Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Price of Fun

Whoever said the best things in life are free clearly was not a windsurfer.

If you've experienced windsurfing on a full plane. If you've screamed across the water with no sound but the board on the water, the sail fluttering, the wind whistling across your lobes and your own heart pounding. If you've been hypnotized by the chop and waves moving across your visual field in a random beautiful chaos that speaks to you on a deeper level... well then maybe you should put down the bong, because waves can't talk.

Jokes aside, windsurfing is a true addiction. And like any good American addiction, there is a price to pay in real, actual currency. When I started windsurfing in college, windsurfing taught me lessons of perseverance, hard-work, and how to obtain large quantities of credit card debt. When I got out of college and started living "real" life, with larger rent payments, power bills, and student loan payments... I nearly gave up windsurfing. I nearly decided that windsurfing was just too expensive despite the great rewards. Ok, I was also blowing cash by chasing girls too, but that's neither here nor there.

I'm a few more years out now and I've got a bit more financial stability. Still, I have a hard time separating myself from hundreds and thousands of dollars in order to windsurf.

I'm buying new gear when I get to my new home, and retail prices seem to be climbing really fast these days. Let's say for argument's sake, this is the kit I buy when I move to San Francisco:

2 Boards @ $1500 each
3 sails @ $600 each
1 Boom @ $200 each (but lets face it, I want carbon)
2 carbon RDM masts @ $450 each
Knick knacks and paddy wacks (extensions, mast feet) @ $200 total

In this simulation of "retail therapy" I've just spent $6100. Wow. Obviously a thousand arguments can be made about these figures and their validity, as well as about "is it even worth it to buy the latest and greatest", but for someone who's just getting into the sport and doesn't have their own knowledge base and maybe depends on the shop owner (who in his or her own right is likely just trying to scrape by) for all their advice... this scenario seems like a reality. Because this is my blog, I'm sticking to this number of $6100.

So let's see how else someone might spend $6100.

  • 1 really kick ass bachelor party in Vegas, with no cameras allowed. (Has anyone caught on that I'm not married?)
  • 1 Brand New Jetski from Kawasaki. You'll never have to buy a jibing lesson, you'll never blow a tack, and you probably are missing a bunch of teeth if you select this option.
  • 30 days backpacking in Europe. Plane ticket @ $1000, Rail Passes @ $1500, $70/day expenses, Lodging $70/night in hostiles. This, to me, seems like a viable form of entertainment. I think you could even make the money stretch much further if you were careful.
  • $66,091.71 is the future value of $6100 invested with a yearly interest rate of 10% for 25 years. Your old tired windsurfing knees and shoulders could probably use this year off, since you've been charging the gorge so hard with that old, used beater board and that teak boom.
  • 47"LG - Scarlet 1080p 120Hz Flat-Panel LCD HDTV, 1 Sony Playstation 3, 1 XBOX 360, and $2000 cash to buy games and movies. We, as windsurfers, always whine and complain that kids today are too lazy to windsurf. Hell, playing the most expensive video game on one of the very best televisions available costs half as much! And you don't have to worry about the weather forecast!
  • 24 months rent in Jericoacoara. I met a few people who said you can live there for about $250/month rent. The problem at this point is that you don't have a windsurfing board or any sails to ride, although Matt Case told me he only used a 4.7m sail the whole time he was there.
I was a marketing major in college where I primarily studied the diverse alcoholic beverage market. I posted the poll about the price of windsurfing gear because I was a little curious about what people thought. Even though the consumer's perception of the industry isn't representative necessarily of the reality of the situation, it could kind of indicate how people feel about the prices they are paying for gear. 23 drunk people stumbled across my blog and voted (!!!). Take a look at the results. Most people who surf my blog agree that the gear isn't overpriced, and even if the prices were much cheaper, there would still be a very small market. This, I think, is a pretty fair assessment. That said, I have had a lot of 20-something friends who have come to me saying "WOW WINDSURFING IS COOL, CAN I DO THAT!?!" Invariably in the first conversation, the price issue comes up, and suddenly they are less interested. Get into the sport for $2000? You know I could go on a week cruise for that, right?

