Sunday, October 16, 2016

Snorkeling for "Work" at the Florida Keys Marine Lab

I spent the last four days snorkeling with Rhonda and my Florida Gulf Coast University students at the FL Keys Marine Lab on Long Key. It was delightful, and educational for the students, of course. I've posted an annotated picture album, and put a couple video clips together in a very short video. (See below.)

KML Fall 2016 clips from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Formula Windsurfing Boom Mount, 11.0 Sail

The seasons have just flipped here in Florida, from the overcooked rainy season to the drier and more comfortable, but still summery, season. In this season we often get wind from the Northeast, which is side-offshore on the Gulf Coast. Formula windsurfing gear can be fun in these conditions. Sunday evening I got out on my big 11.0 sail for a nice sesh in 5-15 knots of breeze. I tried a new boom mount position for the GoPro camera. It worked fine except for water droplets on the lens. Maybe next time I'll use some rain-x or a different shaped lens to reduce the water droplet problem. I also tried wearing my SpeedCoach SUP 2 gps on my head to track the session. Video and track are below.

Formula Boom Mount 10-9-16 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Hurricane Matthew related windsurfing session + red tide

Hurricane Matthew was a terrible tragedy for Haiti, and a major nuisance for some of the Southeast Atlantic coast. Here in Southwest Florida it was just a breezy Thursday and Friday. I was off work because the University had cautiously closed. So, I went windsurfing. This is a video of the session from Friday afternoon, which was the tail end of the strong wind. I went out on real small gear (4.7 sail, 83 liter board) and ended up having to rig a slightly bigger 5.5 sail after a while. The song in the video is White Riot by the clash.

Small board windsurfing 10-8-16 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The only bad thing about the session was that the water was stinky and full of dead fish related to a Karenia brevis red tide bloom. The Florida Gulf Coast has had occasional red tides as long as records have been kept, but the scientific consensus is that the red tides have gotten worse in recent years due to coastal eutrophication; the pollution of nearshore waters by excessive nutrients from man-made sources like sewage and fertilizer. You can track Florida red tides on the FWC Red Tide website.

Monday, October 3, 2016

SUP Race Report: CGT Summer Race #8

Race: Race #8 in the CGT Summer Time Trial series.

Date it happened: 2 October 2016.

Host: CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, which you can become a groupie of by joining the CGT Tribe facebook page.

Location: Riverside Park on the Imperial River in downtown Bonita Springs, Florida.

Distance: 5.96 km / 3.7 miles. The course goes downriver ~1.5 km, around a permanent buoy, back upriver to the start, then around an inflatable buoy and downriver again for a second lap. There is an option to do just one lap (~2.97 km), and several people took that option this time.

Conditions: It was sunny, hot and humid- this is South Florida, after all. The river current was a strong 1.75 kph, based on analysis with my paddling in current calculator. This is the time of year (the end of the wet season) that the river current peaks in strength.

Participants: There was a great turnout; 8 racers for the one-lap course and 12 for the two-lap. In addition to CGT race regulars like Meg Bosi and Mark Athanacio, there were some new or newish racers.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP. A lot of other people were on Riviera's, too; Murray Hunkin on a 14x27, Mark Hourigan on a 14x23, Donna Montgomery on a 12'6x22, Meg Bosi on a 12'6x24, and Saralane Harrer on a 12'6x26. Hovie sups were also common. Mark Athanacio paddled a 14'x21, Justin DiGiorgio a 14x24, Devin Turetzkin and Matt Kearney 12'6x25s, and Cindi Gibson a 12'6x26. I think Jen Hayes used Mark A's 12'6x21.

Results: In the one-lap division Mark Hourigan had the fastest time- 21:45, followed by Bryan Herrick- 22:40. Pat on her kayak was third overall in 24:30 and Saralane Harrer was third sup in 27:11. In the two-lap division I was first in 39:26, followed by Mark Athanacio in 39:27. Matt was next with 43:21 on his 12'6, followed Justin DiGiorgio in 44:15 on 14', and Devin Turetzkin in 44:48 on 12'6. First woman was Cindy Gibson in 48:04, followed by Meg Bosi in 48:42, and Donna Montgomery in 57:24. Jon Weinberg was slower than usual because he stopped to pick up a sprouted, floating coconut that he plans to plant in his yard, but he still got 50:00 even. Full results will be posted on the CGT Time Trials page.

Play by play: It was tough lining up at the start because the current wanted to flip us around. Eventually we got it straight. I started in the first wave with Mark Athanacio, Justin DiGiorgio, and Murray Hunkin. I got out in front then slowed down to a moderately fast pace that I thought I could maintain. The other guys were right behind in the draft train. About 5 minutes into the race I moved aside for Athanacio to lead. He went about the same pace I'd been going, but in his draft I was able to save a bit of energy. Justin and Murray hung on until the first buoy turn, when Murray fell and Justin couldn't get around him fast enough catch Mark and I as we accelerated away.

