Thursday, June 30, 2011

Maui Day 3: Sprecks

We went to Sprecks today for a short session. Here are some pictures:

Nina sailed first, and loved the board - we might just have to take it back, too. Then, I went out on the same gear, and was nicely powered on a 4.5. I think the wind picked up a bit just as I went out, but still, it's amazing that we both were planing comfortably on the same gear. I'm about 50% heavier than Nina, and usually, that's reflected in the sail size (e.g. 5.0 and 7.0); in addition, Nina also usually sails a smaller board. Despite this being a short session, we both had a lot of fun. I was lazy as usual, but Nina worked a bit on jumps and shove-its:

Judging by how much easier the sailing was today compared to last year, I think we learned a few things in the past year (although the Angulo boards certainly help!). I can't wait so see what we'll learn in our time here!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Maui, Day 2: Going Custom

On our second day of sailing in Maui, we had a bit less wind then yesterday - 5.0 for me, 4.2 for Nina. I used my new Naish "Wave Pro" hybrid boom, and was very happy with it. Nina sailed the Angulo custom 71 l board again, a board that Mark Angulo had made for himself. She loved it, but wanted the footstraps a bit closer together - so she went ahead and ordered one, which made Mark very happy. The board will certainly be a head turner; today, she could not spend 10 minutes on the beach without someone checking out the board.

We sailed for about 2 1/2 hours today, until I noticed that yes, indeed, using a seat harness requires fitter legs than a waist harness. Getting used to the gear, we ventured out more into the deep blue water a mile from  shore. The ocean swell there gets nice and large - Nina complained about the lack of wind between the waves. It was an absolute blast, though. My GPS showed that I sailed faster and more distance than ever before on Maui (all 8 days of sailing there), and that I also did my best jibes here so far. They still were not great, though, just borderline plane-through in the best two. The jibes will have to improve a lot before I really consider starting in the Maui race series! Still, there's some significant progress relative to last year. The Angulo Chango FW 93 certainly helps: while a tad big for the chop here, it carves very nicely, making the chop disappear during the jibe.

For tomorrow, a short session in Sprecks is on the menu, with an afternoon visit to the aquarium. I'll try to also post some pictures then.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maui Report, Day 1

We are on Maui for the next 6 1/2 weeks, thanks to a house swap. We'll have to work after a week or two, but for now, it's just vacation time. Today's objective was getting gear, and taking it out for a first run.

We started with stops at three windsurfing shops to ask about used gear, since rental prices for such a long time would total several thousand dollars for the two of us. We got excellent help at the Naish store and at Second Wind. Neil Pryde Maui was rather different. Their web site lists used booms in 3 different sizes for sale, but they did not have any at all. Apparently, the web site never gets updated just because they sell stuff. They also seem to be proud of the exorbitant prices for their new stuff: hybrid aluminum-carbon booms cost $600, carbon booms $1200. Similar stuff in the Naish store costs about half as much. Go figure why you see less and less NP gear on the water!

After that, the day got a lot better. First, we drove to Mark Angulo's house to pick up two boards to try - a 93 l FW that had been sent to Maui for the board test, and a 71 l custom for Nina. Mark is just as nice as his brother Josh, who had arranged this for us. Mark was very interested in getting Nina's opinion on the board.

We took the board to Kanaha, were the sensors showed typical June winds in the mid-20s. I was fully powered on a 4.5 m wave sail, Nina was on a 3.7. My primary goal was to check the condition without breaking or hurting anything. I was pleasantly surprised to have nice runs after a few dial-in runs, and 50% dry jibes (with a couple more "should haves"). I also got a nice top speed of 47 km (25.7 knots) - not bad for a board and sail I never used, and the considerable chop. Nina liked her board, too, but was underpowered close to shore, and did not go out far. On the short runs were she got planing, she loved the way the board made the chop disappear, and how it jibed. She even had a "reverse" planing jibe - entering the jibe non-planing, and accelerating onto a full plane during the entry. Tomorrow should be very interesting!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Flaka entry

We have 50 days of windsurfing everyday on Maui coming up soon - so it's time to think about things to learn. A recent blog post by the Canadian Guy certainly encourages thinking a lot about moves before trying them. He got his first Vulcan in 155 attempts, compared to more typical counts in the 300-1000+ range. He studied plenty of how-to-articles as well as blog and forum posts to prepare for the move. Understanding and visualizing the move probably helped him cut out a few hundred tries.

