Friday, July 27, 2007


This is the first of a series of blog postings about my windsurfing gear, so for you readers it might be more appropriately titled “Boredology”. I really love this stuff, though, and have put joyous loads of time, money, thought, and experimentation into assembling the perfect “quiver”. Now everything has its place and purpose and it all fits together in beautiful harmony. Hopefully I can get some of that feeling across with this writing.

Some of you may wonder, “Why do you need more than one board, anyway?” Well, the truth is, you don’t. I could sail in 90% of the conditions I encounter with only the big “Kona” board. Because it’s long and floaty and has a daggerboard, it will glide through the water efficiently in light winds. Yet when the wind comes up you can retract the daggerboard, get back in the footstraps, and zoom away with only the back part of the board skimming the water. Another cool thing about the Kona is the stepped tail (visible in the picture of the underside of the boards) which lengthens the waterline for efficiency at slow speeds, but rises up out of the water to reduce drag and increase maneuverability at high speeds.

So what use is a smaller board? Well, if there is enough wind to get planing (about 14 mph), then the lightwind features of the Kona (it’s size and daggerboard) become superfluous and slightly disadvantageous. You can get a lighter, freer, faster sensation from a shorter board with no daggerboard. With a shortboard you can do slashing turns, jumps, and aerial tricks, provided the wind is strong enough to keep you planing.

My bread-and-butter shortboard is the one in the center, the “Fanatic Skate”. It has 114 liters of volume (flotation), which is only about half as much as the Kona. Still, it’s enough to keep me afloat if the wind drops below the planing threshold. You might notice that the Skate has only 3 footstraps, versus the Kona’s 4. That’s because on the Kona you use big sails and a big fin, and you need to stand out on the edge of the wide tail to get leverage over the sail and fin. On the Skate the tail is narrower and the fin and sails you use are smaller, so the foostraps are on or near the centerline for maneuverability rather than out near the edge for leverage. The Skate is the board I’m riding in the YouTube video in my post about Edisto Island.

When it gets really windy (more than 20 mph) the Skate will start bouncing out of control, slapping across the chop like a skipping stone and tending to buck the rider. You can either tough it out, quit for the day, or switch to an even smaller, narrower board. That’s where my ProTech ATC 253 (aka the “Banana Board”) comes in. It has only 77 liters of flotation, which means it sinks completely underwater when I’m standing still on it. But that doesn’t matter when it’s windy enough that I can waterstart. The narrow width, low volume, and strongly curved rocker line (the banana scoop shape) help it carve ultra-sharp turns, absorb chop, and stay in control.

The Banana Board is my favorite because it gets me out in really special conditions, where the awesome energy of the wind creates an otherworldly terrain of blowing spray and roller coaster swells. So far this year (since January) I’ve used it 7 times out of 82 total sessions (I mark them on the calendar). Below is a picture taken by Glenn Woodell when we sailing together on the York River one windy day last October.


PeconicPuffin said...

You have a Kona? I've been agonizing over whether or not to get one (in the end I repaired an already owned longboard.) The Skate is a nice mid-sized planer (I sail a similar JP 109 Freestyle).

Good luck with your blog!

The Peconic Puffin

James Douglass said...

Hi Michael,

I notice you have an old mistral superlight. That's one of the boards I learned to sail on back home in WA State. My dad still has it in the garage, and the fin is epoxied in just like yours.

As long as you can take both the superlight and a shortboard to the beach with you, you probably don't need a Kona. What I like about the Kona, though, is that it reduces the need to switch boards if conditions change during a session.

PeconicPuffin said...

I agree...the Kona is going to have to wait for two things:

1. The death of my old Superlight.
2. The purchase of a new high-wind board.

I'll be buying something in the 77 liter range in September/October. Can't wait for the good winds to come back.