Mark and I cooperatively swapped leads another time or two on the way upriver. It was tough fighting the current; our usual tricks of hugging the edges and the inside of river bends seemed inadequate. By the midpoint of the race I was at a miserable heartrate of 185, but I recovered slightly by drafting Mark when heading downriver. As we approached the downriver buoy for the second time, our equitable trading of draft positions shifted into side-by-side jockeying. Mark rounded the buoy first but I turned sharper and got into the more favorable current on the edge of the river. At this point I had to decide between trying to stay in front until the end of the race, or letting Mark lead one more time and hoping for him to tire out enough for me to pass. I chose the former, based on my experience that it's easier to defend the lead than to take the lead, especially going up a river, where the leader can pick the best path.

I paddled hard, especially when I heard Mark making a move to pass. One of Mark's passing attempts involved him crossing to the opposite side of the river. I hadn't been planning to take that side, but I followed to make sure I could block Mark's way. That was actually a strategy I learned from Mark- he says it's better to stay on your competitors than to separate, unless you're SURE that an alternate path will give you a big speed advantage. Anyway, I finished the race paddling as hard as I could and reaching a ridiculous 194 bpm heartrate, with Athanacio just one second behind in my draft. Whew! My time in this race was my slowest of the series, by an entire minute, but I think that's mostly attributable to the current. One thing I felt good about was my relatively even "splits". I.e., my first lap was 19:35 and the second was 19:38. Usually the second lap is a lot slower.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

Congrats to everyone who finished this challenging, strong-current race. Special kudos to new racer Cindi Gibson for setting the pace in the womens' division and getting a surprise win over local favorite Meg Bosi, who is a couple decades younger. Ironically, Cindi did it on the 12'6x26 Hovie she just bought from Meg. Cindi also bought my 14x22 Riviera "the Blue Streak", and I expect she'll be fast on that, as well. Cindi and newish male racer Rudy Ambrosi (47:46) are my two "rookie racers to watch" this season, because they're strong and focused, but have lots of room remaining for improvement in board handling skills and race strategies and stuff. I would put Donna Montgomery (57:24) in the same category- she is still getting used to some big changes she's made in paddle length and board width and she should be picking up speed rapidly.

After the race we had the usual buffet at CGT, and we watched the Pacific Paddle Games (most competitive sup race in the world) on TV. Good times.

What's next: Next SUP event for me is the Imperial River Challenge downriver blast on October 22nd here in Bonita Springs. It should be wild this year with as strong as the river flow has been. I'll need to take a test run or two on the course to make sure I know where the hidden tree stumps and whirlpools and such are located.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Formula windsurfing session video

The other day I took a spin on my Exocet Turbo Formula II board with an 11.0 square meter Gaastra Nitro 4 sail. The wind was about 10 knots, which was plenty to get planing with that powerful board and sail combination. The video is below. I'm not risking putting songs in my videos anymore because I've been told I have just one copyright infringement strike left before they'll pull my vimeo account. I wish there was a simple way you could pay like, 5 bucks, and be able to have whatever song you want in the background of a video.

Exocet Formula 9-28-16 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

SUP Race Report: Lake Mary Jane

Race: 5th Annual Lake Mary Jane Paddle Race

Date it happened: 25 September 2016.

Host/Sponsor: Hosted by Wave of Wellness, a sup-based fitness / tour / yoga business run by Jessica Cichra. Sponsored by Albert Cichra Builders, a marine construction company that makes nice docks for lake houses and such. There were also many other sponsors who had tents at the event site or donated stuff for the raffle. For example: ECS boards and Boardworks Surf.

Location: Isle of Pines Property Owner's Association Beach Park on Lake Mary Jane, near Orlando, FL.

Distance: The main courses were 4.8 and 9.6 km races; 2 and 4 laps, respectively, around an M-shaped course. After that there was a free, 1.6 km race for beginner sup racers, then there was a sprint race, a board-tow relay race, and a kids race. I just did the long race, which I measured at 9.55 km on my GPS.

Conditions: This was a Florida morning in September, thus it was sweltering hot and humid with nary a breeze. The lake was warm and naturally coffee-colored from tannic compounds leaching out of the swampy surroundings. The water surface was nearly glassy, with "bumps" provided only by sup wakes.

