Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Little Carnage on the Coast

This is a little embarrassing to admit. It took me almost 2 years here to sail the coast of Northern California. There are a couple reasons for this.

1. Most windy coast days are windy in the bay, which is right in my backyard. The drive to the coastal spots are an hour and a half away.

2. I was a little scared, and that made the first argument in my mind more valid.

Granted, my first season here was great for getting tuned up. I got my jibe solidified and started learning how to jump. The swell on big days in the channel was plenty challenging and helped me get my confidence up. My second season I just wimped out. I was a little injured, working on new moves and just always found an excuse not to go. Finally, last Saturday I made it down to Davenport.

When we got there, I gotta admit, it was intimidating. Some sets came through that looked just huge to me. It didn't matter, I was here, so I sailed. 4.7 was pretty overpowered, which was fine since staying upwind is pretty critical at this spot. The swell in the channel in between the sets even seemed big to me, so I spent the first hour or so just getting adjusted to the ocean sailing. Toward the end of my session I started eeking over to the upwind break and playing on some of the shoulders and ends of waves. It's amazing how different wave sailing looks from how it feels. It looks really smooth and mellow when you watch people who know what they are doing make turns. On the wave, it feels like you're going mach 10, with the forces of wind and wave accelerating you to whole new speeds. Very, very exhilirating.

I didn't end up getting creamed or beat up at all which in retrospect I'm a little disappointed about. I'm sure those lessons will come some day, I just want them to come on a day with slightly smaller waves. Overall I had a great time and I can't wait to get back this year. Next time I'll try to have a better "getting worked story" for the blog.

The overlook
Somone who seems to have a clue

There's really no better place to watch windsurfing than on a coast, overlooking waves that break at a beach.
It is said that the upwind break apparently doesn't beat you up as bad, but those head-high walls of whitewater made me wonder just how bad it is on the downwind break.

An unusually rainy winter and spring has really made the sunny days beautiful in NorCal.
Kevin broke his boom on a bad landing catapult. It didn't break all the way at first, which was lucky so he could sail in. He probably has a few hundred sessions on the boom which is pretty good value, in my humble opinion.
Matt buckled his board on an endo-loop he did right in front of me. This is going to be a tough repair, lots of understrap mushiness.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Friday, 3. Sunday, 0.

It takes humility to be a freestyler. Just when you think you've got it, you don't. All my buddies showed up for our Sunday session at Candlestick. I didn't sail away from a single Vulcan. Everything was the same, except for me. Ha!

I've got to put up another post soon to detail my first windsurfing trip to the California coast.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Got one!

Well, three actually.

Yesterday set up as the ideal Candlestick day. I stopped by the beverage store to grab some beers for the friends I would sail with on the way over, then on a whim decided to get myself the "congratulatory beer". This is the beer that I was going to set aside for when I actually complete my first Vulcan. I found the perfect bottle: a $10 bottle of "vintage" fuller's beer. The shelf sign said something about how drinkers are encouraged to store the beer to see how it matures over time. I was amused at the thought of how much better the beer will end up tasting once I made one, how ever long that would take.

I arrived to find powered up 5.3, potentially 4.7 conditions. Reliable rippled ramps separated by a patches of silky smooth surface set up splendidly across the whole sailing area. I understand why so many pass up the swell and waves and splendor of some of the other launches. This place is freestyle heaven.

My first 5 attempts were decent, but a bit rusty and under committed. A few more attempts and I could feel things coming together. I was sailing relaxed and confidently, and I wasn't worried at all about making one. It will come. Then I went for one right in front of my friend Juan. Juan is a fluent Spocker, so I'm always looking to see if I can get another Vulcan tip by showing him an attempt or two. I popped the board out of the water, got the nose down, spun around and started sliding. Surprisingly, the new side of the boom was staring back at me invitingly. I grabbed hold of the boom, careful to keep my weight over my feet, but ready to lean forward to counterbalance the sail in this awkward position. Next thing I knew, I was still dry, and going the other direction. I wriggled my feet out and switched them to normal position and hooted like a wild man. It was one of my top moments as a windsurfer, for sure.

I looked around and remembered that Juan was right behind me. He was beaming with enthusiastic smile. He had seen me personally go for a hundred attempts over the last couple months, and he knew well the struggle involved with becoming a freestyle windsurfer. As the session progressed, the water got more messy and I was forced to rig down a size. I sailed away from a couple more over the rest of the session.

My estimation is that it took me something like 350 attempts to sail away from one of these buggers. It sounds like a lot, but realistically it took me way more attempts to plane out of jibes. If you're reading this and you've got some interest in getting into freestyle windsurfing, just think. You are some hundreds of attempts away from making a Vulcan. The sooner you start trying number one, two, three, twenty, fourty... the sooner you WILL sail away from one.

