Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Feel Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeat!

I know this is way off topic but it makes me laugh, so I though I would share. Sorta the way you feel after a great session -- sharing the stoke.

Today I sailed 5.7 WAY overpowered at Pt. Isabel. The meter was reading 17, but there is no doubt in my mind that I should have been on a 5.0. My ankles were killing me, I wish I had my straps more outboard for super powered days like that. I know I passed a couple of jets. (Not really, I'm always the slowest guy on the water... ha!) I sorta love that spot, but I'm not really sure why. One of these days I'll write it up.

Oh and BTW, 5.7's feel HUGE now. A year ago, I was thought my 6.0 felt tiny and twitchy, now I'm the complete opposite. So strange...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Two Shame Walks for the Price of One!

The walk of shame is not something foreign to me. You might even call it the Aaron-walk. In the last couple weeks I've had two very memorable walks-of-shame.

The first was at the wall (pictured) in the Gorge. I was getting toward the end of a session and decided to go in, but I couldn't really identify where the launch I used was from a distance. I pointed up, under the assumption that getting downwind is normally easier than getting upwind. I ended up getting stuck in a really big wind shadow. The current definitely wasn't taking me downwind -- quite the opposite. I realized that I had sailed about half way between the wind line to shore. I was already tired so instead of swimming back to the windline to waterstart, I decided to swim to shore and do the walk, which seemed pretty short at that moment. I got to the beach and decided just to carry my assembled gear, since it was a downwind walk anyway (my first ever DOWNWIND walk of shame, is that some kind of record?). As I'm carrying my stuff through the small footpaths, I'm stepping on a lot of little sharp rocks, which is pretty normal so things were going fine. Finally when our camp was in view, I was walking along a sandy footpath. I stepped on a sandspur, whinced, brushed my foot off and took a few more steps. Each one of these steps included more sandspurs. I decided not to brush off and just keep going... Every step involved about 10 more spurs and eventually the pain took me off my feet. Fortunately, Ray Armas must have heard a four-letter word from the distance, and sent someone to bring me some sandals. I'm not really sure how I would have made it back without those sandals. I think the conscientious Cuban is going to do real well in the US. Thanks Ray, for saving me from my most painful AND first ever REVERSE walk of shame.

Yesterday was looking to be a good day at Crissy. The wind was up and the tide was ebbing until 4:30pm, so I knew I could get an hour or so in before the flood started. Unfortunately, all I had was my 104 liter board, because my 86 is at the doctor. I decided to stay on the inside since the big board was not going to be fun to sail in the voodoo chop. Other people there were rigging 4.5's and 5.0's, so I decided to rig my 4.4 since I was going to be using a big board. I sailed this setup for about an hour without incident on the inside. I wasn't making much progress upwind, but I figured that was because of the inside eddy-effect (when it ebbs on the bay, it can flood on the inside), plus I was a little underpowered. I came back in and warmed up in my car and decided to go out when the flood had started. I figured the eddy would have reversed and I would probably be in better shape to get upwind. It didn't work out so well for me. I was underpowered, tacked a few times and realized that I wasn't going to get back to the beach at all. I had never really discussed where to take out if I couldn't get back to the beach, but saw a bunch of skiffs docked by a seawall and gave it a shot. Fortunately there was a sand bar there and some steps that made it pretty easy to get back to the main Crissy launch. Only one other windsurfer noticed me doing the walk and he was sympathetic, so that was nice.

Lessons learned?

1. Look closely at the place where you launch from before you launch.

2. Never sail underpowered at Crissy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Finally some pictures

Before I go into more details about the trip, let me just throw some pictures up, because I know that's really all you guys care about ;-).

This one is Doug's Beach just as we arrived. As mentioned it was offshore breeze, so there was a bit of a swim out to the wind line...

I don't know who most of the sailors are below, but if one of them is you, I'm happy to provide a high res picture for you. I also took a bit of video, but I'm even more video-retarded than photo-retarded, so cut me some slack, I'll try to figure out what to do with it... (no offense to the real mentally disabled -- my readers).

Another shot of Doug's. The scenery was stunning.

There were a lot of awesome jibes at the hatchery

Your classic example of a "bad photo", but I kinda like it.

Bruce Peterson jumping. Came out fuzzy, but you get the idea.

