Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sore and Tired

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. But I am sore and tired. We have windsurfed 7 of the 14 days since we came to Corpus Christi. After sailing very little in the 6 weeks before, we are both tired. And sore. Almost every day. But I'm not complaining.

Those who know me will understand the severity of the situation if I point out that we did not windsurf on two days with planing conditions. That includes today, where the meters showed 16 mph or more for most of the late morning and afternoon, and a short period of 20 mph wind. But yesterday was a long day. I mowed the lawn. Nina tried Vulcans, Shove-Its, Flakas, and Duck Tacks. She had a blast:
Although she did yell at the sail occasionally when it decided to hit the water instead of coming back up to her:
Her Vulcan tries look promising .. she's definitely on the way, getting the board around 90 degrees or more almost every try:
She reported that she had a couple of decent Shove-Its. Here's one where the shadow of the board on the water looks cool:
The water was almost crowded, with perhaps 20 local sailors out. That included a few good freestylers showing Donkey Jibes, Spocks, Duck Tacks, Switch Konos, and more. Even WorldWind's Randy came out to play and showed Grubbies (regular and clew first), Vulcans, Spocks, and a spectacular loop crash. Maybe he tried to show me that there's nothing to be afraid of.

More warm southerly wind is in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon - probably 5.6 and then 5.0 for me, 4.7 and 4.2 for Nina. Then a few days of "chilly" northerlies in the morning - temperatures in the 50s, but plenty of sun. Water temperatures in the Laguna Madre rise steadily on warm days, and are now in the mid-60s. I'm all out of excuses for not doing more freestyle...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beetle Juice in the Beer

We drove for 24 hours straight. The next day, we drove for 10 hours. On the third day, we drove another six hours, and finally arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas. After all that driving, we'll stay for a while. We brought 9 windsurf boards and about 15 sails that all want to be sailed in Texas. Everything from 220 liters down to 62 liters. That will take a while.

On the second day of driving, we had to choose: drive another 6 hours and arrive in the middle of the night, or take it easy? We took it easy, and were darn glad we did. The hotel was nice, with a bar just a 3 minute walk away. The bar was pretty cool, with a huge fish tank behind it, and UFC on the TV. But we barely got to watch it, since the fellow sitting next to us had plenty of interesting things to tell and suggest. The first thing was to drink Ziegenbock beer, a Texas Amber. Not a bock bier - it tasted more like a blonde. Perfect.

Except for what they put into the beer! Our new Texan friend Ben told us the secret behind it's great taste: they put beetle juice into the beer! It seemed a tad suspicious that he mentioned this only after I had told him that I am a vegetarian. But he said it with a very straight face, so it must be true. Now, you can even read about it on the internet, so it absolutely positively must be true.

Ben gave us a couple more good tips. The first one was to try the nachos. I must have eaten nachos hundreds of times before, but this was the first time we could finish the whole plate without getting our fingers dirty (using forks and knives with nachos is really not an option). They had arranged the nachos in a circle on the outside of the plate, and covered them with just the right amount of beens, cheese, and so on. What an idea!

His next suggestion was that we absolutely had to stop at a Buc-ees. Ever heard that everything is bigger in Texas? It's true:
Our Nissan hi-roof van does not usually look small. But in this gas station, it did. There were about 100 gas pumps there! It was not very busy, but there must have been at least 20 cars pumping gas at the same time.

Like most other gas stations, there was a convenience store attached to this one - here's a look at one half of it:
Yes, it is huge. Texas sized. It also has style - here's the entrance to the bathrooms:
Definitely not your average gas station bathrooms!  The inside had art work, too. Of course, it was super-clean and spacious. I would have taken pictures, but I did not think that would have been welcomed by the other guys in there... so you'll have to take my word for it, or come look yourself: the bathrooms at Buc-ees are nicer that the bathrooms in 99 percent of all hotels. At least!

We spent close to an hour in the store, checking out all the cool stuff they had. Here are a few examples:
Texans like cows. A lot. They usually eat them, but sometimes, they paint them.
There's a gun hanging off the "We Don't Dial 911" sign.
Somehow, we managed to make it out of the store without spending much money. Maybe we were just tired from all the driving. We did get some sugar-roasted Pecans, which where fantastic.