So what now for me? It's another fun, long road to get one on port.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Three-Seven Heaven

At 170 American lbs, my quiver sort of sets up like this with relation to wind speed:

5.3 Less than 20mph average

4.7 20-24 mph average

4.2 25-29 mph average

3.7 30 - mph average

I think I'm like most windsurfers in that I don't go down a past a certain sail size. At some point, if you're a passionate windsurfer, you're going to encounter some gusts in your career that are over 40 knots. Most of my sails I keep within a 5 knot range of one another, but I've given my 3.7 the unenviable task of having a range of at least 15 knots before I completely throw up my hands and give up. Usually those "windy days" pay no heed to your sail sizes and the average could be anywhere in the 30s and the gusts will happily roll through in the 40s.

Yesterday, a wind blew through the bay that had the sensibilities to realize that I wanted to be a happy windsurfer on my 3.7. Instead of being the usual DEAR LORD HELP ME iddy biddy sail weather, it was perfection from 2:30-4:30. The settled wind was confidence inspiring, so I was happily jumping, going for vulcans, and even going for loops. This was not a typical 3.7 day, at all. It was a great one!

Monday, April 19, 2010


As I mentioned previously, it's been a weird sort of spring so far in the bay area. When I began my vulquest, I was thinking I would be getting 4 sessions a week with 25 attempts per day. Yeah that hasn't happened so much. I've been getting a bunch of sessions where I was pretty underpowered, only getting maybe 5 attempts which were underpowered attempts. Doing the vulcan underpowered is more difficult because a lot of the rotation you try to achieve involves using the sail's power to whip you around, both by sticking the nose and by sheeting in and popping you off. When you're underpowered, you sort of heave yourself sideways, hope you have time to get the nose down and (if you're me) splash down in an awkward display. I still go for them when I get the chance because I think at least you'll build some of that twisty jump muscle that will hopefully have value later.

I have had somewhat of a breakthrough, though. My first 250 or so attempts truly felt like an exercise in futility. I jump sideways, a rail catches, I splat. I jump sideways, a rail catches, I splat. I jump sideways, a rail doesn't catch, then I just end up sailing along the same direction I previously was. But I was trying really hard! I couldn't seem to get the nose down at all. Now I'm getting the nose down sometimes, which makes everything make more sense. Occasionally, I get spun all the way around, and a couple times it seemed almost like I could have sailed away from one if I had my faculties together once I got to the new side. Pretty cool, and encouraging!

Sofien said to me after one session, "you seem like you're torturing yourself out there." It wasn't all that bad. It's still a lot of fun going for it, to me. You really have to mentally reward yourself for those tiny increments of progress, like even just getting the board to 90 degrees was a really good feeling part, then getting past 90 made me feel proud, then actually feeling the fin spin out rather than the rail catching. You have to make those mental notes and give yourself an internal pat on the back to keep your sanity. It's a long merging lane to become a freestyle windsurfer.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Flick: Windsurfing and Butts

Is there really anything more to life?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Finally Took Home a Windsurfing Girl

At first she seemed nice, but she was being fake.
It was ok cause she was always so stoked on the lake.
Her jibe left something to be desired
Only back-and-forth, never jumped higher.
Compared to the other ladies, She was a cheap date
I thought she meant "Aaron" as she cried double A.

A six inch wave took her away.
Perhaps she'll sail back to me some day.

Monday, April 12, 2010


April is considered one of the most consistently windy months for the Bay Area, but it hasn't completely delivered on its reputation, thus far. Mostly light/marginal winds in between huge storms. I think in the last 30 days I've used my 5.3 in marginal conditions more than I had all of last season. It seems like I'm seeing more and more large slalom gear being used around here than I ever have before.

It's almost like we're in an extension of winter, with just as many , if not more storms than we saw during the normal "storm season" of November through February. Storm sailing can be a mixed bag, but yesterday was full-on power in Half Moon Bay.

Sunday morning was a big, nuking session.

I'm always hesitant to rig a sub 4m sail, because it's a sure way to kill the conditions, but yesterday it just built after I rigged my tiny 3.7. Fully sheeted-out survival planing in the gusts with a iddy biddy sail. One doesn't need to go fast to get air time, just scoot along, throw your gear forward into a ramp and "voila", you will be floating through the air for a few seconds. Sure, it's fun. Just a different kind of fun.

I long for the steady 4.2/4.7 April days of last year, but I'm a windsurfer. I'll take what I can get.

Thanks George for the video and graph capture!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hey Beach Telegraph, Da News, Windsurfing Mag, etc etc

Link to this for heaven's sake!

My buddy Sofy (RRD) doing some freestyle on a lightwind day. He usually sails away from these Spocks, Vulcans, Flakas and Grubbies more consistently if he's powered.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NWS has an Attitude Problem



Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I had to say goodbye to an old friend last week, my Fanatic Freewave 104. This was such an awesome board to progress on in the bay. Plenty of volume to slog to the wind lines, easy to handle in the chattery chop, a dream to jibe. I've moved on to using a dedicated freestyle board as my large board, but am happy to have found a good home for this old boy. I sold it to my friend Heidi, who is a member of the Cal Sailing Club. She and her son are going to share time on this vessel. I'm certain they are going to be able to progress the same way I did over the last two years.

