Friday, November 27, 2009

Stop Playing With Your Balls

I took a sports marketing class once in high school. My friend; an avid skier, and myself; a snowboarder, enrolled together in an attempt to find a way to justify planning ski trips on school time. The plan seemed fool proof, as it was a class full of jocks taught by the basketball coach in pursuit of an easy "A".

The entire course was to: 1. Design a Baseball Stadium, 2. Maintain a Fantasy Basketball Team and 3. raise your GPA enough to play on the sports team. That's it. Even the most brain dead of brawn sat shoulders back with the confidence of someone who actually possessed an IQ, and since my GPA was already high enough to participate on sports teams, I figured this was a piece of cake.

Things didn't exactly go according to plan. Besides designing a stadium that revolved around snow sports (which our teacher dubbed a poor marketing strategy for the MLB), our fantasy Basketball team came in last due to our poor draft choices. Yes, the class got a good laugh as our top three draft picks were all retired. Shouldn't the joke have been on them? I thought it was called fantasy, right?

Needless to say there were two students in the class that didn't get A's, and they were both in the two man group that my friend and I were a part of.

Today I was all but skunked at the beach. The forecast predicted wind all day getting stronger in the afternoon. In reality I waited in my van for three hours to get 15 minutes of wind before a thunderstorm rolled through and shut everything down. I was bummed, I'll admit, but those 15 minutes were glorious. More glorious than any moment on any sports team I ever played for, and certainly more glorious than the 6 hours I spent watching Thanksgiving day football yesterday. It was a reaffirmation of a lesson I learned almost ten years ago, that even 15 minutes of sliding sideways beats a life time of playing with balls.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Tale of Two Grommets

Checking out the 2010 gear I noticed a bunch of  features that look to improve windsurfing. The idea of dual outhaul grommets is not new but it's certainly the most effective the industry has been in utalizing its potential.
In particular the North Ice that drew my attention. 
Experimenting with their system I found that I could signifcantly change the power of the sail without adjusting boom length or down haul tension, but by simply changing the grommet, and was able to do so without drastically changing the overall feel of the sail. I liked them so much I bought three, and I'm looking to possibly pick up two more.                                                    
Take a look at                         

Rig to the top to max your efficiency or to the bottom to with stand gut wrenching gusts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Back on Track

It took some selling, but after a minute or so I convince Amy to rig a 4.2 instead of 3.7. She usually ends up being under powered and I feel she will enjoy her sesssion more by rigging up. I give her a bunch of great reasons to go 4.2, but in the end it's seeing that the new North is purple that closes the deal. Go figure.
I make my way to the water and cautiously beach start. My stitches have been out for only two days now and I want to keep my cut as dry as possible, though the biggest challenge for me is resisting the the temptation to freestyle. I see perfect ramps every where and the need to rotate something is almost unbareable. I fight the temptation and sail over to Amy, who is practicing her jibe. She makes one clean so I throw her a wave and a smile which she sees and is pumped.
It's not always what you do on the water, but who you share the water with that makes windsurfing fun, and even just jibing and tacking can be a great time if the people you sail with are stoked. It feels good to be on the water again, and I'm looking forward to all the adventures that winter sailing has to offer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Baja Part 3: Surviving San Carlos

We arrive at the camp with maybe 3 hours of sunlight left. The wind is up and so is the surf. Looking out there were at least a dozen sails on the water, turning up and down the waves which peeled from the edge of a small rock island to my right all the way to the point on my left, spanning the distance of about 2 football fields.

The three of us were eager to get on the water, but we need to set up the tarps and arrange the vans as necessary to spend the night before it was too dark to see. We park our two vans in an "L" shape to block the wind, in the corner of which Pete begins pitch his tent while Derek and I lay the boards around the outside of the vans to keep the wind from blowing underneath the vehicles. My van, which was full of gear and food supplies needs to be organized so I'll have a place to sleep. I push over my sails just enough to fit my body between my board rack and the wall of my van, then laid out a foam twin size egg create to make a bed; luxury accommodations.