One move I'd like to try during the next 2 months is the Flaka. Some windsurfers have a hard time learning the Flaka, but others think it's easier to learn than the Vulcan. A few things that I find attractive about it are:

  1. I've seen Flaka being completed after a tiny little 45-90 degree jump.
  2. Compared to the Vulcan, there's a lot less to do - the hands remain on the boom the entire time.
  3. The Flaka is a natural progression from the upwind 360s, which can be learned in light wind and then practiced in high wind. The only things to add are the initial jump, and the slide.
However, I have one big problem with the Flaka theory: I do not believe the explanation that my favorite windsurfing teacher gives about the mechanics of the move. I think his "quadrant" theories are great for the spin loop and the Vulcan. However, if my memory serves me right, he also thinks that the initial sail throw for the Flaka is into the forward-leeward quadrant, and that mast base pressure makes the board turn upwind. 

I looked at the Tricktionary videos, and at least 15 other videos of Flakas in many variations - regular, one-handed, air flakas, and double flakas (mostly at In all of the videos I looked at, the initial sail throw is to the windward side, typical into the forward quadrant. Here are screen shots from 4 of these videos:
The videos are showing Daida MorenoSarah-Quita OffringaDavy Scheffers, and Piotr Konkel just as the boards are about to leave the water. In each case, the mast is tilted to the windward side, not to the leeward side. The mast remains there while the board is starting to turn, and the nose is coming down:

Note that between the first and second pictures, the boards have turned about 45-90 degrees. This turn cannot be caused by mast base pressure - any mast base pressure would turn the board the other way, away from the wind. Instead, what appears to be causing the board rotation is the "unwinding" of the body, from the shoulder down to the hips and eventually to the feet:

In the third series of pictures, the boards have rotated 180 degrees, and the back legs that were bent in the middle picture are straight again. Now, backwinded sail steering is taking over to push the nose of the board around the rest of the way.

Here's an animated picture series from Daida's Flaka, where the initial oversheeting to (a) depower the sail, and (b) pre-wind the body, can be seen nicely. After the oversheet, watch her body twist the other way, from the hands down to the hips and finally the feet:
So, according to this analysis, the Flaka is a two-part move: in the first part, the board is turned by twisting the body, with the sail basically being neutral; in the second part, the board is steered around the rest of the turn with backwinded sail pressure. This switch, together with the considerable commitment required for the first part, may explain why the Flaka can be hard to learn (especially if you have not done your light-wind homework :).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back in the seat

It's always fun to see forum discussions about whether seat or waist harnesses are better, especially when the opinions are presented with crusader-like intensity. I have to admit that I am faithless in this particular issue...

I had used a seat harness for more than 20 years until Andy Brandt told me to switch to a waist harness for freestyle (and, I believe, to improve my stance). So I did, without any problems.  When I had tried a waist harness a few years earlier, it had given me back problems, but not this time. A bit later, when I got more into speedsurfing, I tried the seat harness again, but I did not like it, not one little bit, anymore.

Fast forward to the East Coast Windsurfing Festival: after the first day of races in high wind, which gave me plenty of opportunity to practice my catapults, and a night in a random hotel, I woke up with considerable back pain. I blamed the bed - some beds just screw up my back. Over the next few days, my back got better, but after a light wind session, some of the pain came back. So when we went windsurfing in Fogland yesterday, I decided to bring my seat harness again.

The wind yesterday was marginal. I'm a lazy sailor who likes to hook in as soon as I start moving, and thing about planing later. That did not work well with the seat harness; however, I did get to practice jumping up on the board to get out of the harness lines again. Things got better when the wind picked up so I could plane. I was quite amazed how different the feel of the seat harness was; it sure felt good on my back. It also felt better on my hips, where a few small muscles sometimes start complaining after sailing for a couple of hours. At the end of the day, the pain in my back was gone completely!

Besides the back pain, another motivation to try the seat harness again were the many blog and magazine articles that state that seat harnesses are better for speed and slalom. Indeed, I did have the feeling that the seat made it easier to keep the nose of the board quieter, probably because it's easier to keep constant harness line pressure. The GPS tracks did not show any difference in speed relative to the waist harness tracks, but the wind was very much up and down, so that means little.

So - why is the waist harness giving me a bit of back problems now, when it it worked perfectly fine for more than a year? I think the problem is that I stopped cross training - windsurfing is pretty much the only sport I am doing now. When I originally switched to the waist harness, I still did karate on a regular basis, and to the gym (boring!) every now and then. Both involved quite a bit of core training. So, time to start some core & cross training again! But at least for now, I think I'll switch back and forth between waist and seat harness, depending on what the conditions are, and what I'm doing in a session.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Josh Angulo's loop pictures

One of the many highlights at last weekend's East Coast Windsurfing Festival were Josh Angulo's loops. Fortunately, Richard Burns (Mike's brother) got pictures of one of the loops. Here's an animated GIF:
Richard's camera angle was great to see a few things of interest for all of us who would like to learn to loop. Here are the individual pictures:

