Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eff Crissy

There. I said it.

After once again driving to a few promising spots where the wind died, I end up at Crissy just to check things out. The meter was reading 18, but it can be much windier than the sensor reports. People were rigging pretty big, so I put together my big kit: a 5.7 and a 104L board. It started to look pretty windy on the outside, but it was hard to tell for sure, since there was a pretty healthy 4 knot ebb going.

I went out and had a few reaches perfectly powered up. Didn't miss a jibe or a tack. I was really feeling it.  At one moment I remember thinking "Best. Crissy. Day. Ever!!!" On one of my reaches heading toward the beach, I felt myself cross the wind line so I jibed to head back out to find wind. This was my first mistake. About 200 yards ahead I saw a couple guys slogging in the spot that had the most wind. It took me a few minutes, but I realized that we weren't in a lull. The wind was done. kaput. sayonara. hasta la vista. I tacked and started slogging back toward shore.

When I started my long slog home, I was probably half way across the bridge. The wind was about 8. The swelly stuff was challenging, but I was doing fine because there was some power in the sail to counterbalance. Then the wind dropped down to 0-4 knots. The bumps all the sudden became a lot more challenging. A big tour boat cruised right past a few of us struggling, full of tourists, excited to see us get completely beat up by it's wake. We went down like 1 - 2 - 3  as the boat passed, it must have been pretty comical.

The next 45 minutes or so, I was in uphaul hell. It really was a throwback to those first 10 windsurfing sessions.  Every time I was able to get the sail up, I had no power to move forward or even balance. The ebb was bringing me toward the Golden Gate Bridge with pretty good speed. I started feeling pretty unconfident about getting home, and jumping in to swim didn't seem like a great idea since I didn't think I was going to be able to beat the current. So I continued to slog/fall/uphaul. I was getting pretty tired, and I had forgotten to bring my thick wetsuit, so I was getting a little worried since it was a chilly day. After a few moments on the verge of panic I rested, turned around and saw the bay littered with kites. Ok, if I have to get rescued, a bunch of others will as well.

So I made it in eventually, about 200 yards upwind of where I launched. The guys who got picked up by the coast guard got to the parking lot at the same time, but I was happy to get home mostly under sail power.  The scariest thing that happened was a couple of huge sea lions popping up 10 feet from my board when I was teetering along. I don't know much about these creatures, but I found out that they have pretty big teeth right then. Toward the end my calf muscles started to cramp up and I was falling in all over the place. One of these days I'm going to get on a stretching routine before I sail. It really would have helped out today. I swam the last 100 yards or so, when I got to the no-wind-zone behind the bridge.

And so there you have it. Another shitty day at Crissy. Why do people love this place again?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lesson #2934 -- Don't sail Haskins on a Low Tide

This time of year, you take what you can get with the wind. You chase it, you scrape for it, you slog much more than you would typically be willing to slog. Yesterday the wind came up for the first time in a week. First I checked out Crissy -- the wind was light and there was a huge Laser regatta right next to the beach. I then looked at the local wind meters -- TI looked good, but you can never be sure if people are going to show up this late in the season and it's a sketchy launch, especially for solo sailing. Candlestick looked good so I drove down that way. As I drove by, the conditions looked ideal for the Stick, but unfortunately I couldn't park because the 49'ers were playing a home game.

So I drove down to Haskins. It was full of whitecaps, which is an excellent sign there. The tide was going out, but it looked like there was enough water to launch. Another windsurfer showed up and we rigged up. I was on a 4.4 and my big board -- probably should have gone with the 5.0. When we got ready to launch, there was even less water, I walked about 50 feet into the knee deep mud and decided that this was probably a bad idea. The other guy coaxed me into giving it a shot. We ended up hiking about 50 yards to get to deep enough water through the thick mud. The wind was actually pretty nice. I could plane the whole time, but not very much upwind. I hit a couple of my best jibes ever, but ended up way downwind.

We started to realize that even way out we were running out of water, so I turned back to go in. After getting upwind, I ended up walking through about 300 yards of knee to waste deep mud. A couple of times I had to belly crawl out of holes that my feet were stuck in. It took a lot of effort, and my heart was pounding. There was one moment when I doubted my ability to get through the goop. If I stopped to rest, I would just sink deeper and deeper into the sludge. Eventually I made it back, and thanked my lucky stars.