I quickly finish setting up my space and rush to help Derek lay the tarps, which require us to drive gigantic iron nails perhaps better suited for slaying vampires than holding tarps, into the hard desert clay to keep them in place. We continue to set up camp, but after about twenty minutes, our combined attention spans had dwindled to the point that any word not related to the act of getting on the water came out as a "dahhh" or a "buhhh."

Racing against the setting sun we rig and get on the water and after only one wave I'd lost count of how many turns I had made. I would half schlog/half plane through the surf, pinch up wind, tack, catch a wave and then rip down the line, repeating this process until the sun sank below the horizon. After a sweet sunset session the three of us met on the beach and formed a fire brigade style line to hand the gear up the large cliff, which I had barely noticed when I first rushed to the water.

For the next 5 days straight, we would wake up, eat, sail, eat, sail some more, eat, drink Ballenas, and go to sleep. Every day there was swell, and by noon the wind would be up. One of my favorite activities was to stick a sail on one of the SUP's and go wave sailing in the morning when the wind was light. I enjoyed it some much, in fact, that if we weren’t supposed to be gear testing, I may very well have stayed out on the long board the whole time.

On the water we were joined by sea lions and dolphins swimming near by and some times even in the waves. I was fascinated; especially since the only marine life I had the pleasure of sharing the water with sailing on Long Island was the occasional blue fish or horseshoe crab. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the company of the seals more if Pete hadn't shared his story about being chased around on his surf board by a curious sea lion, a story which I found both comical and alarming since I am especially cautious of anything I share the water with.

By Tuesday the swell had jacked up to be about logo high and the wind was cranking. At one point I had to take out my 4.2 and 76ltr wave board and abandon the test gear completely. Wednesday the wind shifted more offshore, causing the waves to stand up too long and breaking in large closeout sections while the wind itself became gusty and unreliable, especially on the inside where the waves were breaking into the shore. I pulled out a 5.3 and an 84 ltr twin fin from the test gear, figuring the sail would keep me powered on the inside where getting out was critical, and the board would be a blend buoyancy with maneuverability, neither of which I was willing to sacrifice.

I was right and for the first time, I was fully planing heading through the surf. The twin was super fun; it was quick to plane, loose on the face of the wave, and tracked up wind fast. I felt like super man, flying where ever I wanted quickly and effortlessly, blasting through the surf to get to my wave of choice and then making top turn combos like I'd been doing it all my life.

I was heading out from the inside when a wave about head high stood up to break, a perfect back loop ramp. From the beach, Pete and Derek paused from their lunch break knowing what I was about to set up. I launched it, climbing high into the air, and then stalling at the peak. But for some reason it seemed wrong, like the board wasn't going to rotate and I wasn't really comfortable being upside down that high. Thinking I'd land on my back I decided to eject and come down feet first.

I regret letting go, I know better, I knew better.

The fin came down and landed right on my left arm, leaving me in a lot of pain. I managed to sail into the beach where Derek had to push me up the cliff while Pete went to find a doctor. I leave out many details of the in-between, only to say that about an hour went by, seven stitches went in, and three shots of tequila to kill the pain went down. I could never be more grateful to Solo Sports and Dr. Denis for fixing me up. Thank you!

The next two days involved me eating, filming, reading, and drinking Ballenas. I personally was in no hurry to leave, mostly since we still had beer and the weather was nice. Pete and Derek went into serious test mode as they methodically and tediously went through each piece of gear; tweaking it, tuning it, trying different sail board combos until they were satisfied and then moved to the next piece of gear.

On the eighth day we packed up and began the journey home. We spent three and a half hours bouncing down that dirt road before reaching the highway, then headed straight for the border.

After successfully navigating our way to Tijuana, we were unknowingly about to miss the turn, the crucial left which to our best knowledge we had already made. Not only was it the way home, but failure to turn would mean driving through one of the worst areas of Tijuana and it was already quite late in the day.