Can you believe I sailed in that crap?

Josh from Windsurfingmag gets air!

Kevin getting ready to initiate a forward.
Many of us were thinking what you are thinking... "WTF?!"

Mind you, I don't think I caught any of these jumps at their apex.

This photo illustrates the conditions a bit.

Rider disappears in the spray from his own jibe.

He shoved-it

Josh jibe.

Lots of sails on the water... one measly kite.
The wall. If you look close you can see Mt. Hood on the right side of the picture.
Having a post session brew with the guys. Pretty spectacular views in every direction.

That's all for now. I just started a picasa acct, and I may just make it publicly accessible to save myself time :) Hope everyone gets some this weekend! Er, I mean... wind.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Last Minute Trip to the Gorge

I'm not even sure what to say or where to start when it comes to describing the gorge, but I will say this weekend was freaking awesome. I've seen a hundreds of pictures and videos of windsurfing in the area. I've read my share of articles and descriptions of it and I've even chatted with many gorge addicts over the years, but nothing comes close to experiencing the sheer power of the wind and water on your run-of-the-mill every-week-or-so epic gorge day.

Kevin and I decided to make the drive about 10 hours before we hit the road. The forecast was looking good His van was acting funny so I volunteered to drive my Matrix. The gas mileage obviously was a huge improvement, even with the roofrack fully loaded (sigh). I was so excited to go that I set my alarm for 5 am, but forgot that my alarm clock was EST not PST, and arrived at K's house at 2:30 am, not 5:30 am. Whoops.

The drive there is really long (11-12 hours) but really beautiful. Along the way, you pass by Mt. Shasta, Lake Shasta, the City of Shasta, and a tribe called Shasta. All the Shasta's I saw were quite impressive. The distances were long between bathrooms, convenience stores and passing lanes. As we passed through the desert there were a bunch of hills that indicated we were right next to the Gorge. Then we would go over the hill to find another set of hills that looked like they were DEFINITELY next to the Gorge. Nope, not really. There were a lot of almost Gorges along the way.

We finally arrived Thursday around 7pm and drove straight to Doug's Beach. The wind had a bit of a northerly component to it, so it was a bit gusty and holey. I decided to rig my trusty 5.0 and my recently injured 85L Freewave to give it a whirl. I was overpowered at times, but I'm used to that sail enough that I never felt out of control. Immediately I understood that this place is very very different from anywhere else I had sailed, even in the marginal conditions. The hills I was going up and down were pretty organized, a bit larger, and a bit quicker than the chop I've seen in the bay. I did my best and sailed pretty decently most of the time, I almost exited a jibe on a plane. (I'm getting ever so close sometimes!) I enjoyed the fresh water. It reminded me of learning to windsurf on freshwater lakes in Florida. The short session ended and I felt like I had accomplished something and I was ready to take on the Gorge in tougher conditions. This turned out to be a misunderestimation.

We found some couches to crash on in Hood River with Dave T, who turned out to be a really cool guy and an excellent windsurfer. Had a couple (too many) drinks that night and stumbled home early because the forecast was looking pretty good. The winds were howling the next morning. We drove down to the Hatchery and it looked like the wind was pretty strong. I didn't think much about it, I just rigged my smallest sail (3.8m) and stumbled down the rocks to the water. The swell was HUGE, like navigating up and down a mountain-bike trail that moves. I was completely lit up on that postage stamp-sized sail just holding on for dear life. I had no idea how the board was going to react to the next gust or the next roller. I just grasped the boom and tried to keep my eyes open as much as possible. The wind was so strong, it felt like a vacuum was sucking the air out of my chest when I took a breath. The experience almost felt like I was on a completely different planet where none of the same rules of physics applied any longer. Waterstarting was harrowing in the fresh water. Any amount of force you apply to the sail upward immediately dunks you under the water. Also, clearing the sail when you are hidden in the shadow of an 8ft wave without a breath of breeze... very difficult.

That session was the longest 30 minutes of my life. I scrambled and slipped up the rocks with my gear, making sure to ding each stone with the nose of my brand new board. I set my gear down, chugged some water and felt like I had just collected the million bucks from a prize fight with Mike Tyson -- as the sacrificial lamb who took his beating, but came away rewarded. For the record, some regular Gorge visitors mentioned that this was one of the bigger Hatchery days they could remember.

