Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beautiful Loops

This is one of the best windsurf videos I have seen in a while:

Great scenes, great loops. I love the forwards he throws - they are all different. But they are all very horizontal. At 0:58, he illustrates several concepts Andy Brandt teaches nicely, including big-small-big; sheet up; and pull yourself up. In the double forward at 1:40, he completes his first loop while going up. Cool. In his stalled high forwards, you can really see the rig movement to windward; the harness mount perspective at 1:52 is great.

His back loops are cool, too, although he seems to have a bit a problem keeping hands and feet on the gear. One might think he set out to illustrate what Tonky Frans was talking about when he pointed out the similarities between back and front loops recently.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

It was windy all morning. But it also was Christmas. Ok, we stick to our German habits, and the big Xmas day was yesterday. Still. It was Christmas. Nobody answered to my text messages about going sailing. Almost everyone was busy unwrapping presents or eating brunch. Except for Jerry - he was playing in waves where the Great Whites are. Maybe he wanted to give them a Xmas present.

When the sun came out around noon, I gave up. It was warm, too! I just had to go windsurfing. Kalmus decoupled, but Hardings Beach in Chatham looked good. Visions of loops for Xmas flooded my brain. I fired off another text "I'm leaving NOW", and got a response from Hardie. He was still eating brunch. But he lives much closer to Hardings, so he beat me there.

The wind at Hardings today was good from 9 am to 2:30 pm. I made it out by 2:15 pm. I got some wind! No waves to speak of, but nice gentle swell, warm temperatures (high 40s air and water - that's almost 10ºC), and sun. Nice Xmas present!

Of course, the wind did punish us for not showing up earlier, and dropped to "must wait patiently for gusts to waterstart"-levels after 20 minutes. Hardie got lucky - his harness line broke, so he was on shore when the wind dropped. I was optimistic, and went out again to prove that patience was indeed required to waterstart. I even tried uphauling in the big swell outside - ha!, funny! But as my astute readers may have already concluded from the fact that I wrote this blog entry, I eventually got back onto the board and back to shore.

Merry Christmas!
Look, Santa, no hood!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 10 Session

Marty could not stop smiling. Not on the water. Not off the water. "That was one of my top 10 session ever!", he said.  Marty sails a lot, so that means something.

We had hoped to sail at Hardings Beach today. Hardings is perfect for loops - the waves come right at you for starboard jumps. But the wind turned WNW, which would have been really gusty.

So Cape Cod Bay it was. Hardie and I picked Linnell Landing in Brewster as the starting spot, since we planned to sail until 12:30, and the walk back would have been shorter than at Skaket. Ellis Landing is also a great low tide spot in Brewster, but Linnell is closer to where the fun waves are.

Then, Marty decided to join us. Marty likes long sessions. He had tons of fun, slightly overpowered on his favorite 4.7 m sail. Hardie and I said: "I don't do port jumps". Marty said: "Great, I wanted to practice port jumps". He did. And starboard jumps, too.

I put a GPS on Martin. If someone sails a lot, that's great for the "distance" category on the GPS Team Challenge. We sailed for a couple of hours, then Hardie had to leave. But it was just too nice to stop. Gentle rollers, big enough to be interesting, but harmless. Shallow water - standing room only, so to say. Steady wind. Balmy temperatures, considering it is almost Christmas (42ºF, 5ºC). A bit of sun every now and then? Who would not want to keep sailing?

We sailed from 10:30 am to 2 pm. We stopped because the wind dropped; but by then, the water surface had turned to mostly small chop, not as much fun anymore, so. Between Marty and I, we sailed almost 130 km - that's about 3 marathons (well, 1 1/2 each). That would be a good day in the summer. In almost-winter, it's outstanding.

One of the great things about the Skaket area in northwest winds is that you can sail forever in one direction, while staying close to shore. Our longest runs today were about 4 km long (1 1/2 miles), but we always were within 1/2 mile from shore, in chest-deep or shallower water and onshore winds. Sure, it would have been a long walk to shore in case of equipment failure - but not too bad. We know. We sailed until low tide, and had to carry our gear for more than 1/2 mile back to the car. Absolutely worth it!

Of course, both Marty and I wore Ianovated suits and open-palm mittens - the secret to long, fun cold weather sessions.
GPS tracks for today

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sun is overrated

Yes. Sun is overrated. When it's sunny, it gets crowded on the water. If you put on a 6 mm wetsuit because the water is getting cold, you end up sweating a lot. This late in the year, the sun does not really want to rise anymore. So if you're windsurfing and going towards the sun, the only thing you see is glare on the water.

Fortunately, sun was not a problem today. We had a perfect 100% cloud cover; rain that was "heavy at times" to keep spectators away; and plenty of wind. Most spots around here had wind averages gusts above 50 mph in the afternoon. That's a bit much for my taste, so I went in the morning. Alone. I guess I like rain more than the average winter windsurfer. Or perhaps they do not have a Gath helmet with an adjustable visor that keeps the rain out of your eyes.

