Sunday, January 26, 2014


This is what Kalmus looked like yesterday morning:

But it was windy! SSW wind mid-20s! That's my favorite wind strength, and the best direction! And it was low tide around noon - a perfect setup!

There was open water to be seen, but I'm not sure that getting through the ice and slush would have been possible. West Dennis tends to ice over less, but a kiter reported that getting out there was impossible. But we were lucky: just 1/2 mile down the road, at Sea Street Beach, the unfrozen water almost reached shore. Definitely sailable!

Three of us made it out onto the water at around 1 pm: Martin, Bill from Craigsville, and I. Martin's addiction is definitely worse than mine: he had to drive almost two hours to get here, and then went sailing in thin 3 mm boots. My toes got cold just looking at his feet - and they were nicely protected in 7 mm boots, with hydroskin socks for extra warmth. He did not mind, though. He later said the numbness went away after the first break (enforced by a broken harness line).

I must admit that all that snow and slush made me a bit cautious. I figured this was a great day to see how the Ianovated wetsuit works with regular Dakine mittens, instead of the open-palm mitts that I normally use. I have used the open-palm mitts in similar temperatures, but I usually need to take a short break after a few runs to shake the blood back down into my fingers, and let them warm up. Yesterday, however, walking through the slush to take a short break did not sound too appealing.

I know several windsurfers who use Dakine mittens for winter windsurfing without any problems. They have a thin, grippy inner layer that feels more like leather than like neoprene. It offers less insulation, but a better grips, and therefore causes less forearm fatigue. When I used the Dakine mittens, though, my fingers got way too cold, probably due to my Raynaud's disease (even though I have a only mild form of it). That was before I had the Ianovated suit, though - blowing warm air onto my fingers while sailing might just do the trick and keep my fingers nice and warm!

That's exactly what happened. My fingers did get cold just from gripping the boom, but warmed up quickly again when I used the warming tubes for a little while. I was able to sail without having to stop to warm up my hands - nice! I used the warming tubes mostly at the beginning and after crashes, when a little water got into the mittens. The session was about three hours long, although that included one break to switch boards, and a second break when Bill stopped and Martin went in to change his broken harness line. Towards the end, my forearms did get tired - definitely more than they would have with open palm mitts. Still, a three-hours session with 54 km sailed on a cloudy day in January is a wonderful thing! As usual in SSW winds and near low tide, Kalmus presented a wonderful playground, with orderly swell that was big and steep enough to play with, and created flat areas in between for little speed runs. I'll rate yesterdays session a straight A, which puts it in the top 5% of the sessions in the last 12 months. Here's a little GoPro video:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gear to stay warm

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a swim in Nantucket Sound. Ok, I admit that I tried to stay on the windsurf board, but I was not always successful. I'll assign some of the blame to the strong wind:
The forecast had predicted only 28 mph, with a pronounced drop after 1 pm, so I started (somewhat) early, shortly past 10 am. The wind looked perfect for a 5.0 wave sail at Kalmus, and I had a bit of fun. Fortunately, the snow shower that had surprised me while rigging was short-lived, and gave way to sunshine later. With the sun came more wind, and the 5 square meters became a bit much. The incoming tide and strong winds made for some growing chop, disorganized as usual in Kalmus. Having to go in anyway to rig a smaller sail, I decided to hop into the van and switch to the flat waters in Hyannis Port Harbor: the Kennedy Slicks, one mile to the west.

The initial plan was to go for speed, so I rigged my 5.0 speed sail and took my 90 l slalom board for a spin. Or perhaps it was the other way round... As much as I love the Kennedy Slicks, the wind does get a bit gusty near shore. Trying to get into the back footstrap with my 7 mm booties ended up as split practice - a failure by other means, since I neither got into the straps, nor did I do a split. Instead, I got an ice cream headache from the cold water. Fortunately, pulling the head out of the water helped.

I gave it a few tries and eventually got into both straps, but never felt comfortable. I started hearing little voices inside my head - "do you really think it's a good idea to sail out here alone, out of control, in almost freezing water, 35 knot winds, 20ºF wind chill?". Where ever that voice came from, I agreed that the out-of-control part perhaps was overdoing it. So I switched to my trusted Tabou 3S 96, with its nice, big, center-mounted footstraps that I could get into in my sleep, wearing ski boots (to answer the inevitable question: no, I have not tried that yet). That did the trick - I was finally having some fun, doing little speed runs on the perfectly flat water next to the stone pier. Here's a little video that shows the conditions at Kalmus and the Kennedy Slicks yesterday:
Overall, I was out for almost three hours, although that includes switching spots and a bunch of short breaks. I was perfectly warm the entire time, despite air and water temperatures just above freezing, and strong winds. There were two critical things that made that possible: my Ianovated double nylon suit, and my Xcel surf hood. Both deserve a closer look.