A 40 minute drive to the east is a spot called "The Wall", that supposedly has big awesome swell when it works. Knowing that I suck at sailing swell (or should I say, "knowing that I suck at sailing"?) I still agreed to go along for the ride because I didn't want to dampen the experience of the good windsurfers who were showing me around.

>>>>>>>>>> I need to sleep! Will finish the story when I get time! <<<<<<<<<<
>>>>>>>>>> Also, pictures coming soon! <<<<<<<<<<

Monday, July 21, 2008

That Happened

Yup. It happened. Nobody was hurt and by all accounts the damage was surprisingly little. Quite an "oh shit" moment though.

More from the Gorge coming soon :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Coyote Point Howls

From what I've gathered, the peninsula has had a rough (or shall I say still?) couple of weeks out here, so it was about time those loyal Coyote folks got a piece of the action. This place is freaking awesome when it's windy. The air was slightly chilled, but the water was balmy. I'm without a doubt more buoyant at this spot than any other so far. The breeze was side-on with a very small wind shadow, nice rolling swell with which to play with and tons of huge grins on the beach. I was on a 5.0 and my new 86L Fanatic Freewave. It was perfect at first, then slightly overpowered as the afternoon went on. There were no crowds and lots of beautiful sunshine. On my drive home, I realized the dense fog had blanketed the city, so I felt grateful that I decided to hang out in the south.

Mo of Team Coyote only needs one hand to rip in her home waters.

The fog sometimes kills the sunset and other times it makes it amazing. I snapped these two pics just a few blocks away from my apartment.

I did no photoshop editing to these other than resizing. Pretty neat, huh?

Tomorrow I'm heading to the Columbia River Gorge for the first time. I may not be posting much, but I cleared out my camera memory, so hopefully I will have a lot to share when I return. Hope everyone gets to rip this weekend!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Slice of Windsurfing Heaven

About an hour and fifteen minutes east of San Francisco, amidst animal farms and wind farms is a place called Sherman Island. There's nothing out there but wind, water, campgrounds and cows. The closest place to get a bite to eat is either over a $4 toll bridge or 12 mile drive to the town of Rio Vista. It's a really popular place to escape for bay area folk who want to go someplace a little bit windier and a whole lot warmer.

Last weekend the breeze was a bit underwhelming for the most part. It blew about 18 average with little puffs all day Saturday. Not quite as much power as I like with a 5.0, but it was still nice. I definitely need to invest in a 5.7 to become a little more "skunk proof", since that would have been plenty. The 5.0 probably would have worked a lot more, but the timing of the tide wasn't really working out for me.

Sunday afternoon, I had one of my best sessions since I've moved. It was blowing solid 4.7 and I was on a 5.0. The tide was ebbing, so there were nice starboard ramps too. I'm starting to get more comfortable with air-time. I'm not really sure how high I get off the water, it probably looks like 6 inches, but sometimes it feels like 10 feet.

Even though the wind wasn't always ideal, the company was really great. The guys from Team Dawg and the other folks from Berkeley all have been really friendly to me. I feel really fortunate to have shared quite a few beers with those people.

Kevin K initiates a spock.

"look ma, no hands!"... half way through a duck tack

Matt H. rips through a grubby.

Damis V. spock. Love the bottom of those Tabou boards.

Christian and his Hot Sails Maui tent.

Isa pulling out some guac. We had the cars circled to block the breeze after dark.
Check out my new sweet mattress in the back of the matrix! Super Comfy!

I let Chris borrow my gear for a few. This is the setup I use 90% of the time.

All of the wind-power generated here is carried by these huge powerlines on structures like this that are hundreds of feet tall. In the middle of the night 28 knot breeze whipped through the tower. Unfortunately, it was blowing only 20 when we woke up.

Sofien S. clowns around by putting his boxers over the wetsuit and asking if anyone was ready to go kiting. LOL! He had just returned from the Gorge Games where he won 2nd place in the master's division for freestyle.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quick Update

I just completed my 7th day in a row of windsurfing, I think for the first time ever. Camped with Team Dawg in Rio Vista over the weekend. It was incredibly fun... a touch of windsurfing heaven, in my opinion.