I have mixed feelings about selling gear. On one hand, I always feel weird about attaching a monetary value to an object that has brought me great joy. On the other hand, I can't buy new toys until I have money and space. And finally, it seems selfish to hang on to gear that I no longer use when someone else in the world could be enjoying it.

Every end is a new beginning. My new big board is a Fanatic Skate 97. I'll share with you the details sometime soon, dear reader.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Blast from the not-so-distant Past

Sergey of VideoJibe.com is one of those creative/technical types. He is both into the aesthetics of a shot and the science behind it. Usually when I make a video, I try to make sure I have batteries in the camera, try not to hold the dang thing too wobbly, and spend 90% of my editing time choosing my favorite soundtrack. Sergey innovates on how the camera is held or mounted, changes the camera every few weeks depending on his latest experiment, then meticulously edits the video before trying a myriad of video compression methods to best suit his taste.

This particular video has sections filmed with his custom mast-mount camera, seen below. The video was from last October.

Kevin Kan is riding in these shots. Kevin is just starting to get back on the water after elbow surgery.

This is a photo from his arthroscopic surgery. That drill bit was spinning around and removing windsurf-inhibiting pieces of bone from his right elbow. Kinda gross, but amazing at the same time what modern medicine can do.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I Pity the April Fool

I pity the fool who didn't sail yesterday in the San Francisco Bay. The sun was out. The wind was 4.7 to 5.5. The tide was ebbing. The tour boats were touring. Big rolling swell steamed across the bay, begging to be sliced and diced. The set up was as ideal as it gets, to me.
The above sailor, Fares, is a pretty amazing hardcore waterman. He sails Crissy any time there is a slight breath of wind, and he's happy to be the wind dummy basically all the time. Always the first one on the water. Here he is taking his new twin fin out for the first time.

The multi-fin boards were out in force. I'm really interested to see how they do on the bay. I'm fortunate to have ridden several multi-fin boards, but my jury is still out.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

March Wrap Up: A Charmed Life.

I'm stealing a page from some of the other windsurfing bloggers abroad and trying to get a little better about gathering season/session data. My dream has always been to sail 100 days a year, and I'm not sure if I've ever done it. Last season, I found myself trying to find balance between work, life and windsurf. This year, I've got a bit of a renewed spark for windsurfing. I'm looking for that perfect imbalance of windsurfing, then everything else I have to deal with. It's not that I'm unhappy with the other parts of my life. Everything is going pretty dang well. I'm just at a stage where I can see a next level and a path to it, I just need to focus on it to get there.

Anyway, here is how my month of March went:

13 windsurfing sessions in which I achieved planing in the footstraps.
-2 sessions where I planed on 3 or less reaches.
5 days LOB Surfing (Lay On Belly).
3 days of snowboarding in Utah.

So all in all, I was doing some kind of boardsport on 21 of 31 days. Not too shabby.

A few sessions of significance were:

Sunday, March 8th: 5.3/97L, overpowered. Felt like the real season opener at Candlestick Park, and more than 20 sailors were on the water. The excitement was palpable and no one seemed to want to go home when it was over. I feel so fortunate to have so many windsurfing buddies to whoop and holler at, and share in post-windsurfing brag sessions.

Tuesday, March 9th: 4.2/86L. Coyote Point (the wind hath cometh day). A very chilly (by bay standards) day where the wind and water conditions were so good. Ramp after ramp stretched out across the bay as far as one could see. Sofy and Juan from the east bay showed up to freeze with us. Sergey took some video and caught this cool still frame of me getting a little chop hop.

If you go to his site and watch the video you'll see just how minor a jump it actually was. The other awesome thing about this session is that I got this year's loop monkey off my back. I went for about 10, but couldn't get a clean landing. There is still a lot of work to be done between "did loop" and "am a looper".

Saturday, March 13th: Brighton Ski Resort, Utah. I'm not huge into Snowboarding, but this was by far my best day ever. Snowed 1.5 feet throughout the day, and I rode from 9am until 8pm since they had slopes open for night skiing. It was the perfect kind of day to make some progress with riding powder, since it just got deeper and deeper as the day went on. The crowd seemed extremely light compared to my normal Tahoe fare.

Monday, March 22nd: 5.7/5.3 and 97L. 3 hour session of freestyle practice at Candlestick. Not frequently do I get a session this long. The hunger to make a Vulcan grew more and more this day.

Saturday, March 27th: Pacifica, CA Probably my best day ever of LOB surfing. The coast of Northern California often isn't beginner friendly, but this was the perfect kind of day. I probably caught more than 10 waves and my paddling rhythm and endurance really started feeling like it was coming together.

So there's my March wrap up. Lately it's really been setting in that I am an extremely lucky individual. Just a couple years ago this was me. March 2nd, 2008. The only thing that is the same is the wetsuit. This season I hope to harness that very same gung-ho attitude in my sailing and blogging.