The double nylon Ianovated suit

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love my Ianovated wetsuit that I bought in 2012. The tube warming system is pure genius, and allows me to sail with open-palm mittens all winter long. When I bought the original suit, I got the one that had a smooth outer surface, rather than the "double nylon" suit that has a fabric-like outer surface. My rationale was that the smooth outer skin eliminates evaporative cooling, and thus would be warmer. However, my lovely wife tried and immediately bought the double-nylon version of the same suit, and was plenty warm in it all winter long. So when Ianovated came out with a "two zipper suit" that included a relief zipper, this middle-aged male got himself a double-nylon, double-zipper suit. What could be more fun than looong winter sessions?

But until yesterday, I had worn the double-nylon suit only on relatively warm days; air temperatures often were near 50ºF (10ºC). Even on these warm days, I noticed that the arms and legs got a little chilly when I was standing around during breaks; in contrast, the smooth skin suit was perfectly warm even in breaks. I was a bit skeptical about how warm the double-nylon suit would be in cold conditions. Yesterday was the perfect test day - air temperatures of 34ºF (1ºC), water about the same, clouds initially and intermittently, and 35 knots, for a wind chill of 20ºF (-7ºC). I wore a short-sleeved thin neoprene shirt and neoprene bike shorts underneath, as I always do when it gets cold.

I wore the suit for almost 5 hours, which includes the drive to the beach; rigging during a snow shower; the first 40 minute bump and jump session at Kalmus; de-rigging, driving to the Kennedy Slicks, and re-rigging; about 2 hours windsurfing with frequent breaks at the Kennedy Slicks; and the final de-rigging and drive back home. I was perfectly warm the entire time. The water was cold enough to give me brief ice cream headaches a couple of times after crashes. I wore open palm mittens the entire time, and needed a couple of breaks at the beginning of the first session to shake the blood back down into my hands. After that, my hands were fine, and I used the warming tubes only occasionally, mostly after crashes. So the double-nylon suit is definitely warm enough for winter sailing.

The Xcel surf hood

The second piece of "winter equipment" that impressed me yesterday was the "Surf Hood with Bill and Neck Dam" from Xcel Wetsuits. Until recently, the hoods I had used where the ones that the local windsurf stores had in stock. The warmest of these was a 3 mm "Coldwater Hood" from O'Neill. That one kept me warm, but it always felt very tight and restrictive. The Xcel hood is made from thinner (2 mm) "superstretch" material, and is much more comfortable. But the really great feature about the Xcel drylock hood is the "double flap neck dam".  The neck has two pieces of neoprene over each other - one goes inside the wetsuit, the other one on top. That creates a perfectly waterproof seal. It works beautifully with the Ianovated suit, which has a relatively loose (and comfortable) neck. Whenever I wore a regular cap, some water would get in at the neck during crashes. No big deal, since the suit is a wetsuit, and the water warms very quickly. But still, I definitely preferred have absolutely no water entry with the Xcel drylock hood. Despite the thinner neoprene, it was warm enough yesterday, so I highly doubt that I will ever sail when the hood does not feel warm.


Today was a few degrees warmer than yesterday, and it was windy in the morning, so I just had to be greedy and try to get one more session in. As often before, my greed got punished. I ended up playing the rigging game: wind 19, rig 6.5, wind increases to 30; optimist thinks it will stay there (as it did yesterday), de-rigs 6.5, rigs 5.0, goes out, too small. Carry the 5.0 back, rig the 6.5 once again, the wind sees me and drops even more. Overall, I ended up with maybe 4 planing runs in 30 minutes on the water, and 45 minutes rigging. But it was still great to be out!
The lovely Nina, who had joined me today, picked a more sensible strategy, and was planing most of the time today on her 4.7. As long as at least one of us has a good day on the water, we'll call it a win.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A slow start

2014 has gotten off to a slow start. The first 10 days were too cold, windless, or nasty & foggy, with no session for me. Yesterday and today were windy. Hardie had fun at Coast Guard with Team Abide yesterday, and at Skaket today. Nina had a great session at Skaket today, planing through jibes and duck jibes, and even trying 360s. Me - a different story.
The lovely Nina in the background, after demonstrating a planing tack

With wind in the forecast for the entire day yesterday, we wanted to sail in the afternoon, when the tide was low. I had second thoughts in the morning, when the wind picked up to around 25 mph, the rain held off, and the fog was thin. I forgot one of the most important rules for the wind addict: never skip wind in hope for wind! I tried to be clever, looking at the radar map and calculating when the rain would come. My conclusion: here by 11, gone by 12 - so noon seemed like a good starting time. Ha!

We drove to Kalmus around noon, only to see maybe 150 ft of ice and slush at the usual launch area. So off to West Dennis. When we arrived, Patrick just came off the water, and told us he had had a great 2-hour kiting session. But now, the fog was coming in, and so was the rain. Too nasty for Nina, who decided to stay in the van. I went out on my 5.5, and the first run was ok - the floating ice was only close to shore; my 7 mm boots were warm enough for the almost freezing water; the rain did not really hurt (yet); and the fog allowed for runs of about 500 m before I lost sight of the shore. But things changed rapidly - the rain got worse, the fog more dense, and the wind picked up almost 10 knots, to 35 mph averages and gusts near 40. In wind like that, a 4.5 m sail starts to feel big, and the 5.5 was getting hard to control. Given the low visibility, I probably should have considered it an advantage that I was the only one left on the water, but thought of "what if stuff happens out in the fog, invisible from the shore, noone else around" kept creeping into my head and killed the fun. So I called it a day after just a few runs.