Also interesting, my buddy Josh at Windsurfingmag posted a similar poll with a higher response rate. The results were interesting. 42% of the people who surfed to that website say that they think that cheaper gear would create more windsurfers, and I'm assuming they think that economies of scale would make the market still viable. Or maybe they just want cheaper gear.

So that was fun, but let's be serious, you're (I'm) gonna buy gear. It just hurts. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the windsurfing industry, their tactics, their people, or their marketing strategies. Heck, we're all in this together on either side of the cash register. I want there to be more windsurfers and cheaper gear so I can sail more. They want the same thing, right?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Goodbye Baltimore Area Boardsailing + GEAR FOR SALE!

Farewell BABA:

It is with heavy heart and blistered hand that I bid farewell to the finest Mid-Atlantic windsurfing club ever formed (I think I just WET myself...). In a couple of weeks, I will be selling all my belongings and heading west to live, work and play in that "other" bay area. While the windsurfing club in that region boasts 1200+ members and strong political influence, I'm certain that I'll find that BABA still reigns supreme in grit, guile, moxy and all the other "je ne sous quoi" factors one could imagine. I would specifically like to thank Daphne, Helen and Marc Rosen for always making me feel welcome at various events, the Marks' at East of Maui for living the dream as starving windsurfers so we can get that downhaul line and replaced extension when we are in a pinch, and Coby, for putting together an amazing spring trip and finding a way for me to partake in this year's event.

Aside from sharing my obsequious goodbye with BABA with this email, I would also like to offer up some windsurfing gear for sale. These prices are so low that anyone in search of light-wind gear should cry tears of joy upon reading forth. Wipe away those tears now, as you must email me with godspeed to have a shot at being the first to take any of it home!

SOLD! 490cm Fiberspar 55% carbon mast -- has much life remaining! $75

SOLD! 520cm 100% carbon mast and a 9.3m2 Gaastra Nitro III, Good condition: $300

Mistral Devil Formula board -- an awesome formula or lightwind freeride board. "Planes in a flatulent", to put it eloquently. Includes Straps, fin. $250

SOLD! 2002 Chinook Carbon Formula Boom -- I've put this on sails from 9.0 to 11.0 super stiff. New aluminum tail piece. --$150

SOLD! 2006 Chinook Aluminum Formula Boom -- $100

An enterprising person may read this ad and offer me $750 for the whole lot, knowing that they'll be able to move all this gear for a profit in a longer time frame. This would be something I would happily consider, entreprenuers are welcome.

One more thing I'll add, I'm selling my whitewater kayak as well. $500 gets you a pyrhana stretch play/river runner boat used less than 20 times, along with a helmet, spray skirt, and paddle. Never let a weekend pass without getting wet!

All gear is in Arlington, VA... but I will consider drop it off nearby if someone is interested in purchasing the lot, and if there is cold beer at the other end of said journey.

Thanks to all!


ps. for updates on my trials and tribulations of changing from from an east to west coast windsurfer or if you ever find yourself in such a deep swamp of boredom that crying no longer cures, you may want to check out my windsurfing blog at http://humancatapult.blogspot.com I assure you, you will be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

8 Days in the OBX recap

So I've been putting this off primarily because I'm swamped with work and moving preparations. I was in the OBX from May 2nd through May 10th. I've been to the OBX at least 10 times, but I've never been blessed with such awesome wind for such a sustained period. It blew 20+ on 7 out of the 8 days I was there. I had 2 sessions with planing almost every day. It was incredible. I was staying in a BABA house which was really cool and laid back. I hung out with a few people that work in the windsurfing "biz", namely Josh Sampeiro, Andy McKinney, and Stu Proctor. Sailing around better sailors really makes a huge difference. I listen to any and all tips given to me by better windsurfers. A lot are given with the preface of "I'm no expert", but actually, it usually IS coming from an expert windsurfer. Thanks to those dudes for the advice! Here are a few pics I snapped on Friday. The conditions that day were SSW sustaining around 30 and gusting over 40. I was hanging on for dear life when I got out. As a photographer, I'm horrible and impatient, and I haven't spent any (necessary) time fixing the horizons or colors with photoshop...

