Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 review

We just got 12 inches of snow, and the trailer is buried - looks like the windsurf season is over for the year. Time for a review! This will be a long post, so here is a short version for the impatient reader:
  • Sailed 2900 km (1800 miles) in 105 sessions
  • Checked out a number of new local spots: Ninigret, Pleasant Bay, Chapin, Skaket Beach, Old Silver Beach, Chatham
  • Had a longer windsurf season here in Massachusetts - any day with air temperatures above freezing is a possible windsurf day
  • Enjoyed windsurf trips to Bonaire, Maui, the Gorge, Cabarete, and Hatteras (with Hatteras being my favorite trip)
  • Got more comfortable in higher wind (30-35 mph) and chop
  • Using smaller boards: my "big board" now is a 110 liters (vs. 205 l in 2010) ; the small "go to" board now is an 82 l slalom (vs. 120 l in 2010)
  • Learned to sail a 62 l speed board (a great confidence booster for sailing boards in the 80 l range)
  • Picked up a few new tricks: Carve 360; light wind: push tack, duck upwind 360, clew first pile driver; can now do most of my light wind tricks on a 110 l freestyle board
  • Started the "Fogland Speedsurfers" team in the GPS Team Challenge
  • Met a lot of great new people and old friends
Bottom line: a great year! And now to the long version...

2010 Goal Review
I had posted my goals for the year here at the beginning of the year, so let's have a look:
  1. The speed loop: next year. I worked on low-wind "loop crashes" a couple of days, and on high-wind crashes another day or two. Some of those ended up with pretty harsh crashes onto my back - however, the board was never in danger (after the first, early try, where I let go of the rig and damaged the nose of the board). I have a pretty good idea what I need to do next, and there's a good chance that I'll make a loop if I get a few days with great conditions.
  2. Nice duck jibes:need some more work. I did a few decent duck jibes, but no really nice ones where I planed through. Somehow, this trick just is not so attractive to me.
  3. Speed: ok. My goal was to get my 5 x 10 s averages above 50 kmh, and my current best is 51.19 kmh. I got a couple of boards, fins, and sails that should enable me to go quite a bit faster. I did not get to try these under ideal conditions, but the main limitation seems to be a certain lack of skills. The minimum goal for next year is to break 30 knots.
  4. Chop hops: ok. I got quite a bit of practice this year, so I am feeling more comfortable in the air. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but I should also try pops with turns and sliding for new-school tricks.
  5. Get better in high wind and chop: ok. This year had quite a few sessions in 30+ mph winds with high chop, and there's a definite improvement. Being more comfortable on small boards definitely helps, too.
  6. Tricks: ok. I only picked up one new planing trick, the Carve 360 (and that one required quite a lot of tries and close calls before I got the first one). In light wind, I learned a few more things, including the push tack, duck upwind 360s, and clew first pile driver. Last year, I did all my light wind tricks on big gear (160+ l). This year, I spent a few days re-learning them on a Skate 110 l board. Andy Brandt says that smaller board grow 5 liters which each hour of practice, and that seemed to indeed be the case. Still, going down 50 liters meant about 10 hours of practice. This was time well spent, though - developing a better feeling for smaller boards is definitely a worth-while undertaking.
  7. Planing jibes: ok. My minimum speed improved a bit, but the biggest difference is in the success rate when the sails get small and the chop gets tall. My main limitation here seems to be in the head, not in my technique. When I go into a jibe with enough speed and dedication, things tend to work out. If I try to hold back because of high chop and wind, I usually end up with waterstart practice. When I watch the pros jibe big gear in slalom heats, though, it becomes obvious that there is still a lot of room for further improvement.
So I did not reach all of my goals, but I did ok. Some of my goals I did not work much on at all, so I made little progress; others took much more work than I had expected. The biggest difference for the year, however, was not even on my list of goals: switching to smaller boards. For light wind freestyle, I had doubted that going to smaller boards was worth the effort. But after seeing rather dramatic improvement in the skills of a few people who only used smaller boards (Martin and Graham), I bit the bullet, and learned a lot by doing the same tricks on a much smaller board. My other switch to smaller boards came almost by accident. When looking for a used slalom board for speed surfing, I found a 62 liter speed board instead that I bought. Learning to sail it took several days, but I eventually got comfortable on it. I did not actually reach my top speeds on this board, but knowing I could start and sail it gave me a lot of confidence when sailing boards in the 70 and 80 liter range. Last year, the smallest board I had ever sailed was 88 l, and the smallest board I'd sail several times a year was 96 l. This year, I bought an 82 l board that I think of as my go-to board as soon as I can use a sail smaller than 7.0. But in comparison to a 62 l board, 82 liters seems enormous. Funny though that the 62 l board can handle a 7 meter sail much better than the 82 l board.

