Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April Cometh

March can be a good month for windsurfing on Cape Cod. March 2015 was not. Lack of wind and "warm" weather left me plenty of time to look for signs of hope in my session database. I vaguely remembered that April can be a fantastic month. Indeed, in 2013, I scored 6 sessions in the first week, and another 6 sessions in the next two weeks. Water temperatures reached 50ºF (10ºC) in the middle of April - compared to our current temperatures in the 30s, that seems incredibly warm.

We may have to wait a bit longer for 50º water this year, but the wind has started to arrive. Yesterday morning had a few hours with wind near 20 mph at Kalmus. The forecast had promised the wind would stay until the afternoon. Foolishly, we believed the forecast, and waited for the tide to drop. When we arrived at 1 pm, the wind had left. But our friend Martin came, so we retired to the Hobbit Hole (aka as "Common Ground Cafe") to catch up. By the time we had finished our Chais and Hot Nots, the wind returned! We got to enjoy a session where the wind went from "no way you can plane" to "I can barely hold on anymore", and then back down, all in 90 minutes. But it was nice to get out.

There was absolutely no wind in the forecast for today. But while making plans for sailing tomorrow morning, we noticed that the wind readings were near 20! Wind and sun - if you know us, you also know we were at the beach 30 minutes later. Lots of whitecaps! Not fully trusting the wind, we rigged 6.0 and 4.7, and took the big boards (Skate 100 and 110) out. The GPS tracks show what happened next:
We got 90 minutes of perfect wind before it dropped. Nina (green tracks) did her usual freestyle thing. It was her second session of the year on Cape Cod, but she was very happy to be in familiar waters again, and threw down a few beautiful duck tacks. She also started working on Flakas again, and was happy to get the board out of the water, something that she had problems with in Texas. She ended the session with an ear-to-ear smile.

I thought about freestyle, but only very briefly. The sun had retreated behind clouds, and I had a bit a hard time keeping my fingers comfortable. Unlike Nina, who was able to take her fingers out of her open-palm mittens for most of the session and did not even have the tubes in her Ianovated suit, I was using my hand warming tubes a lot. Stupid Raynaud's! So I figured I did not need any extra crashes from trying new stuff, and mowed the lawn instead. I had another good excuse - today is the last day of the month, and we had not yet posted a valid session on the GPS Team Challenge. The goal was to not end up in last place on the monthly overall ranking, and we managed to get there, placing 51st out of 53 teams. But April starts tomorrow - and that's the month where the real speedsurfers on our team get back onto the water.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Warm Weather Session

The forecast predicted wind in the mid-20s and warm temperatures - almost 20ºF than what we have gotten used to! No more ice on the water, either (well, at least not at Kalmus - Cape Cod Bay is a different story). Considering that my last session was a full 14 days ago, I'm sure you understand that I just had to overlook a few minor less-than-perfect details in the forecast. Who cares about rain and fog, anyway? And thunderstorms are always in the forecast when a warm front pulls through, but they rarely happen. Since the water temperatures are still near 32ºF, the actual air temperatures at the shore were closer to 40 than to 50ºF - but warm is warm!

I almost got Marty to join me, but there were too many unknowns - would the fog lift? Would the wind come at 5 pm, as predicted, or at 7 pm, when it got dark? Would we get wind at all, or would we get the dreaded decoupling?

So when the wind picked up shortly past 5, I went alone. I almost turned around when I got close to the ocean, since the fog was quite dense at spots. But since I was already in my Ianovated wetsuit, I drove on to Kalmus, where the fog was not too bad - I could see the water from the parking lot!

Out I went, with less than an hour before it got dark. The wind had picked up while I was rigging, and I was very well powered on my 6.0 in 25 mph averages. I had to think of "the deaf, dumb, and blind kid" in The Who's Tommy. Not that I felt like a wizard, no - I just did not see or hear much. Most of the time, though, I was able to see the shore. And the water state was very lovely, with nice swell coming in with the straight onshore wind, and occasionally toppling over. 

I took the opportunity to get used to the cold water. Not just once, no - at almost every jibe! Winter is my favorite time of the year to work on my waterstarts, and the high tide helped to keep my feet off the ground most of the time when I fell. But I wore a second layer of neoprene under my Ianovated wetsuit, so I was toasty and warm. Thanks to heavy use of the blow tubes, my hands stayed warm enough in the open palm mittens, and I did not need to take a hand warming break. Even after two years in the suit, it still amazes me how well the hand warming system works! 