As we approach the intersection the light turns red and from the side walk comes an entourage of window cleaners. At this point I'm sick of being approached by solicitors, for every time I slow my car someone will run into the street and knock on my window, trying to sell, service, or just straight out ask for money. But my car, having been painted Baja Brown from that notorious dirt road to San Carlos, might as well have had the words "Clean Me" ( in Spanish ) written boldly on every window. I tried to resist, but both me and the street cleaner knew it was useless, and I soon surrendered the dirt on my windshield to his rag and squeegee.

As he was cleaning I pulled some singles from my wallet and cracked the window just enough to pass them through. He was thankful, and as he took the money he said the words which I realized soon after were worth much more than the two bucks I'd just gave him: "turn left here." At first I wasn't sure if it was some kind of a trick to detour us into a full on car wash, but all his friends were pointing left, the white van which Derek and Pete were driving seemed obedient, and damn if that wasn't the cleanest windshield I ever had the pleasure of looking through. I decided to follow, and sure enough there were the signs leading to the US border.

Approaching customs was a bit like driving through a flea market. There were people every where, trying to sell whatever they could, water, food, Jesus pictures, sombreros. Little kids were running in-between the stand still traffic, juggling in front of cars hoping to get some spare change. It was a spectacle unlike any I'd ever seen.

Once through, I breathed a sign of relief. My first trip to Mexico and I was back in one piece (arguably). I was certainly glad to be back, but I couldn't help but think about the next trip. Derek asked if I would still be interested next time he plans a trip to San Carlos, in light of what happened. For me there was little to think about, I'm in.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baja part 1

I was not prepared for the culture shock. Derek told me about everything else, the remoteness of San Carlos, the heat, the cold, the dirt, the beer, but as I crossed the boarder the world around me changed abruptly into something much unanticipated. The highway was wide, like the four lane I-5 which we used to get there, only it had no lines drawn and people driving guessed at where they should be, while others simply swerved back and forth across the road. There were no markings where major dips and drops cut the pavement, so frequent unexpected bumps and jumps occurred. I gasp a bit as I realize the money I just spent on Mexican Car Insurance (i'm so serious) was more than a line to open a joke with.

To my right was the infamous "fence" which looked more like the Berlin wall with barbwire fences on either side of the huge concrete edifice and enough room in between for border patrol to get a good shot if someone did make it over one of them.

To my left were the "Houses", constructed of some painted ply wood leaned against some sticks with a sheet of metal for the roof. It reminded me of a scene of Slumdog Millionaire where they show a picture of a shanty city stretching for as long as the eye can see, such is Tijuana.

We drove on for 3 hours.

Flash back: it's seven o'clock in the morning and I'm in a 7/11. I buy a map of Baja and go out to my car to read it. It's wrapped in plastic which I peel off and then unfold the map, only to let out a "WTF" and throw the map on my passenger seat. It only has three roads depicted on it. I wanted a road map, not a picture of the peninsula. What a rip off!

Back to the moment: As we pull over for gas I laugh, realizing that there really are only three roads in Baja.
Not a rip off after all, just honest. The other dirt roads wash out every time it rains, and therefore any attempt at documentation would be in vein.

Next we stop at a local Bodega. Non of us really spoke Spanish, but Derek is fluent in getting beer. 3 boxes of Ballena's (980 ml bottles pronounced Bah-yeen-ah) for a grand total of 300 pesos, about thirty dollars for 36 of these jugs. Oh, about third of that price was bottle deposit. I'm liking Mexico.

After driving 4 hours down "paved" Mexican highway, a sign made of ply wood and spray paint stands casually, set back from the highway in a field of dirt and small cacti. You don't want to miss it, because it's the only indication you get that you're supposed to turn and the next town is far, as you're now in the middle of now where. It reads "Punta San Carols 60 km."

The dirt road it's self is a little bumpy to start, enough so that you know you're on a dirt road at first but still you get used to it after about ten minutes. It's forty miles long which, after doing some math in my head, realizing I'm only going ten miles and hour and I want to wave sail, prompts me to speed up to about 20. At this point I can still see through my windows and mirrors and now behind me is big enterprise rented box truck, cruising at about 45, and bouncing violently as it approaches. The driver starts honking obnoxiously. He's close to me now, enough that I recognize the Dakine hat on his head. It's Wyatt, who has obviously purchased rental insurance and is being encouraged by Tyson and his other two passengers to drive like an ese loco. They wave, yell some things, and then take off, leaving the first layer of dust on my van.