The GPS tracks tell the story:
Gusty it was. Underpowered one second, overpowered 5 seconds later. And that's on a 90l slalom board with a 5.8 m speed sail that loves a lot of wind. I sailed at East Bay in Osterville because it's close to home, and because it's flat and perfectly safe. That's a great spot in east wind. But in the ENE wind we had today, there are two kinds of areas in the bay: areas with good wind; and areas where the water is perfectly flat. Unfortunately, these areas don't overlap, except once in a while when you catch a lucky gust.

But I had fun - lots of it. I windsurfed faster than I had for almost 5 months, and ended up with the third-fastest session of the year. Going into a jibe at full speed on flat water is just an amazing feeling. Who cares if you end the turn in a lull that makes it impossible to plane through most of the time?

I stopped when the wind picked up. Sure, the chop in the middle was fun. Fighting for control is always interesting. I even ignored my inner chicken that told me to slow down; slalom gear wants to be sailed at full power and speed. Feels good! But today, alone out in a rain storm, was not the day to push the envelope.

Did the rain bother me? No, sir! It kept the boom nice and wet for a better grip (ok, so my falls did that, too, but doppelt gemoppelt hält besser). I adjusted the visor on my helmet so that I could see underneath it, but put it low enough so that it kept the rain out of my eyes. Oh the luxury of being able to sail with both eyes open!

Some guys around here have stopped windsurfing for the season because "it is cold", but I think that's just plain silly. Air temperatures today were in the high 40s; water temperatures don't matter much if you (a) can stand every time you blow a jibe, and (b) you wear a thick wet suit. I admit that it was a great day to own an Ianovated suit - blowing warm air onto your hands while windsurfing is a wonderful thing.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Time for speed

The forecast was right: it was windy all day today. North wind with 30-35 mph, and no rain. Temperatures started out around 42ºF (6ºC), but dropped to 36ºF (3ºC) in the early afternoon. Still above freezing, so not a problem - but cold enough to not windsurf alone.

The plan emerged to go sailing at Corporation Beach in Dennis around noon. Jerry and PK rigged in no time at all, and were first on the water. Hardie and I rigged, too, but decided to watch the masters go out first. It looked a bit intimidating:
Jerry going out. Picture by Eddie Devereaux
Jerry made it out without problems, and could be seen throwing loops a few minutes later. PK was not so lucky. Two logo-high waves broke in his path, right after each other. He made it over the first one, but the white water from the second wave cleanly separated him from his gear. It then proceeded do push his gear to the shore, giving PK a chance to practice his swimming skills. The way back to the start did not look easy, either, with a constant onslaught of white water trying to keep him in the beach.

PK is a much better sailor than I am; he is a wave sailor, I am not. Seeing him struggle made me think twice about going out. Seeing Matt (?) struggle even more than PK a few minutes later, and hearing Jerry state that it was really hard to get out in this wind direction (NNE), sealed it. My swimming is just fine - absolutely no need to practice it in near-freezing water and thick wet suits!

Jerry and PK came off the water shortly thereafter. They decided to drive a couple of miles to Mayflower Beach, where side-on winds made launching a bit easier. Judging by Eddie's pictures, they had more fun there:
Jerry flying at Mayflower. Perhaps he thought he was kiting.
Hardie and I decided to try for some smoother waters instead, so we went to Barnstable Harbor. Unfortunately, the high wind had pushed a lot of water into the harbor, so tide levels were higher than normal, and coming down very slowly. The little grass island that create perfectly flat water when the tide is right were still under two feet of water, and the chop was pretty steep. Between the chop and the potential to discover one of the hidden islands rather abruptly with his fin, Hardie's fun was limited, and he kept his session short. However, I had just seen the tops of the first islands emerging, and kept sailing for another hour. The GPS tracks show how the water got flatter, and speeds increased:
Being alone on the water, I played it safe. With the original plan to sail in waves, I had not brought the slalom gear, anyway, and used my 96 l Tabou 3S and a 4.7 m wave sail instead. Even when I stopped, water levels were still high, with only parts of the islands emerging. Water levels would have been perfect an hour later, but I decided to call it a day early. For all my fellow Fogland Speed Surfers (and Drew), here's a short video from one of the runs:

 That was fun! Falling when trying tricks? Not so much anymore. So it's time for speed! Next time, with cambered speed sails and a slalom board...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tonky's Loop Advice

The forward loop is the dream of many windsurfers. For some young hot-shots, it's easy. They just "jump high, sheet in, look back", and get around. But unless you are young and heal fast, I do not recommend this approach. At the first loop lecture I heard, three guys had tried this; all three got thrown onto their gear and got hurt. In at least one case, it was a season-ending injury.

For the cautious rest of us, there is another approach to learning the loop. It's based on Remko de Weerd's "Loop in 4 steps" video, and has since been adapted by AKB. I have seen dozens of windsurfers getting started on the loop this way, and nobody got hurt; a bunch of guys actually did learn to loop this way. Not me, though. Every time wind and waves are right, I chicken out. I'm not the only one, either - I know several windsurfers who have been working on loops for years, without ever getting one.