The rain had taken a little break to let me rig and sail, but it started up again just as it was getting darker, so I called it a day. Here are today's GPS tracks:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A River of Ice and Two Crazy Guys

It was a beautiful day today. We just had to get out of the house. We went to the beach and found some ice:
Ok, so some ice may be a slight understatement:
The little dots on the right side are people. Click on the image to view the larger version if you don't believe me! The ice at First Encounter Beach in Orleans extended about 1/2 mile out into the ocean, and miles along the beach towards Wellfleet. Here's the view towards Skaket; usually, you can sail there from First Encounter in a few minutes:

At the end of the beach, the incoming tide creates a river of ice:

I have to admit that the below-freezing temperatures kept my desire to go windsurfing in check. But if you looked out beyond the ice, it sure looked good:
Yes,  that's a lot of white caps out there. It could have been a perfect spring day. But the weather ignored the fact that spring on Cape Cod is supposed to look different.

Well, just 10 miles to the west, at Corporation Beach in West Dennis, it looked different: absolutely no ice on the water! See for yourself:
No ice!

The forecast had called for wind in the mid-20s and "light freezing spray". Since Light freezing spray is very much preferably to heavy freezing spray, Jerry had called for a windsurfing session this morning, and PK joined him. I had thought about joining them, and put wetsuit and boots into the van, but I wanted to see the conditions first. Unlike Jerry and PK, I'm not a wave sailor. This is what I saw:
If you can barely see the head of the sailor, I'll call the waves head-high. Considering that Jerry in this picture was not even in front of the big waves, there were definitely some overhead-high waves out there! For some windsurfers, that's considered fun:
PK jumping, Jerry watching
Jerry jumping
It sure helps if you can jump on port! I can't. If I try, I usually end up practicing my waterstarts. Today was not a good day for waterstart practice. Air temperatures were around 28ºF (-2ºC), and the wind chill was around 13ºF (-10ºC). Jerry and PK both wore gloves, but came in every few runs to warm up their hands in a cooler with hot water:
I got cold just watching them, despite being covered in multiple layers of warm winter clothes. In the couple minutes that it took to warm up the hands, ice would build up on the sail:
Yes, that's ice on the sail and boom
On most windy days were I don't windsurf, I am unhappy about missing out. Not today! After standing on the beach for a few minutes, I was almost proud of myself for deciding not to windsurf today. Some of my friends say I'm crazy about windsurfing - but compared to these two guys, I'm definitely not! But they sure had fun - here are a few more pictures that the lovely Nina took:
Jerry demonstrates another use for switch stance sailing :-)
Duck hunting, Cape Cod style

Clew first sailing - another basic skill

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Fear Factor

My winter posts about learning new school freestyle tricks tend to be heretic. I refuse to follow the common belief that "Thou shalt learn the Vulcan as the first new school move!". Of course, I get a lot of flak for these posts. But that's not all bad - at least, it tells me that someone ir reading my blog. And fortunately, burning heretics on a stake is not in fashion anymore.

It does not matter that my non-conformist thoughts usually are provoked by statements from experienced freestylers. Nor does it matter that there are some examples that the "crazy" theories are right. The "Flaka before Vulcan" theory worked great for Graham, who's gone on to much harder tricks since then, still ignoring Vulcans and Spocks from what I have heard. But in the eyes of many, that does not prove anything.

I found myself starting a lengthy answer to Pete's comments to my recent post where I had dared to suggest to learn the Funnel and/or Switch Kono before the Vulcan. Pete makes valid points, and unlike me, he knows what he's talking about because he's done it on the water. So I figured a response would need to be very lengthy, and follow a two-pronged approach:
  1. Invoke a higher authority. That always seems appropriate in religious battles. 
  2. Explain the relevance of a feeling that Pete probably does not know: fear.
To get started, let me show you a brief video that introduces my "higher authority":

That's Andy Brandt, coming in with style in Bonaire. The first time I saw the movie, I thought that was one of the coolest tricks I had ever seen. Here's another example where he uses it to turn around in a lull:

I have also seen Andy do Reverse Duck Jibes live, and I still think it's one of the coolest tricks out there. So cool that it took me a long time to imagine I could learn to do it...

Of course, Andy never suggested to learn the Funnel before the Vulcan. However, he has suggested to try the Switch Kono with a 360 entry (sometime called the Kaino), and he has demonstrated the move - another wicked cool move. I have actually tried the Kaino a few dozen times. I never got close to landing one, but I have managed to get the board into the air, and to turn upwind enough while falling backwards to get wind into the sail from the right side again. So the Switch Kono seems doable - except that I seem to loose too much speed in the 360 entry.

Another thing that Andy made me try is jibing in the straps, flipping the sail without switching the feet, and planing out switch. I have tried that, too, a number of times, and got to the point where I can pick up a little bit of speed again when planing switch on the new side. Not enough to plane at full speed, but enough to know that planing switch in the straps is nothing to be afraid of.