Some guy disintegrating in a high-speed crash.

Standing on the beach was painful! Incredible sand-blasting feel...

The waves were junky, but that didn't stop local hero Andy from carving some pretty sweet lines on them. You gotta admit those orange RRD boards are beauties.

Stu in the background as a gust rips the water off the wave peak.

I took this shot for perspective. While 3-4 foot surf looks small when you're up on the dune seeing guys bump through it... when you actually sit right in front of the shorebreak, it can be pretty intimidating...

Andy, beginning rotation on a forward. He must have thrown 15 forwards in the 30 minutes I was out there, plus a couple backloop attempts. Awesome to see someone charging hard.

Stu, launching off a wave...

Stu was working on his ocean loops. He pulls the flatwater loop with ease, but I think they're more difficult in steep bumps because you have to rotate further?

Andy gets intimate with a closing wave.

Stu rips through a bottom turn.

Andy gets big air and delays the forward.

Olaf gets ready to charge

That's all for now - thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Finally a break...

I arrived in the OBX on Friday and have sailed in 20+ mph winds each day that I've been here. I'm tired. My hands and feet are gnarly with cuts and bruises. It's actually pretty nice to have a little break on this light wind day. Who knows, I might sail tonight... we'll see.

It's been great though because I've gotten to hang out with some really good windsurfers. I'm staying in Avon with Josh Sampiero, editor of windsurfing magazine. He's a really cool, talented guy and he's always there to give a helping hand to other sailors. Yesterday he got me to give the ocean a shot. I got pretty close to getting past the sets out into the ocean but got hit in the face each time. Good to know that even if I can stay dry(ish) on jibes, I still won't have to abandon the satisfaction of being humiliated in some aspect of the sport.

I also met Bill Bell from OBX Beach Life and Andy from LostInHatteras. Both were really cool guys in real life, too, not suprisingly. I feel so damn linked in to the east coast windsurf blogging community now. It's like an elite community of badass windsurfers. Then me, easily the worst windsurfer ever to grab the boom.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Andy Brandt Klinik

Last weekend I participated in my first ever ABK clinic and to be honest, I went in as a skeptic. I've learned how to waterstart/footstraps/plane with decent speed and even stay dry on some jibes without any formal instruction in my *cough* several years of sailing. In the past couple years I've stagnated at a sailor, but I would mainly attribute that to little time on the water and getting a bit too satisfied just tacking my way through life when I actually got out.

But I decided that this year was going to be different. I'm finished with my plateau and I'm going to get to that elusive "next level". I started a blog to document my trials and tribulations, opening myself to the sharp-tongued criticism of anonymous internet meanies. This year, I'm going to raise myself up to the level of mediocrity if it kills me. So I shelled out enough cash to buy a sail and took the class. We got really lucky with the wind (peaked at 20-25 every day) so I would have just paid for the wind if that's how it worked. So here's what I think about ABK:

Andy is really friggin' good at what he does. And he works his ass off. He's got the people thing down. He remembers names. He gives criticism without sounding like a jerk. The lectures were, surprisingly, not boring and sucky (and I've got serious ADD). Understanding the concepts behind the jibe actually made a big difference for me. Having someone on the water as you went through jibe attempts at first seemed like information overload, but it actually made a big difference in the end.

I actually planed out of a couple in the end, my carve and entry work a lot better now and I'm staying dry quite a bit. Overall, I think the camp was a huge success for me(granted we got really lucky with consistent wind... I might have killed someone if we had spent any more time doing lightwind freestyle). I would recommend ABK to anyone. I think it easily saved me a year in my jibing learning curve.

Also, on the last day I got to see Andy and Matt Case doing a freestyle session right next to the beach at the Hatteras Island Sail Shop. Loops, Spock 540s, willy skippers, and many more aerials I didn't recognize. It was pretty awesome to see and it definitely inspires me to suck less, which is always good.