So when I read what Tonky Frans had to say about the loop on thewavehobbit, I got excited. Many things Tonky suggests are quite similar to what others say, but there are a few things where he differs. Here's a very brief version of Tonky's advice:
  1. Pop the board at a slight upwind angle with a mostly depowered sail. Your body is centered over the board.
  2. Move the rig towards the wind (the mast to windward).
  3. Pull your back leg up to your butt.
  4. Keep the back hand close to your body, and the front arm relatively extended.
  5. As the nose of the board turns downwind, your sail will automatically power up. Speed up the rotation by extending your front leg (but keep the back leg and back arm bent).
  6. Keep this position as you get thrown around.
There's some more advice about the ending, but if you make it to step 6, the rest is easy. It's getting to this point that hard. Let's look at how Tonky's advice helps:

Pop the board at a slight upwind angle.
This is new to me (at least for flatwater loops). The more common advice is to go downwind, or at most at a beam reach. Tonky states that a slight upwind angle helps to get more height, and to reduce forward speed. That makes perfect sense to me. I like the idea of reducing forward speed, since falling back into the water after an upwind jump with minimal speed is definitely not scary. I can do that.

Move the rig towards the wind
This is a common suggestion for loops, seen in Remko's video and heard from the ABK folks. The idea is that the sideways pressure from the mast foot will move the nose of the board downwind. Since everything will be in the air, not a lot of pressure is needed to get things moving.
However, this advice is quite different from "jump high and sheet in". In it's purest form, this will have the mast vertical, and start an end-over-end rotation. That's fine if you're jumping full-speed over a big wave, and end up 15 feet above the water. Anything smaller, chances are that things go wrong big time. Maybe your nose will land on the water, and you and/or your rig will be thrown violently onto your board. Or maybe your mast will hit the water, and you'll break it or get stuck upside down.

Keep the back hand close to your body.
Tonky says "engaging the power is just keeping the back hand right close to your body". That's quite different from "sheet in hard", a very common loop advice. How could Tonky's advice possibly work? He does point out that not having enough power in the sail can cause under-rotation (a common problem for loop learners). 
The important thing is that moving the rig to windward will cause the nose of the board to turn downwind. Even if the arms don't move at all, this will cause the rig to power up - an "automatic sheet-in", so to say. Once the sail starts to power up, the nose will turn downward quicker, and the power in the sail will increase rapidly, until you get through around. If you extend your back arm at this point, that will take power out of the sail, and slow the rotation down - bad idea! 

If you're thinking about looping, or about teaching someone else to loop, please make sure to read the original article carefully. The different parts of advice go together - mixing parts of it with other commonly heard advice could have very bad consequences.  For example, if you do want to try a loop by jumping over big waves and sheeting in hard, you definitely should try this from a downwind takeoff to reduce the chances of falling onto your gear! 

But for me, Tonky's explanation makes perfect sense. I particularly like how he explains how various elements reduce the risks. For example, staying over the back of the board keeps you from getting thrown into your gear (assuming the other parts of your setup let you rotate horizontally); or how staying below the sail means that over-rotating is not something to be afraid of.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


The forecast had looked fantastic: warm, sunny, wind around 20, even in the mid-20s according to one computer model.  I got excited. Woke up early. Waited for the wind to come up a bit more from the readings around 15, but then arrived at Kalmus around 10:30. Alex was already there, and a few others short up shortly thereafter.

But by the time I had rigged, the white caps that were visible when I arrived had completely disappeared. Alex went out on his 7.5, but never got anywhere close to planing. The wind had dropped to around 10.

Other wind sensors looked promising: Pt. Judith, Buzzards Bay Buoy, and Vineyard heaven all showed low 20s and a clear upward trend. Even Waquoit Bay and Duxbury were showing 20s! Clearly, there was some wind out there! Typically, wind that reaches the sensors further south arrives at Kalmus a little while later. So we waited. But the wind did not come.

I eventually gave up, derigged, and drove home, where the wise and lovely Nina had remained the entire time. I decided to try another close-by spot where the sensors did show wind - Waquoit Bay, 25 minutes the other way. Nina joined me, and so did Drew, who had just arrived at Kalmus.

Waquoit Bay is not a popular windsurfing spot, and we found out why: the dirt road that leads to the about 5 parking spots is clearly modeled after the access road to Sprecklesville on Maui. Potholes are huge, tree branches try to scratch the van, and the going is slow. But we made it through, and were rewarded with: wind!

I did not trust it, so I rigged quickly and big (7.0). Nicely powered on the first few runs, I loved how flat it was - speed territory! I changed to my big slalom board and started going a bit faster - 25 knots in 17 knot wind with 22 knot gusts. Not bad, considering that the sail was too small for deep downwind runs!

But before I could even start dreaming about going for a decent 1-hour run for the GPS Team Challenge, the wind started dropping. I switched back to my freestyle board because it's easier to sail underpowered, but gave up a short while later. I was getting to hot in my 6 mm wetsuit, anyway!

So yes, I got fooled by the wind. But I also did get to have some fun at a beautiful spot in warm temperatures, sailing with Nina and Drew. Not a bad day at all!
I jinxed Drew by giving him a GPS

Where is Nina?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Crowds on the water

It's windy, and I'm not sailing. Ok, I should add "yet" - I'm waiting a bit so that I'll start at the same time as some of my friends. We'll have crowds on the water again. No big surprise today - it will be warm, with water + air temperature > 100ºF (water 48, air 55). That's warm. I will be overheating on the water. I'll be glad when I blow my jibes. I might event have to try freestyle so I fall more often.

