Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Vulcans and Sunglasses

For all of you who don't read the entire article: wear sunglasses when windsurfing! I'll explain why further down in this post. But let's get to the more interesting stuff first: Nina learning the Vulcan.

Nina wants to learn the Vulcan. She thinks it's a cool move. She believes everyone who tells her it's the first new school freestyle move she should learn (if we forget for a minute that she has already made decent progress on the Flaka, and has landed some Shove-Its).

Last year here in Corpus Christi, she asked Randy from WorldWinds for a lesson. But Randy declined. He had seen her try on the water. He said the thing that was missing was commitment, which was the one thing he could not teach.

Nina kept working on pops and commitment over the year. She's had some spectacular crashes, and was sometimes able to turn the board by about 90 degrees in the air - definitively progress. So when Nina asked Randy again this year about a Vulcan lesson, he agreed. Here's a short video that summarizes the session:
 Before the lesson, her tries where inconsistent. She'd have a decent try sometimes, but a lot of tries were like the first try in the movie - pretty far away from a Vulcan. During the lesson, Randy gave her a few simple tips that improved her pop and her rotation. He also helped her adjusting the back foot strap, which had been a bit too loose, so that she lost it during some tries; and, more importantly, he showed her a few Vulcans and Vulcan parts (no, not the ears, silly - I mean the slide backwards and such!).

I took a break from my lawn mowing to film her, and I was quite amazed by the amount of progress I saw. She had several tries where she turned the board more than 90 degrees, and where the board started sliding sideways. Nice! She did not complete a Vulcan, but that was not to be expected - learning the Vulcan often takes 500-1000 tries. She's probably still below 200 tries. For that, getting the board to turn 270 degrees, and landing nose-first without being thrown backwards, is definitely good progress! Randy's tips during the private lesson were very useful, but she probably also benefited from hearing the Vulcan lesson at ABK camps many times.

My sailing that day was much less interesting (surprise .. not!). My big accomplishment of the day was to not sail into anyone, despite wearing neither contacts nor glasses. I could not put contacts in because that just hurt too much - unfortunately, it was not the borate in the contact lens solution, after all. I have only one pair of glasses - bifocals in a titanium frame that cost more than $500, not something I want to risk loosing during windsurfing. So I sailed half-blind. It was actually not too bad - I could see other windsurfers just fine. I could not see where they were looking, but I just stayed far away. What bothered me more was that I could not see the gusts or the chop. But at least, I had an excuse to not do any freestyle...

I went to a local eye doctor the next day to get a prescription for glasses. The doctor visit was quite impressive - my eyes have never been looked at by so many machines. It was a big office with about 8 doctors and probably twice as many helpers. It was also run very efficiently - despite dozens of people waiting, the total wait time was quite short. The doctor noticed that my eyes were very dry, and showed a lot of signs of allergies. She thought that these two things cause the pain when putting in contacts, which makes perfect sense: after the first time I encountered the PITE (Pain In The Eyes) problem, I had other times where I could put the contacts in without problems. I thought that was because of the contact lens solutions I had used for soaking the contacts, but that turned out to be wrong; more likely, my eyes just happened to be less dry when I had no problems. So the doctor told me to take two different kinds of eye drops: one for the allergies, and one to wet the contact lenses and eyes before putting the contacts in.

So far, so good, but then, the doctor reported something that bothered me more: she had noticed cataracts in my eyes ("Grauer Star" for my German readers). It's just beginning on not yet troublesome, but it is also something new. I had eye exam by different doctors about 2 and 4 years ago, and neither had seen cataracts. Yes, cataracts are age-related, and I am not getting younger, so perhaps I should not be too surprised. But cataracts are also linked to UV exposure; one study found a more than 3-fold increased risk in a group of fisherman with the highest UV exposure, compared to the group with the lowest exposure. The mechanism is quite easy to understand: the UV radiation damages proteins in the lenses of your eye, which can lead to the formation of protein aggregates that lead to cloudiness as they accumulate, until you eventually need cataract surgery (the most often performed surgery in the US and Germany).

Since moving to Cape Cod 3 years ago, my eyes definitely have been exposed to much more UV - the number of windsurf sessions per year has doubled, and sessions tend to be longer since I don't have to drive far anymore. I almost never use sunglasses; for the past 5+ years, I only used contacts while windsurfing. Unlike glasses, however, contact lenses do not absorb UV light.

After the doctor's visit, I went and got two pairs of glasses for windsurfing. Both have polycarbonate lenses, which absorb 99% of the UV light; one of the pair has larger lenses for more absorption, the other one is smaller and lighter. They were reasonably cheap (probably a lot cheaper than on Cape Cod!), so it won't hurt too much should I loose a pair while windsurfing. I would have loved to get a pair of sports glasses, but the ones I saw all were not suited for the prescription I need (about -5).

I hope to be able to sail with contacts again in the future, and I'm pretty optimistic that I will be able to, albeit perhaps with the help of eye drops. We had noticed many times how fast the salt water on the sails can dry, leaving a white film on the sails - sometimes within a couple of runs. It's also been quite windy, with many days in the mid-20s and gusts in the 30s. So perhaps it's no surprise my eyes were dry sometimes!

But once again, what started out as a problem (not being able to use contact lenses) ended up as being positive: my cataracts were diagnosed earlier than they would have been otherwise, which gives me the chance to limit further damage by reducing UV exposure with glasses or sunglasses. So if you see me on the water with funny-looking glasses, you know why I'm wearing them! And if you also spend a lot of time in the sun, remember that UV exposure can lead to cataracts (and more), so wear sunglasses!

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