Monday, December 26, 2011

My Thoughts on the Windsurfing Magazine thing.

Well, this is sad news. As I'm sure you've heard, Windsurfing Magazine will be suspending publication for the foreseeable future. Obviously, it's hard for me to swallow because I've contributed a little bit over the years and I've been fortunate enough to have participated in testing gear with them as well.

For sure, the electronification of media in general appears to be the major cause for this decision in my mind. Apparently, the windsurfing manufacturers and channels seem to find more value in adding us as facebook friends and making 2 minute music videos peddling their goods ridden by team riders than supporting print magazines. Maybe they're right. The sad part is that we all know that a pro can make a turd with a universal joint look amazing, and we lose out on real feedback from, ya know, actual people on what's good, or approachable in the market.

I really love flipping through a magazine. I like the depth that photos have on paper that I don't get looking at photos online. I love going to someone else's house, finding magazines on their coffee table and looking at pictures from whatever they happen to be into.

I love Windsport, too. I don't think they're going to be getting a huge windfall of subscribers from Windsurfing Magazine because I think most of us have been willing to pony up the 20 bucks a year for whatever we can get our hands on. I thought the magazines were complimentary. Windsport covered more of the PWA scene and had more content about advanced maneuvers, Windsurfing always struck me as more grassroots and reaching out to the entry level.

Mostly, I feel nostalgic about the first issues of Windsurfing Magazine I ever read. They were covered in saltwater and collecting mold in the bottom of my college friend's Toyota Forerunner. At the time, I had only vague ideas of what a windsurfer was. I was 20 years old and those brittle pages changed my life forever.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wave Snobs be Damned - Embalse Puclaro

Go ahead. Crucify me for coming to Chile and sailing flat water. There have been some really nice days of wavesailing here on the coast of Chile. More than nice, incredible days. But there have also been waiting periods. In general there have been breaks of 4 or 5 days followed by 3 days of wind. This reminds me a bit of Santa Cruz in the spring, maybe someone can correct me on that? Either way the wind doesn't happen every day here on the coast, and I'm a guy with a craving for freestyle. When the forecast wasn't lining up for 5 days, I took a nice long, scenic trip up to the Valle de Elqui, where they grow the grapes for Pisco.

The looks I got the day I left Matanzas were classic. "You're driving all the way up there, away from wave sailing?"  Embalse Puclaro is a long 10 hour drive from the popular wave sailing spots, way up in the warm north. It's a man-made reservoir, maybe 10 years old that is treated to 30 knot winds for hundreds of days every year. This time of year, you can plan on only using your smallest sail every day. For freestyle it can be downright incredible, the only problem being too much wind on many days.

Another important tip for this trip:  if you're not going on the weekend go with a group. Puclaro is popular with weekenders from Santiago (a 6-7 hour drive) but during the week it's not very lively. I mean no one is there. So when a group of friends of friends invited me to join, I jumped at the opportunity. I was greeted immediately with a group of sympathetic-toward-gringo friends, warm weather and ideal 4.2 conditions for 6 hours a day.

 Ack! A kiting picture on my blog! Who put that there?

Friends Carlos and Juan Carlos, not to be confused with one another.

Getting a picture of a friend jumping a kiteboard from a downward facing mast camera takes some coordination and timing. Yeah, I missed the jibe.

 Marcela -- badass windsurfing chick...

So basically a friend of a friend told Claudia there was going to be some gringo windsurfer coming into town and she reached out to me on Facebook to let me know about this trip. She's another great sailor and yes, gentlemen, she's single and ready to mingle.

Gee, what do I want to eat after 4 hours of sailing in 30 knots? How about 10 lbs of meat?  Chileans love their grilled meat, and I do too.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pichilemu: Little Forest. Great Waves.

When I was considering my options for this trip, one of the things I had to consider was which beach town would be the best for me to stay. The two main options close to the well-known wavesailing area are Matanzas and Pichilemu. They are about 1.5 - 2 hours apart driving distance. The way I understand it, Matanzas gets more consistent windsurfing conditions and Pichilemu, in general, is a bit lacking for wind. On the other hand, Pichilemu has way more options for surfing and boasts two really nice left point breaks that work nearly every day. Matanzas seems to have some waves that work less consistently (maybe due to the wind many times), and often times they are the type of waves that barrel most days making them above my "level".

The other thing I took into consideration, other than my aquatic needs, were my chances of improving my Spanish. Matanzas is a very, very sleepy town. There are a handful of high-end cabanas and resort type lodges, but outside of that there just aren't many people milling about. Most of the tourists in this area seem to be from Europe, so Spanish is a distant second or 3rd language for many of them.  In comparison, Pichilemu is very vibrant and full of energy (and full of people who don't speak a lick of English). I would still describe it as a sleepy surfing town, but it certainly has a pulse.

This picture is an example of the type of windsurfing conditions you will find at la Puntilla in Pichilemu. The wind is very offshore, the waves are typically logo-high or more. The nice thing is that most of the sections of this wave don't really "throw". The rides can be over a minute long, but it can be very challenging to get back up to the peak. I've seen experienced windsurfers, even professionals, forced into the 150m swim to shore and the 300m walk walk of shame.

When Juan was in town we scored a couple of days of laid-back chest high surf at Punta de Lobos, considered one of the best left breaking waves in this hemisphere. Initially I was very intimidated to surf there since I had seen all the videos of the triple overhead+ days there, but fortunately there are many days that are reasonable for a surfer of my (pathetic) skill level. A good representation of the wave can be seen in the first picture of the blog. I don't think it is a really fast wave on small days like this, but it's a little steeper in the pocket than a lot of the waves I've surfed. Some of the good guys manage to get barreled in some sections.

I decided to bring only my point-and-shoot camera, which I'm somewhat regretting. Many of the spots beg for a bit longer lens. The good news is that if I make the effort I can get some nice shots from the water. The bad news is all of the pictures I take from the beach are absolute crap. Such is life!

Fun fact: Pichilemu is a Mapuche word (the predominant native community of Chile). It means "small forest".