Participants: There were 40 racers in the 9.6 km, 46 racers in the 4.8 km, and around 10 in each of the shorter race events. There were a handful of surfski kayak and outrigger canoe paddlers, but the vast majority were on standup paddleboards. Professional and sort-of professional sup racers in attendance were Ryan Helm and Kim Barnes (Riviera), Seychelle Hattingh (Mistral), Jeramie Vaine (Werner Paddles), Kieran Grant (Hoviesup), Alyssa Veres (Lokahi), and Mary Ann Boyer (Indigo). Windsurfing / Kiteboarding legends Isabelle Picard and Bill Kraft from the US Virgin Islands were also there. Top level surfski kayaker and pretty darn good sup paddler Reid Hyle was there, supping. From our local CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards "Tribe" we had a good turnout: Devin Turetzkin, Matt Kearney and I carpooled up (see picture), and we met Murray Hunkin, Jason Mastin, Jim and Quinn McIntyre, and Rudy Ambrosi. Also there were standout sup families Cat & Neil Uden et al. (Boga), Stephen Chase & Rachel Ferguson (JP Australia), and The Marstons (Hoviesup). Keeping things lively were bold characters Robert "Superman" Norman, Yensys "Hulk" Loyola, Adam "Speedcoach" Pollock, Karl "Wings" Eugster, and others.

Gear: I used "Minty," my 2017 14x23 Riviera RP, with my usual Riviera Vantage R8 paddle and a 6" Fins Unlimited keel style fin. The pro men were on 14's and the pro women were on 12'6s, though there were also some men on 12'6 (e.g., Matt, Devin & Karl) and some women on 14'.

Results: Full results are posted on webscorer. Surfski kayaker David Rush was the first to finish the 9.6 km race, just a few seconds faster than men's 14' sup winner Ryan Helm, who had a time of 0:59:55. Jeramie Vaine was 2nd with 1:00:28, Kieran Grant 3rd with 1:00:46, me 4th with 1:01:41, and Bill Kraft 5th in 1:01:58. Seychelle and Kim were the first 12'6s and the first women in 1:05:07 and 1:05:13, respectively. First male 12'6 was 15 year old Will Marston (1:06:30), followed by Matt Kearney (1:07:03) and Jason Geiger (1:07:05). Third place woman (1st in 50+) was Isabelle Picard in 1:09:31. Murray Hunkin got 3rd in the 50+ men's division with 1:09:23. In the 4.8 km race, 14' division, Robert Norman won in 0:32:25, just ahead of fellow MHL custom board rider Jeff Berry in 0:32:36. Lanky teenager Peyton Thomas was third in 0:35:06. Devin Turetzkin won the 12'6 division in the 4.8 km race, and was first overall for 50+, with 0:35:13. Jason Mastin was 4th in 12'6 with 0:36:19.

Play by play: The day before the race the Cichras hosted some events on the lake for the arriving racers. Devin, Matt and I had a long drive up from SW Florida but we got there in time for chilling out and pre-registration at Albert Chichra's beautiful lake house. Central Florida, with its tall pines, cypress, and oak and maple trees, seems to have more in common biologically with the Carolinas than with tropical South Florida. The shady lake house fit nicely with that temperate woods feeling, and reminded me of good times with my Douglass relatives at a Lake Murray cabin in South Carolina. Jessica Cichra and the other race organizers and volunteers were very warm and welcoming, both at the pre-registration and at the race itself.

The hotel we stayed at on the outskirts of Orlando, the Courtyard Marriott Lake Nona, was sparkling new and sprawling, like much of Disney-centric Orlando. We were well rested when we arrived at the race site in the morning, and had time to do some warm-up paddling. I was a bit nervous about this race because I've recently attempted to change in my stroke technique, in response to tips I got at Ryan Helm's most recent paddle clinic. Ryan said that I really needed to work on getting a more "positive" blade angle at the beginning of the stroke; something that could be achieved with more bend in the top arm and more stacking of the shoulders. He also said that I was paddling too far past my feet, and ought to remove the blade from the water earlier so as not to waste energy on an unproductive phase of the stroke. I had incorporated those changes into my practices the week before this race, but I wasn't sure if they would "stick" once I actually got into a race situation.

For the start of the 9.6 km race, they lined us up on the water between two docks, which provided a convenient corral. I tried something a little different this time, lining up in the second row, behind Kieran and Ryan, rather than in my own slot in the first row. I figured I could fit into the gap they left behind when they zoomed off better than I could elbow my way through a bunch of slower paddlers. Reid Hyle tried something similar. What I didn't account for was how tough it would be to paddle through the chaotic wakes left by the fast-sprinting starters. After struggling with that for 100 m or so I ended up picking a wider line to get more clear water, and that helped me get around some people on the way to the first buoy. After the first buoy I believe I was in about 7th position, on the tail of Reid Hyle and Steven Bernstein. Between them and the leaders (Ryan Helm, Jeramie Vaine, and Kieran Grant) was a lone paddler on a JP board. It didn't look like Steven was going to close the gap on the JP guy (who turned out to be Bill Kraft), so I broke to the side and made a big push to catch up to Bill Kraft. Reid zigged when he should have zagged, and on his slower 14x26' not-quite-race board he couldn't follow me as I chased and eventually caught Bill.