Which brings us to the Fear Factor. If not for the Fear Factor, we'd see a lot of windsurfers throwing spin loops - everyone agrees that it's easier than a planing jibe. The loop is also a very cool-looking move, and supposedly a lot of fun to do. But at the spots where I usually sail, maybe one out of 20 to 50 windsurfers will ever throw a loop - and that's counting only windsurfers with a decent jibe. The rest is mostly to afraid to ever try; a few (like me) will try occasionally, but are too afraid to commit.

For moves like the Vulcan, the Fear Factor also gets in the way. The moves and crashes don't look quite as scary as the loop, and there is nothing scary about just popping the board, so the first baby steps are easy. But sooner or later, commitment to turning the board around in the air is required, and crashes in the footstraps will result. Those who overcome their fear quickly learn that they won't die, and that the crashes (usually) look worse than they feel. But others stop here, saying "maybe next session". My lovely wife never shows any fear of crashing; when learning the planing Duck Tack, she'd practice in 30+ mph wind, crashing 50 times in a row. When good conditions to work on the Vulcan came up during out Texas trip, she popped the board out of the water just fine; but fear kept her from committing to letting go of the rig in the air, and turning the board around.

So why is the Fear Factor so much smaller when going down the Switch-Duck road towards the Funnel / Switch Kono? There are several reason:
  • Going switch can be approached in several non-threatening ways, which include light wind practice, on-land practice, and not switching feet after jibing. This will sometimes lead to crashes, but those crashes are not that different from, say, a blown jibe.
  • Ducking the sail can  be approached in several non-threatening ways. IMO, learning the duck from switch requires some simulator training on the beach ("sail chi"), and then learning the light wind duck tack. 
  • Backwinded crashes are harmless. Before considering the Duck Tack or Funnel, you should learn the planing Carve 360. Unless you are super-human, you will get flattened by a backwinded sail many times while learning, and you'll learn that this is a harmless and fun crash. I am a big chicken, taking just about any excuse to not work on any tricks; but I will try 360s, even when it's really windy, because I know the crashes are harmless.
  • It's worth doing even without the jump. So maybe going down the Switch-Duck road will let you learn the Funnel and Switch Kono, or maybe not. It does not matter much - even if you never pop the board from a backwinded switch stance, you still have mastered the most difficult part of two very cool tricks, the Reverse Duck Jibe and the planing Duck Tack. Seeing Andy do the Reverse Duck Jibe started all this - and the Reverse Duck Jibe also teaches you carving a jibe on the heels, something you can then apply for planing backwind jibes.
What? I convinced you that perhaps there might be something to this theory, at least for some windsurfers with big inner chickens? Well, here's a step-by-step plan for going down the Switch-Duck road.