If you're windsurfing near Cape Cod, but stop in October, you're missing out big time. Today will be my 12th day of sailing in November - that's every other day. Wind averages were above 20 most days; two days ago, they were around 35. That was just a perfect day - fully powered on 4.0. Not a big deal for Gorge sailors or light-weight Californians, perhaps - but it was only the second time this year that this 195 lb sailor got to use a 4.0. Very much to my surprise, I was perfectly comfortable, even when it was still bumpy close to high tide. As the water level dropped, it got flat, with nice little waves to play with - perfection!

You can see how it got flatter in the GPS speed graph:
(Don't get exited - speeds are in kmh, not knots, silly!).

With air temperatures in the low- to mid-40s, there were a lot of Ianovated wetsuits to be seen. Towards the end of the day, the last 4 windsurfers all wore Ianovated suits. It's so easy to do 3-hour sessions when you can warm your hands with a few puffs into the warming tube! And now, you can buy the suit in the US, and Wind-NC in Hatteras. Beaches will certainly get more crowded on the cold days!

The wind stuck around another day, so we went for another session yesterday morning. Seeing Marty throw himself into loop tries, I conquered my inner chicken a bit, and went for a few tries myself. They were halfhearted tries, but better than not trying at all. At least, I got whipped around a bit:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When I grow up I want to be ...

.. like Jerry. Here are some pictures Eddie Devereaux took of him yesterday at Harding's Beach in Chatham:

Well, at least I got to sail with him:
That's Jerry high up in the air, and me far in the background. At least my sail is about as colorful as his.  I even tried to copy Jerry's straight jumps, with limited success:
Hardie was there, too. This picture of him gives a good idea how the waves were:
Nina did her own thing, once she got used to sailing in non-flat water. 40ºF temperatures and full power on a 4.0 seemed just right for her to work on Shove-Its:

You have to realize that Nina almost never sails waves. When she later saw the pictures where Jerry jumped off the wave, turned downwind in the air, and landed back on the wave, she said "Oh, I should do that!". Yes. Wait until next time!

You might ask: were we cold? NO! Jerry complained about being hot, and took breaks on shore to cool off. Nina used open-palm mittens only for the first few runs, and then sail without gloves. My stupid hands acted up a bit, but were fine when I used my old open-palm mittens and the tubes in my Ianovated suit. No, really, they were fine! Even when my board got away from me, and I went for what seemed to be a very long swim. The GPS tracks later showed it was just 3 minutes.

A great session it was. Warm we were. The wind was strong and super-steady:

But my inner chicken won. I was not happy about that. Of course I have excuses. It took me a while to get used to the waves. I rarely sail my 4.7. I did not see 9 of Jerry's 10 loops. When I finally saw one his loops, I was really tired. And so on. Stupid chicken! Hardings often has perfect loop conditions, and yesterday was no exception. Did I say I hate that stupid chicken in me? It's in me, and comes out at the worst times. Don't know where it comes from - I'm a vegetarian!

Chances are Nina will loop before I do - and she has no desire to do so, at least not before she can Flaka and Shaka and Vulcan and Kono. But she also has no fear. Enough power for 4.0? Great, so much easier to duck! Does not matter if for a regular duck jibe in 45 mph winds, or for a duck tack in 35 mph. Her inner chicken either does not exist, or it is mute and invisible. So I maybe I revise my first statement: when I grow up, I want to be as fearless as Nina or Jerry. But my mother thinks I'll never grow up, and she may be right.
Many thanks to Eddie for taking the pictures, and to Jerry for demonstrating many loops. It was not Jerry's fault that I was usually looking the other way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Encounter

In west to northwest winds, the iWindsurf meter that consistently shows the strongest readings is the "Hatch Beach" meter. It's a great mystery why it's called "Hatch Beach" - the beach it is on is the First Encounter Beach in Eastham. It you think of Cape Cod as an arm sticking out into the Atlantic that is bent at the elbow, the beach is darn close to the elbow pit. No surprise the wind likes going there!

First Encounter is a kite surfing beach. Windsurfers usually go to Skaket, or to places with better waves. But we tried First Encounter once, and Nina had a great session there. So when we got a wind forecast that promised straight onshore winds at Skaket, but side-on winds at First Encounter, that's were we went.

We arrived near high tide, and the water looked rather uninviting. "But it was so flat last time" said Nina. Well, the tide was about 4-6 feet lower then. With a 10-12 foot tide, the differences in water state are quite dramatic. We dawdled a bit, but eventually made it out onto the water. The Hatch Beach meter often overstates the wind a bit, so we rigged big - 4.7 for Nina, 6.0 for me. Nina ended up a bit overpowered. I like power and was just fine, thank you very much.

Here's a video from the session:

I won't blame you (much) if you call the video boring. I tried a few Carve 360s, but that was it, and those did not work. Otherwise, I was perfectly happy going back and forth. Since the water was quite bumpy at the start, I diverted from my usual straight ways and wove some curvy lines into the water. A little more than a mile out, there was some rather lovely swell for such "wave play" (although, admittedly, calling the swell "waves" is stretching it a bit). But for this straight-line flatwater surfer, it counted as serious fun, and kept me occupied for a while.