As they disappear over the horizon I speed up a bit more, finding the strips of "white gold" or small strips of smooth dirt running along side the rocky dirty road that allow me to speed up to 30. "Sweet, I'll be there in no time" I think to my self.

I begin to zigzag back an fourth along the bumpy road following the white gold until I see the tire tracks in front off me deepen. I slam the brakes but it's too late, I'm bottoming out on the dirt. My van is in engulfed in a cloud of dust so thick it blocks on the glaring Mexican sun like a total solar eclipse. It takes a while for the dust to settle. I can no longer see out of any windows or mirrors, save for the windshield which I cleared with my wipers. The once red van is now painted Baja Brown.

I press the gas peddle again and my tires spin in the loose soil as I try to navigate my way back to the dirt road. There’s now thirty miles to go, I decide to take it slow.

I pass cactus the size of a large oak tree, live cattle standing right on the edge of the road, and the occasional skeleton of the cow that wondered to far from the water trough. The road winds through mountains, dry river beds and canyons. It deteriorates in condition, and now I've slowed to a crawl, carefully negotiating pot holes, large rocks, and trenches at to not damage my van.

It's an adventure to say the least, but after 3 hours I finally get a glimpse of the ocean. I follow Derek and Pete right to the edge of a 20 foot cliff which stands over the water; we park our vans and get out. About a dozen sails are on the water, riding waves that line up for as far as the eye can see.

We've made it, time to sail.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Columbus Day Wind Weekend

I flew in to Long Island's JFK airport Saturday evening watching the white caps on the Atlantic from my window seat. The sun was setting quickly so I knew a session was out of the question and not having seen my family or friends since the June ECWF I was content with relinquishing any thoughts of windsurfing upon arrival. But still, being on Long Island in October, in prime wind season, I was hoping deeply for a classic West Meadow session and on the last day of my stay, the meadow delivered.

It was great seeing the West Meadow crew in full force as winds quickly climbed into the mid twenties with higher gusts, sending sailors scurrying in for their small gear. Most of the guys ended up rigging in the low 4's.

I, not having any of my own gear, ended up borrowing Mike's 4.7 and smaller 85 ltr style.

Every one was jumping, sliding, wave riding and smiling. The level of Long Island sailing has grown constantly over the years, and Tuesday was a great show case.

I saw some great sailing from Joe and Ryan, who both seemed to be air borne every time I looked in their directions. Gorge Pav was looking very Spock worthy and Rich Simmons took advantage of the remaining flat water on the inside.

Mike Burns out there killing it as usual, shredding the Shaka and throwing big planing Ponches amongst his usual repertoire...

In the end it was a classic West Meadow session, flat freestyle insides leading to chest high waves on the out side. I had been thinking about this place all summer long, and it made my stay to score a sick session.

A special thanks to everyone who offered to lend me gear!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sherman Island Blows!