Step 1: Prerequisites. If you omit these, later steps will be a lot harder.
  1. Sail chi on the beach. You have to be good at luffing the sail from the clew. An hour spend on the beach can save many hours on the water.
  2. Sail switch and backwinded in light wind. Sailing in switch stance and sailing backwinded (or lee side) are basic skills that anyone who came up through ABK camps will have learned. If you have not, it's time to go out and practice. It's much easier to learn in light wind on a big board and small sail than in planing conditions!
  3. Light wind Duck Tack. Learn the Duck Tack in light wind on a big board and a small sail. I mean a really big board and a really small sail - like a 200 liter sailable SUP and a 4.7 m sail for guys. It's a pretty hard trick, but it's also one of the coolest light-wind moves.
  4. Carve 360s. Start with planing downwind 360s out of the footstraps. It's not absolutely essential that you get them, but you should at least get close.
Step 2: Play time. These steps are optional, but helpful.
  1. Jibe without foot switch. Do a regular jibe or duck jibe and flip the sail, but do not switch your feet. Instead, keep sailing on the new reach in switch stance, and try to pick up speed again.
  2. Strap jibe without foot switch. Very similar to step 1, but do not take your back foot out of the strap. Sail as long as you can, then either switch feet or fall backwards.
  3. Carve 360 in the straps. Staying in the straps for a Carve 360 requires that you keep your weight more forward, both when initiating the carve and at the exit. The move requires good power and is a lot easier on flat water.
  4. Kaino crash. Start a Carve 360 in the straps. After the board turns to the new tack and the sail starts to get backwinded, let the sail push you up and backwards while flaring the nose of the board as high as you can. Push the nose towards the wind to get wind into the right side of the sail again. Unless you have a ton of speed on flat water or a wave that pushes you, the chances of actually making a Kaino are very slim. But the crash looks cool and is a lot of fun.
Step 3: Switch planing.
  1. Practice on land. Put a board on a lawn or a sandy beach, and practice switching your feet, like Phil from getwindsurfing.com showed on his instruction video.
  2. Switch on the water. Go sailing, and switch your feet while planing. You may want to try the different approaches that I had described in my previous post to see which one works best for you. 
  3. Keep your speed and direction. Keep practicing the foot switch and planing in switch stance. The goal is to keep your speed up. Keep power in the sail while and after switching your feet, and see how far you can go without going to deep downwind.
Step 4: Ducking the sail. I hope the water is warm! You will crash. A lot.
  1. Duck going downwind. Duck the sail after switching your feet while going slightly downwind. If you kept your speed, going downwind a bit should reduce the apparent wind to levels that are not much higher than during your light wind duck tack practice.  Try to keep the duck quick, not as floaty as Andy did in the videos above. Sail a couple of seconds backwinded, then crash or start on working an exit.
  2. Duck on a beam reach. Try ducking the sail on a beam reach, or even going slightly upwind. This will make the Duck Tack exit easier, and will give you more power for jumps. But you'll also have more apparent wind.
  3. Sail backwinded. Practice sailing in control after ducking the sail. See how far you can go. It seems the pro level freestylers can sail in this position forever!
Step 5: Old school exits. These are optional - go on straight to new school if you like. 
  1. Reverse Duck Jibe. Just copy what Andy does in the videos above :-). But it you did a less "floaty" sail duck, you can keep more speed and even plane out. This part is identical to the ending of the backwind jibe. If can already do backwind jibes, it should be easy; if not, learning backwind jibes should be easier after you mastered the Reverse Duck Jibe.
  2. Duck Tack. Carve upwind instead of downwind to end this as a tack. You will stop planing, so this is identical to the light wind version. 
Step 6: New school exits: Funnel and Switch Kono
  1. Do the Fu. If you pop the board and turn the nose downwind, you'll start a Funnel. But a Funnel is a 540 degree turn - you add a 360 after jumping the board around 180 degrees. When starting out, you don't have to add the 360 - just jump the board 180 degrees, and then sail away. This is the equivalent of a Vulcan, but you're in regular stance here, so sailing away should be easier. Nobody else does it that way, but that's because everyone else has learned the Vulcan first, and then the Spock and Spock 540, so they are already good at sliding backwards through more turns. I don't know what this move is called, but since it's the first 1/3rd of the Funnel, we'll take the first 1/3 of the name, too, and call it the Fu.
  2. Funnel. After you recovered from the initial shock that you managed to jump the board around and were able to sail away from it, it's time to learn sliding backwards. Then, add a 360 turn. Check the videos how to do this, I don't really have a clue.
  3. Switch Kono. If you played around with the Kaino crash in step 2 above, you may have a pretty good idea what to do. I really don't so I'll leave this for another post in the future.
Maybe I wrote this entire post mainly for myself. The approach above does not make any sense for the typical new school freestyler - a young, wild, and most likely blond windsurfer hell-bend on jumping, and without any fear. I'm an older guy, closer to 60 than to 50, with much better light wind freestyle than high wind freestyle, even though I sail much more in high wind than in light winds. I may have managed to keep my gut from expanding too much in the past three decades, but my inner chicken definitely has grown - grown to a size that may be incomprehensible to a 25-year old. But when I look around at an ABK camp, I often see other guys of a similar age, with similar skill sets, and (presumably) similar familiarity of the Fear Factor. So perhaps this post might prove useful to someone else, after all.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


There was a lot of wind in the forecast, and it actually came:
That's one day of 30 knot winds, and a second day of 25 knot winds. Wind does not get much better than that. It was sunny, too.

I had been watching the beach cams closely. We had a little "warm up" last week, with several days in the 40s (5-8ºC). Skaket, my preferred spot for NW winds, had almost become sailable:
But then, we had a couple of nights with temperatures in the mid-teens (-9ºC):
Yup. It froze over again! Ocean water freezes at 28ºF (-2ºC). Bummer.

There are actually some beaches on Cape Cod that are ice-free. But at most of those beaches, the wind would have been offshore. Even I am not crazy enough to go sailing in freezing temperatures and off-shore winds. Yes, the temperatures stayed below or just at the freezing point the last 2 days.

Maybe some beaches on the Cape Cod Bay side would still have been sailable - but even the tide conspired against us windsurfers. We had a spring tide today and yesterday, with a 13 foot (5 meter) difference between low and high tide. That's about 5 feet more than the last time I sailed Barnstable Harbor. The strong tidal currents alone might have been an issue, but there's a bigger problem here: "icebergs". You may have seen some of the pictures recently; if not, here is one that Mike Leon made a few days ago in Wellfleet:
Hadley (TM) wondering where the windsurfers are
Most areas on Cape Cod are not quite as iced over, but there are chunks of ice of similar size on a lot of beaches. With the spring tide, some of these blocks will be pulled out to sea with the outgoing tide. Not something I want to sail into!

