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 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 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...

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