After an hour or two, the tide had fallen more than a meter, and it got flatter. I took this as an excuse to sail in a more linear fashion. If anyone had asked, I would have pointed to the GPS on my arm and called it "speed runs", but nobody asked. Just as is started getting really flat, my inner chicken reared it's ugly head and send me scrambling to shore. The water was still mostly more than knee-deep, but there were some shallower areas and shell fishing cages, and I was not sure were exactly all these were. Nina, who was a bit safer on an 8 cm shorter fin, came in shortly afterwards. After we had de-rigged, we took a final look at the water:
It had gotten buttery smooth, and I was a bit jealous of the kiters. Maybe I should order a 15 cm Delta Wing fin from Maui Ultra Fins...
For all the history buffs among my readers: the name "First Encounter Beach" reflects that this is where the Pilgrims first encountered Native Americans,  a little while prior to their settling in Plymouth. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014


20: days sailed in October.
Includes 2 weeks in Hatteras, one day with sessions at two different spots on Cape Cod, and 3 light wind days.

Hatteras Sunset

28: wind averages (in mph) when we decided to go windsurfing today, despite the rain
35: wind averages when we rigged
41: wind averages when we sailed
49: wind gusts when we sailed
3.4 and 4.0: our sail sizes today. It's rare that we get to sails this small - maybe 1-2x a year. Even rarer that we are overpowered on these sails. Happens once every few years. Tomorrow will be even windier.

24: top speed (in mph) today in 41 mph winds
28: typical top speed I have on a day when wind averages are 20 mph

6.7: distance (in km) I sailed today
52: average distance I sailed per day (with planing conditions) in October
138: maximum distance I sailed on one day in October
270: maximum distance I ever sailed on one day
742: distance (in km) sailed by Dennis Klaaijsen when he set the 24-hour windsurfing record.
He jibed 395 times, falling 5 times (98.7% dry rate).
Skaket Beach, Orleans, Cape Cod

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Andy and Caesar movie

At the ABK camp Cape Cod in September, Andy Brandt and Caesar Finies gave us a little demonstration what light wind freestyle can look like. Conditions were not ideal, with gusty winds from 5-20 mph; furthermore, both Andy and Caesar were on unfamiliar boards. That did not keep them from putting on a great show - here is a short video:

It's interesting to see the rather different styles in direct comparison. Andy does a lot of "old school" tricks like fin-first upwind 360s that are technically quite difficult, but take 10-15 seconds to complete. In contrast, many of Caesar's tricks are sail-throws or sail-body movements that take only a second or two. In the 10 seconds that one of the "old school" moves takes, Caesar strings together a whole bunch of different moves, often mixing simple ones like sail-body 360s with hard ones like Jaw Breakers and Ankle Biters. Andy's style is super-clean and very technical; Caesar's is fast and furious. I'm just glad that this was a demonstration, not a competition where we had to pick a winner! Many thanks to Caesar and Andy for showing us what you can do on a windsurf board in light winds.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall windsurfing

Check the picture above. Do you see the long sleeves? The mittens? Fall is here! I think that's just great.

Fall arrived yesterday. It had been warm for most of September, with temperatures often in the 70s (around 25ºC), lots of sun, no rain for weeks, and little wind. Yesterday, the wind came. So did the rain. We looked at the wind meter readings: low to mid 20s (mph) - let's go sailing! We looked out the window: NO! Rain, clouds, general nastiness - why not stay home? Nina stayed home, I went sailing.

I arrived in Duxbury half-deaf from the rain drumming on the van. Big van = lots of drumming. Nobody there - I'd have the whole bay for myself. First runs out - nice power! Time to check out the north side ... then the wind takes a break. Schlogging my 96 l board is work. I almost give up and drive home, but decide to give my Skate 110 a chance to shine. It does - and then the wind picks back up again. Fun on the Skate! All alone in the rain and fog, I play it safe, mowing the lawn instead of freestyling. But who cares - nobody sees me, anyway, and I'm having fun. I'm happy to be back in my warm Ianovated suit (with the tubes removed) - it's overkill, but so comfortable. I'm warm - who cares that it's raining hard? My Gath visor helmet keeps the rain out of my eyes.

The great thing about northeast winds in the fall is that they tend to stick around. When we woke up this morning, the wind was still there. The rain had left us, though - well, mostly, at least, with just a little drizzle every now and then. So today, my lovely wife decided to join me for the trip to Duxbury. We launched from the Shipyard Lane Beach for a change, since the local windsurfers told me many times that it's a better launch. Indeed, the parking lot is nice, and it has a grassy rigging area. But in today's NNE wind, there also was quite a bit of wind shadow close to shore, not too different from the usual Powder Point Bridge launch. What was different, however, was the chop. Even near low tide, there was a lot more of it. Nice for jumping - not so nice for speed or freestyle. Nina, Jeff, and I decided to sail upwind to look for smoother water, which we finally found about a mile upwind. We stayed there for a while, now closer to our usual launch from the bridge than to Shipyard Lane Beach. The wind was plainly fantastic, nice and steady in the upper 20s. It made planing through jibes easy; even if you messed up a bit, there was always plenty of power to get going again right away. Nice!

