speed loop without getting hurt, given the right approach.

However, all the approaches I looked at seemed to have some shortcomings, as I discussed in a previous post. So I was in for a nice surprise at the newest ABK loop approach. It combines the best elements of previous approaches into three steps, marked by learning to crash in a specific way. It keeps Andy's focus on using sail steering to turn the board, but adds very specific directives. I did the first two steps during camp - the first one non-planing, the second one planing. This is about as far as I had gotten with Remko's approach - but when trying to follow Remko's approach, I ended up being pulled out of the straps in a catapult that did some minor damage to the board, no fun. It's quite possible that this was because I did not have the perfect wave that Remko had for his movie. But with the couple of details that Andy has added, the planing pre-loop crash ended perfectly harmless and fun. I did not quite get all the parts together, but it seems that just a few more tries will get me ready for the third crash, which then gets pretty close to the real thing with a waterstart ending. Judging from just the lecture and the first few tries, Andy has really done magic here by removing (most) risk, adding clear steps and landmarks, and making the loop seem very attainable even for more cautious surfers.

Another highlight of the camp was a guest lecture by Chris Eldridge. Chris is one of the best non-pro windsurfers in the East Coast - check out his videos if you have not seen them yet. He talked about how to learn the Flaka, and also briefly talked about a few other tricks when they came up in the discussion. In his opinion, learning the Flaka and the Grubby is a lot easier than learning the Vulcan, so it makes sense to learn them first. That's quite different from what Andy Brandt and many others think, who are convinced that the Vulcan should be the first new school freestyle trick. Both sides present many good arguments for their view - the difference in opinion may be caused by a difference in attitude, risk tolerance, and patience. It seems that the Vulcan is better for patient and technical windsurfers, while the Flaka may be better for the impatient who'd rather commit to something a bit wilder than try something many hundred times before it works. The best advice seems to be to try it both - some windsurfers may be better of with the Flaka, others with the Vulcan as their first trick.

With just half a day of good wind, I did not get a chance to try the Flaka (I should do the upwind 360 on a freestyle board first, anyway). Instead, I worked on carving 360s, and did get closer than before. The video analysis was really helpful here - it showed clearly that I did not push the rig far enough to the back (just like Andy said...). On the first lightwind day, I learned the push tack the ABK way - that is, one-handed, left-right-left. Much easier this way that what I had tried before, worked great on the big board.

On the last day, I tried to do some lightwind tricks on my freestyle board - tricks that I can do in my sleep on my huge old board. Very frustrating - took many tries just to do a heli tack without falling, and the few I did were ugly and out of control. Andy first send me to downsize my sail, and then sent me back to the basics - practice backwind sailing before the heli tack. That took a few tries and help from him, but I eventually figured it out.

So, why do lightwind tricks on a small, sinking freestyle board if you're not Andy Brandt? Many reasons - here a a few:
  • Two guys in the camp, Martin and Graham, who only use small boards, improved a lot during the last year, even though they sailed less than I did. Graham is young, so he'll learn faster, but Martin is almost my age.
  • After sailing small boards in Maui and the Gorge, where big board were just not an option, I noticed that my skills on big boards had improved a lot. For example, I can now plane on perhaps a meter less sail than before in the same conditions. Looking at the really good guys who can plane on much smaller boards and sails, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
  • It's not really that hard. Ok, I pretty much did start from scratch, pulling the sail out like a beginner and sometimes falling while doing so. But less than 2 hours later, I was getting used to the board. The sailed popped out of my water and into my hands almost like on a big board, backwinding was almost easy, and other things started to work better, too. For a couple of hours, that was quite a bit of progress.
  • Andy says so. Funny reason, but experience tells me that doing as Andy Brandt says is a good strategy, even if I something seems counter-intuitive. A lot of times, the understanding comes a few minutes or days later.
  • Speedsurfing: Since dedicated speed boards are wicked small (my F2 Missile is 62 liters), balance practice on smaller boards for the non-planing moments seems like a good idea (even if freestyle board are huge compared to speed boards).
So, if you happen to see me doing lightwind freestyle on my small freestyle board and looking like a fool, be patient - there is hope that at some point in the future, I may be able to do the things that better surfers like Martin or Cliff can do now. And while the water is still warm, falling a lot is really not a bad thing. The most fun-falls where the pre-loop crashes, though, which can't even be done on a big board.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fogland Speedsurfers

