Wednesday, June 25, 2008

May the Stoke be with You!

Yesterday, I had an awesome 5.0 session at Marina Bay/Point Isabel/Brooks Island/Pelican Point/Guanotanamo Bay (named that for the excess bird excrement) or whatever you call that place. First drove up to Berkeley, where the wind died, then got the call that is was blowing 22 just 5 miles west. About 6 of us derigged and made the drive to Marina Bay and were treated with perfect 20-25mph conditions. Port and Starboard jumping chop as well as some smooth, flat spots. Really this is a spot with a little for something for every one. You can be powered up in a variety of different water conditions which makes it pretty unique.

Overall another awesome day. While I'm chopping wood on my jibes, I'm getting to sail around some pretty amazing freestylers doing their shakaflakamctwists. It's awesome to see up close and inspiring to see people doing so much more with the exact same conditions. I've gotta get me one of them head cams one of these days.

My jibe completion rate was around 50% and my tacks were about 75%. I'm pretty pleased with my progress, but I'm not planing out of anything. I noticed that I'm staring at my hands on the sail flip of my jibes, so I'm going to focus on my head next time I go out. I'm doing about half my waterstarts clew-first and that's definitely helping my sail flip, but it still needs a lot of work.

I'll do a write up on Point Isabel eventually. It's definitely an awesome spot... too bad it took me an hour to get there yesterday...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cold June Day

Yesterday I sailed a really flat spot called "Oyster Point" in some gusty little puffs with a 5.0. I had just flown in that morning, went to work, but still wanted to get wet since it had been like 4 days. The air temp was around 60 and dropping, I sailed for maybe 45 minutes before calling uncle. In hindsight, I should have wore my 5/4 wetsuit rather than my 3/2. The wind was a little better downwind of the launch, but I didn't want to go too far since it kept teasing us with long lulls. I packed it in early, went home and slept like a champ. Today I feel refreshed for some warmer weather and hopefully some breeze.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"It's Good in the Middle!"

The title of this post seems to be the famous last words of windsurfers who sail the peninsula. Coyote Pt and 3rd Ave are both excellent launches that receive some of the most consistent wind out here. Fortunately for me, I work in the area, so I don't have to drive far out of my way to get to these spots. The only trouble is that they both have pretty substantial wind shadows from my experience. You have to slog for quite a ways on the gear that's good for the middle (small sails and boards). On Tuesday I sailed Coyote Point. I put together my only sail and board (5.0m and 104L) and slogged out pretty far. Then I slogged a little further. Then I kept slogging. I passed the floating yellow bowie, then a channel marker, and still there wasn't enough breeze for me to plane upwind. The chop was getting bigger and the wind a little lighter, so I decided to turn around and go home (I hate swimming). I was going to chalk it up as just one of those days that I didn't have a big enough sail yet.

When I got in, a couple of the friendly locals said "you didn't go far enough into the middle". I couldn't help but laugh. Where is the middle of the bay? 4 miles out? The bay is huge at that section. The spot where everyone is planing is often times almost too far to see. I find myself windsurfing out there and I literally can't see anyone or anything around other than the cities off in the distance. There are another dozen windsurfers out in the same area, but there's just so much freaking water out here! (enlarge the image at the top of this post -- it's at least 12 miles across!)

Anyway Tuesday ended up being pretty good for a couple hours, and I had some solid 5.0 fun, even pretty close to the launch sometimes. I met some really cool people including Mo, fearless leader of Team Coyote. I sailed 3rd yesterday, and it was good WAAAAAAAY out in the middle for a little while before the wind petered out. I bobbed for a couple minutes on a water start and decided to come in after a short session.

I'm off to DC this weekend to tie up some loose ends and have my going-away party that I neglected before leaving. Hopefully I'll be back on the water soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Peace, Love, and Planing in Berkeley

Last weekend was my first exposure to windsurfing in Berkeley, CA. It's pretty badass. There's an organization called the Cal Sailing Club which basically allows members to pay a flat rate ($60 for 3 months?) to use modern windsurfing gear as much as they care to. It can be a crowded place, but the vibe is laid back and friendly. When it's windy there are tons of windsurfers out in the protected bay. There are a lot of lessons and clinics going on, there's a convenience store in spitting distance of the launch for cold beverages, snacks, and weekend BBQs. The Berkeley Marina seems like a place stuck in the heyday of windsurfing. I salute the organizers and leaders of the CSC. The world could use more organizations that offer economical means to windsurf.

Here's my current +/- chart for this particular spot:



Many stoked windsurfers of all levels

Somewhat crowded

Awesome Astroturf rigging area

Launch off a dock in a wind shadow

Convenience Store 20 yards away

Sometimes less windy than other spots (sometimes it only blows 18 not 20)

Did I mention the food?

I sailed this spot Friday and Saturday. On Sunday I sailed a spot close-by called Point Isabel. I want to sail it a couple more times before I write anything about it, though. Overall, it's been a great first week for me. I sailed 5 of 7 days. My biggest sail has been a 5.0. I haven't used an uphaul in CA yet (forgot to even attach one until yesterday!).

Good winds -- aaron

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thank Heaven for Little ... Boards

I remember when I just started windsurfing in Florida, riding only boards 130L+, looking at the iWindsurf classifieds and thinking "who the hell uses all these little boards?" In Florida, you don't get a lot of chances to sail a board under 100 liters, so many people don't even own one. I figured out where all those little boards were from: California.