We stopped after three hours, when Jeff had to leave and Nina started to feel pain from a pulled muscle. I could have sailed more, but with about 120 km sailed since yesterday, my endorphin levels had been sufficiently replenished to stop. Here are today's tracks:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flowstyle 101

When Caesar Finies visited us here on Cape Cod a couple of weeks ago, he filmed a few minutes of Flowstyle from the same view point that I used in my recent video - the nose of the board. We even did some of the same tricks - but that's where the similarities end. His raw footage is much more interesting to watch than my heavily edited video. The remnants of my scientific education prompted me to study the "why" (beyond the obvious answer that he is much better looking). I will present my findings to you in a minute. Let's look at a very short fragment showing Caesar in action first - about 12 seconds. There was too much going on in these 12 seconds, so I added a slow-motion repeat, and annotated it:

Here's a list of the moves:
  • Sail-Body 360
  • Ankle Biter
  • Sail-Body 360 (from leeside sailing)
  • Clew push-through
  • Sail flip and sail duck (Reverse Sail 360)
Interestingly, most of these moves are pretty simple. The exception is the Ankle Biter, which is one of the harder light-wind freestyle moves to learn; but with proper instruction and equipment, an advanced windsurfer can learn the Ankle Biter in a few days. Nevertheless, the sequence is quite amazing.

What makes it amazing is that moves flow seamlessly into each other, without breaks in between. They also all go into the same direction, which "enhances the flow". Going back to my video, I started with a similar combo, a Sail 720 into a Sail-Body 360. But in my sequence, the sail rotation was going one direction, the sail-body rotation the other direction, making the sequence much less smooth. 

During Caesar's sequence, the board turned through the wind, without any visible effort on his side. One could argue that not having a fin in the board helped him - but sailing the board without a fin is in itself not entire trivial. When I tried, I had to concentrate quite hard to keep the nose from turning into the wind. Having the board turn "automatically" in the middle of a trick sequence not only adds to the magic, but it also sets up for a move repeat (the Sail-Body 360) from a different starting position, which makes the move look quite different.

In summary, here are some of the basic "Flowstyle 101" rules:
  • Keep moving! Flow from one trick into the next without breaks.
  • Keep the direction of flow! If you start going clockwise, add other moves that go the same direction - don't suddenly switch to a counter-clockwise move.
  • Mix the categories! Don't just go through endless series of board 360s, even if you change things like sail or board orientation. Instead, mix board moves, sail moves/throws, and sail-body moves. Two upwind 360s with a sail throw (Ankle Biter or Chacho Throw) in the middle look way cooler than three different upwind 360s in a row.
  • Learn variations of basic moves! After learning the Sail-Body 360, try it going around the other way, and starting from leeside (backwinded) sailing. If you got the Ankle Biter, learn the Clew First Ankle Biter. The same basic principles generally apply, but the moves often look quite different, making your routine much more interesting. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Light wind freestyle video

Here's a short video from a recent light wind session at Duxbury:

It's put together from about 40 minutes of Clew-View / GoPro footage. I tried to cut out the boring parts. Even with the cuts, it is quite far away from Flowstyle. My brain and body just don't work that fast. But even my slow style was a lot of fun. If you wonder why I got excited about the Ankle Biter at the end - that was the first clean one I ever did. Thanks for getting me there, Caesar!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Are You Bored Sailing?

What? Did she really say that? "Are you bored sailing?" I said "What?" many times. She repeated herself until she finally asked "Are you hard of hearing?".

She seemed like such a nice old lady. Why would she ask me such a thing when I was de-rigging in the parking lot? Ok, the wind had been light. Sure, it was not my best day, and I did fall a lot. Yes, I spent the last 20 minutes trying to go upwind, hardly making any progress. But boring? I was not bored! I even got 3 or 4 Ankle Biters and a Jaw Breaker. Most Jaw Breaker failures were tame, with the sail just refusing to come back up, and lying down on the water instead. Maybe my sail was bored? Only once did the sail gently wipe my face when the clew whipped around, reminding me why the move is called "Jaw Breaker" and "Guillotine".

Finally, the old lady spelled it out for me - she had asked if I was "boardsailing". Digging deep into my memory (which is racing my hearing for the "fastest decline" trophy), I remembered that this is a term sometimes used for windsurfing. Yes! I was not bored sailing, I was windsurfing! The nice old lady then explained that she had been the first windsurfer in Massachusetts, boardsailing in Hingham Harbor and later on Cape Cod. We chatted briefly, before she took off in her car that seemed to be the same vintage as our Fanatic Ultra Cat.
Sunset at East Bay

