Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vulcan milestones

Catapulting Aaron's recent success in landing his first Vulcan got me thinking about the Vulcan a bit. Working on the Vulcan is not really high on my list - it's behind getting dialed in on my new Fanatic Skate, the speed loop (since it's supposed to be a lot easier than the Vulcan), getting started with wave sailing during our upcoming Maui trip, and then learning to survive (and maybe jump & jibe) in the Gorge in June. All of these things are rather different from my usual big gear-flat water blasting, so I see some work ahead of me. But it does not hurt to think about the next thing afterwards.

I had posted before about perhaps learning the Flaka or the Grubby before the Vulcan. During my recent Bonaire trip, the wind did not quite play along, so I did not really get to try any (perhaps the fact that I'm not 20 anymore also contributed). Andy Brandt did not like the idea at all - funny enough since he did his first speed loop when practicing for a Grubby. I understand some of the arguments against "Flaka first":
  1. Some windsurfers find learning the Flaka hard (even the Tricktionary says so).
  2. Falls can be harder (as someone pointed out in the iWindsurf forum discussion, the falls on the Tricktionary DVD look much harder than the Vulcan falls, partially because you fall forward onto the rig).
  3. The jump may be more difficult, since you have to turn the nose further (into/through the wind after going deep downwind to reduce the apparent wind).
All that said, one thing that really impressed me during my recent Bonaire trip was a "slow motion" Flaka right near the beach by one of the beautiful blondes. She had to pump to get planing, popped the board barely out of the water, turned the nose maybe 45 degrees in the jump, and then pushed the board around the rest of the way, which seemed to take several seconds. I think the surfer was Xenia Kessler, who can do perfectly fine "regular" Flakas as seen on her recent video, but I'm not sure. Watching her gave me the impression that there may be a not-so-dramatic way to learn the Flaka.

I'll probably try it sometime, but common wisdom is that the Vulcan is the first pop-and-slide trick to learn, so I'll have to check that out, too. The idea of lower-speed falls going backward out of the straps onto my butt, as opposed to high-speed forward falls into the equipment, has a certain appeal. However, I have to admit that I have a mental block when it comes to learning something that may take 500 to 2,000 tries to get. As Catapulting Aaron has pointed out correctly, planing through my first jibe probably took way more than 2,000 tries. But with the jibe, there were plenty of successes in between: the first dry jibe, the first jibe with a decent sail flip, the first times with a nice hand switch, keeping more and more speed, jibing dry most of the time, and so on.

So, to make the Vulcan more appealing, I need milestones. Based on what I read and heard, here is my initial set of Vulcan milestones:
  1. Sailing a freestyle board with a small fin comfortably.
  2. Chop-hops with board control in the air and decent landings (this may be optional, but I think it helps).
  3. Popping the board in small chop or flat water.
  4. Nose-first landings after pops (or chop hops).
  5. Getting the board to turn after the pop. The initial goal is a 90 degree turn.
  6. Turning the board into the correct position for a backward slide (180 degrees, or perhaps a bit less for far downwind takeoffs).
  7. Sliding backward a bit.
  8. Sliding backwards comfortably and in control.
  9. Switching hands to the other side of the boom while in the air (I'm a bit fuzzy about this).
  10. Getting a hold of the new side of the boom while sliding backwards.
The last step is close to sailing out the Vulcan dry. The steps are not necessary in perfect order - working on the hand/rig movements can probably start soon after turning the board in the air looks promising. I listed the steps in this order because the order in the Grubby would be very similar - except that steps 9 and 10 would be different.

So - what good are these milestones? Well, they encourage me a lot. Instead of 1,000 tries, most likely spread out over 2 or more years, I can hope to accomplish a new milestone in maybe 100 tries. With 20-25 tries per session, I can learn a new skill in 4 or 5 sessions. Of course, some of these will be much harder than others and require more tries, but still, the same principle applies.

There's an immediate application, as I will illustrate. After my Bonaire trip this year, I was a bit frustrated because I did not see any definitive progress in high winds. In my first Bonaire clinic, I has finally managed to plane through my jibes on a regular basis; in my second clinic, I polished that, worked on Duck jibes, and got the fall/slam jibe. This year, I worked a couple of session on harder tricks did not quite make them. But in addition, I worked on the first three milestones in the list above. The first one was easy, since freestyle boards are very easy to sail - still, it took a session or two to adjust, and another session when switching to a different board. Still, #1 is done. Since we stayed mostly on the flat side of the bay, work on #2 was limited, but I had done some before. I spend most of 2 sessions on #3, and got the pop to work reasonably well on one side. I will need to adjust the timing to my new board, but that's just a good session or two. So the logical goal for the next few sessions is to work on #2, 3, and 4 - chop hops, pops, and nose landings. All useful skills, anyway, even if I should decide not to focus on the Vulcan right now.

Well, this is all theory. I'd love to hear from others who have progressed further on the Vulcan learning curve what you think. Please post a comment here, or on the "Vulcan milestones?" post on the iWindsurf forum.

1 comment:

  1. I am perhaps at similar stage regarding vulcan as you are i.e. I have never gone for it truly. It is very clear for me that vulcan is easier then Grubby or Flaka. E.g. for Flaka I need to combine jumping and gecko (or in straps upwind 360). My jumping is far more comfortable on starboard tack. My geckos only work (not consistently) on port and my upwind 360 in straps are far better on port tack then on starboard tack.
    For Grubby you need a lot of speed and I guess it is too easy to make involuntary loop trying.