This is shortly after taking off from a small piece of chop. We can see here:
  • Josh's front hand is all the way back to the harness line (and he sails the harness lines further back than most of us - check out how he adjust the lines in James Douglass' "Angulo-vision" video).
  • His grip is very wide, so his back hand is very far back on the boom.
  • The board is tilted so the entire underside is exposed to the wind. I looked at a lot of other speed loop videos, and the board is tilted at least somewhat in all of them.
Look at the angles in Josh's knees in the shot above and in the next shot in the series:

Here, Josh's back leg is pulled up, and the front leg is extended, pushing the nose of the board towards the water and to leeward. His front hand has moved backward on the boom a bit, and is now over the harness lines. The mast is starting to move to windward, and Josh is starting to look back.

  • The mast is tilted windward at almost 45 degrees, ready to push the nose downwind.
  • Josh is pulling himself up over the boom and looking back.

As the nose clears the water, the pressure on the mast base is pushing the board around. Josh is making himself smaller to facilitate the rotation.

At this point, the board has turned 180 degrees, and Josh is falling towards the water. I think the rest of the rotation is completed just from the momentum he and the board have now. Josh landed this loop standing, almost ankle-dry (for those who watched the heat: the pictures are from the second loop).

The picture series illustrates nicely what Andy Brandt teaches about the loop: it's mostly done by sail steering in the air (mast to windward), and not by "just sheeting in". Josh is just starting to sheet in in the last picture, as he is falling towards the water. The "sheet in" advice might work for very vertical forward loops of high waves - but when learning loops in small chop or waves, imitating Josh in the pictures above will certainly work better, and keep you and your board safer.

Thanks to Josh for showing how to loop; Richard for catching him on camara and letting me use his pictures; and Mike, Christina, Tom, Jill, and all the other ECWF organizers for making it all possible,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ECWF raffle: No more excuses!

This is the second part of my report from the East Coast Windsurfing festival. I'd love to tell you more about the freestyle competition, but I did not see much of it - just one heat in the amateur divisions (men & women), and one heat in the pro division. In the pro division, Mike Burns, Chris Eldrige, John Sassone and  Sergey Andreev threw down a bunch of complicated switch - duck - slide tricks that I don't even know the names of. If they were affected by the wind shadow close to shore, they did not let it show - cool stuff.

Josh Angulo also competed in this heat, and started right away with a few simpler tricks like 360s. I don't know if he can do the switchy - slidey tricks that the other competitors showed, but I don't care - Josh clearly played to please the crowds. He threw a couple of high, incredibly slow forward loops, which got a lot of applause from the crowds; and he even threw in a body drag, which most sailors on the beach could at least imagine doing themselves. Well, those tricks are easier than the ones I can't name, so he placed last in the competition - but I'm sure he scored very high with a lot of the watchers on the beach.

In the amateur divisions, it was cool to see a lot of the competitors try tricks that they had not 100% down yet. Together with the excitement of the competition and the chop, that meant a lot of falls. However, attempts also counted towards points in the amateur division, which created a lot of action on the water. Even the little bit I saw definitely motivated me to practice my freestyle a lot more to participate in the fun next year.

On the second day just before the award ceremony, the raffle winners were announced. This seemed to go on forever, there were so many prizes - hats, T-shirts, extensions, mast bases, rig winches, mast protectors, a Clew-View mount for the GoPro camera, and a skinny 430 mast as the main prize. You had to be there to get your prize, so quite a few winners who had left already missed out. That included the main prize, where it took three tries to find a winner that was present. I was afraid we'd run out of raffle tickets - it seemed everyone was winning something. Big thanks to the sponsors: Ocean Air Sports, Fanatic, North, Nolimitz, Chinook, Hampton Watersports, Windsport Magazine, and the New England Windsurfing Journal. They all earned lots of cookie points for supporting this great event (which, I am sure, will convert into sales over time).

I was especially happy about my raffle win, a mast protector from Ion (donated by Ocean Air):
It's intended to protect the nose of the boards from damage when learning the loop, and other crazy tricks. The padding seems perfectly set up to absorb and distribute any impact forces, so I'm sure it will work. I wish I had had this baby last year, when I broke the nose of my board when trying loop exercises! Well, I got it now, so I'm all out of excuses. This baby will come with me to Maui!