Was it worth it? Almost getting swallowed up by the bay just for a couple hours of windsurfing? You're damn right it was.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Not-Windy Week

Those bastards on the east coast are stealing our wind!!!!

hah -- but seriously I had about 10 minutes of planing on Monday on a 4.4 and 97 liter board on the superflat water at Haskins (my spellchecker doesn't know crap either because everyone knows superflat is a real word). It was actually mildly fun. It was really nice beach weather though... in the 70s and 80s. 

I need to buck up and buy a surf board already -- I work 15 minutes from an excellent spot to learn. The problem now is that I will only be able to travel with 1 surfboard and 1 windsurf board. Do I choose to bring the 86 or the 104? I really want to avoid getting a cargo van -- I really do, but life just keeps pushing me in that direction...

Glad to see my summer-windstarved buddies feasting these days! Keep the content up -- I'm getting set up to deliver more multi-media next season!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Much Love for Florida

A fellow native Floridian in my office emailed this to me -- I bet a few people will get it:


For those of you who grew up in or spent any significant amount of time in Fl, you will know all of this to be true. For those of you who haven't, here is what it's like in the 'Sunshine State'! This is about as close as you can get to understanding what it's like to be a Floridian!!

1. Socks are only for bowling.
2. You never use an umbrella because you know the rain will be over in five minutes.
3. A good parking place has nothing to do with distance from the store, but everything to do with shade.
4. Your winter coat is made of denim.
5. You can tell the difference between fire ant bites and mosquito bites.
6 . You're younger than thirty but some of your friends are over 65.
7. Anything under 70 is chilly.
8. You've driven through Yeehaw Junction.
9. You could swim before you could read.
10. You have to drive north to get to The South.
11. You know that no other grocery store can compare to Publix.
12. Every other house in your neighborhood had blue roofs in 2004-2005.
13. You've gotten out of school early on Halloween to trick or treat before it got dark.
14. You know that anything under a Category 3 just isn't worth waking up for.
15. You are on a first name basis with the Hurricane list. They aren't Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances...but Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
16. You know what a snowbird is and when they'll leave.
17. You think a six-foot alligator is actually pretty average.
18. You were twelve before you ever saw snow, or you still haven't.
19. 'Down South' means Key West
20. You think New York driver's licenses should only be valid in New York.
21. Flip-flops are everyday wear.
22. Shoes are for business meetings and church,
23. but you HAVE worn flip flops to church before.
24. Sweet tea can be served at any meal
25. An alligator once walked through your neighborhood.
26. You smirk when a game show's 'Grand Prize' is a trip or cruise to Florida.
27. You measure distance in minutes.
28. You have a drawer full of bathing suits, and one sweatshirt
29. You get annoyed at the tourists who feed seagulls.
30. A mountain is any hill 100 feet above sea level.
32. You think everyone from a bigger city has a northern accent.
33. You know the four seasons really are: hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season and summer.
34. It's not soda, cola, or pop. it's coke, regardless of brand or flavor, 'What kinda coke you want?'
35. Anything under 95 is just warm.
36. You've hosted a hurricane party.
37. You go to a theme park for an afternoon, and know when to get on the best rides. (Space Mountain during the Electric Light Parade!)
38. You understand the futility of exterminating cockroaches.
39. You can pronounce Okeechobee, Kissimmee, Ichnatucknee and Withlacoochee
40. You understand why it's better to have a friend with a boat, than owning a boat yourself.
41. Bumper stickers on the pickup in front of you include: various fish, NRA, NASCAR, Go Gators, and a confederate flag.
42. You were 5 before you realized they made houses without pools.
43. You were 25 when you first met someone who couldn't swim.
44. You've worn shorts and used the A/C on Christmas.
45. You recognize Miami-Dade as 'Northern Cuba'.
46. You dread love bug season.
47. You not only forward this but you understand it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You Know What? SF is Pretty Badass, too!

In order to combat my PMD (Post-Maui Depression), I've been hanging around the city appreciating it's awesomeness even though there hasn't been any breeze. This is not a difficult thing to do. As some of you know, I work a shift from 5am to 2:00pm. This affords me the opportunity to sail virtually every day. Yesterday on my way out the door, I was amazed to see the full moon shining over the Pacific. Just a slight hint of fog on this beautiful October morning.

After work, I drove over to the ocean on my way home to see what it looked like. This is south of the city in a town called Daly City. It looked so nice and peaceful in this particular spot, and the waves looked like they were 2 miles long.

