Friday, July 30, 2010

Speedy fun

We had a great day windsurfing in Fogland on Wednesday, with wind averages in the low twenties and gusts near 30. Here's a short video:

(or watch the HD version on the Fogland Windsurfing page on Facebook).

I sailed my freestyle board for the first 90 minutes, and then got to try something new: a ride on Cesar's speed board, a 100 l Naish. That was my first time ever on a speed board - interesting. Definitively fun and fast. Even though I did just a couple of runs back & forth, I clocked my best speed of the entire day on it (49.8 kmh).

I had sailed my freestyle board with a 24 cm fin, which does not allow much pressure and therefore limits speed. After the run on Cesar's board, I wanted a bit more speed, and switched to my old Bic Nova 120 (our fastest board, the Mistral Screamer, still needs to be fixed). I eventually got close to the speed that I had reached on the Naish, but I think the wind had picked up quite a bit by then. The Nova was maxed out for the conditions at 48 kmh, but I bet the Naish would have been at least 5-10 miles faster.

Oh devious Cesar! He is getting everyone at Fogland into speed surfing. You see more and more surfers going for deep-downwind speed runs close to shore, and talking about getting dedicated speed boards. Even Nina finally borrowed my GPS, and reached more than 40 kmh on her 100 l Skate with a 22 cm fin.

Talking about Nina - look again at the video above. This is the same girl that learned to use both footstraps last September, and learned to jibe while planing this March. Her posture on the board is probably the best of all the surfers on this video. She carries a lot of speed through her jibes, until it's time to flip the sail. Once she gets a bit more practice in the sail flip, and sheets in more in the jibe entry, she'll be planing out of the jibes as if it was nothing. So ok, I'm biased - but she gets positive comments on her style and rapid progress almost everytime we are sailing. On Wednesday, someone commented that she makes the jibe look easy.

I have been sailing with Nina for about 5 years now, and I know that her rapid progress is largely due to the three ABK camps she has taken. If you have any interest in improving your windsurfing and you live in or near New England, don't miss the ABK camp in Hyannis from September 10-12!

I may not look as great on a windsurf board as Nina does, but I sure had plenty of fun last Wednesday. I did not try much - a duck jibe that was fine, a little bit of popping, and one loop exercise. I think I picked a bad moment for the loop exercise, though, just as a gust hit. I was not deep enough in the straps, either, and got pulled out, which converted the exercise into a catapult. Must have been a good one - even though I let go of the mast, and despite the dual-density foam nose protector, the mast still dinged the nose of board a bit. I think I put the nose protector a bit too far to the inside. Still, I was glad I had it on - without the protector, the damage would certainly have been bigger. I kept sailing the Skate for a while longer afterwards, but this kept me from trying more loop exercises and other crazy stuff. Next time will be in some chop or waves, when the board is most of the way in the air, and my feet glued to the straps!

On thing I did was on the entire time was jibes. Same old, same old - but always room left for improvement. I played around a bit with Power jibes (opening the sail when going downwind) vs. oversheeted jibes (keeping the sail closed), and with late sail flips, trying to plane out clew first. Another thing I worked on a bit was trying to get speed first, before getting back into the harness lines (which is typically the first thing I do). Here, I got penalized for being too lazy to put my single-point lines on the boom: it got so windy that the wind blew the lines away from me, and it sometimes took a while to get in. I actually had to stop surfing after 3 1/2 hours because my arms started cramping up. Before that, though, I got about 10 jibes in where the minimum speed was close to or above 10 knots - including my fastest min speed ever, at 12.7 knots. Those jibes felt great!

When I looked at the jibes on the boom cam video after coming back home, I noticed a big difference between the jibes on the 110 l Skate and the 120 l Bic Nova. On the Skate, I was much more active, going low both during the jibe entry and again to get speed again at the exit. On the Nova, I was lazier, not going down as much. On the other hand, my front arm was often much better extended on the Nova, and bent too much on the Skate. Plenty of possible reasons for this - the Nova keeps plowing once it's going, I sailed it much more often than the Skate, I was fresher while on the Skate, ...

There are many things that are great about windsurfing. Two of these are:
  1. There are some things that you can keep working on for many years, and still improve and learn new variations, even when you think you're good at it already.
  2. There are so many different ways to have fun - flatwater speed blasting, freeriding, freestyle, bump & jump, waves - it just does not get boring.
The important thing is to try different things, and to appreciate the different ways of having fun. Of course, if you try something new, you'll probably not be good at it, and may have even have to really fight. But the rewards will come - maybe after a week, maybe after a few months, just keep going at it and have fun!

Sometimes, there are silly discussions on iWindsurf, for example whether a longboard or a formula board is "the better choice". My answer: make sure to try both, and try it long enough so you know how to do it. Formula gear (or, more generally, wide boards with big fins & sails) can get you planing early, and go faster than the wind. Long boards may plane a bit slower, but are actually lots of fun in non-planing conditions and (so I have heard) to play in waves. Learn a few low-wind tricks, and instead of being frustrated next time when the forecast is wrong, go and play!

Playing around with different windsurfing "styles" will definitely help you in your "favorite style". Take speed sailing, for example. To go really fast, you need to learn how to sail overpowered, and to go deep downwind. I've done enough of this on my freeride board to be comfortable on deep downwind angles. So when I ended up windsurfing at Maryhill on the Gorge, where the current was so strong that you had to constantly sail deep downwind, I was reasonably comfortable. At the same time, Nina, who had almost never gone deep downwind while planing, hated it!

I also think that the two weeks of chop sailing in Maui and the Gorge have helped me on my favorite venue, flat water. Being forced to sailed the small boards and sails improved by feeling even on big boards, and I can plane earlier now, and stay on the plane better. Sometimes when I get home and look at the wind readings for the day, I'm surprised that I was planing on the gear I had picked - a year earlier, I would have been schlogging most of the time in the same conditions. But there's still plenty of room for improvement left here - the really good windsurfers can usually plane with 1 or 2 meters less sail, compared to reasonably good windsurfers of the same weight on similar boards. And improving skills to plane with smaller equipment seems a lot easier than loosing a lot of weight :)

Following this logic, it is clear that Cesar has done a great job in getting others interested in speedsurfing. Now we'll just have to get him into ABK camps, so he can use freestyle to improve his stance and jibes, for even more speed and fun!

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