There's a take-home lesson in this. As Mike Tyson pointed out in his guest appearance on the Ultimate Fighter, the number one key to success is confidence. I think confidence is one big reason why many young windsurfers progress very quickly, while older windsurfers stagnate or learn slowly. The "I can't do this" or "I'll try it but probably will fail" mentality seems to be much more prevalent in the older windsurfer's brain, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Younger surfers like Graham are not encumbered with this, so he'll go and try a Shaka before being able to do a really decent jibe. Ok, so he won't complete a Shaka right away, but I bet he'll be doing nice Shove Its and Flakas before me. His dad also illustrates that older windsurfers do not have to progress slowly: he started windsurfing this summer, and now is out there whenever he can, even when it gets cold and the winds are in the 30+ mph range and many more experienced windsurfers wimp out, showing them how to sail fast.

For those of us older windsurfers who are more prone to the "I can't / I'll fail" mentality, a good way to build confidence is by (a) stretching your boundaries further than you are comfortable with, and (b) keep trying, ignoring any initial failures and instead focusing on whatever bits of success you can find. If you make it through, maybe learning to sail a board much smaller than you think you could, or a sail much bigger, or in conditions that are much harsher, you'll be rewarded with plenty of confidence in a slightly less challenging setup. Of course, do it in safe conditions - don't try learning to wave sail in Jaws!

Fogland Speedsurfers

Our favorite local windsurfing spot in the spring and summer is Fogland in Tiverton, Rhode Island. The inside bay offers shallow and flat water in southerly winds, and really invites speedsurfing. Fogland also has Cesar, who loves to speedsurf and has inspired many local surfers to go deeper downwind and faster that they ever did before; and Dani, who is great at organizing beach barbecues. That provided the perfect gestation grounds for the Fogland Speedsurfer team, the only active US team on the GPS team challenge. Unfortunately, we founded the team just before most Fogland windsurfers ended their season, so it was largely up to Nina and myself to keep the team from being at the very bottom of the ranking. However, we later picked up a couple of new team members (Bart and Dean) who go really fast on a regular basis. Dean already taught me a bunch of things in the one session we had together, and I'm sure there is plenty more to learn from him. I can't wait until next spring, when we can have a number of Fogland Speedsurfers on the water at the same time!

Vacation Spot Ratings
We took a bunch of nice trips this year, although they were all just a week or two. Here's my ranking, based on this years trips:
  1. Hatteras. We spent 2 weeks there in great company. We had a lot of days with great wind, and I just love the endless runs in shallow water you can do there.
  2. Bonaire. Always a favorite. Can't wait to be there again.
  3. Gorge. Loved the beer and the variety of sailing spots. Did not like how gusty the wind was, but it sure was interesting.
  4. Maui. I had the least fun sailing there - it's this confidence thing again. This was our first trip to a really windy place this year, and I'm sure I'll like it better next time. But except for windsurfing on the really windy days, I loved Maui.
  5. Cabarete. I love Cabarete, and the only reason that it's at the bottom of this list is that the wind just was not great when we went there in August.
One thing that weighs heavily in the rankings above are the people we met and spent time with at the different places. There were great people we met everywhere, but I distinctly remember many friendly strangers in the Gorge (they all assured us that conditions were unusually harsh, almost every day :). I'll end this post with thanks to just a few people I met this year who taught my something new:
  • Dean taught me how rig my KA Koncept sail and how to go faster in chop, based on many years of racing experience. Looking forward to many more speed days next year!
  • Ron made us go to Skaket Beach, a great west wind spot that we absolutely love. He also gave me the ideas to use nylon mitt shells over gloves with cutoutson the inside for the really cold days.
  • Hardie showed me how to put electric tape around the top of the boots to minimize water entry. Worked great when I tried it, and I really regretted skipping this step the next time I went out.
  • Coach Ned reminded me many times that "It's all good". I hear this all the time in my head on a great day, and it always makes me smile.
So, that's it for 2010. We were fortunate this year that we could extend two business trips into windsurf vacations at great spots, and I thought there was no way next year could be as good. But then, we got lucky, and arranged a 7-week house swap in Maui - so there may be even more windsurfing next year.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent retrospective. I've got some things to learn about blogging from you!