Now that Cesar has gotten many windsurfers in Fogland thinking about speedsurfing (and doing lots of fast deep downwind runs), we have decided to start a team to participate in the GPS Team Challenge. Here's a picture of most of the initial team members, with one of Cesar's vintage speed boards:

Right now, most of us don't have any dedicated speed equipment. But Cesar is generous, offering to share his many speedboards freely; Bill has an old Mistral Electron, a board that has been clocked at more than 40 knots; and I should be getting a used F2 Missile, also good for 40+ knots, any day now. Quite a few of our team will have to order a new GPS or even their first GPS, but they all promised to do so soon.

So, from now on, we don't have to speed-compete against each other anymore - we can compete against the rest of the world! Speed is fun, and can be quite useful, too. Nina found that her jibe entries have gotten a lot better since she started speed runs - extra speed sure helps planing through jibes, and she is getting so close. With a little wind luck at the upcoming ABK camp in Hyannis and some tips from Andy and his crew, she'll be planing through in no time. A few others from the Fogland Windsurfers group are also planning to attend the camp - who knows, maybe we can form a "Fogland Tricksurfers" group soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fall storm toy

Supposedly, it's still summer, but windsurfing today sure felt like fall, with temperatures in the 60s, rain - and Nor'easter winds in the low 30s, gusting up to 40. Great day to try out the new toy I bought yesterday for fall storms: a Mistral Edge slalom board, ca. 1997, 92 l and 53.5 cm "wide".

For buying this board, I'll have to put the blame on Cesar, who has convinced almost everyone who surfs in Fogland that they should own a speed board, or better a whole bunch of speed boards. Ok, I love going fast, and my old Bic Nova 120 really does not want to go faster than 50 kmh. I'd love to get an iSonic, Tabou Manta, or Fanatic Falcon, but I'm about $2K short. So when Nina saw the Mistral Edge for $125 on Craigslist, I checked the top speed it has logged on gps-speedsurfing.com: 65 kmh, fast enough for the next step up. Picked it up yesterday, and surfed it today. We picked Duxbury, since E-NE winds tend to be stronger and more consistent there than at most other places, and since the bay has a few protected spots for speed runs.

The board is almost ancient and pretty heavy (the in-flight adjustable mast track alone can probably hold 2 pounds of water). But for really windy days, heavy is not necessary bad. We left when the wind averages were about 26 mph; but when we arrived, the wind had dropped to 22, so I started out with my 7.0 Matrix. Sure enough, the wind picked up again, and the 7.0 was definitely too big. I switched down to a 5.5 Matrix, which had me fully powered; later, when the wind picked up even more, I was overpowered on it.

Sailing the Edge was surprisingly easy. It feels quite different than newer boards, but required little adjustments. My biggest problem was the super-smooth surface, which made me slip a few times, until I discovered that only 2 front foot positions were safe: against the mast base, and in the straps. That cramped my style when getting going a bit, but fortunately, Duxbury makes it easy to do mile-long runs before turning around. When I did turn around, the board amazed me again by being easy to turn, and keeping a lot of speed. I'll need a few more days before my jibes on it are pretty, but at least I got a few dry ones in.

