Sunday, February 15, 2009

Play and Work in Florida's Lagoons

Since I moved to Fort Pierce in the fall I've been hearing stories about an enclave of windsurfers who sail from the A1A causeway in Stuart, a town about 25 miles to the South of me. Last Tuesday I finally made it down to the Stuart Causeway myself, to buy some cheap freeride gear from a guy named Jerry. (I saw the gear advertised on the Treasure Coast Windsurfing forum.) It was a breezy day, and lo and behold, the launch site was host to a small crowd of sailors.



They were a nice group, supporting the beginner / intermediate riders among themselves, and warmly greeting me. It was the same kind of friendly, community feeling I remembered from back in Virginia, sailing with the Windsurfing Enthusiasts of Tidewater and the Baltimore Area Boardsailing Association.


The demographics of the group that day were interesting; mostly baby-boomers with some of even older generations. I knew it was technically possible to windsurf past 70, but some of these folks were probably closer to 80! It's cool to see that a windsurfing hobby can last so many decades. Of course it wouldn't hurt the sport to get some new blood. People working on windsurfing programs for kids, like Team USA, are on the right track towards replenishing our ranks.

Shifting gears, on Wednesday I stripped the windsurfing gear from my car and loaded it with a kayak and science sampling supplies. I went up to the Kennedy Space Center where I'm doing most of the fieldwork for my current research project. The project is an assessment of the plant and animal life in seagrass beds inside versus outside KSC's no-fishing zone. To get to the sample sites inside the protected area I have to drive way out on a grass-covered road in the middle of nowhere (but within sight of the space shuttle sitting on its launch pad).


I got a lot of warnings from the other environmental researchers at KSC about monster alligators in the area, so I was very wary wading into the brackish water. I actually didn't see any gators, but my wariness was warranted because the seagrass beds turned out to be chock-full of stingrays. Getting barbed by one of those things would be no joke. Some of the windsurfers at the Banana River Resort in Cocoa Beach, where I have been doing some board testing for windsurfing magazine and crashing during the KSC fieldwork, have been hit by stingrays and have gruesome stories to tell. Along with kidney stones and tonsilectomies, stingray spinings are at the top of the list of things I hope I don't get.

Back to the windsurfing again for a minute, I had an awesome board test session at the BRR around sunset on Wednesday. It was blowing a healthy 20 knots and I got to put several, snazzy, mid-sized shortboards through the paces. There's one that's REALLY a blast, but I'm not allowed to say which. All that fast riding must have warped my sense of speed, because on the way out of KSC Friday I got my first ever speeding ticket. Now I owe $50 to the federal government. I'll consider it my contribution to the economic stimulus.


Andy said...

Awww man, bummer on the ticket... I always find myself driving slower after a good session, not faster! It's like the sailing saps me of all adrenaline and need for speed, leaving me hunched over the steering wheel like a 90 year old lane swerver...

uglyjiber said...

$50?!? ha - cheap! Clearly you were returning from a sesh or it would have been higher.

I always drive home slow after a good sesh... weird.

Outdrsmn said...

Same here... Can't wait to get there, then a nice subdued ride home. Heck, I almost wrecked my ride to get to a session last week. Man I need to down load some pic's and complete some posts.

PeconicPuffin said...

Life in the land of weed fins, looking at those photos. 45 degree scimitars!

Hey we'll all be windsurfing at 70...I tell everyone that the sailor who logs the most hours shredding in the waves up here is 63.

I'll "third" the relaxed drive after the great session. I drive slow, and play slower music while enjoying the memory (and fatigue.)

James Douglass said...

Andy- Well, I hadn't planed in two days when I got the ticket, so I must have been in adrenaline withdrawal. :)

Uglyjiber- Yeah, I got off easy. I think the cop liked my Obama stickers.

Outdrsmn- Don't slack on your blog, man. I'm depending on you so I can vicarious live the tidewater windsurfing experience.

Puffmeister- You actually don't need weed fins in the lagoon here this time of year (seagrass leaf production is lower in winter). But some people use them all the time, just in case of stray weeds, turtles, manatees, sand bars, crab traps, etc.

I talked to the oldest windsurfer at the beach today, Marianne - she is 83. And I sold my clam sandwich waveboard to 72-year-old Art Delaossa, who immediately went out blasting on it with a 4.5!

Paul Richardson said...

Impressive that the ford is still truckin and not Found On Road Dead! Are you still thinking about getting new wheels?