So the two days of wind came and went unsailed. Last year, I already had several nice March sessions under my belt at this point - it was definitely a lot warmer. Patience is required this year - there are more nights with temperatures in the teens in the forecast, and (of course) more snow. I am starting to understand why so many Canadians make the trip to Cape Hatteras every spring!

On the bright side, being forced to stay inside gives us more time to watch windsurf videos. I had checked a few dozen videos to see how pros change their feet to go switch, but usually, the video starts when they are switch already, or they are to far away from the camera. Then today, Nina discovered a video that Taty Frans had posted on his Facebook page where the camera angle was perfect. Here are a few screen shots:
Taty starts by moving the back foot out of the strap, and putting it between the straps.
Next, he turns the front foot slightly out of the strap, so that his toes point towards the nose of the board.
His old back foot goes into the other front strap, and he sails with both feet in the straps for a few fractions of a second.
Finally, the old front foot steps directly into the back straps. The entire foot switch takes less than 2 seconds. He then ducks the sail and does a triple Funnel, where the first two Funnels are one-handed Air Funnels. Pretty amazing!

Taty is one of the best freestylers in the world. He has ranked in the top-10 PWA freestylers for the past 7 years, including 2nd overall in 2010, and is always a contender for a top 3 spot at freestyle events. So it seems safe to assume that the way he steps when going switch has some advantages. Let's compare it to what we learned from the getwindsurfing.com video in my last blog post.

Taty's footwork is in between the two approaches that Phil explains on the video. He is not going strap-to-strap with his back foot, but he is going strap-to-strap with his front foot. His old front foot does twist before he puts the old back foot into the other front strap, but it does not twist out of the strap all the way, as it would in a jibe. Here are a few things that are good about his approach:

  • The initial step brings his feet close together, so that they can late be moved without having to take a big step. Similar to the initial step in a fast tack, this reduces body weight shifts and "momentum movements: in later steps.
  • Twisting the front foot so that it points forward accomplishes three things. 1. It moves the heel from the outside to the center line, so that getting weight onto the heel while stepping with the other foot will not turn the board; 2. it reduces the unnatural ("X") angle between the feet after stepping into the other strap; and 3. it loosens the foot in the strap, making it easier to pull it out later. Compared to a full step towards the back foot in the jibe footwork, the twist is smoother and less likely to disturb the board.
Overall, Taty's "step-twist-step-step" approach seems designed to minimize both large body movements and "unnatural" positions. I like that, so I'll try it out.

Many windsurfer I know are somewhat superstitious, and I am no exception. Within less than a day of me posting that I want to learn how to go switch while planing, the getwindsurfing.com team posts an instruction video. Within three days, Taty Frans posts a video that shows beautifully how he goes switch. Pure chance? I think not! I am obviously meant to learn switch planing!  Now if I only could get the little scientist inside me who wonders if confidence based on superstition is as effective as confidence from successes to shut up...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Thanks, Phil and Danielle!

Yesterday, I wrote that I want to learn to plane switch stance. Today, I noticed that the getwindsurfing.com team had released a new video yesterday - about how to sail switch stance! Here it is:

Perfect timing! I love Phil's and Danielle's instructional videos, they make things seem to easy. Of course, I had to compare their suggestions on how to get switch while planing right away with the Tricktionary instructions. Phil actually describes two ways:
  1. Strap-to-strap: the back foot goes straight from the back strap to the second front strap, followed by the old front foot going into the back strap.
  2. Jibe footwork: the back foot is taken out of the strap, and placed before the strap. The front foot is twisted out, and placed before the back foot heel-to-toe, just like you would during the foot change in a jibe. Then the old back foot goes into the front strap on the other side, and the old front foot goes into the back footstrap.
The Tricktionary shows two different approaches:
  1. Jibe without foot switch: jibe in the straps, flip the sail, but do not switch the feet - keep sailing in switch stance.
  2. Three steps forward: take the back foot out and place it in front of the back strap; take the front foot out and place it in front of the front straps; move the old back foot into the front strap while twisting the hips; step the old front foot into the back strap.
I have actually tried both Tricktionary ways at least a few times. The "jibe without foot switch" way works to some extend, but I tend to loose too much speed. Even in a decent planed-through jibe, it is normal to loose 40-50% of your initial speed, so I think this approach works only when well powered on very flat water.
I have had even less success with the "three steps forward" approach. There is not a lot of space for my size-12 feet between the front straps and the mast foot, and things feel a bit claustrophobic if I have both feet forward. My tries usually resulted in crashes, so I have not done many.

I have not tried the two approaches Phil suggests. The strap-to-strap move is clearly the fastest. I checked some trick movies on continentseven.com, but most do not show the foot switch; in the few movies that do, the strap-to-strap entry is most common. That's two good reasons to try it this way.

