Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crissy Field

After almost a month in the city, the stars had aligned just right for me to sail Crissy Field for the first time. It’s illogical that I hadn’t sailed there yet. I live in the Presidio, same national park where it’s located. I’ve dropped by many times to watch windsurfers there. It’s the first place non-windsurfers mention in conversation. It’s been calling to me and simultaneously making me feel anxious. Crissy Field has a dubious reputation to some. It varies from person to person, and even moment to moment. Every windsurfer I speak to about this section of the bay has a story to tell, or a list of mixed emotions, or an unmistakable yet undescriptive look that sweeps across their face when the spot is brought up. Some swear it has the best, most consistent conditions. Some tell stories of struggles. Some people don’t bother to sail anywhere else. Some avoid it at all costs. There is, however, one word that every windsurfer uses when describing Crissy: respect.

After checking the windmeter to see solid 22 mph winds sweeping across the spot, I hopped in my preloaded car to drive down to the spot. My heart was pounding as I crested the hill of the Presidio overlook to reveal a bay chock full of whitecaps. Large boats carrying loads of chowder-eating tourists wearing their warmest coats cruised back and forth. Monstrous container ships trucked through the teeming water with an aloof, business-like attitude.

I lollygagged a bit before rigging. I asked the other sailors a thousand questions that I knew the answers to. I finally put together my 5.0 and 104 liter board. I knew that these were going to be a bit much, but this was the setup that I’ve developed the most confidence in. Better to be overpowered when you’re not sure, right?

I finally was suited up, carried my gear down the sandy beach, dodging the never-ending stream of joggers. I looked to my left. There stood the Golden Gate Bridge, a pillar of human innovation. I looked to my right to see an ominous Alcatraz Island, once home to the some of the most villainous criminals of this century. I looked down to realize I had stepped in a steaming pile of dog crap. Just the thing I needed to elude the grandeur of the moment; it was time to get wet.

Crissy can be a great spot, at least it was the day I sailed it. I found out what “voodoo chop” was after a huge tour boat passed 50 yards from me. Shoulder high, tight chop coming from an awkward direction. I focused on the fundamentals, mast foot pressure, basic chop absorption technique. No big deal. I didn’t push the limits; I sailed probably half way across the bay at the furthest. I mainly hung around the inside and continued to chop wood on my jibes. Overall, it was a great session. It left me with a sense of accomplishment, and a deep-set realization that I am now a bay area windsurfer.

Regardless of what some people think, I think Crissy Field does define windsurfing in the SF bay area. There is lots of fun to be had in the bay, at your own risk. But San Francisco is a city that embraces risk. Whether you’re here to mine gold, build a billion dollar start-up company, attempt cure cancer or simply push your windsurfing to the limits. There is just no better place to do it.

9 comments:

Sergey Menshikov said...

Dude, you are a poet!

rod.r said...

Great post....enjoyed the read. I can see why the SF guys have a good rep.

mo said...

Poet meets video guy...I hope to see the result soon on videojibe.com.

Promo post, not pity post. Go for it boyz!

uglyjiber said...

The first Crissy session is a memorable one. let's plan on more in August! Too bad you weren't at the Oregon Coast with us the last three days. We woulda popped your pacific ocean cherry for sure.

Wind Bohem said...

"...It left me with a sense of accomplishment..." I know what U mean! The feeling of freedom during the session, and the sense of accomplishment after is what WSURFING is all about!

Catapulting Aaron said...

sergey, if by poet, you mean disjointed sentence/comma splicing writer, I totally agree!

rod, I don't think that I'm very representative of SF people yet, they're mostly good sailors! All very nice people everywhere, however!

mo, thanks for the reference of video jibe... looks like a cool site!

Josh -- gotta admit, I've been eying Waddell and Davenport lately. Maybe one of these days!

Bohem -- you are correct sir, windsurfing basically rules.

All -- thanks for the kind comments!

James Douglass said...

Gold, you say?

Catapulting Aaron said...

from what I hear, there is gold in them hills...

Sergey Menshikov said...

I meant getting your passion across, commas or not :)