Monday, February 20, 2017

Eye Protection

I blogged about the importance of protecting your eyes from UV light while windsurfing last year, and it's time for an update. My reason to look into this was that I had been diagnosed with cataracts. "No big deal, everyone gets them", you might say. Largely true - but my grandmother died during cataract surgery, so there are darn good reasons to delay and avoid it as long as possible.
Cataracts and other eye problems are directly linked to UV exposure. Wearing sunglasses can help a lot, but has a few shortcomings - some UV rays can still enter the eyes from the sides and from reflection on the back side of the lenses; water drops can impair vision; and on partly sunny days, sunglasses can simply be annoying. I did wear either prescription sunglasses or (on cloudy days) non-tinted polycarbonate glasses almost every single day I windsurfed since last year; but my lovely wife often finds sunglasses too bothersome, and sometimes sails unprotected on cloudy and partly sunny days.
Nina speeding on a cloudy day

I have always found contact lenses much more convenient for windsurfing, and used daily disposables for years, so I'm happy to report that I am back to using contacts. But this time around, I went for UV absorbing contact lenses - specifically, Acuvue Oasys 1-Day lenses. They absorb more than 90% of UVA and 99% of UVB, making them the best UV absorbing lenses I could find. Some other contact lenses also have good to very good UV absorption, but most lenses do not - including the ones I had used until last year. I plan to also wear sunglasses on sunny days, and polycarbonate safety glasses on cloudy days; on partially cloudy days, UV exposure can actually be even higher than on sunny days. So far, the protection seems to be working - at this year's eye doctor follow-up, the cataracts seems unchanged relative to last year (after appearing suddenly within the 2 years before that).

So, if you are wearing contacts while windsurfing, double-check that they offer UV protection. If not, talk to your eye doctor about getting a different kind for windsurfing. If you prefer to use glasses, I can recommend the sports frames from They are not pretty, but have worked well for me for more than 100 sessions so far, and you can get a pair of polarized prescription sunglasses for about $110.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Four, Five, Six, Seven

Four new personal bests. Five days of windsurfing in a row. Sailed six of the last seven days. Sound like counting - this must be good for my math skills!

Maybe I don't believe in numbers anymore, anyway. Today's wind was stronger than the last couple of days, but the meter readings don't show that. Perhaps it's because the meter does not record lulls (those were nasty the last few days). Or maybe colder wind just packs more punch.

We started the day with a 2.5 km (1 1/2 mile) upwind tour to reach the "South Bird Island Bay". It was absolutely perfect there yesterday, and I hoped for a repeat. I did not quite get it, since the wind was ~ 25 degrees more northerly today. That made getting there harder, kept runs shorter, and created more chop. But since the water in SBIB is only knee-to-hip deep and partly shielded by islands, it was still flat, and very flat at the ends of the runs. Perfect for jibe practice! I must have made some progress, since I ended up with a new personal best of 22.15 knots for alpha 500 (a 500 m run with a jibe in the middle, and the ends of within 50 meters of each other). That's the 4th personal best in the 6 GPSTC categories during the one month we've been in Texas. No wonder we like it here! Although we are a bit exhausted now. So we like the "no wind" forecast for the next 2 days. All is good.

Here are today's tracks:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

No More Maui Trips?

You know things are wrong when one of the greatest windsurfers thinks about not visiting the US windsurfing spots anymore (read here). In the specific case described in  the article Boujmaa linked to, a 19-year old Canadian was refused entry into the US to attend a track-and-field meet with team. The reason? Apparently a picture from a wedding were he was next to another student who is believed to have left to fight in Syria.

Why was he held up? Only the border agent knows, but it seems because he looks middle eastern. He traveled with a Canadian passport (being born in Canada), but his parents are from Morocco (not one of the countries affected by Trump's travel ban). He and the team he was traveling with was held for 5 hours. During this time, he had to hand over his phone and his passwords, so that the border agents could check his Facebook and other social media accounts. Of course, nobody really has to hand over a phone or passwords - but if you don't, you must have something to hide, so you'll be denied entry.

