Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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