In the distance Mt. Diablo loomed over the vast flats of the Delta, breaking the otherwise flat horizon line and following me where ever I drove. For a moment it reminded me of Mount Hood, only on a smaller scale and surronded by much less dynamic terrain. After three days in California the wind decided to kick in, sending me out in search of the local windsurfing spots.
Twenty some odd identical miles of road and vinyards passed before a bent old street sign half hidden behind a tree branch reading "Sherman Island Rd" suddenly appeared. Matching the name on the sign to a launch I had read about on iwindsurf, I slammed the breaks, swerved to the right and continued on bouncing along the narrow, crooked levee road. Down the road the tight channels of irrigation water relaxed and began to widen as a significant number white caps appeared on the surface of the water. In the distance two kites and a sail became visible, surrendering the position of the spot for which I'd been searching.
I found a place to park in a grassy feild behind a large levee and walked over to the waters edge. The wind was blowing steady, certainly enough to sail. Taking a minute to survey the water for any hazards, I found to spot to be safe and returned to my car to rig.
Once on the water I was well powered. The chop was small, even flat in most spots, making for some great freestyle conditions. However, being only on a 4.7 and having virtually no ramps to launch off of I found it hard to do many of the new areil manuevours I'd learned in the Gorge, but quickly adjusted to more "slidy" style tricks.
I sailed about 4 hours before taking a break. Then, heading back to my car I noticed a silver van with a horizontal blue stripe down the side, topped with Dakine gear bags and a pile of Naish gear behind it. The owner was standing on the rear bumper, pulling at one of the bags tied to the roof.
It was Wyatt Miller.
We talked a bit while him and his buddy rigged up and then head back to the water.
Upon return, the tide had changed, shifting the currents against the wind (which had come up about another 5 knots) and causing the small chop to turn into steeper ramps. Wyatt reffered to it as a sort of "mini-gorge." I lasted about another hour or so, but before I left I witnessed Wyatt through some unbelievable twisting, flipping, spinning moves of which I'd only seen in videos.
Yes, after three days in California I got same good sailing in, and I'm looking forward to much more of it in the months ahead.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stuck in Lodi Again

After 6 months and 102 days recorded of windsurfing, I've left the Gorge.
With my van packed to capacity I turned my back to the windiest place I've ever been and headed south, to Lodi, California.
Forecast for Monday, Tuesday, and Wensday calls for strong gusty winds...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gorge Summer Highlights Part 1

As summer slowly draws to an end so does my time here in the Gorge. It seems everyday brought some form of adventure. Plenty of windsurfing combined with an endless amount of non wind activities often left me wishing for more daylight and energy. I’m excited when I think about the epic conditions the fall will bring to some of my favorite spots around Long Island and that I potentially might spend the winter down in Texas, but still the Gorge has drawn me in. Its relentless strong winds and rough river water put me in touch with a side of windsurfing that I had never known.
Checking iwindsurf frequently has always been a habit of mine. On this day I was working, and as usual making the proper arrangements to sneak out early. Doug's was blowing steady in the upper 20's. With warm air temps and a steady water flow all the ingredients necessary for an epic session were coming together.

It was hardly a gamble, as sometimes leaving work to windsurf can be. Getting skunked sucks, but it stings a little extra when hours are given up only to be left standing on a windless beach. It happens to everyone I guess, but today it was not a question. I poked my head into the office and told my boss I was leaving for the day. Before he could turn around to rebuttal I was out the door and on my way.

When I arrived I could see waves capping from the parking lot. A fine sprey streaked horizontally off the peaks, smoking across the waters surface. The mist coming off the leeward side a passing sailboard carried into the air with no intention of setting down. As I gazed around it occurred to me that no one was slogging.This excited me, I knew it was at least 4.1 with a small board and as I turned around to face my car again an approaching sailor caught my eye. He was wet, carrying a rolled up sail under his arm, rigging down I assumed. Looking more at my gear as I shuffled through my the trunk of my car than the person I asked,

"How was it?"
"Good," he replied. "A bit over powered on my 4.7, I think 4.4 is better"
"Sweet" was all I effort I cared to put into my sentence. I wasn’t trying to be rude, after all the wind was blowing and I had to get rigged but, wait...did he say 4.7 to 4.4? Who the heck rigs in those incriments? Strange. He looked familiar, but he wasn't a Doug's regular. I swung my head to look but he had already passed. Walking away from me I noticed the logo's on his sail sail, all the brand new gear and hawiian tan; it was Levi Siver. Now I was really motivated to hit the water. I rigged quickly and ran to the river keeping my eyes on the launch, waiting for Levi.