I took a ton of pictures and some video, will get it up soon hopefully!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Haskins, Housekeeping, Hot Weather and other excuses to use alliteration.

Here is some very exciting news for humancatapult.blogspot readers: I bought a camera and will actually be hosting real. actual. non-stolen. content.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I sailed a spot which has been called "Haskins", I'm guessing because it's located on Haskins Way in South San Francisco. I could be wrong. These have been days when the [nameless forecasting company].com forecasters have said "don't bother windsurfing today! It's gonna suck everywhere! Stay home and paint your nails!" But here in the bay area, we've got a little something called "microclimates", which are a lot like other climates but smaller. When it gets really hot (ie. 80 degrees to bay area folk, ha!), the wind is sometimes killed and it never really happens. But when there is even a slight seabreeze coming from the right direction, there is a chance it will start ripping through a couple of hills nearby and actually create strong enough wind to play with. These breezes are gusty but they still work pretty nicely. Monday was meh 5.0 at Candlestick, Tuesday was overpowered 5.0 at Haskins, and Wednesday was slightly powered 5.0 at Haskins.

The water at Haskins is super smooth. Apparently this place is only really good to sail on a big flood tide because it can be shallow. It is a tidal lagoon that has been overhead deep every day I've been there so far though. It smells like coffee, I think there is a coffee roasting factory nearby. The water quality is somewhat questionable. On Tuesday, the tip of my tongue started feeling a little numb. I'm sure it's nothing.

Now for the housekeeping. Since other bloggers like to record data and report the number of times they sailed in a month, I'm going to shamelessly steal the idea and give you a report of my first 30 windsurfing days in San Francisco (starting June 8).

By the numbers:

16 days windsurfing
9 days traveling/out of town
13 days on a 5.0 (largest sail)
14 days on a 104L board
2 days on a 85L board
9 different spots sailed

Now here's some more pictures of Haskins with some captions:

Kevin Kan sets up for a freestyle move right in the face of a 747.
The 747 had no response. It got served.

Unidentified Sailor sails in front of giant tanks full of unidentified liquids.
I'm sure it's something healthy and non-contaminating like Fresca.

Kevin prepares to rip the clew through the wind on a Spock.
Believe it or not I was holding the camera straight, and the world actually went slanted for a moment.


Correction: I believe this might actually be a grubby in the last photo...

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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

James Douglass: One of the Good Guys

Everyone in windsurfing cyberspace seems to love to ask that old question of "what's wrong with windsurfing"? Sure, there's probably been a decline in our sport since the 1980s, it's a pretty widely accepted belief. Comments are made about gear, expenses, economy, attitude, fat kids, etc etc. But the one thing people never realize is that personally, most windsurfers have done squat to recruit others into the sport. (I verified the word "most" for the previous sentence using Scientific Proof Journal, June 2002.)

James ain't one of those whiners and complainers, he actually teaches people to windsurf. And he's doing it for cheap.

(Caption: James takes a break from teaching to show off his manicure.)

Was it worth it?

Last Friday I wasn't feeling so hot, but it looked like it was blowing in Berkeley, so I dipped out of the office at 2pm (5pm EST, so justified) and drove up that way. By the time I got there the wind was puttering out and I packed it in after about an hour. Overnight I started feeling worse, and woke up feeling a little less good the next morning... with some cold sweats.

However, the wind meter looked like this.

I lived on the east coast too long to stay home on a day like that, so I picked up and left for Sherman Island, where it was sunny and breezy. I sailed for an hour and a half or so, mainly on a 4.4 and 85l board, but found myself coughing up a storm when I was waterstarting. It's a challenging (albeit awesome) venue the first time you go there, so admittedly I was getting my ass kicked much of the time. I really had no business being out there in my condition, I realized.

On Sunday, I felt really crappy, and decided to force myself to stay at home an focus on getting better. On Monday, still wasn't feeling good enough to work. I was breathing in steam, drinking vinegar, trying every home remedy you could imagine. Today I finally feel good enough to go to work, but I'm still pretty congested. I probably won't go sailing until the cough and headcold are gone. Was it worth it? If this was the east coast, yes. Out here, the jury's out. I'll probably end up missing 2 windy days when I could have nipped it in the bud on Saturday.