Yesterday I sailed at Candlestick on an 86 liter Fanatic Freewave that was lent to me by Sunset Sailboards, and a 4.1m sail that I borrowed from Hansen Sails. The gusts that were over 30 felt a little overpowered, but overall it was a good combination for me. The board felt totally great and in control. Would have been tough for me to have fun on the 104 today. The Hansen sails are pretty cool and unique. Instead of adding floppiness to the leech in order to make the sail handle gusts, they've sewn in some stretchy neoprene. When I rigged the sail, it looked way too full, but on the water I had no issues with the gusts. It works!

Famous vet Jason Voss was there ripping it up. He was a really cool guy...

On the plus side for me, I actually stayed dry on half-a-dozen jibes, so I guess I'm starting to get a little more relaxed with the conditions out here. It's a really freaking windy place!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The "Stick"

While most windsurfers consider bay-sailing to be "flatwater sailing", I would like to somewhat take issue with that vague definition. It seems like somewhere between what I consider flat water (Hatteras Sound, Bonaire) and Jaws, there is a variety of flatwater that ain't so flat. I'm not sure what exactly "chop" is, or "swell" or how really to describe the nature of moving water in a place like this. I do tend to think that, for the most part, it's pretty freaking bumpy compared to the flatwater from the east coast.

Most of the sailing in the SF Bay seems to be what's considered "bump and jump". I guess that means you can expect pretty big chop and breeze on most sailable days and the technique you're using mainly involves going fast and getting air in one direction, then wave-riding "chop" on the way back.

One of the few exceptions on my side of the bay is a spot located right next to the San Francisco 49ers old stadium, Candlestick Park. Windsurfers affectionately call the neighboring launch "The Stick". There are a few different kinds of windsurfing practiced there: beginners and intermediates, slalom "power" sailors, and world-class freestylers.

Yesterday I sailed the spot in gusty 20-29mph breezes with a 5.0 Simmer Crossover lent to me by Kevin Kan of Sunset Sailboards. I felt overpowered most of the time, but that's probably because I've got the guts and strength of a 7 year-old girl. It was a really fun session though, more water-starting practice than jibing practice to be honest. Here's what I see as the pros and cons of this site.



Windier than other spots

Lots of spectators and passers-by

One of the few places good for flatwater sailing.

Great place to watch a high level of freestyle windsurfing right near shore

Good amount of parking

No kiting!

Gustier than other spots

Slightly questionable neighborhood

Lots of sharp rocks to walk over and underwater rocks to catch fin near shore

Extreme opportunities to embarrass yourself in front of good sailors.

Rigging area somewhat rocky/dirty (although grassy in spring)

Severely lacking in the shorts-over-wetsuit quota

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Stick and First Sesh

One excruciating week after arriving in San Francisco, I bought a board and got on the water.

The board I picked up was a Fanatic FreeWave 104, which I think is just about the perfect big board for me in the bay. It's slightly big, even for being my larger board just because the swell and chop can be pretty steep and intense out here.

Yesterday I rented a 5.0 Naish Boxer at Coyote Point from Boardsports Schools. I was a little nervous, to be honest. While I've met a lot of friendly windsurfing folks at the various launches, I still don't really know anyone here and most of my sailing has been on flat(ter) water and with regular windsurfing buddies.

Of course at the end of the day, I'm getting wet. It had been windy all week and it was killing me that I hadn't sailed yet. When I got out there, I was kinda slogging along, still trying to figure out the board and I saw about 50 yards ahead these big consecutive pieces of chop. Swell? Chop? I dunno. They were a little intimidating in comparison to most of the water I've sailed, but once I hit speed, my only trouble was keeping the board on the water, which ain't all that bad of a problem. A little air never hurt anyone, right?

Yeah, it was awesome. Once I settled down a little bit, I was having a ton of fun. My jibes were suffering, even though the board carved great. I need to figure out how to time jibes in sync with the rolling chop. I also felt really buoyant in the water. Waterstarting was effortless. Maybe it was the wetsuit. Maybe I've had a couple too many krispy kremes lately.

The sail felt great -- I want to demo more stuff before I make a final decision, but I did love how light the Boxer felt. Super-light in the hands, not even a little bit of twitch to it. It almost felt like windsurfing without a sail. My only concern is maybe it doesn't have a lot of low-end. Then again, it would probably be more rangy on the top-end in that case, and I could go straight to 4.0. Maybe I could get a powerful 5.6 or 5.7 for those days when a 5.0 boxer isn't enough? Decisions decisions.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I made it!

This blog isn't about windsurfing, really. In four days, I drove across the country to my new home in San Francisco, CA. It was exhausting both physically and emotionally but it was worth it. Along the way, I saw some incredible things, ate some delicious food and slept in a couple of sketchy hotels. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the way it happened. I've been extremely busy since I got here getting settled and working, so I haven't had time to windsurf.

The drive was a war of attrition on my car. In Kansas, the wind ripped the door out of my hand at a rest stop, and bent my car door. I lost a hubcap in Colorado. Many, many bugs died on the graveyard of my windshield.

America is pretty nice though. And really big. Here's a picture taken in Kansas. Seeing windmill farms really fires me up. I think someone should dig a trench somewhere in Kansas and try to break the sailing speed record. I was getting blown around the road worse than I ever have before.

Today I stopped by two windsurfing areas to check out the conditions and see what people were riding. It was windier than usual. I even saw some guys rigging 3.7m sails at Candlestick. The guys are Chrissy Field were holding on to bigger sails, but they did say it was really windy on the outside. Most of the people there seem to carry waterproof emergency radios. I guess the risk of getting swept out to sea is pretty great with all the confusing currents there. I'll have to look into that.