But using the jibe footwork also seems attractive. The footwork is familiar from thousands and thousands of jibes, so there are fewer new things to learn. That might just make it a bit easier to concentrate on the new things - going fast while being all twisted up. So I'll give this approach a try, too. Don't hold your breath while waiting for a report, though - we got a bit of fresh snow on the ground last night, and below-freezing temperatures in the forecast. The trip to Cape Hatteras can't come soon enough!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Backwind Jumps

The title of this post is misleading. This post is really an illustration how careful one has to be about what one writes on the internet. You never know what kind of ideas you put in peoples heads!

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not posted my typical crazy theories about freestyle moves this winter. Some may even have hoped that they'd make it through this winter without being exposed to yet-another freestyle theory that is obviously completely wrong. Hah - zu früh gefreut! Here is my new theory:
  • For some freestylers, the first "new school" freestyle move should be not be a Vulcan, Grubby, or Flaka, but rather a backwinded move: a Shaka, Switch Kono, or Funnel. 
A few of my back-and-forth-sailing friends may now wonder what the hell I am talking about, so let me show you a video of a Funnel:

How could I possibly think that's the first new school move to learn? I'll blame tim319. On a thread about learning the Flaka on the British windsurfing forum, he posted this:
"I think I'm gonna crack funnells in much less time.
Apparently as soon as you start to get them you make the majority."
Interesting enough to prompt a few Google searches. Very quickly, they turned up this statement by Flo Söhnchen, a top German freestyler:
"Der Funnel ist eigentlich relativ einfach" (The Funnel is actually relatively simple)
That is quite a contrast about what he writes about one of my previous favorites, the Flaka:
"Durchhalten! Irgendwann klappt das verdammte Ding! :)" (Keep at it - you'll get the damn move eventually!)
And about the Grubby:
"Irgendwie find ich es recht schwierig, den Move richtig konstant hinzubekommen" (Somehow, I find it quite difficult to make this move really consistently)
Now back to what Flo says about the Funnel:
"Was den Move schwierig macht, ist das Duck-Schiften des Segels in der Switch-Stance-Position vor dem Absprung." (What makes the move difficult is ducking the sail from switch stance before the pop)
So, if you already know how to duck the sail while planing switch, the move should be easy! Admittedly, this is a difficult skill - I have read that it is more difficult than learning the Vulcan. But I know at least two women who learned the planing Duck Tack before the Vulcan - my lovely wife Nina, and Marji from Bonaire. There are a couple good reasons to learn the planing Duck Tack before starting with new school tricks. One is that is has a light-wind counterpart, which can be quite helpful to learn the sail handling (which is, indeed, non-trivial); the other one is that the crashes look a lot less dramatic than Vulcan crashes. The light-wind Duck Tack is also a move that can be done in almost-planing conditions, and with a high success rate once you learned it - two things that install confidence.

So, if we assume a windsurfer can do the planing Duck Tack, and that she can plane switch in the straps, is the Funnel really a good move to try? That still seems highly questionable for the following reason:
  • Looking at just the board movements, the Funnel is the equivalent of a Spock 540: the nose is jumped downwind to turn the board 180 degrees into a backwards slide, followed by an additional 360 turn while sliding
  • The Spock 540 is the trick you learn after the Spock, which you learn after the Vulcan; many who have learned them all say that it takes just as many tries to learn the Spock as it took to learn the Vulcan.

It it wasn't rainy and cold outside, I might just stop here, and ignore what tim319 and Floh said (and perhaps remember that so far, I have had quite limited success planing switch, and never even tried a planing Duck Tack, although I have the non-planing version down). But it is rainy, so we'll continue by carving the moves into little pieces, and comparing them.

1. Preparation

For the Spock 540, there is not much to do - get over the board for a pop, instead of staying more out like you would for a chop hop. Easy enough to do.
For the Funnel, you have to go switch stance, and then duck the sail, without loosing to much speed. Definitely much harder!

2. Take off

In the Spock, the sail is upright and depowered. That's quite different from chop hops, where the sail is to windward and powered. 
In the Funnel, the sail is backwinded and slightly forward. The pressure in the backwinded sail helps to get air. If you don't jump, the backwinded sail will throw you backwards - but if you've worked on 360s, you know that these crashes are harmless and often even fun.

3. In the air 

In the Spock 540, we have to let go of the backhand, and switch hands to the other side of the boom. We also want to push the nose down to create a rotation point. That's a lot of things at the same time, while the board is in the air - one of the things that make learning the Vulcan (the first phase of the Spock) hard.
In the Funnel, we have held on the the boom the entire time - not so hard.

4. Sliding backwards

We have turned the board 180 degrees, so our stance has switched: in the Spock, we are now switch stance, while in the Funnel, we are regular stance.  If you stop the Spock here, you have a Vulcan. You could stop the Funnel here, too, but nobody seems to do that. If you did, you could sail away in a regular stance, rather than from a switch stance as in the Vulcan. The sail now needs to go towards the nose of the board to continue the rotation. This seems easier in the Funnel, where we are in normal stance, and more difficult in the Spock 540, where we are switch stance.