Once I got in Bill Kraft's draft, I had it MADE. He was setting a fast pace; not quite matching the three leaders, but not going any slower than I would have gone on my own. It helped that Bill is a beefy 90 kg, which meant he was displacing a good bit of water and making an easy wake to ride. On the buoy turns I stuck really close on his tail so I wouldn't get left behind, and that seemed to work well. After I while I offered to pull, but Bill said his cutting-bow JP board liked smooth water better than the draft. I continued to draft until the beginning of the third lap when I went wide and took the lead. I kept about the same pace, but my heart rate went up considerably. I tried to keep focused on form, and to be aware of any little ripple or puff of breeze that could give me some extra oomph. I tried to do tight turns followed by quick accelerations to build a little distance on Bill, who remained just a few board lengths behind me. Ahead of me I could see the lead trading off between Jeramie and Ryan, and after a while I noticed that they had dropped Kieran from their train. Kieran was wearing a long-sleeved black rashguard and black swim trunks, which may have been a handicap in the scorching heat. We actually started to get closer to him in the last lap, though never close enough to threaten his third place position.

In the final one or two legs of the last lap I picked up my pace to as much as I could stand, and then picked it up some more to a sprint at the very end, just to be sure Bill couldn't sneak around me. I actually remembered how my leash was attached this time, and unbuckled it quickly for the run up the sand through the finish line gate. Whew! I was very happy to get 4th place in this competitive group, and felt good about my revised stroke technique and successful tactic of saving energy by drafting. Given how easy it was to sustain a pretty fast pace in Bill's draft, I couldn't help but wonder if I could have hung on to the really fast guys' draft train, had I been able to get on it at the start. The trick may be learning to get off the line faster without getting slowed down by traffic and wakes.

Here's my GPS track and data from the race. You have to log in to Strava to see the details.

After the race there was a nice atmosphere at the site, with good Mexican food, kids playing in the water, adults talking about their water toys, etc. The race organizers tried hard to get the raffle and awards done as quickly as possible and they did OK. There were SO many raffle items and race categories that it still took a while. Matt Kearney made a suggestion that they could call all three finishers (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) up to the podium in one breath instead of waiting for each person to arrive and stand up before calling the next one out of the crowd.

What's next: There's a race in Clearwater on Saturday, and a local CGT race on Sunday. I'll definitely go to the CGT race but I'm undecided about the other race. Traveling 3+ hours to a race and staying overnight is tough to do two weeks in a row.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Old Formula Windsurf Board, Again

This is my new old windsurf board. It's an Exocet Turbo Formula II from (I think) 2004. It's 230 cm long x 100 cm wide, with a 70 cm fin.

It is a grand irony that this is the exact model of formula board I had FOUR boards ago when I lived in Fort Pierce. I sold it then because I was too busy playing with other water toys (like kiteboards) to use it. Then I moved to Massachusetts and shifted to more wavesailing and paddlesurfing gear, simplifying thing by selling all my kiteboarding gear. I didn't miss the formula board much until I moved south again, to the Florida Gulf Coast, where the wind was light and there were no waves. I grabbed the first cheap formula board I could find, a very old (85 cm wide) Starboard. Soon I decided I didn't like that one, and I traded it for an 87 cm wide Bic fv1.2 that was almost as old. But the Bic was just a stopgap measure, because I REALLY wanted a full-fledged 100 cm width board that could hold an 11.0 m^2 sail and plane super early.

In the pursuit of cheapness I got a home-built "Don's Lab" formula board. It was 100 cm wide and had some other good characteristics. I enjoyed fiddling with it, but ultimately decided it was a white elephant. The feel of it didn't suit me, and it wasn't quite as lively and early planing as I'd hoped. So I sold it with no replacement lined up. Standup paddleboard racing kept me busy enough that I could bide my time in light winds, waiting for the ideal, good-enough-but-also-cheap-enough formula board to float in front of my nose. I passed up some that were too expensive, or where the seller was too far away, then finally found my perfect board, again, in Fort Lauderdale.

I used it for the first time today, with an 11.0 sail in iffy 10-knot winds. Even when it didn't seem like there was enough wind to plane, the board LEAPED up and ZOOMED, with just a little pump of the sail. It was fast, and frisky, and well-behaved, and I rode it all up and down the shore from Bonita Beach to Wiggins Pass and Back. YESSSSS!