Eventually his sail appeared. It flickered as it passed behind the scattered mass of sailors. Levi navigated skillfully towards a set of waves and has he carved up the face of a breaking roller his image became clear to me. His board left the water and then, as if watching him in a movie, he began to slowly rotate backwards, upside down. His mast pointed down at the water and his board aimed at the sky, and as he came around over vertical I noticed the entire time he had his eyes focused calmly on one spot, his landing.
Like a high diver the nose of Levi’s board broke the waters surface pointing straight down, not splashing until the tail touched. It was huge, smooth, and precise. Simple even, the back loop is a move of finesse and grace. It can be done by many sailors, yet few can make it look as impressive as the legends of the sport.
Inspired by his presence, I sailed hard that day. I threw down huge ponches, shuv-its so high I looked straight down the luff sleeve of a passing sailor and flakas so fast that I bounced off the water like a skipping stone mid way though the move. Levi did none of this stuff, he didn’t even try. Yet his massive back loops, push loops, and stalled forwards seemed to easily over shadow anything any freestyle sailor could have done.

On the beach I turned ideas around in my head. Ideas about my sailing, about his sailing, about the conditions of the Gorge and I debated over my ability to adapt to them. While I was sitting there Levi came out of the water. He walked across the field of sailors and put his gear down over by a fence at the edge of the rigging area.
I hesitated for a moment and then I walked over an introduced myself. He was as friendly as anyone I’d ever met, and after a few minutes of small talk I had to ask “How do you back loop like that?”
He smiled, and replied very simply. The advice he gave was the furthest from anything I would expect, but it made perfect sense.

For me that’s when my view on windsurfing shifted. Over the next two weeks I almost completely abandoned my freestyle board and focused strictly on my wave deck. Levi’s words echoed in my head every time I sailed, and they couldn’t have come at a better time because the next few weeks would prove to be the most intense Gorge conditions of the summer…

thanks Melissa for the awesome photos

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Pimpin' new/used Ride

For some reason my car had no windsurfing gear in it that night. Usually it's packed with more equipment than one would think physically possible. I'll take the boards off the roof for safe keeping but I'm never ambitious enough to remove my quiver of sails, masts, booms, extensions, ect from the trunk and yet for some reason on this night, I did.
So when a drunk driver decided to plow into my parked Hyundai at 3 am, he destroyed only my car and none of the gear which is usually inside. That's right, all the gear was safe.
So with all the means to get on the water but lacking the means to actually get to the water, it was time to go car shopping.
So you may ask "what kind of vehicle 23 year old with an insurance check and a dream go out an purchase?" What is fast, sexy, something that all the ladies will love, and still have room for windsurfing gear? Well, at least there's room for windsurfing gear.
It's a Mini Van.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gear Guide- 3 steps to proper harness use

Your harness saves your arms from total exhaustion, supports your back, and gives you funky tan lines. Most recently, I discovered it to be a perfect bottle opener.

Step 1: obtain beer and a Dakine Harness

Step 2: Insert beer in to Harness clip

Step 3: Consume Beer

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the Start

From the start it was a shit show. While that description may be crude, the phrase was stuck in my head and I uttered it repeatedly out loud.
It was 5:30 in the morning, still dark, raining and cold. I was tying a load of windsurfing gear to my car that just about matched the small Hyundai in size, and possibly weight (for sure it held triple the value). Three boards, three masts, nine sails and two booms. All but a Bic Techno, located at the bottom of the pile, was packed tightly into my over sized board bag.
Of course, we were an hour behind because in trying to take the fin out of the Techno, we found one of the bolts to be corroded in the threads. I tried arranging the gear in several different forms hoping one would allow for the fin to stay in place, but none seemed to do. The fin had to be removed.
I tried my best with a screw driver, yet no matter how much effort I put forth the bolt wouldn't budge. Frustrated and tired, I was low on ideas. Out came the cordless drill. (Yes, the thought of mutilating a perfectly fine sailboard did not sit well with me, but we were losing time and hell, it wasn't my board...)
In the back seat sat everything my beautiful girl friend Amy and I could possibly fit. Clothes, shoes, snacks, more windsurfing gear, we scrambled to squeeze in all we could until every square inch of space was occupied.
Between us we had a negative net worth (unless windsurfing gear counts as a form of equity), 1 job lined up, 1 car, no place to stay, and 3000 miles of road.
Out to the parkway then across the Throgs Neck. We gazed upon the city that never sleeps as though for the last time, then drove on watching as the world became less and less familiar.
For now it was good bye Long Island, next stop: The Gorge