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ECWF Cape Cod impressions

Many things at the ECWF Cape Cod impressed and amused me - here are a few random ones:
  • Caesar Finies skipping his lunch break to demonstrate Ankle Biters and more on the beach to a large crowd of onlookers; some of them later did the move on land
  • Mike Burns putting up an amazing show in the pro freestyle heats, making Caesar work very hard for the first place in pro freestyle
  • Phil Soltysiak racing on his small freestyle board and 5.x m freestyle sail, and always coming in in the top 1/3rd of the pack, even when winds were light 
  • Eric Skilbred upping his performance in every heat to eventually steal 1st place from Niko Kley, who had dominated the earlier heats with flawless duck tacks, back-to-back, and jaw breakers
  • Caesar pumping like mad to get on a plane in marginal winds, and ending up way ahead of everyone else on the last mark - but being caught by longboard sailors on the final upwind leg in shifty and weak offshore winds
  • The crew from Makani Fins who came from Canada to participate in racing and freestyle with big smiles on their faces, and to let everyone interested try out Makani fins
  • Pam Levy, who had again come from Michigan to help with running the event, but who also participated in both racing and freestyle - and who kept her smile even when her car had to be towed to a repair shop when she was on her way to the event, towing the rescue jet ski
  • Nina whipping everyone into shape on the megaphone, making sure that we stayed close to schedule and earning many remarks for how well organized the event was
  • Mike Burns beating Caesar in the second-to-last freestyle heat because he had chosen a larger sail, and had just enough power in the gusts to throw amazing new school tricks
  • Caesar fighting back in the last heat in lighter winds - when Mike drew large cheers for seemingly never-ending turns and cool rail rides, Caesar answered with never-ending ankle biters, explosive railride into Matrix combos, and his trademark "Hail Mary" attempts 
  • Jeff Bull absolutely dominating the first day of racing on his ancient Mistral Superlight, leaving all kinds of slalom boards and longboards in the dust in 4 of 6 races
  • Jeanne Baumann, the old and new Queen of the Cape, showing the guys how to race with 4 placings in the overall top 5 - she would have taken 3rd place in the Men's 7.5 division, and 1st place in the Men's Open division
  • Seeing the Kalmus parking lot filled up with windsurf vehicles 
  • Lots of beautiful sails on the water during races
  • Nikita putting family first and taken both of his kids out for a sail instead of competing
  • Mike Burn's catapult over the finish line when his fin caught the anchor line of the buoy
  • Freestyle Fred skillfully taking down Jerry Evans with a sail throw in a freestyle heat
  • Having competitors come from Bonaire, Canada, Vermont, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and lots of other places
  • Seeing competitors ranging from 16 to 72 years in age competing in the same races and freestyle heats
Here are a few pictures from the event:
Race start - PWA sailor Phil Soltysiak ahead of the pack
Great weather, lots of colorful sails
Caesar Finies demonstrating moves on land

Pro freestyle heat - Caesar and Mike on the rail

Caesar on the boom during a Matrix
Phil and Mike Burns getting ready to race
Women's freestyle

Cape Cod sailor Jerry Evans chasing Caesar Finies

Caesar going for a Hail Mary

Novices competing with PWA pros - all had lots of fun

Monday, September 15, 2014

ECWF Cape Cod 2014 Results

The ECWF Cape Cod 2014 last weekend at Kalmus Beach in Hyannis was a big success. 38 windsurfers competed in 9 races and several rounds of freestyle. The Pro freestyle division included two PWA freestylers, Caesar Finies and Phil Soltysiak, as well as local legend and ECWF Long Island organizer Mike Burns and Phil's brother Tom. I'm hoping to post more pictures and details later - for now, here are the results:

Pro Freestyle
1. Caesar Finies
2. Mike Burns
3. Phil Soltysiak
Men's Freestyle
1. Eric Skilbred
2. Niko Kley
3. Joe Natali
Women's Freestyle
1. Jeanne Baumann
2. Pam Levy
3. Kristen Casse
Racing - Men's 7.5
1. Jerry Evans
2. Caesar Finies
3. Joe Natalie
4. Joseph Giordano
5. Jeff Bull
6. Tom Burns
7. Sean Jancski
8. Phil Soltysiak 
9. Mike Burns
10. Alex Gleyzer

Racing - Men's Open
1. Jean-Robert Wilhelmy
2. Jay Baldwin
3. Pete Ford

Racing - Women's
1. Jeanne Baumann
2. Liz Patton
3. Alena Ashenberg

King and Queen of the Cape: Caesar Finies & Jeanne Baumann
Caesar and Jeanne, King and Queen of the Cape 2014
A big thanks to all the helpers, sponsors, and participants of the ECWF Cape Cod 2014! Hope to see you all again next year!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

East Bay - Caesar at play

Here's a short video from Caesar Finies playing at East Bay in Osterville on Cape Cod yesterday:

This is raw, unedited footage, but it will be a while before I get around to editing, and I think this is too good to not share. Caesar will still be on Cape Cod for a few more days. He will be at the 2nd annual East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod at Kalmus Beach this Saturday and Sunday, 9/13 - 9/14/2014. Come and join the fun!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Too Busy

Caesar showing a Hail Mary at the ABK camp Kalmus
This is a non-post. I am too busy to blog. Had a fantastic ABK camp here in Hyannis last weekend. Caesar Finies and Andy Brandt put on a light wind freestyle show - fantastic! I barely had time to look at the videos - the editing will have to wait.

We sailed a lot - two planing days at camp. The last two days had some planing wind, but we mostly missed it. Lucky us! Worked on Ankle Biters and rail rides. Got my first "normal" Ankle Biters yesterday:
Ankle Biters are cool, especially if you move your feet in time
Of course, Nina got a few, too. Today, both Nina and I got our first rail rides - one foot up, one foot on the rail, sail for a while, then tip the board back to normal. Nice!