Monday, June 13, 2011

East Cost Windsurfing Festival: Racing

We spent the last two days the East Coast Windsurfing Festival in Long Island  - what a great event! And I'm saying that after making quite a fool of myself in racing - but more about that later. We had one day of great wind on Saturday, and a light wind day on Sunday. Here is a video of the relay race on Sunday which nicely illustrates the fun atmosphere:

The relay race was a lot of fun. Ironically, Josh Angulo's team finished last, with Josh as the last racer of his team also being the last sailor on the water. That was the punishment for Josh dominating the high-wind races the day before, including placing both 1st and 4th in the same race (see Peconic Puffin's blog for details, and make sure to check out his other blog entries about the festival for results and interesting stories, too).

A day before, the races had been a tad more serious, and we also had a lot more wind. Here is a replay of my GPS recordings from the third race:

As you can see in the replay, there is plenty of room for improvement in my racing. My start was actually good; thanks to a start further out in the water than most other sailors and the rapid acceleration of my Warp SL 71 slalom board, I was leading the pack on the first reach. Until I tacked and fell...

Well, that was not the only fall in this race. At the third mark, I did not manage to make it around two sailors in the water, and instead joined them. Another fall and problems to get going again after the second jibe mark, followed. And this was one of my two good races - I placed in the middle of the pack in this one. Here's a race-by-race description:

Race 1: Catapulting Peter
Being just a tad competitive, I had decided to borrow a cambered 7.5 m sail for the race, instead of using my trusted old Gaastra Matrix 7.0 that I could sail in my sleep, and on boards from 62 l to 280 l, flat water or high chop. When I rigged, the wind looked marginal, so I trimmed it for power. I had time for a quick run before the races started, but that was barely enough to get the harness lines adjusted. Just as the race started, the wind picked up, and board and sail explained to me that I had way to little practice in (a) sailing my new slalom board in chop, and (b) sailing cambered sails in fully powered conditions, especially in chop. My gear was nice to me and started out with a nice small catapult early on. I did not listen, however, and kept sailing on, so the gear decided to send some clearer messages with increasingly more violent catapults and crashes. When I still stubbornly ignored it and tried again, the mast decided to smack me into the face during a messed-up tack - that really hurt, and the message started to sink in. After one or two more crashes, I took the shortcut to the shore, rather than trying to finish the race that most other races had completed a while ago. I had to think a lot about Aaron, the Human Catapult, during this race...

Race 2: Tuning the gear
I had read that one should tune gear weeks before a race - but since I had not done that, I spent the time of the second race and the following freestyle heats to adjust my gear. I had a 6.5 non-cambered sail ready to go, and also switched to a smaller fin that I had gotten just a day before. After a trial run and some more down hauling (thans to Josh Angulo for the tip!), the sail was fine, but the fin was too small for the chop and my limited skills. Switching to a huge monster weed fin cured that problem, and I finally had gear that I was comfortable with.

Race 3: Slow is good
My primary goal for the race was to finish it, with some hope not to finish last. However, I did remember a few things from Andy Brandt's racing lecture at the Hatteras camp last year - namely that a good start is important. I had also noticed that the wind was better on the outside, so I started further out than most other sailors, and got off to a flying start, fully planing and leading the pack after a few seconds (see the GPS replay above). That lasted until I decided to tack. Not only was my tack too early, it also was wet, and about half of the field had passed me by the time I was back up. I made up some ground on the rest of the upwind leg and the first two downwind runs; but at the third mark, with one sailor already in the water and another one going down right in front of me, I took a little break and joined them in the water. With the current pushing me against the buoy, it took a while to get going again, and planing remained elusive for a while. Another crash at the next jibe mark followed. Still, I came in 10th of about 19 or 20 finishers, which I was rather happy with.

Race 4: Tactical errors
For the next race, the wind had gone down a bit, and shifted direction even more, so that one or two legs of the race now were almost straight downwind. Besides the usual falls during tacks & jibes, I made a whole bunch of tactical mistakes in the race. Somehow, it seemed I misjudged angles on every single leg of the race, which probably added about unnecessary 6 tacks, as well as several falls. I found myself fighting for third-to-last place in the race - oh well.

Race 5: Angulo Kihei 155 in light wind
The wind was light for the second day of races. I had only brought the 118l slalom board, while most competitors had old or new longboards with monstrous daggerboards, ideal for the conditions. Fortunately, Josh Angulo had brought a Kihei 155l board for demo'ing. I had tested the board in high winds in Hatteras, and loved it. It was clearly better suited for light wind than my slalom board, and he was kind enough to let me borrow it for a race. Indeed, the board was a joy to sail, and I managed to stay in the middle, if not the front third, of the pack. Really not bad, considering that everyone in front of me was on a board that was 4 feet longer and had a daggerboard!
At one buoy, I did a quick turning jibe close to the buoy. I think that surprised the sailor behind me a bit, who could not turn his longboard in time, and touch my board lightly with his. More from the distraction than from the impact, I started to loose my balance, and was about to fall when I felt a helping hand in my back. That was enough to regain my balance.  I thanked the other sailor, who pointed out that me falling would have been bad for him, too - but I still think he primarily did it because he's a nice guy. I definitely liked the spirit of the gesture! The owner of the helping hand turned out to be the author of a windsurf blog that I love: The Peconic Puffin.
I finished the race somewhere in the middle of the pack, which I was pretty happy with. I definitely love the board!