Here are the GPS tracks from today:

The picture shows the setup for speed runs quite nicely. Since I was not 100% comfortable, I did not get as close to shore as possible. This limited my speed a bit, and it also limited how deep downwind I went. Nevertheless, I set new personal bests for 1, 2, and 10 seconds, average speed, and 100, 250, 500, and 1852 m runs. The improvements were just 2-3 kmh, but still - rather nice for the first day on a new (albeit rather old) board. I should have gone out for a few runs on Nina's 4.2 sail at the end, though, when the 5.5 was way too big - I missed my average speed ( 5 x 10 sec) goal of 50 kmh by 0.37 kmh! Just one more nice run over 50 kmh would have done the trick... Still, lots of fun - so today's thanks go to Cesar!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

15 days in Cabarete


We just came back from 15 days of windsurfing in Cabarete. This was my 9th trip to Cabarete, but the first time I went in August. Overall, this was a very nice trip, even though the wind was not quite as good as expected. Here's a breakdown:
  • 3 very nice days (5.7 - 6.1 m sails)
  • 8 good days (6.9-7.4 m)
  • 3 light wind days
  • 1 no-wind, rainy day
Here's a short boom cam video from two of the very nice days:

(You can see the HD version on Facebook, but you need to be logged in).

On previous summer trips, which always were earlier in the summer (June - July), I remember a lot more days on smaller sails and boards - 5.x m sails being common, and 4.x sails for some days. And the difference is indeed the wind, not my weight (which has not changed, while my skills have improved a bit).

We rented our equipment at Vela, as usual. They had a selection of Starboard Futuras and Kodes, as well as the full range of JP Wave boards, from small quads to 112 l FSW. They also had JP Xcite rides and beginner boards, and 3 Tabou boards. The boards were a mix of 2009 and 2010 models, although generally in good shape. Missing in comparison to previous years were slalom-oriented boards like the JP SuperSports or Starboard iSonics. Considering the many days of marginal conditions, that was a bit of a bummer. I ended up using the Tabou Rocket 64 (115 l) a lot, since it was the closest to a fast, early planing board. I tried the JP Futuras a few times, too, but I still don't like them. When the Futuras plane (which they did early enough, thanks to huge fins), they are ok - but they are a pain to schlog, and are missing the intermediate gears that boards like the JP Excite Rides and the Tabou have.

Sails were all Neil Pryde, from 8.2 and 7.7 m Hellcats (one each) to 7.4 and 6.9 m Excess (several each) to Fireflys and other smaller sails. Except for the largest sails on marginal days, getting a sail of the wanted size was usually not a problem. I noticed that the booms on the new sails were all X3 booms, which looked a bit flimsy.

A definitive highlight of the trip where the Vela instructors. Nina's sister, who windsurfed for the first time again after a 10-year break, was in good hands with Alex, and improved a lot. Nina and I took a few lessons with Neil, and were also very happy. I did not manage to complete a carving 360 (the topic of my lesson), largely because the conditions were not quite right. I did get a few tips that I could use right away, though - for example, moving the front foot to the outside of the board when trying to get planing. I have no clue why, but it works rather well, and got me going earlier. Neil has a great way of explaining things, and often pointed out little things that he had observed. Both Nina and I improved our heli tacks based on hints that he gave, and learned the push tack in light winds from one of the lessons.

Overall, we loved the trip, even though the wind could have been better. One thing that's great in Cabarete are the waves. During the summer, they tend to be small, so they are great to get started with playing in waves. While I did not get the opportunity to take a small wave board out, even playing with a 115 l board was fun. Chances of breaking equipment in Cabarete's summer waves are slim - the water over the reef is deep enough (I could barely tough the reef when I got washed), and the waves break gently, making it easy to hold on to the gear. The chop on the inside is there, but it's relatively easy to deal with - definitely not "voodoo chop". Close to shore, the water gets pretty flat, making it easy to work on jibes or new school freestyle. I did not try much, partially because I had only 3 days on small sails, but I played around a bit with chop hops and board pops. Nina caught one pop close to shore where I managed to land nose-first on camera:

On the picture, I'm still a bit too much in chop hop (outside) rather than pop (over the board) position - but at least, I got the nose down, which I have not done to often yet. Well, the windy season here is about to start, and the ABK camp in Cape Cod is coming up, so new stuff should be coming soon.