Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reality Check

I'm venting. You've been warned.

Surfer 1 says to surfer 2: "I'm a much better surfer than you! I bet I was at least 3 knots faster than you!"

It's pretty funny someone would say such a thing, but this did indeed happen. Not only is surfer 1 faster than surfer 2 - no, almost every single day, he is a lot faster than anyone else at the beach! He must be a better windsurfer than all of them!

We could argue that surfer 1 is usually the only one on slalom gear on the beach, or that he sails more than 95% of the other windsurfers, but let's not go there. For the last 2 years, surfer 1 has used a GPS to record his sessions - so how well is he doing? Easy to find out on the GPS Team Challenge web site, which has rankings for 6 different speed disciplines:
Surfer 1 is highlighted in red, so we'll simply call him Chris M. from now on. Surfer 2 is highlighted in yellow. The astute observer might notice that this appears to be the writer of this blog - congratulations!

I'll readily admit that I am not a good speedsurfer. In the international rankings on the GPS Team Challenge, there are somewhere between 840 and 900 speedsurfers who are faster than I am. On our team, there are several guys who sail a lot less than I do, but have much higher top speeds, and will usually be several knots faster when we sail together, even if we are on similar gear. But I don't care much - I do my "slow speedsurfing" when it's fun, and my (equally poor) old school freestyle / freeriding when I want to fall a lot, or it's just too bumpy for my taste. After more than 3 decades of windsurfing, just going back and forth at moderate speeds still is utterly fascinating to me. I don't think I'll ever loose this fascination - fellow local Bruce has not, and he's 20 years older than I am.

But back to the rankings. As bad as I am as a speedsurfer, I still managed to leave Chris M. several spots behind me in 5 of the 6 categories. If I'm not good, what does it make him? The guy who is always on slalom gear? Let's check the overall ranking:
9th overall in a field of 27 (which includes a bunch of freestylers who "volunteered" to take a GPS so that we'd get a second ranking for the team). He barely manages to edge out the lovely Nina, who'll be on freestyle gear at least 9 out of 10 days, hacking away at Flakas, Vulcans, Switch Konos, and Switch Vulcans. I have no problem admitting that Nina has become a way better windsurfer than I am; the same is true for the guys ahead of me in the rankings, and for a few that place behind me (including Bart, Martin, and Graham, who is playing in a whole different league). But Chris M.? Now that's a rather funny thought. Maybe if he shows me a few planing upwind and downwind 360s, and beats me in the rankings. Not that that will ever happen - in the past two years, he has not been able to figure out install GPS analysis software, or use, or even to use the software after I installed it on his laptop.

Looking at the rankings reminds me of another funny story. Less than half a mile from Kalmus is Egg Island, which is a very nice speedsurfing strip. I've been there several times with different guys on from our team. The first sessions were with Dean, who did his usual complaining half the time, but still racked up several 35-knot sessions. Boro sailed there just a couple of times in lighter winds, but managed to set a 37-knot spot record the very first time he sailed there. Chris M., you ask? I've seen him there twice. The second time, the wind picked up a few knots, so when I go got to Egg Island a few minutes after him, he was standing on shore, complaining that he could not sail in "this shit", and that he was so far away from his next-smaller sail. He did a wonderful job at defining the opposite of impressive! When the guard came to tell him that he was standing on a private beach, he sailed back to Kalmus, never to be seen at Egg Island again.

Some of my regular readers may wonder about this post, since I usually try to write about positive or at least interesting things (which some non-geeks may, admittedly, debate). Well, I must admit that I have a very low tolerance for stupidity, arrogance, and selfishness. I'm do not really have a problem if someone is not intelligent or well educated. I have worked with mentally handicapped people, and they were some of the nicest people I ever met. I have also met many nice and good people who had little or no education. But people who are ignorant but think and proclaim they know it all? Like "real estate developers" who "know" more about climate science than thousands of scientists? Keep them away from me! The same goes for self-taught windsurfers who never in decades of windsurfing bothered to learn the rules, and think "oh, it's just like when getting out of the elevator". Really? How stupid do you have to be to think that's a good way when two people on windsurf gear approach each other at a combined speed of 50 mph or more? How stupid and arrogant do you have to be to yell at someone "there are no rules in windsurfing" because you don't know them? Someone who not only learned the rules when he learned windsurfing, but also is a certified windsurfing instructor with a rather good understanding of what US Sailing, US Windsurfing, the UK sailing association, the VDWS, and the top US windsurfing instructors have to say about this issue? Really, really, really stupid and arrogant.

But believe it or not, this entire thing was not really about rules - it was about attitude. I realize that there are windsurfers out there who don't know or understand what the rules are that apply when they are on a collision course. Even windsurfers who know the the rules and play by them sometimes mess us. Usually, we still figure out how to stay out of each others way. In the rare case of a near-accident or a forced fall, things can usually be sorted out with a few friendly words or an apology. But things are a lot easier and more predictable if you know the "right of way" rules, and play by them. There are plenty of windsurfers on the beach who can explain them - including anyone who ever did an ABK camp (and paid attention in the very first lecture).

But if you happen to be the "give-way" windsurfer in what could become a collision, and you force the other person to jump of the board to avoid the collision, you've got a problem. If you think you are a good windsurfer and the other person is not, and you force them off the board, something is wrong with you. If the other windsurfer is a (slightly) older lady, other choice words come to mind.

And still, everyone does stupid things sometimes, and a simple apology can fix things. If someone who feels you treated them wrong when you forced them off the board approaches you, a simple "I'm sorry" would do. Or if your understanding of what should have happened differs, you could discuss it, and perhaps ask others for feedback. But being dismissive and calling the other person a "bad windsurfer" instead? Or later calling the women that you forced of her board a "cranky old fucker" to their friends? That shows some serious moral and mental deficits.

And still, this all would have ended after my last post. I had revised my assessment of Chris M. from "a bit rough on the edges" to "ignorant sociopath", and decided to avoid him - there are plenty of nicer people to talk to on the beach. I am certain that my intentions were very clear, but Chris M. deemed them unacceptable. When we happend to both sail at Duxbury in a NE wind a few days ago, he just had to approach me to ask if we were "friends or enemies". My explanation that I will not be friends with someone who calls other friends "cranky old fuckers" had him come to the conclusion that we now must be enemies, and he proceeded to explain to me that "there are no rules in windsurfing", that "rules are just for races", that "it's just like when you get out of the elevator", and that "only bad windsurfers complain to me".  Given my low tolerance to ignorant idiocy, you can imagine the rest. Even the Duxbury Harbor Master stopped by to make sure we were not fighting; unfortunately, he had no desire to explain the sailing rules to Chris, either (smart man!).

Well, enough venting. I'll end this with a citation from the "Start Windsurfing Right!" book from US Sailing (2nd Edition, p. 103):
"There is also an unspoken rule among sailors which should be considered part of your sailor's code. When two boards meet, it is common courtesy for the more experience person to maneuver around the less experienced one".

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