Monday, May 31, 2010

One good run

The last two days in Maui have been a bit frustrating for me. The wind was good - I was overpowered on a 5.0 and a 100 liter board (which would be really small at home). The board was a JP SuperSport, plenty fast but a bit bouncy in the chop & swell here. It gave me a nice lesson in being a one-sided flatwater sailor - nothing worked here. Most of my jibes are wet, not a single one has been pretty so far. Most of the time, I'm either underpowered or scarily overpowered. It was obvious I needed a smaller board, but we decided to give Kanaha a try first, since it's flatter. Well, that was not much fun, either - the first runs were ok, but then wind and swell picked up, and I had problems getting into the straps! Something I thought I had learned 30 years ago...

We decided that windsurfing in Sprecks, right in front of our apartment, was more fun, and went back, after switching my board to a 85l FSW. We also decided to pay an extra $10 per day for a second boom, so that we both can keep 2 riggs ready to go. So it got late until we were back on the water. Wind had gotten very gusty, with huge holes. That gave me plenty of opportunity to practice my waterstarts :) But finally, after a lot of frustration here, I got in a great run, were I finally had the feeling of being in control, rather than fighting like hell to avoid catapults (no insuracen plan at Neil Pryde Maui!). That run made the work of the last few days worth it - and hopefully, it will be the first of many before we leave. The wind died of afterwards, though. I discovered how much the 85l board sinks without any wind (a bit more than knee deep), but I left the practice of sinker uphauling to another day.

Nina had a much better time the last couple of days. Her jibe success rate is better than mine - was just a question of time, I guess. She also got a great new waist harness from Neil Pryde that she loves, sailed her smallest board ever (85 l), and is looking forward to trying even smaller boards in the next days.

Since yesterday afternoon, and more so this morning, we have some breaking waves her in Sprecks. The better windsurfers (almost everyone here) played in the waves, which is fun to watch. I've seen a number of great front and back loops, high jumps, wave rides, and a few Vulcans, Spocks, and Shakas thrown in when coming back to the beach. Here's a random picture of someone on a nice high jump:

Maybe one of these days I'll jump like this - but it seems like a long way to go...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

First week in Hawaii

With a view like this, writing blog entries almost seems like a waste of time. But I have had a couple of days to enjoy the view here in Spreckelsville, Maui. We have been in Hawaii for a bit more than a week now - first attending a conference in Honolulu, then starting our windsurf vacation on Maui 2 1/2 days ago.

Honolulu is probably the loveliest big city that I've seen. On our first day off, we went windsurfing in Kailua bay. We booked a one-day "tour" online at Kailua Sailboard and Kayaks. They picked us up in the morning at the hotel, drove us to Kailua, gave us a locker, and pointed us to the beach (2 min walk). They has a trailer there, where we picked our equipment for the day (116l Synchro/5.9 for me, 106l/4.7 for Nina). The bay is beautiful:

The equipment was ok - riggs in very good shape, boards just a bit beat up. When we went out, we saw why - the chop & swell was a bit much for surfers used to flat water, like us. However, close to the reef, the swell was nice, big, and well organized, and helped me to do a few nice jibes where the push of the waves helped keeping speed.

One our second free day in Oahu, we took a surfing lesson (without the sail) with a very nice local lady. The waves in Waikiki are just perfect to learn surfing. After a 10 minute instruction on the beach, we went out and were told when to paddle and stand up. Since our boards were huge (11 and 12 feet), we got almost evey wave we went for. Lots of fun! I had taken a lesson before in the Dominican Republic, but the success rate in Waikiki was much higher - I think the waves are just a lot easier for learning.

Three days ago, we finally made it to Maui. It had blown 30+ almost every day the week before, but on our first day of surfing, the wind was light. I took a 118l JP SuperSport and a 6.9m sail (the largest they have), and had a blast. Nina was on a 112l FSW with a 5.4. Not many people were out - most either were taking a day off to rest, or have only small gear.

Yesterday, the wind picked up. After a morning drive to Lahaina, I went out for a short run on the 118l board with a 6.2 sail, but the combination was just too big. We went to the store and exchanged the 2 largest sails for small ones, and the boards for 93 and 85l FSWs. We then sailed using 5.4 and 4.2 sails. The wind was down a bit, though, so I was underpowered all the time, and even Nina was planing only half of the time. She had a blast, I was just fighting. When I got going, I found the board a bit to nervous - but perhaps I just did not have enough sail pressure to hang out. Of maybe I need a couple of more days to get used to the gear - this is the second-smallest board I ever sailed, and it's been three or four years that I was on something smaller. I remember that I always needed a week or so to get dialed into the conditions at Cabarete when I went there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

No more tennis elbow

Since a windsurfing trip to Bonaire in March 2009, I have been dealing with tennis elbow pain (probably should call it "windsurfer elbow"). I had never had it before, but strong wind on the first day of surfing after a 6 month break proved to be too much. The pain went down after a few weeks, but has never completely left me for more than 14 months.

Judging by the interest this topic created recently on the iWindsurf forum, tennis elbow seems to affect quite a few windsurfers (even young Graham had it recently). Based on suggestions in the forum, I followed Roland Lucas' grip training protocol, and noticed an improvement after a few days. Still, some minor pain remained, and I started to be concerned about what would happen during my upcoming trips to Maui and the Gorge. So I followed up on a pointer in Ronald videos and ordered a Thera-Band Flexbar ($10.15 from Amazon).