Race 6: Slalom boards for light wind?
I had to return the Angulo Kihei 155 after the first race and switch to my 118 l slalom board. With the heavy 7.5 m sail and little wind, I was constantly fighting to keep the nose of the board above water, and had no chance to keep up with the long boards. I think I was passed by just about every one in this race, even though I did not fall. But looking at pictures from the open division, even Josh Angulo on a bigger slalom board was not able to keep up with the fastest sailors on the longboards - so I think I can blame the equipment here. It was still fun to be out there.

Plans for next year
I was not sure whether or not I would like racing, and I certainly did worse than I thought I would - but I am absolutely planning to be back next year. The races showed some weaknesses in my sailing that are all-too-easy to ignore when just going out for fun. The great friendly spirit of the competition and the other windsurfers certainly make it easy for a racing newbie like me to join the fun. Here's a list of what I learned, and plan to do for next year:

  1. Practice tacks & jibes in difficult conditions. I can jibe and tack beautifully in perfect wind and flat water, so I usually seek out the easy spots to sail and turn around. That's not an option at a race, where other sailors and the marks define where you must jibe, regardless of chop and wind. In my case, that resulted in more wet turns than dry ones. With mostly dry turns alone, I probably would have placed in the top quarter in the high wind races. So I'll go seek out more difficult spots, like the river in Fogland or the voodoo chop in Kalmus, for more practice in less-than-ideal conditions. Or when the conditions are easy, I use more difficult gear - larger sails and smaller boards.
  2. Bring a longboard for light wind races. We have a Kona Mahalo that's just wonderful for light wind. It's not quite as sleek as the Mistral or AHD long boards other had, but it should give me good fighting chance.
  3. Share a room and get some sleep. We hesitated to sign up for the ECWF because hotel rooms on Long Island are between $150 and $200. For 2 nights, a trip with gas and ferry costs would run more than $500, which seemed too much. We ended up going when Jeff offered to drive on Saturday, but we had to get up at 2 am, and got little sleep in the car. That does have a negative impact, as I learn every time I fly to Bonaire. Next time, we'll leave on Friday, and reduce the costs by sharing a hotel room with other windsurfers (which we also did this time, and which worked perfectly fine).
  4. Practice pumping! That was very important during the light wind races, and it's a must for using smaller sails in higher winds, so it's a great idea, anyway. 
  5. Use comfortable gear you know well. When you start course racing, there will be plenty of unknown - the rules, the other sailors, the conditions, and so on. Adding more variables by using and unknown sail was a really bad idea - a smaller, slower sail that I know well would have gotten me to the finish a lot faster. So if you get new gear specifically for races, make sure to get plenty of practice on it!
  6. Have reasonable expectation. You may be a great sailor, but you will not win your first race. The first time is just for learning - after that, you can work on improving by using what you learned. 
My lovely wife, who originally did not even want to join the races, did much better than I did. From the list above, she certainly followed steps 1, 5, and 6: no big expectations, using the same Skate 100 board and 5.0 l wave sail she used most of the time, and she's worked on difficult moves much more than I have. So she placed 3rd in racing and also in freestyle - well done. Now, she is super motivated to practice a lot for next year's event, and so am I.

Finally, some pictures from the second day:
Start lineup

Just kidding - I'm not really in front

Open class start

Love the attitude!

Josh giving Jeanne a hard time because she did not chose him for her team
(Jeanne did not know she could...)

That's the spirit!

Team # 1 (no Josh Angulo here!)

Josh Angulo digging in hard

Happy raffle winners

Christina happy about her 2nd place

The top racer ladies

The open class winners

Happy trophy winners

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Does windsurfing make people nicer?

One of the things I love about windsurfing it that you get to meet many really nice people. I've blogged about a few of them before - the great ABK folks; "our" speed and ice surfing teacher Dean; Cesar, the driving force behind speed surfing in Fogland; and windsurf shop owners like Jim and Andy, to name just a few.

Another one of these really nice guys, Jeff, somehow talked me and Nina into joining him to go to the East Coast Windsurfing Festival this weekend. He offered to drive there very early Saturday morning, a deal that was just to good to refuse. It certainly helped that the king himself, Mike Burns, had promised great wind for the weekend, and that Josh Angulo and many windsurfing friends will be there. Once there, I'll have to participate, which will be in racing. Hopefully, the conditions will be right to use my slalom board, which should be tons of fun. I had been toying with the idea to participate in the Maui Race Series when we are down there in July, so this should be good practice.