I drove up to the break in the Sunset District on Sloat to see if anyone was out surfing. It was a pretty crowded scene, but there were many more people watching than surfing. It was much bigger and crunchier than the day before when I went "surfing". The guys who were out there seemed like they knew what they were doing. Even getting through the shorepound looked like it took serious effort, even for the experienced guys.

I took some video of guys getting rides on the bigger sets, but alas, I have no way to put them together. It's all good, I just ordered a MacBook Pro.

One of the other things I love about this city is people sort of live-and-let-live. You want a burnt-mango colored house with a light aqua garage? Go for it! Outside-the-box is the inside-the-box in SF. People from all over the world living- literally - however they please. Creativity is encouraged, weirdness is the status quo. My kind of place.

On my way out to dinner, I looked out my apartment window and saw this. Minus the suspended wire, this is a pretty incredible view. (Even with the wire, it's not too shabby). I just snapped a quick one because I was running late. I can just walk down 3 minutes to the beach to enjoy one of these in all their glory.

For dinner, we went to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant which makes the best damn bowl of pho on this side of Ho Chi Minh. We ordered the 7-course beef, which is vietnamese beef served in 7 different styles. All were super delicious, I'm drooling just thinking about it tonight. If for no other reason, I couldn't leave the city for fear of missing the food. World class sushi and shabu, Vietnamese, Dim Sum, Mexican, South American, and all the French fusion duck and frogs you can shake a fork at.

Maui may be the best place to windsurf, but I'm pretty convinced this is the best place to windsurf -- and live-- in the US.

Getting Better the Easy Way

I'm told I have quite the imagination, but even I couldn't make something up like this. A recent search of Amazon.com gave me this as a result. It's only $.99 for the mp3 download, so it couldn't hurt right? That's a lot less than a jibing lesson.

The track is 10 minutes long... I'm dying to hear it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rubbing Elbows with the Stars

On my last night in Maui, we went to a party hosted by the folks over at Quatro/Goya/FWD. They have a kick-ass store that has been well-documented in Dave's blog (note to self -- don't hang out with Dave if you want original content in your blog, he's gonna post everything before you can ;-)).

Anyway, there were some really good windsurfers there, and I had actual conversations with some of them. Some of the folks that were there were Levi Siver, Kai Katchadorian, Keith Taboul, Francisco Goya, and Jake Miller. Sure they put their boardshorts on one leg at a time, but after that, they throw big back loops in double-mast-high waves.

Nevertheless, they were all super friendly and none of them kicked my ass for ogling their girlfriends, so I guess it was a success.

Yesterday, I tried surfing at Ocean Beach. This is the main beach on the west side of San Francisco, and it's pretty well known for being unfriendly. Still, I gave it a paddle and got out through the break. The tide was coming in and the sets were getting bigger and the waves more powerful. I saw one coming that looked like it was going to break somewhere in my vicinity so I decided to try to catch it. Just before the wave got to me, I looked over at Kevin and he had eyes the size of saucers. He was waving his arms with futility to encourage me not to try to catch this shoulder-high close-out. Even if I had wanted to pull out at this point, I don't think I had the choice. The next 20 seconds of my life was pretty much like a pair of underwear in the washing machine. -- Hey atleast the water was warm...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Goodbye Maui :-(

I feel like I'm in a middle school dance again :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Maui is Part of the "Real World"

Maui hasn't been all that windy these last few days. We took two days off because of lack of wind, and finally got back out late yesterday for some very average 18-22 conditions. It was an awful lot like Hatteras sound-side. I was grabbing a bunch of boards in that few hour session because it felt like I could learn the most about the boards in the marginal conditions. I sail 18-22 on a 5.0 a whole heck of a lot in the bay area, and I'm thinking I'm not alone on that one. It was pretty amazing how varied Kanaha can be.

During the time off the water, I've been stand-up-paddle surfing, snorkeling, helping Windsurfing Magazine measure boards, helping to set up photo shoots. Yeah, it's been a pretty rad week, despite the lack of windsurfing conditions. It's also been pretty flat, which has been actually just right for me (but much to the chagrin of my fellow testers), considering when the ground swell goes off it can be over-mast-high waves.