Now to the amazing part of my story. After following the instructions and doing 3 sets of 15 exercises for just one day, the pain was gone! I could finally take a carton of orange juice out of the fridge again without feeling pain in my elbow. This really amazed me - I had hoped for a fast improvement, but this beat all my expectations. When I did the exercises yesterday, there was quite a bit of pain; today, the same exercise is a lot less painful. Did I say that I find it completely amazing?

If you have tennis elbow problems, you should definitely get a Flexbar and do the exercises. You may not see a big improvement after a day, but you will probably see an improvement after a few weeks. In a controlled clinical study, the group that used the Flexbar showed a huge improvement after about 7 weeks, while the control group that only received physical therapy showed only a small improvement. The researchers actually cut the study short because the results were so dramatic, and it seemed unethical to withhold the Flexbar exercises from the control group.

I did a bit more research into this, since this is just a single clinical study. It turns out that similar "eccentric" exercises also have shown to be the most effective treatment for several other tendon-related problems, for example for Archilles tendinitis. This is a relative recent development, and the reason why eccentric (lengthening) exercises work so well is not yet understood. Many abstracts that I read have called for additional studies, for example to see how exactly exercises should be performed for maximum effectiveness. However, it seems that the "Tyler Twist" protocol for the Flexbar is very effective to cure the tennis elbow.

This may read like an advertisement, but I have no connection whatsoever to Thera-Band or anyone selling the Flexbars. I am just very happy that my elbow pains are gone


Now to a different topic: windsurfing last weekend. The wind forecast had looked great, with mid- to upper twenties predicted for the entire Saturday. We took off early Friday afternoon, bought a (used) small waveboard for Nina, and stayed on Cape Cod for the weekend. Based on Jim Ballantyne's suggestion, we sailed Old Silver Beach on Friday evening. Like Jim said, this is a great place for some easy waves and nice swell in SW winds. For us, it was a bit much, since our wave experience is non-existent to minimal. Interesting evening, though - something I'll remember a while. The beach is rather beautiful:

I also liked the picture my lovely wife took of me:

On Saturday, the weather started lousy, and the wind never came. We did some light wind playing - here's Nina doing step 1 of Remko de Weerd's 4 steps to the spin look:

On Sunday, we finally got wind. Chris was out doing loops, E-sliders, and more on a 4.5. But while we were watching, the wind started turning from WSW to WNW, getting gustier and going down. We decided to try West Falmouth Harbor, based on the iWindsurf site description. Indeed, the water was flat, and the place is beautiful - but the wind was extremely gusty and shifty. Not the place to be in WNW or NW (W is supposed to work better). I spent a lot of time uphauling, since there was not enough wind to even flow the rig. I found that a bit challenging; with the 5/4 wetsuit and the few pounds I added recently, the Skate 110 like to go completely under water as soon as I pull out the sail:

Here's a picture from below the water line (you can see the board as a faint white line in the background):

Well, uphauling a sinker is a useful skill to have, so this was good practice. Now I just need to loose a few pounds, and the water needs to get warmer so I can sail without a wet suit...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hopping in Kalmus

We took the day off and went windsurfing in Kalmus. It turned out to be an interesting day - I was on 4 different sails from 7.0 down to 4.2 within a span of 4 hours, and nicely powered to overpowered on each of these. I spent most of the time on a 5.0, Nina on a 4.2. Great day to practice chop hops - here's a short video from on of the later runs (Pete, this one is for you!):

While sailing, I thought some of the hops were quite nice. I focused on the landings, which were decent enough. Plenty of room for improvement in the flight phase, though.

A great day to build confidence for the upcoming Maui trip; we supposedly had more wind today than on a typical Maui day, and more chop than in Kanaha. Nina was a bit frustrated because she did not make it through a single jibe, but I thought she did great in handling the chop. A number of other sailors where there, too, but everyone spent a lot of time changing sails as the wind changed. The water is getting warmer, too - I was never uncomfortable or cold (in a 5/4 semi dry), even when water starting took a bit longer. Another great day of sailing!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fog, sail chi, and body drags

We went sailing in Fogland yesterday. The place lived up to it's name, it was foggy most of the time. The wind was ok initially, got better later. Here's my lovely wife having fun:

You can actually see the fog in the background.

I used my 8.5 sail the entire time, and started out with the big board. Applied something I had learned in an ABK camp - sail chi to get a sail back up when it was falling towards the water during a tack:

When the wind picked up a bit and I was too lazy to rig smaller, I put the 8.5 m V8 onto my Skate 110. The board specs list 7.5 as the max, but the 8.5 worked without problems, partially thanks to a 34 cm fin instead of the 24 cm stock fin. I even got the best speed of the day on the board, but that may have just been a lucky gust. I'll need to work on the jibes with this combination, though. Here's a short movie:

Most of the jibes on this combo were dry, but none were pretty (unlike the big board jibes, where most GPS jibe scores and min speeds were quite ok).

A highlight of the day was when I tried a body drag, and managed to get back onto the board afterwards. It was a short drag and a scramble back up - but it still counts! I tried one more time, and almost made the second one, too. The body drag is definitely a trick that works well even with a big sail, and the big board helped during the scramble back up. It had been on my to-learn list for the recent Bonaire camp, and I tried it a few times. The tips that Derek gave me were in my head and definitely helped me. Looks like I learned more in Bonaire than I thought, after all.