The open division will be probably be dominated by formula boards and huge sails, so I'll be in the division where the sail size is limited to 7.5 m. That was a bit of a problem - my largest sail under the limit is a 7.0, and that's a non-cambered, top-oriented sail. But what are friends for? Dani had jokingly offered to give me gear to race in Maui, so I asked him if he had a cambered 7.5 sail that I could borrow. If I tell you that Dani is a really nice guy, what do you think his answer was?

Well, first he offered me a choice between two cambered 7.5 sails he has. Then, he picked up the sail from his friend, and delivered it to my house. He also brought a 100% carbon mast for the sail, even though I tried to assure him that one of my 55% masts should work just fine, and that I would not have the money to replace his mast if I broke it. What a guy - somebody pinch me so I know I'm not dreaming!

Such random acts of kindness brighten my life for many days. I don't even think windsurfers like Dani are an exception - we meet extremely nice people on every one of our windsurfing trips. I think it's infectious - neither my lovely wife nor I are very social, but sometimes at the beach, you may not notice that. We also try to support ABK in various ways, and one of our boards has been out on a loan for half a year now. So yes, it seems that windsurfing does make people nicer.

Of course, sometimes you might meet a windsurfer at the beach who is not friendly, or worse. But in the few cases that I can think of, these guys were usually overworked, and barely ever could find the time to go windsurfing; if they could get a free day on weekends, the wind would often not show. So rather than contradicting my theory, it only confirms it - these guys just don't windsurf enough!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Buying speed fins in the USA

After buying a speed board and a slalom board in the last year, I wanted to buy some proper fins, too. The speed board came with three speed fins, but they are all about the same size; the slalom board came with one fin that works well with the 8.5 m sail, but needs a smaller fin for smaller sails. Here's a short story of my adventures trying to get fins...

I started by checking out the two local stores, but they more or less just had weed fins. Trips to stores in the Gorge were similar disappointing. So I posted on a couple of windsurf forums (iWindsurf and, and got a few pointers. With some more research and web site checks, I found a couple of places in the US and Canada to order fins from.

The first place was very helpful initially, but I received only half of my order (a sail) - the fin I ordered never came. After a few emails, I got my money back without problems, but I still did not have a fin. I eventually found a couple of close-out fins that looked attractive, and bought them online. Delivery was no problem, and I love one of the two fins (a 28 cm Select) I got. I only tested the other fin (MFC Slalom 32) once and did not like it much then, but I'll have to give it another shot.

After sailing my new (used) 118 l slalom board with a 7.0 sail recently, it was obvious that the 44 cm pointer fin I have is a bit big for this sail, so I looked for something fast around 36 cm. I discovered Makani fins, and remembered hearing great things about their freestyle fins. There also was a blog entry about their slalom fin that sounded quite promising - and the fins cost much less than other speed fins, so I decided to give it a try. I ordered the fins online from the same place where I had found the last two fins. A couple of days later, I got an email with a tracking number, and another email with an invoice.

When I checked the invoice, I was shocked: it listed my complete credit card information - billing address, card number, expiration date, and even the security code that merchants are not allowed to store at all. All send as a PDF file via regular email - something that goes through several public mail servers and is by definition totally insecure.

WTF were they thinking? I think this is a serious issue. If they are stupid enough to send full credit card info by regular mail, how safely do you think their computer system is? The only reason I'm not mentioning the store's name is that I do not want to point hackers towards their computers...

So, in my two attempts to get slalom/speed fins, I was successful only once (assuming that the fin I ordered arrives in a few days), but at a pretty high cost to the security of my credit card. With both merchants, there were a couple of other minor things that went wrong when trying to order from them that I don't want to bore you with. Normally, I can understand if someone with a passion for windsurfing is a bit spacey when it comes to business - but there are limits. Next time, I'll bug our local merchants a bit more to see if they can order fins; or perhaps get them from a store where I know the owners personally, like Wind-NC. But if anyone has recommendations where to buy speed fins in the US, please let me know!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Windsurfing Magazine Board Test

Recently, I talked to a windsurfer who had just bought a Tabou Rocket 145, and mentioned the test summary of the board in the June issue of the Windsurfing Magazine. The board got excellent scores in most categories, except in "ease of use":
What's going on? The Rockets are generally easy to sail, even more so in the big versions. Most of the other "Light Air Shortboards" also have poor scores in the "ease of use" category.