The next days will be busy, too, with more sailing and with preparations for the East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod this weekend. As I am writing this, we have 36 registrations so far, with several more coming in each day. With sun and planing wind in the forecast for both days, we'll probably see at least that many competitors on the water. Rumors have it that we'll have not just one, but two PWA pros: Caesar Finies and Phil Soltysiak. There will be a number of other high-level freestylers and racers, too. Hope you can come and join the fun!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Feels like summer

Finally, it feels like summer. "It" is the wind - I needed large sails to plane the last couple of days. Not that I am complaining - at least I was planing. Not that the wind was consistent - but that's what long boards are for. Yesterday, the Kona Mahalo for rail ride practice. Today, the Fanatic Ultra Cat for fun in 12 mph winds. Did I mention it was fun? Lots of fun! But rail rides are hard work. Mowing the lawn when the wind picked up today in Duxbury Bay was a lot easier.

Enough said - here is a short video from our recent sessions at Egg Island:

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I'm tired. Blame the relentless August wind - we sailed 5 days in a row. The first three days were fantastic; the last two a bit less so, with wrong gear choices (and no easy switch since we were at Egg Island), a broken sail strap, and more variation in the wind. Did not keep me from mowing the lawn, nor did it keep Nina from working on all kinds of things. She's now getting a duck tack in every session; a two-session day thus means two duck tacks. They tend to look quite cool now, too, with the sail almost hitting the water before floating back up to her. Here's a shot from a Clew-View video:
Yes, I did manage to get here to take the GoPro for one of the 5 days. Much cooler footage than when I use it! I counted her trick attempts in one 42-minute video, where she worked on 6 different tricks: 28 attempts in total, one every 90 seconds. No surprise she sometimes is tired after a session!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Nice Kitty!

"Do you guys have lanes on the water? You all seem to be going the same way back and forth all the time!" That's what an astute observer who obviously never windsurfed asked me the other day at Kalmus beach. Looking at some of my GPS tracks, I must admit he had a point:
These are tracks from the first half of my session a few days ago. I had just enough wind to get planing, and was using a weed fin. But these tracks are pretty typical for how most windsurfers sail at Kalmus.

But when the wind dropped a bit, I decided to switch to a longboard - my Fanatic Ultra Cat from the 1990s. At least twice as heavy as the Fanatic Skate I had used, almost twice as long - and, it turned out, about twice as much fun:
On the newer shortboard, I had exactly two speeds - really slow and fast. I had just one angle to sail - close to beam reach. Theoretically, I could have sailed more downwind, but that was not really an option because going upwind at any decent angle would have meant switching from fast (= fun) to really slow (= no fun).
But on the longboard, I suddenly had options. I was able to go upwind at 45º angles. Just one tack, and I was out much further than during the entire session on the Skate. I had a lot of different speeds to choose on, depending on the angle to the wind and the current wind strength. On the Cat, a bit more wind meant a bit more speed. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Even the relatively slow upwind legs were a lot of fun, since the board railed up a bit on it's huge racing daggerboard. Not even the famous Kalmus voodoo chop bothered the board! Fun, fun, fun. Since going upwind was easy, I could also go downwind at much steeper angles, and start playing around with the waves. Sure, a 12-foot board won't do radical turns going down a 3-foot wave, but it still reacts fast enough to be lots of fun. For the number-curious: the wind meter showed readings between 10 and 18 mph, with averages near 15. My top speed on the Skate 110 was 24 mph, on the Cat 21 mph; I used a 6.5 m sail.

I had to stop when it got dark. I tried for a repeat session the next day, but the wind dropped to 9 mph averages just as I hit the water. So it ended up being more work and less fun - but every day of sailing is a great day of sailing!

On other news, I finally got an opportunity to practice my windsurf instructor skills on complete beginners today. Conditions were pretty good, but the wind was a bit light. Watching the two guys try there best made me wonder how I ever got past the initial steps. It looked so hard! The lighter guy was on a 10 ft Exocet WindSUP. He managed some back and forth runs, with tacks in the middle, towards the end. The other guy was a bit taller and heavier, and really had to fight for his balance on my 75 cm wide Kona Mahalo. Very light winds and small swell did not help at all! But he bravely kept at it, and managed to get reasonably good at uphauling and getting going. I always thought the Kona Mahalo was pretty stable, with it's 12 foot length and looong daggerboard - but I'll clearly need a wider beginner board for future lessons.

So begins August - often a month with very little wind here. But July was fantastic, with 15 days of planing fun. So much wind that even I got bored of mowing the lawn, and started to play around with new school freestyle. I'm pretending to work on the Grubby, and if I'm very generous, I can claim about 60 tries. Most of those were just pops, though, with the highlight being a pop where I turned the board about 90 degrees in the air, and then landed nose-first (no, dear mother-in-law, do not worry: I did not land on my nose! The nose of the board touched the water first, which is what's supposed to happen in new school freestyle). You call it what you will, I'll call it progress, albeit slow progress. But I already have a good idea what I should do next. Let's hope I don't forget until the winds return in a few weeks!
Nose landing
Butt landing - I'm good at these!