Today's forecast called for a bit less wind and slightly lower temps, but sun. But it was Sunday, and my lovely wife likes to sleep in on Sundays. I woke up early and checked the wind meter readings - nothing worth getting out of bed for. At 9:20, Hardie called - "I'm going to Skaket, it's blowing 23!". So we crawled out of bed, but it took us more almost two hours to also make it to to Skaket (it's a 40 minute drive for us, while Hardie lives much closer). When we arrived, Hardie was out having fun - on a 5.8, easy to see because he had let his sail bag hang out of the car for us. Plenty windy on the beach, so we rigged 4.5 and 5.5.

Just as I made it out, the wind dropped to below planing for a 15-minute period. I was about to go back in for bigger gear when Nina finally made it to the water, and the wind picked back up for her. A few runs upwind to get away from the oyster beds, and the fun could begin! And then ... my harness line snapped. That was a bummer, I am 99% sure I had replaced the harness lines on this boom just a few months ago. So back in it was - a longer walk now, with the tide dropping. 15 minutes later, I was back on the water with a new line. But on first planing starboard tack, there goes the harness line again! Or so I thought. Yes, the harness line was indeed broken. But as I discovered later after examining my leaky memory and the GoPro video from the day, I had replaced the harness line on the wrong side! Now there's an act of brilliance that I challenge you to compete against!

By now, the tide had fallen so low that the walk back in took even longer than before, so once again, it ended up being a very short session. But at least Nina and Hardie had fun...

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Winter storm Hercules, I do not like you. As if it was not bad enough that you are messing around with Nina's flight from Germany, you also made me drool:

That was 5 hours of perfect wind in Duxbury today. Not that sailing there was an option - between snow and sub-freezing temperatures, there also was a blizzard warning in effect. So anyone crazy enough to think about sailing Duxbury bay would have been told by the Harbor Master to go away. But I can't help it - I have to look at the perfect wind from a perfect direction, and drool.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Increasing Addiction

2013 ended the same way it began: with a lovely session at Skaket Beach. The first session last year was on January 1st with Nina, the last session on December 30th with Hardie. The wind did not come in quite as strong promised on the 30th, but we got enough for an hour of flat water fun. Hardie was flying on his new Exocet WindSUP 10.2, at times keeping up with me on my Skate. That board certainly planes! A great ending to a great year of windsurfing.

2013 was the first year where we lived the entire year on Cape Cod, and that had a noticeable effect on sessions sailed:

I had a total of 145 windsurf session, with more than 5260 km (3270 miles) sailed. That's 21 sessions more than in 2011, when we had lived on Maui for almost seven weeks, sailing there 37 times. It's 40 sessions more than in 2010, when we traveled all over the US to check out potential areas to move to, and sailed in the Gorge, Maui, Corpus, SPI, Cape Hatteras, and Bonaire.

Many of last year's sessions were short - an hour after work, or sometimes during the middle of the day, when the wind picked up. With three great sailing spots just a 15 minute drive away (and many others within 40 minutes), I caught many sessions on days where the forecast had not predicted anything planeable. Moving to Cape Cod was definitely one of the best decisions we ever made. Not just for windsurfing - the beauty of the Cape is much better for the soul than the hectic of Boston! Around here, very few people here regard making it to the next red light before you as of utmost importance.

Despite scoring an average of almost three sessions per week for the entire year, I cannot claim any big progress in skills. The loop is still a dream, and Vulcans and Flakas remain untried. My speed has only improved marginally. Perhaps the one thing that has changed is that I am more comfortable in voodoo chop now - no big surprise, since Kalmus is now my home beach. I also sailed for the first time in wind averages above 40 mph, which was not really a big deal once I switched down to the 3.7 m sail from the 4.5.

Mostly, I have been just mowing the law - back and forth, back and forth. After three and a half decades of windsurfing, I am still fascinated by the just planing, and could do it for hours, without feeling any need to work on new tricks. Although it probably helps that the water conditions are different almost every time I sail - even the same spot (like Skaket or Kalmus) will have very different swell and chop levels if the wind direction or tide levels change. That keeps things interesting, and was one of the reasons why we chose Cape Cod over Maui.

A few new things, however, did happen in 2013 that also kept things exiting. One was getting certified as a US Sailing Windsurf Instructor, and teaching my first "official" windsurf lesson. The other one was organizing the East Coast Windsurfing Festival Cape Cod, which was a big success. In 2014, we will try to get a windsurfing organization going that will make it easier to hold similar events on Cape Cod and other places. The hope to participate again at the ECWF in Long Island is definitely a big motivator to work on light wind and planing freestyle moves; I can't wait to fly to Tobago in a few weeks to practice!