Saturday, February 16, 2013

New distance record, winter freestyle, and a new school simulator

The picture above shows the Australian speedsurfer Kato on his way to setting a new world record for distance: 552.66 km (343 miles) in 24 hours. He actually sailed "only" about 14 hours, but beat the previous record by almost 32 km. Amazing! When I was in college, that was about the distance to my parents home, and it always seemed like a long distance to me when driving it on the Autobahn!
For all those number-lovers out there, here are a few more numbers from Kato's session:
  • Top speed: 40.8 knots (47 mph, 75 km/h) (2 second average)
  • Fastest hour: 27.2 knots (50 km/h)
  • Run length: 2 - 2.5 km (a bit more than a nautical mile)
  • # of jibes: about 300
  • "Dropped" jibes: 5
  • Distance for team mate Matthew Robertson: 440 km (now 4th on the GPSTC ranking)
Kato accomplished his feat on Lake George, SA, a top speedsurfing location in Australia. In the ongoing "Lake George GPS Event 2013", no fewer than 13 windsurfers have posted top speeds of 40 knots in 2013. This spot seems to have amazingly flat water - check out this video:

Around here, things are a lot slower than down under. We had a nice sunny day yesterday, and when the Hatch Beach wind meter showed averages around 20, we decided to go sailing. Fortunately, Hardie suggested to bring the SUPs along. Indeed, as soon as we got to the beach, the wind dropped. Hardie got a couple of planing runs, but was schlogging most of the time, so SUP sailing we went. There were some small, non-breaking waves to play with, but mostly, Nina and I did some light wind freestyle. Nina looked good, working up from heli tacks to upwind 360s, push tacks, and duck tacks. She used her Ianovated suit without the tubes, and was plenty warm with open palm mittens in air temperatures around 44º F (7º C), and water temperatures around 35º F (2º C). I was a bit lazier, but did my first light-wind heli tacks, upwind 360s, and duck tacks of the year, along with plenty of falling and uphauling. I used the tubes on my Ianovated suit every time after falling to warm up my palmless mittens, and this way remained nicely warm. We played around until it started to get dark. Back at the van, we looked at each other, asking: Did we really just do light wind freestyle in February on Cape Cod? Yes, we did, and we had fun! Sitting here a day later and writing about it, this still amazes me. I'll definitely blame it on the Ianovated wetsuit - it is changing our winter windsurfing quite drastically.

Yesterday was the first time I sailed my BIC Wind SUP. It was fun to sail, eager to catch the little waves, and it seemed the board wanted to plane in the gusts. The wind was not quite strong enough to fully plane, so I can't say if the board will indeed release nicely - but it sure gave me the impression that it would (although it might want a larger fin that the 10' stock plastic fin). The GPS showed top speeds of 17 mph several times. That's an interesting speed that I almost never see with with my shortboards: they either schlog slowly at speeds below 10 mph, or jump onto a plane and accelerate to around 20 mph or more. The Wind SUP behaves more like an old-fashioned longboard, with intermediate gears and speeds for those "pesky" winds that can be frustrating on a shortboard.

One peculiar thing that I noticed on the BIC Wind SUP was that the steering was very sensitive to which edge of the board was in the water. On most boards, including the Exocet WindSUP 10, pushing the nose under water will get the board to turn downwind. On the BIC, this is only the case when the windward egde is tilted down; but when the leeward edge is tilted down, the board will want to go upwind, even when the nose if fully under water. Similarly, side-to-side foot pressure makes a big difference in how well the board turns in a non-planing jibe, much more so than on other sailable SUPs. or longer boards like the Kona Mahalo or the Fanatic Ultra Cat. With the correct edge pressure, the board turns very well for its 10' 6 length. I'm definitely looking forward to taking it out in better waves and/or more wind.
When I look outside my office window, I see lots of snow on the ground, and more coming down. But it's only a few more weeks until spring starts, and our annual Bonaire trip is coming up, too. So it's time to think about planing freestyle, and 2013 may just be the year where I get serious about new school freestyle. I doubt that I'll learn the Vulcan anytime soon - flipping the rig throws me off often enough during regular jibes and tacks, and doing it while turning the board in the air seems a bit much to me. But the  Flaka definitely peaks my interest, and the Grubby (more or less the same thing, but turning the nose of the board downwind instead of upwind in the jump) also seems like something that I might be able to get into my head. I have been discussing this via email with fellow speedsurfer and expert freestyler Nikita, and he suggested to build a simulator similar to his:

I had seen an article about it  in the Windsurfing Magazine a while back, but thought of it only as a tool for learning the Vulcan. But as Nikita pointed out, leaning very far forward is very important in all new-school tricks that include a backward slide; it's also essential for old-school tricks like upwind 360s and carve 360s in the straps. Best of all, you can practice the leaning forward without a sail, inside the living room! So I finally made use of an old wobble board I had lying around to build a new school simulator. It's not as fancy as Nikita's in the picture above, but I think it will do the trick and help me to develop the feeling how far forward I have to lean. Playing around with it a little bit, I think I got a feeling for how the dynamic forward movement of the rig in a Flaka helps to get the tail out of the water. Maybe I'll learn a few more things from using it, but I think it will definitely do one thing: make me eager to translate what I did on the simulator to a real board on the water.


  1. Interesting comments on the Bic Wind Sup 10'6. Please keep us in the loop as you learn more about this board. Jeff

  2. Hi,

    I would like to build a simulator as this one.
    If you have more pictures or any information that could help me in building such a simulator, could you share?



    1. Hi Alex,

      Sorry, I don't have any pictures or plans. The one I built used a GoFit balance board with a wood board screwed on top. I rounded the edges and mounted foot straps, that was it. I was later told by guys who can do Flakas that my foot straps were mounted to far back.