Well, my lovely wife and I were at the board test in Hatteras, and sailed many of the large boards - and most of them deserve very high marks in for "ease of use". A look at the test sheets that we filled out points to an explanation:

Well, there was no "ease of use" category. There was a "Freestyle" category that did not apply to any of the boards in the test, but in the orientation meeting, we were told to instead use it to rate the boards for "fun". It appears that the "waves" scores were interpreted as "ease of use", but the testers were not aware of this! (Well, at least neither my wife nor I were, and we paid close attention at the orientation meeting). This would explain why the Angulo Kihei 155 got a a high score in the "ease of use" category - this board sailed like a much smaller board, and made it really easy to play with the chop and wind waves.

Unfortunately, this "ease of use" = "waves" score mixup does not appear to the the only problem with the writeup. Looking at the "spider web" graphs, it would seem that the F2 Xantos 140 was the worst board in the test; both the Exocet Twixx 145 and the Naish Nitrix have higher scores in all categories. This absolutely cannot be correct. One of the two higher-scoring board was universally disliked; at the discussion session at the end of the board test, lots of windsurfers offered negative feedback on the board, and we were told the same thing had happened during the first week. The other of these two "high scoring" boards had split opinions among the testers: some liked it, others disliked it a lot. In contrast, the lower-scoring F2 Xantos was loved by many sailors (myself included), and just mildly disliked by a few others.

One good way at looking what board was really well liked is to check how often a board was picked as a favorite. Here's a list of how often the different large board were picked as favorites by the testers:
  1. 7x : Fanatic Ray 145, F2 Xantos 140, Tabou Rocket 145
  2. 5x: Starboard Ultrasonic 147
  3. 4x: Goya FXRS 144
  4. 3x: Angulo Kihei 155
  5. 1x: JP Super Lightwind 154
The following boards were not picked as a favorite board by any testers:
  • Exocet Twist 145, Naish Nitrix 155, RRD Fire Ride 155.
A note about the list above: the Fanatic Ray was available only during the second test week, so none of the first-week only testers had a chance to try it. I wonder how many "favorite" votes it would have gotten if it had been there both weeks...

If you compare the list above with the charts on pages 60-61 in the June 2011 issue of the Windsurfing Magazine, it seems that someone has mixed up a few charts. Yes, some boards were a bit more controversial than others, but there's just no way that a board that was most often picked as a favorite has much lower scores everywhere than a board that was picked by nobody! 

A total of 37 testers worked (and played :) hard for 2 weeks to evaluate the boards, so it's kind of sad to see the work diminished by what looks like an editorial mistake. A lot of times, the graphical summaries are the first thing windsurfers look at when deciding about a new board to buy, and the apparent mix-up may prevent many readers from trying or buying boards they would love. Fortunately, the write-ups ("Best board for...") are spot-on.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Three great days

We just had three great days of wind sailing, with wind in the upper mid-to upper twenties two of the three days and plenty of sun. It started Wednesday afternoon with SW winds. We went to Fogland for some flat water fun - duck jibe tries with a 5.0 for Nina, and speed runs with a 7.0 on my Warp SL 71 for me. Here's a short video of one of the earlier speed runs:

I had a bit of a hard time to find a nice combination of flat water and wind. With 25-30 mph winds, the chop in the middle of the bay gets big enough to slow me down. I tried going up towards the street, but never caught good wind there. I had better luck at the tip of the peninsula, where the water was nice and flat and the wind was offshore; but as you can see in the video, the wind dropped quite a bit there because the peninsula created a bit of a wind shadow. Another minor issue I had was that the only speed fin I currently have for the Warp is 44 cm long - great for an 8.5 m sail, but about 20% too long for the 7.0. I tried putting in a weed fin that I have for my speed board, but at 28 cm, it was a bit small. When sailing the weed fin, I was glad that I sometime ride freestyle boards with small fins, because I did need the "sail forward, dig the windward rail" technique to get back upwind on this fin. So after a few runs, when the wind had gone down just a bit, it was back to the 44 cm race fin.

I think the combination of the wind shadow and the long fin kept me from finally breaking 30 knots - although I did get very close, and set new personal bests for 5 x 10 second average speed and 500 m alpha. This was the first time I sailed the Warp fully powered in more than 20 mph winds, and I think I learned a few things. Perhaps the most important one is that even the Warp, which has a relatively conventional and narrow shape for a slalom board, really wants to be ridden "pedal to the metal". At full speed, it's on top of the water and pretty much ignores the chop; but whenever I tried to slow down a bit, things got harder to handle. But after a couple of hours, I got used to this, and ventured out onto the river, where the chop is quite a bit higher - no problem. The only thing that I did wrong was to switch from a downwind course onto a beam reach course about halfway through the mile-long run. Looking at the GPS tracks later at home, I discovered that I should have been able to obliterate my personal bests for the nautical mile if I had stayed off the wind. As it was, I still got my second-best ever average for the nautical mile (and the water was a lot flatter when I set my PB behind the sand bar in Duxbury).

