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.