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.