I'll go into more detail on this topic later, but testing a bunch of boards really opens me up to a whole new appreciation of all the work that goes into the design of these foam water-toys. Every single one is so different and you can definitely tell how some are better for some styles of sailing than others. I've always been pretty skeptical about boards being all that different or affecting rider performance, now I'm a believer. There is a closed-mouth policy about the boards through the test, but at the end we're doing a round-table discussion. I'm willing to bet almost everyone ended up having a different favorite board and came away with completely different opinions about the same boards.

Sorry to my reader (hi mom!) for not updating this as much as I should be while I've been out here. If you want to find tons of content from this trip, check out Dave's blog. He's had the cameras rolling the whole time, and I only ask for his mercy in not posting things that could compromise my professional, social, and un-incarcerated life.

Here's a phew fotos I've shot these last couple days:

Hanging out on the boat that was used for the Board photoshoot. The crew that has been involved in the board test has been a lot of fun. Many different skills and abilities, lots of personality.

A few of the testers caught a sunset SUP session. I haven't seen many sunsets because I've been on the wrong side of the island, but this was a pretty amazing one.

This gorgeous couple is comprised of Chris and Heather from Newcastle, England. Super nice folks, but I have a suspicion they work for Her Majesty's Secret Service since they are expert skydivers.

The south shore of the island was littered with fun little friendly waves that were perfect for a SUPing rookie. I got out there and was immediately catching waves no problem.

Ray, from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico: Where the beautiful people live. He's a long time board tester and it's obvious why.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

You down with OGG? (YEAH YOU KNOW ME!)

So this place is without a doubt awesome. And by awesome I mean totally sweet! I'm here with Windsurfing Magazine helping them test the 2009 boards from various manufacturers. Apparently, it's good for them to have not-so-great sailors participate because lets face it: Most windsurfers are not-so-great. And there's nothing wrong with that.

So I'm here trying to give that regular joe feedback on these boards. Without getting too specific, some are more technically demanding to sail than others. And if there's anyone who would realize that, it would be a sucky windsurfer like me.

We've been sailing at Kanaha every day. This spot is neat. On the inside the water can be pretty flat with small chop. There is swell that lines up directly across your reach that can be like 20-50 yards apart, so you have room to find a ramp, line up and accelerate straight at it. On the outside, there are huge moundy swells that don't really break.

If you take a few reaches upwind you end up in a place called "uppers" which are these nice gentle waves that break over reefs. It's the perfect place to start catching waves because even if you fall, the wave doesn't really crush you... well at least when there is very little ground swell like there is now.

In general: Warm water. Warm air. Beautiful views. Azure water. Smiles all over the water. Oh yeah, it's pretty windy here too.

Here are some pictures that I took. I'll definitely take some time later in the week to take more...

Jake Miller: awesome windsurfer and all around nice guy. Here is his "Blue Steel" face.

Jake on the water. Pretty eh? He threw a huge loop a few moments after this photo.

A shout out to Giampaolo ;-)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Maui Trip Day One: An open letter to Lucas

(Lucas was my best windsurfing buddy on the east coast.)

Dear Lucas,

I just finished my first day in Maui and I felt the urge to write this to you. No, I don't want to brag about how awesome it is or go on and on about the warm blue water and incredible conditions. I want to tell you that every vacation that you take between now and your first trip to Maui is a huge mistake.

Don't get me wrong: I can appreciate you going on snowboarding trips, whitewater kayaking trips, summer cape cod trips. I've done fun stuff like this too! Being well rounded is great and all, but honestly, windsurfing is the funnest and you know it.

Let's face it, vacation time is precious. We both know that. That's why I'm writing this to you. Want to go skiing? Great. Want to surf in Costa Rica? You can surf in Maui. Want to visit a big city? Don't bother.

I implore you to go to Maui.

Yours in Robby,


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Travel Gods Hate Me

So I'm back in SFO waiting for my flight to Maui... again...

Woke up at 4:00 this morning to give plenty of time to catch my 7:40 flight to Portland. Get on the plane, approach the runway, then the captain says we have to add more fuel because the fog in Portland may cause them to have to circle the airport (so they didn't have enough fuel for this contingency before... great). The refueling process of course took about an hour and a half. I didn't get to Portland until 11 and my flight to OGG (maui) was at 10:15. So instead they give me the wonderful option: Fly back to SFO, then to HOnolulu, then to OGG. I should be arriving in Maui at 9:30 Hawaii time, or 12:30 San Francisco time. Ugh.

I'm pretty sure it will all be worth it in the end...