Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fishing line crash

Here is a short video from my least favorite moments at the Windsurfing Magazine Board Test in Avon, NC last week:

A fisherman had set up nets right in front of the houses where the test took place. The lines were very poorly marked, and almost impossible to see when sailing (the still picture at the beginning of the video is from 2 seconds before I hit the line).

During the first two hours of sailing, at least 4 of the 6 windsurfers on the water hit the line and ended up being catapulted. Most of these guys are way better windsurfers than I am, so this clearly was not a skill issue. The fact that we had to sail straight fins, many of them about 50 cm long, certainly contributed to the damage - the few lucky guys with weed fins went over the nets without more than a bit of a slowdown.

Before Josh, Greg, and I marked the end of the lines with helium balloons that Josh had bought, I saw one dinged board, a bent boom, and my ruined Neil Pryde V8 sail as casualties from the fishing line. The sail could be repaired, but the cost would be more than $200 since 4 panels and the mast sleeve are affected; the sail repair expert I talked to seemed doubtful that it would be worth repairing.
Enough of the negative. Despite the carnage (which also included a broken batten in my KA Koncept, although that probably was due to lack of sailing skills), the board test week was great. We had the opportunity to test about 30 boards in the 100-155 liter range, and I got in at least one session on most of these boards. Here are a few of my take-home lessons:
  1. If you get a chance, try some new boards! Many of the boards in the test really surprised me - many positively, a few negatively. Some boards that I had read great things about really did not work for me; several boards I could not get off fast enough. At the same time, some of these boards were loved by other windsurfers. One slalom board in particular, which I thought of as a board for big and powerful sailors, was well-liked to much-praised by several lighter sailors.
  2. Don't judge a brand by one or two boards. Most manufacturers had sent about 3 boards to the test. But for only one brand (Fanatic) did I like or love all the boards I tested. For most other manufacturers, I loved one or two of the boards, and disliked one or two other boards. I could absolutely not predict which boards I would like or dislike on the water.
  3. Bigger and longer boards can be a lot of fun. One of the boards that I had the most fun on was the F2 Xantos 140. At 263 cm long and 71 cm wide, it's longer and narrower than a lot of the modern boards, some of which were barely 220 cm long and 80+ cm wide. But the longer, narrower shape behaved really well in the chop, and made getting onto a plane really easy. Many of the "modern" wide shapes have only two gears - really slow and fully planing. The Xantos seemed to have intermediate gears, and was willing to go at any speed I liked. Going back a bit further meant a bit more speed, while remaining fully balanced and enjoyable. I think this is a great board for anyone who wants to learn getting into the foot straps, but then keep enjoying the board for years afterwards. Another great board with similar characteristics was the Angulo Kihei 155. This one behaved like a much smaller board in the chop, making little wave rides as effortless as a much smaller board.
  4. Match the board brand to the sailing conditions. This is perhaps overstating things a bit, but just a bit. Two of the most comfortable and controllable boards in the test were the Angulo and Quattro 110 l freeride boards. Even in 35 mph winds, they ate the chop as if it was not there, and were a lot of fun to ride. This really reminded me at the conditions on Maui last year, where I found the chop quite challenging on 85 l JP FSW boards. I have the feeling things would have been a lot easier on Angulo or Quattro boards, and will certainly try those during my trip to Maui later this year. Along the same lines, I thought the Naish Grand Prix 128 was the slalom board that was most comfortable to ride in the chop, and the one that was most suitable to playing with waves. It was also the one that was easiest to pump up onto a plane - one or two small leg pushs, and off it went. Nice!
  5. Footstrap anti-twist locks are really important. Towards the end of the second board test week, a lot of boards had foot straps that were all twisted up. I sailed a couple of boards where the straps had gotten much worse from the beginning to the end of the week. Some of these straps seemed to have no anti-lock system in place, others had the anti-locks installed incorrectly (upside down). Sailing the boards with twisted foot straps was a lot less fun! Nobody took the time to get a screw driver to fix the straps, and that was not an option when we changed boards on the water, as we usually did, anyway. I heard a number of testers complain about foot strap towards the end of the test, and I am sure that some boards got worse reviews from at least some testers because of inadequate or missing anti-twist systems. This seems to be a really easy way for manufacturers to improve the ranking in board tests! It won't help the total "dogs", but there were very few of those in the test.
  6. Hatteras in early spring is great. Considering that just about every East Coast windsurfer I know is going down to Hatteras in April, I may just be the last person to discover this. Oh well - Man wird alt wie eine Kuh und lernt immer noch dazu!


  1. Holy crap, Peter, that is a horrible crash! I just can't believe how badly marked those fishing lines are. You're lucky the only damage was to your [expensive] sail, you could have really hurt yourself.

  2. That's a nice "over the handle bars"

    Keep up the good reports!


  3. Should I assume that the lack of specific info on the boards is due to a gag order imposed by Josh and Co.?

  4. Ron, this post is specific about the boards I liked. I'm not specific about the boards I did not like because that may be more of a style issue than a board issue - other people loved some of the boards I hated. Next time I see you on the water, I'll be happy to give you more details.