5. After turning 360 degrees

We are backwinded and sliding. In the Spock 540, the body is twisted up - relative to the regular backwinded stance, we are in switch stance. In the Funnel, the stance is almost identical to the stance before takeoff, except that the sail is still more forward to push the nose around for the final half-turn.

6. Exit
In the Spock 540, the sailor exits in switch stance; in the Funnel, the exit is in normal stance.

In summary, the Funnel does seem quite a bit easier after the initial preparation, since we do not have to switch hands on the boom mid-air, and are in a normal stance through the entire rest of the move. So perhaps we can believe tim319 and Floh!

I am not claiming that the Funnel is much easier to learn than the Spock 540. It's possible that it is actually more difficult; after all, the Tricktionary 2 still had it listed in the "Extreme" section. However, it appears that the hardest part of the Funnel happens before takeoff. This part can be learned without any jumping or popping! Since the crazy crashes that we see when guys try to learn Vulcans and Spocks are eliminated, the fear factor is greatly reduced.

Additional motivation to learn the planing Duck Tack and the switch duck in the straps is that it leads to the Switch Kono. If you've ever seen Kiri Thode or Tonky Frans throw a sky-high Kono on perfectly flat water in Bonaire, you'll agree that this is a very cool looking move. Perhaps more importantly, it is the only new-school move that does not scare me at all, for a very simple reason; when working on Carve 360s in the straps, I got thrown backwards by the backwinded sail many, many times. Some of those times, most of the board was in the air, and I got the nose turned enough to get a bit of wind into the sail again from the right side. In the worst case, those falls were harmless; typically, they were a lot of fun, even if it was windy enough that I'd stop doing duck jibes.

So, I got two tricks I'd love to try, the Switch Kono and the Funnel. To get there, I'll probably first need to catch up with Nina a bit, and finally work on the planing Duck Tack. So that gives a couple of high wind goals for the upcoming ABK camp in Hatteras: 
  1. Planing switch in the straps
  2. Ducking the sail while planing switch
There. I said it. Now I have to do it. Then we'll see what that leads to. Maybe I'll throw in a few Shove It/Shaka tries while we're down there - after all, they are backwinded jumps, too. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Back on Cape Cod waters

Texas was great. Texas was warm. Guess what the problem is with coming back from a warm place! You're right (maybe): going out again to windsurf in the cold.

We have been back for more than a week now. One day, Jerry asked who would go windsurfing with him in Chatham. I love windsurfing in Chatham! The wind was great! But I did not go. Temperatures were below freezing, and I was still in Texas mode. Texans don't windsurf when temperatures are close to freezing. Maybe that's infectious?

But it has been thawing for a few days now. We even saw temperatures approaching 50ºF (10ºC) yesterday. The snow in the backyard is only a foot deep now. The streets are free of snow and ice - well, at least in the middle they are. Even some of the side streets are wide enough for two cars again!

The forecast for today predicted northwest winds in the 20s all day. Sure, NW tends to be cold, but temperatures stayed above freezing. And it was sunny! I'm sure you understand that I just had to go windsurfing. Some may think it's just because Pete called me a "wimp" when I did not join Jerry a few days ago. That's probably not true. I think it's just my addiction acting up. Two weeks without my favorite drug is too much! That's 14 days!

For NW wind, one of my favorite spots is Skaket in Brewster. But the Skaket web cam shows that there is still a lot of ice on the water there, so Skaket was out. Other spots nearby had 2 m high "icebergs" being washed ashore, so staying away from other Cape Cod Bay beaches seemed wise. But the tides were right for a Barnstable Harbor session in the afternoon.

I went to check it out yesterday around noon. The water was practically free of ice - great. I posted pictures on FaceBook and iWindsurf to perhaps get some company, but all I got was warnings about icebergs and stuff floating in the water. Blame Hollywood! I think "Titanic" really got stuck in people's head.

So I went alone. I underestimated how much time it would take me to move boards out of the van that still were in there from the Texas trip, so I got a late start. I also dressed warm enough for a swim in the near-freezing water, and getting my Ianovated wetsuit over a second layer of long neoprene pants and a neoprene shirt took some heavy pulling and patience.

When I got to the town landing, the wind had dropped from 30s in the morning to what looked like low 20s. All the meters had shown a lot of variability in the wind, so our came the big board (Skate 110) and my magic sail (Matrix 6.0). Scared of all the talk about things in the water, I put a short Delta fin from Maui Ultra Fins into the board - with a rake angle of 55 degrees, the fin will go over things in the water that would cause catapults on most other fins.

