Sunday, January 24, 2010

Denied, Destroyed, Defeated by Big Waves

Usually when I have a bummer day windsurfing it's because there wasn't enough wind and/or the waves were puny. Today was different. There was plenty of wind but the waves were so challenging that I never managed to make it out beyond the worst part of the break. While standing on the beach looking, I could hardly even IMAGINE a way to get out, given the spacing and frequency of whopper waves. This video doesn't capture the size of the waves but it gives an idea of the trouble I was having.

Denied! NOT wavesailing in Fort Pierce from James Douglass on Vimeo.

It was easier for the kiters, who could sort-of float over the bad spots with their power from the sky. I find it annoying that after all my years of windsurfing, I still get worked by conditions that someone kiting for just a year or two can negotiate with relative ease. Sigh.

At the end of the day after I had given up and put my stuff away I saw another windsurfer. I don't know how he made it out, but I guess that shows it wasn't completely impossible.


Andy said...

Sometimes a day's success is measured by the amount of gear you don't break. Looks to me like you had a pretty successful sesh!! ;-)

James Douglass said...

Well, when you put it that way... :)

Scott said...

At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all -- which I totally am not! -- I noticed a few things.

Maybe the camera angle is fooling me, but I noticed in the first two crashes that the board is not flat. You've got more weight on the upwind rail because you're hanging your body out a bit over the water. You might try a more vertical and more forward stance, weighting the back foot only when you have to get the nose of the board up on a non-breaking wave. A nice, high boom helps -- for me, anyway.

Also, when you're powered up, don't be afraid to get into the straps and jump the board over white-water. I obviously wasn't there, but it looked to me like the one where you jibed in front of the wave, you were well powered and could have smacked that wave and jumped it. But who knows, the camera could fooling me into thinking the waves are much smaller than they are.

It sure is the case that getting out in wind-blown waves in side-on conditions can be super hard, because there are no real sets, and the waves block the wind at the exact moment you need to be fully powered. I know those waves on Maui are huge, but sometimes I think they have it easy. :-)

James Lilley said...

Thanks for posting this. As a newbie wavesailor, I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling to get out into the open... Comments like Scott's also help me to figure out how to tackle these kind of conditions. Thanks much; and keep up the good work!!

ralph said...

I'm also a newbie in the waves. Like James said, this is helpful. I usually have a blast when well powered- the lulls come along often enough to keep me humble though :] Lose power, get washed into the rip, go white water rafting, go hiking with kit. In any case what an awesome workout.

James Douglass said...

Scott- Those are good comments. I was actually kind of thinking the same thing when I reviewed the video. Like, that I need to be sure not to round up and lose speed when I go over whitewater. I don't know whether or not I would have been able to make it over that last wave where I chicken jibed. It's hard for me to tell exactly when and where a wave is going to break.

Ralph- Yep, that's a good philosophical take on it. :)

Don said...

Cool video, wish I was there.
My unsolicited advice, or What Works For Me-
Bear off the wind to build as much speed as possible, pump like hell if the wind is down at all, point up into the wave lifting the board nose a bit by stepping back slightly, bear off again, pump like crazy, repeat until through.
Congratulate yourself before riding a wave back in and doing it all over again.....

John I said...

Go big with the board choice. I used my Cross 104 and a 5.8 sail all day on Sunday up at Playalinda. Wind was a bit up and down. Try to pick your way thru seek out gaps between sets. With a larger board, I can time by either running way off the wind, or stalling and waiting for the larger waves to break then turn on the after burners and run.

Sailed for 6.5 hours to complete exhaustion. What a day. Go big, friends of mine did too. Smallest board of the 5 of us was a 95 liter. Despite the board choice, I did mange to get mauled twice, and one those was getting separated from my gear for a good hard swim.

More advice. Crotch down over the center of the board when all your momentum gets arrested by a wave, hanging off the boom. Watched Josh S. pinch into a large prolonged set with his Kona 11'5 on his initial run out. He got there late, and we were taking a break after a bit of a lull. So, we all thought it was best for him to go really big. Had he planed the Kona off the wind, he could have run around that eventual mauling.

Getting worked and coming away with first hand knowledge of the consequences of choosing poorly cements home that one must choose wisely all day to get the most out of any wave sesh. I've just about given up on starting a wave sesh with my smallest board. Cheers

James Douglass said...

Don- Thanks for the tip. :)

John I- Yeah, I think a bigger board definitely would have helped me, especially on my first attempt when I wasn't planing with the Evo. On the second time out I don't know if a big board would have helped as much as just having more confidence and experience and knowing when to charge.

John I said...

Going big is a phrase popularized with a twist by Matt Pritchard. Not going big as in a huge aerial or jump, but going out with a larger board than what is in vogue. I used to stuff larger sails on smaller boards for onshore dayz. Now, I do medium sails and larger boards for starters. I let the conditions dictate to me when to get smaller stuff going.