Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Windsurfing Mag Board Tests - "Light Air!?"

STOKE! Today I got to do something I have dreamed about ever since I got my first issue of Windsurfing Magazine in 2002; I got to be in a board test! I'm not allowed to say what I thought about any of the particular boards. So if you want to know which ones are "WOOHOO!" and which ones are "meh...", you'll have to subscribe to the magazine.

I AM allowed / encouraged to write about the general experience and post pictures and stuff, so that's what I've done in this post...

The tests are run at the Banana River Resort (hereafter the "BRR") in Cocoa Beach, which is right on the Banana River Lagoon (hereafter the "BRL"). The lagoon setup is a lot like North Carolina's Outer Banks, except that the sound it isn't quite as wide - you can see the other side. The BRR is a charming, small hotel / campground / windsurfing school / commune.


It was abandoned for a couple years, but recently reopened under the dual management of Karen Marriott and Dominique Vallee. Dominique is a French-Canadian Olympic contender who is a pretty, amazing windsurfer. When an ultra-windy squall hit in the middle of the already-very-windy day, most people got blown off the water. I didn't even want to go out on my 5.2 and waveboard. It felt like 3.5 conditions. But Dominique grabbed a 5.0 and somehow held it together in the blast.


In the second picture you can really see how she's maximizing the leverage of her petite body against the sail. Dang.


It was ironic that we were supposed to be testing big boards for light and medium winds, because the first half of the day was so windy most of us were scared to ride any board bigger than 100 liters. Only the expert, heavyweight speed demons John Ingebritsen and Steve Gottlieb did much testing until early afternoon when the wind backed off. I have probably never seen anyone windsurf as fast as they were going. Dang.

Eventually the conditions were good for the boards we had to test, and I rode a bunch of them, always with the same 7.2 sail to keep things fair. We were testing 110 - 125 liter shortboards, and extra large shortboards around 140 - 160 liters. It was interesting to see the differences, even within one genre of boards. Definitely some cool stuff out there. Also, it was fun to ride big, "freeride" shortboards again after not having had that type of board in a while.


Windsurfers who get hooked on sailing in waves or doing tricks tend to scoff at those who just do back-and-forth freeriding on flat waters, but the simplicity of freeride windsurfing is deceptive. There's actually a great art to "dialing in" the speed and performance of a freeride board. The feeling of speed and the power of board, sail, and fin working in harmony is all you need, really. That and maybe the ego boost of blasting by your buddies once you're dialed.


I didn't get to ride all the boards, but the test period goes for another couple months, so I'll be back a few more times. Life is good.


PS- Thanks Clyde G. for the photos.


Frank said...

How lucky can one guy get? Do you ever work? Your writing is great. I feel like I am there and wish I was.
Have fun

and pretty cosailers too

James Douglass said...

Frank- Yeah, I'm pretty lucky. I can usually work around the wind, although I have to pull some lonely evenings and weekends at the office to stay caught up.

You could be at the B.R.R. easier than you think! It's very close to Orlando (cheap flights) and I think the rooms and rental gear are cheaper than you'll find anywhere else.

Andy said...

I don't think anybody forgets about freeriding and just blasting around, no matter where they've been or what they've seen. Except for the handful of grumpy jaded people who sit on the beach complaining unless it's their version of perfect... Those are the people that should be scoffed at : )

George Markopoulos said...

freeride blasting is a blast.
great post James

scooper said...

Hey, that looks like a Realwind board that Dominigue is using. I've got one of those, 85 liters, tri fin set up. I've had it out in some crazy conditions.

How come Windsurfing Magazine never reviews Realwind boards?

Now that you are part of the W Mag family you are going to get asked stupid questions like that.

Nice post. BBR sounds inviting. Are you trying kiting? If so, you should blog about it so we can learn from your mistakes. I'm waiting on a 3.6 trainer kite to arrive.

James Douglass said...

Andy and George- Yeah, freeriding is awesome. It's "thrillaxing", like skiing smoothly down a broad, intermediate slope.

Scooper- Yeah, it's a realwind. I peeked at it when it was on the rack and I think it was the 250 cm, 75 liter model. I remember demoing a 90 l realwind fish at windfest one year and being very impressed with its playful turnyness + upwind ability. I don't know why the magazine doesn't review RealWind boards. Maybe because they're such a small, esoteric brand with their proprietary finbox system and stuff. Or maybe they can't afford to donate a board to the mag for testing. You should ask Josh on his Editor's Blog.

Yeah, I am going to try kiting. I bought a 12 m bow kite and a lightwind board, with aspirations to ride in 10-15 knots. I am waiting until I have $ for lessons before flying it, though. I might actually learn from Mike Gebhardt!

John I said...

Oh no, another going to the dark side. I knew it. You couldn't resist.... Too many kite zombies to avoid the disease. Don't forget all those "do this and you will die" caveats. One of the best windsurf breaks in FL, although not as consistent as other places, and everyone kites there. Sad. You've heard my rants b4. Another danger, kiting takes less energy to do, watch your waist line.

RW boards have very limited wind ranges. Those with them here in FL sail the least. Takes much more juice to get them to plane. A windy venue type board brand.

James Douglass said...

John- Well, I'm pretty committed to windsurfing, which I enjoy in a wide variety of conditions, but I figure I'll try the dark side, too. If I like it, I'll work out some kind of yin-yang balance of the two sports to maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of each.

Less than steady 10 knots I'll be longboarding / instructing. 15 knots or more and I'll be windsurfing 6.6 and down. And whenever the launch, wind direction, or wind quality is sketchy, I'll windsurf.

I just think a kite might be a good toy for those 10-15 knot seabreezes we often get, allowing me to plane, wave-ride, and jump around in the ocean without a big board, rig or fin. We'll see.