Saturday, March 26, 2016

From Texas to Germany

We finally left Corpus Christi 10 days ago. This year was great - I sailed 32 days in a bit less than 2 months. Only 5 days were light wind freestyle days - usually in "pesky" wind, where others planed on and off on 8.5 m sails. Nina made progress on the Vulcan, and learned 4 new old school planing tricks - Clew First 360 and Clew First Push Tack, planing Sail-Body 360, and the Reverse Monkey Jibe. I made it through a planing backwind jibe without falling a few times, although it was not pretty. I also usually need quite a few wet tries before I get a dry one, but that's just me. I'll still count it. One time, I even waited with the stepping around a bit longer, so it almost looked like a Flip jibe. I won't claim that one, though, since all attempts to repeat it failed.

We left Texas two days earlier than planned. I had gotten messages from my brother and sister that my mother was in critical condition. We drove straight for 26 hours, booked into a hotel for a night when we both needed a break, and then drove another 8 hours to the airport in Newark, where I met up with my daughter. Natascha and I flew straight to Frankfurt, and then drove to the university hospital in Essen; Nina drove the van back to Cape Cod alone. Now, 7 days later, my mother's health is slowly improving. Natascha will return to NYC as planned early next week. I will stay in Germany for another week, but will return in time for our next windsurfing trip - Hatteras for the OBX-Wind Festival week. See you there!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

To Be Or Not To Be Clumsy

I have always considered myself a bit clumsy on a windsurf board. Whenever I have to move my feet, there's a good chance that I'll fall. Even just a couple of small steps, like in the Carve 360, can be  a problem. For the Care 360, I have more success with the feet in the straps, even though that's supposed to be the harder way!

To get an idea of what I am talking about, check out this short video from a recent session:

I was working on the Backwind Jibe. Just like I expected, the 110 l freestyle board seemed to small for my big feet, and I had a hard time going around the mast. I had worked on this move a few times before during ABK camps, but it seemed almost unreachable. At times like this, I always remember how my former Karate sensei called me "the guy with the worst balance" in my black belt test.

But I also think of more inspirational people, for example Dave White. Dave does not exactly have the most athletic build, but that has not kept him from holding speedsurfing records, winning national wave sailing championships, and creating top instructional videos. His "My Way" jibe video is one of my all-time favorites:
At 1:45 in the video, Dave demonstrates the Backwind Jibe, and I think it looks darn cool.

So I looked at my GoPro videos again, and discovered why I had such a hard time walking around the mast. The first problem was that I did not move the back foot far enough forward. When I then moved the front foot in front of the mast, my stance was very wide. That gave me two options: either push hard from the back foot, which would launch me over the front; or add a bunch of little steps, a great way to kill speed and step on your own toes.

The second thing I noticed was that my front foot was not wrapped around the mast enough: the toes were pointing sideways or even a bit forward, instead of (partly) towards the back of the board. Lacking Andy Brandt's freakishly flexible joints, that meant that my back foot would end up in the wrong place when I moved it in front of the mast: on the centerline, or (more often than not) even on the wrong side of the centerline. That lead to board wobble instead of constant carving, killing speed and any chances of success.

Fortunately, the fix seemed easy: just move the back foot forward as much as possible, right behind the front footstrap on the carving rail; and concentrate on wrapping the front foot around the mast, toes pointing to the back. I focused on these two things in the next session, and it made a huge difference - I got around with a couple of steps almost every time. Pretty soon afterwards, I managed to almost complete the move - I pushed the clew through the wind, and finished the move non-planing and with a tennis save. Not good enough yet to claim the move, since I was still dead downwind, and let go of the boom with one hand, but a lot closer.

The next session, I picked up right where I left of, and staid dry in my first try. A few wet tries followed, but I also got a couple of tries where I managed to turn through downwind onto the new tack, and kept both hands on the boom. Those count! In my last dry try of the day, I even managed to transfer all my weight onto my back foot while pushing the clew through the wind, which made the board snap around onto the new beam reach. Cool! Not planed through yet, but we should have a few more days to practice before we drive back to Cape Cod.

So, maybe I am not really that clumsy. I just have to remember that deep horse stances are for the dojo, and not for the windsurf board!