We've been on North Padre Island for 2 days now, and love it. Temperatures are around 65-70 F (17-21 C), with plenty of sun. We even got some windsurfing in - nice to be in a short-sleeved wetsuit again! In case you're wondering why things are so great here, the Buc-ees store had a sign that explains it:

Sunday, January 3, 2016

United Speedsailors of America

Jamaica has a bob sled team, and the US has a speedsurfing team: the United Speedsurfers of America. The name reflects how the team was formed - by merging the "West Coast Speedsters" team with the "Fogland Speedsurfers". Regular readers of this blog may be aware of how our Fogland Speedsurfers team has bravely fought for years to not land on the last place in the monthly rankings at the GPS Team Challenge. We had several fast guys on our team who have reached 35 knots (40 mph, 65 km/h), but they don't sail a lot. The windsurfers who do sail a lot are much slower; some of them are simply more interested in freestyle than in speed. The main reason that the Fogland Speedsurfers were not in the bottom ranks most months was that the GPS Team Challenge includes two "distance" categories - total distance sailed in a day, and 1 hour average. Turns out that you can cover more distance in 6 hours of freestyle than most speedsurfers will cover in a day. I think holding on to these huge speed sails while standing on tiny itsy bitsy speedboards is just too exhausting...
I love the GPS Team Challenge, because you can compete with teams from all over the world, with new ratings every months. Strap on a GPS, and give you back-and-forth sailing a meaning! Cool. You can even learn new stuff by from the better sailors on your team, and discover new windsurf spots (after countless hours on Google Earth). Our team was not really competitive on the international scale, but we did have a bit of a competition with the West Coast Speedsters. They had a few very fast guys, but not good avenues for long distance. So it was a close fight over the past 4 years, ending with 2 years won by each team.

Did I mention that the West Coast Speedsters had a few really fast guys? Several of their team members have broken the magical 40 knots barrier, and their team member Boro has set several national records for Croatia during his trips to Lüderitz. His top speed was 51.16 knots!
Boro at the Lüderitz Speed Channel
Since Boro was backed up by Roo, who posted a top speed of 42.49 knots the same day from the Gorge, the West Coast Speedsters held the #1 spot in the top speed categories (2 second peak and 5x10 second average) in October 2015. That same month, the Fogland Speedsurfers were ranked #5 in the 1 hour category, and #8 for distance. That immediately brought up the idea to join the two teams - we'd actually have a shot of a top-10 spot in the overall monthly rankings every now and then!

So with help from the nice folks at the GPSTC, we combined the two teams for 2016, and the United Speedsailors of America were born. The team has 27 members, which might seem like a lot; but the vast majority of the team members posts results only a few times a year. The reasons vary,  but prime culprits are regular jobs that interfere with windsurfing; lack of wind or suitable conditions (read: flat water); health issues; and a combination of these and other factors. On most windy days, we have only a couple of windsurfers posting results; a day with 5 posts is the exception. To get two of our fast guys onto the water on the same day is even rarer - here's a picture from a day when Dean and Bart sailed together for the first time after several years on the team:
For comparison, let's look at Australia. Speedsurfing is much more popular there - they have plenty of great speedsurfing spots, and the GPS Team Challenge originates there. The GPSTC site shows 29 Australian teams. Some of them, for example the Tassie Speed Seekers, have more than 50 members, and it is not unusual to have 10 team members posting results for the same day. In comparison, the United Speedsailors of America team is still small! We try to compensate with an extra dose of enthusiasm, though :-).
Today looked like a great day to post the first results of the year - warm (45ºF/7ºC), sunny, and wind in the mid-20s. Nina and I sailed at Kalmus, and were joined by about 6 other windsurfers - quite a crowd for a January session! Tides were not as low as hoped-for, and WSW wind created plenty of chop, making this a bump & jump instead of a speed session (except for Nina, who of course did here usual freestyle, which included her first Duck Tack of the year). But speed or no speed, it was sure nice to get out on a warm and sunny day!