As usual, Nina worked harder than I did, practicing duck jibes, shove-its, and 360s all day long. She got really close to completing a duck jibe, but not without exploring the many ways to crash in duck jibes. One spectacular fall had her face plant at full speed into the water so that her entire face hurt for the rest of the day...

Even though the conditions were great, we saw very few other windsurfers. One of them, however, Jeff, praised the wave sailing conditions at Horseneck beach, so when the wind turned to westerly the next day, we decided to do some beginner wave sailing. Here's a short video:

The quality of the video is not great - the angle to the sun was bad, and there were too many drops of water on the lens. I had treated the lens with Rainex, but the Clew View mount (which I otherwise love) places the GoPro exactly where the drops come off the boom, as you can see in the video. Mounting the camera upside-down, as I had done in the first video above, fixes this problem, but I don't like the view angle as much. I think that a mount which places the camera either a bit higher, or directly below the boom (instead of below and behind), might have fewer problems with water dripping onto the lens.

As Jeff had promised, getting out through the break was not bad (although it got more challenging for us wave-sail beginners as the tide came in). The wind was very much up and down; down when we rigged, which prompted us to go "big" (5.5 and 4.2), and then up after the first few runs, which had me way overpowered. And while the breaking waves near shore where small enough, the non-breaking waves on the outside where quite often taller than Nina. They also were not very nicely organized, probably because of the wind directions and the cross currents caused by the little island. In comparison, the waves and swell in Cabarete on a typical 5.0 summer day are much better organized and easier to sail. So this was definitely more an "interesting" than a "fun" session, and we stopped after spending less than an hour on the water (with plenty of breaks in between), when Jeff and the other local sailors also got off the water. Since it was still somewhat early, we decided to drive over to Fogland, which is only a 20 minute drive away.

In Fogland, we were greated by NW winds in the upper 20s, and smaller, much more organized looking waves. I sailed my 82 l board for the first time in a while, which was quite a change after mostly being on larger freeride and slalom boards recently. I definitely had a lot more fun than at Horseneck, and I was pleasantly surprised when the GPS registered a top speed of 28 knots, even though the chop was big enough to keep me from making any deep downwind runs. Maybe I am finally learning how to sail a bit faster...

We got home too late to put away the trailer and the gear, so when the wind and forecast looked good again the next morning, we decided to go sailing in Fogland once again. When we arrived, a couple of windsurfers where just leaving, and they mentioned that the wind had been very much up and down. Indeed, the iWindsurf reading ranged from 8 to 30 mph, so rigging "right" was just impossible. We switched back & forth between boards a bit (Warp SL 71 and Skate 110 for me, 76 l wave board and Skate 100 for Nina), and had plenty of opportunity to practice schlogging. But in between, the wind was great, and Nina finally made her first fully planing jibe. For once, she was sailing with the GoPro camera, but the camera stopped recording exactly 2 minutes before she made her best jibe so far! However, her GPS was on, and it showed a minimum speed in her jibe of 8.9 knots, which is definitely fully planing (jibes with minimum speed above 5-6 knots can look liked plane-through jibes from afar if you accelerate again right away, but jibes above ~8 knots are definitely planed through). Considering that she learned how to initiate jibes when planing less than 1 1/2 years ago, this is pretty cool - I know many, many windsurfers who worked on planing jibes for many years before every planing through (I am one of them). But then, she learned it the right way at the ABK camp in Bonaire, so maybe her success is not surprising.

Ok, I am biased, but still I think she did quite well. Before yesterday's jibe, here minimum jibe speeds have been going up steadily, and Andy Brandt called one of here jibes in Corpus Christi last month "planed through" (here minimum speed on that jibe was 5.8 knots). I think that planing through a jibe may be technically about as difficult as a learning the Vulcan. For the Vulcan, 500-1000 tries before landing the first one are not uncommon, although some windsurfers may get it in 250 or 300 tries. Nina had more than 100 high wind sessions since last March; many of those included 3-5 hours on the water, and relatively short runs (e.g. 1/4 mile in Fogland). Nina's 3-hour session yesterday had more than 30 jibes, according to the GPS records - so she probably did more than 2000 planing jibes before planing though one yesterday. Now, when we are driving home, she usually is doing Vulcans in her head - it will be very interesting to see how many tries she'll need before the lands the first one. My bet is that she'll land the first one before I do - I better keep working on the loop so I can have a trick she can't do. So what if the loop is easier - it looks at least as cool...