Out I went, planing right away, even though there tends to be a bit of wind shadow near the launch site. A couple of tacks, and I was in the flat water next to the marsh islands. I did not have enough power for speed runs, but I love sailing and jibing in flat water! It also made it rather easy to stay dry for my entire session. Sure, I played chicken and did not try any tricks that would have increased the chances of crashes and the resulting ice cream headaches - but hey, I was all alone on the water, and I never unlearned how much fun it is simply to plane on a windsurf board. I used the blow tubes in my Ianovated wetsuit a lot today, but that allowed my hands to stay warm, even in the open palm mittens I used. Nice!

I cut the session short after an hour when the wind dropped, and the rising water levels started to hide some of the little islands that had flattened the water out so nicely before. I had a lot of fun, and was really happy that I had gone out. It only gets warmer now! I hope to see some friends on the water again soon.

Here is a short video that shows the conditions today:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Two Sets of Right of Way Rules

This post should not be necessary. I should instead write about how much fun Nina had sailing the F2 Missile in Corpus Christi, and how she said "it's so easy to schlog" (all 62 liters of it).

But a recent discussion in the Australian Seabreeze showed that there are windsurfers out there who are fully convinced that they understand the right of way rules, but actually do not. I had encountered this problem before, when a windsurfing instructor who had taught hundreds of students explained the wrong right-of-way rules in a certification course. That terrified me a bit.

Why did he explain the wrong rules? He had learned the right-of-way rules for power boats, and thought that the same rules apply to sailboats. That appears to be the case - but only at first glance!

This is the rule for powerboats:
"A vessel approaching from the port side must give way.
 In other words, the starboard boat has the right of way, and should maintain its course. Or simply "the boat on the right has the right of way".

Here's is the rule for sail boats (including windsurfers and kiters):
"The boat on starboard tack has the right of way."
That seems to be the same thing, right? A quick Google image search may even confirm this - here's a picture for power boats:
 And the corresponding image for sail boats:
That's almost the same! The only difference is that the direction that a powerboat change course is defined ("to the right"), while sail boats may change course in either direction.

But hold on - what happens if the wind comes from another direction - say, from below in the diagram above? Nothing changes for power boats, since they don't care about the wind. But for sail boats, this happens:
Now, the sailboat on the left has the right of way, and the sailboat on the right must evade! Here's the little thing that's easy to miss:

  • For powerboats, the right-of-way rules refer to starboard and port as defined by the front and back of the boat 
  • For sailboats, the right-of-way rules refer to starboard tack and port tack, which are defined by where the wind comes from! If the wind comes from starboard (the right), we are on starboard tack; if the wind comes from the left, we are on a port tack.
So for two sailboats on opposite tacks, the powerboat rules (which are defined relative to the boat) will give exactly opposite results from the sailboat rules (which are defined relative to the wind) about half of the time!

I can already hear the argument "but in the image above where the wind comes from below, both windsurfers are going far downwind - that never happens on the water!" True enough - windsurfers mostly sail on  a beam reach. Let's look at diagrams for two boats on a head-on collision course, then. First, here is the powerboat diagram:
Note that both powerboats are supposed adjust their course to the right. For sailboats, the diagram is different:
Here, the boat on the right is on starboard tack and supposed to hold the course, while the boat on the left has to change course. If the wind comes from below instead of above, the roles reverse:
So far, I have talked about "right-of-way rules". That is how these rules are often referred to, but unless you are sailing in a regatta, a better name would be "what-to-do" rules. In the head-on collision case shown above, it's quite obvious that it really helps if both sailors know what they are supposed to do. At least one sailor has to change course to avoid collision; but if both sailors change course, there's a good chance they are still on collision course afterwards! If you often windsurf in crowded conditions, you've probably experienced what this leads to - both of you in the water!

Fortunately, there is a very simple rule for windsurfers to remember: if you are on a collision course with someone on the opposite tack:
  • Right hand is closer to the mast: keep your course
  • Left hand is closer to the mast: change your course to evade collision
Keep in mind, though, that there are plenty of windsurfers (and kiters) out there who never learned the right-of-way rules for sailboats, or who think that powerboat rules also apply to windsurfers. In case of doubt, do whatever it takes to avoid collision. Common courtesy suggests to give beginners and all sailors who are obviously struggling plenty of space, regardless of "right of way".

Just to be complete, I'll end this post with two more right-of-way rules. The first one is that a boat passing another boat on the same course has to stay clear:

Finally, if two sailors are on the same tack, the leeward sailor has the right of way:

There are plenty of sources on the web that explain the right-of-way rules. Some of the powerboating sites fail to even mention that different rules apply to sailboats; others, like boatus.org, have at least a brief explanation. One good explanation that I used as the source of most of my diagrams is http://spinnaker-sailing.com/online-courses/lesson-3.