It appears that Trump's "extreme vetting" procedures will be applied not only to immigrants, but also to tourists from "friendly" countries. So if you are planning a windsurf (or other) trip to the US, remember:

  • "It is a privilege for people from other countries to come to the United States and that privilege can be taken away at any time." 
  • A visa does not guarantee entry into the US, since it can be revoked at any time.
  • Border agents can and will ask for your phone and social media passwords.
  • If you are denied entry, you may be held without access to legal help, and flown back at your own expense.
When I originally came to the US, I was one of many Germans who came to complete their education - in my case, by doing postdoctoral research at Harvard. I met with others who had received the same fellowship (from Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds, BIF) every two years. At the first meeting after 9/11, when the US tightened visitations and immigration rules, there were stories told similar to the one above: students and PhD-level researchers with valid visa had been denied entry into the US. The result? A drastic reduction in the number of students and postdocs who came to the US. This was very apparent in the next couple of BIF meetings I attended; the few new students who still came reported that others had decided to stay in Europe instead.

What effect will the travel uncertainties have this time? As Boujmaa's post shows, some visitors will think twice about visiting the US, and some will decide to visit other regions of the world instead (even without a travel ban that affects 140 million possible visitors). The result will be a reduction in visits to the US. More than 60 million visitors enter the US each year - inbound tourism into the US is a $160 billion a year business.  Even a drop by just 2% would lead to a loss of $3 billion in business, which corresponds to a loss of 30,000 to more than 100,000 jobs. But a drop of inbound tourism by at least 10% seems more likely, which would lead to the destruction of several hundred thousand jobs in the US.  Well done, Mr. President!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Jibing Insights

Why can't I jibe well on slalom gear? That question has puzzled me for a long time. On my freestyle and freeride gear, my jibes are almost always dry, and I have a decent chance to plane out of jibes (well, at least on a good day). But when I switch to slalom boards and cambered sails ... let's just say it's not pretty.
I learned how to plane through jibes from Andy Brandt at my first ABK camp in Bonaire. Andy still is one of the best and most consistent jibers I have ever seen, so of course I try to emulate him. Here is the image I have in my mind:
Andy Brandt jibing
I found that the closer I copy Andy, the better my jibes are - on my freeride gear. When my lovely wife took pictures a few days ago, I went for the same pose:
Trying to copy Andy on slalom gear
However, that did not work - the board got bouncy, and I had no chance of planing through the jibe, even though I had plenty of entry speed and wind. So I posted the picture on the ABK Boardsports group on Facebook, and got a few helpful hints:

  1. "Mast needs to be more forward to keep mast base pressure and keep the nose down"
  2. "Bend the front arm and drive weight into the front hand"
The first advice pretty much means "don't go for that pose!". But why would it work on freestyle / freeride gear, but not on slalom gear? Well, there are a few significant differences:
  • Foot straps are further back on slalom boards, so the body weight is further back on the board
  • On my freestyle/freeride gear, the front footstrap is close to the center, so that my toes are on the center line - which lets me put weight on the front foot. But on the slalom gear, the front footstraps are all the way on the outside, so that I actually pull with the front foot, instead of putting weight on it
If you examine the two images above closely, you'll notice that Andy's body position is actually different from mine: Andy's head is over the mast base, indicating most of his body weight is on the front foot and the mast base. That keeps the water line long for a nice carve. My weight is much more over the back foot, making the board bounce and killing speed.

So yes, it definitely looks like the mast needs to stay more to the front when jibing slalom gear. You can see that most good slalom sailors do this - check out Antoine Albeau jibing in 30 knots on Maui, or some of the best french PWA slalom sailors training:

During yesterday's session in 20-25 mph winds, I played around a bit with this. I was fully powered on my Falcon 99 and 3-cam Loft Switchblade 7.8 - a sail that's big and heavy enough to give me problems in jibing. Here are the GPS tracks for the session:
My jibes slowly improved, and I planed though many jibes later in the session. Great! Well, maybe that's overstating it - I still lost too much speed, but it's definitely progress. Here's what I found:

  • Keeping the mast forward in the jibe entry reduces the bounce
  • Putting additional downward pressure onto the boom with the front hand really smoothes out the carve
  • But trying to keep the mast forward during the flip, too, kills speed - the mast must come back briefly during the flip, as the jibe videos above show
Nothing really new, here - I have heard most or all of this stuff before. But maybe I'll remember it better after feeling the effects instead of just hearing the advice...