Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Messed with the West

The nice, steady winds for windsurfing and kiteboarding in Fort Pierce are the ones that blow from the ocean, i.e., N, NE, E, and SE. It's an easy decision to launch in the lee of the South Jetty for N, NE, and E winds, and it's an easy decision to launch in the lee of the N jetty for SE winds.

Gusty NW, W, SW, and S winds, which blow from across the land, are another story. There are plenty of places to launch in those winds, but none are without considerable disadvantages, so it's hard to decide where to put in. You can:

a. Sail the ocean.... but the wind will be extra gusty, there will be a wind shadow near the beach, and you could get blown out to sea if you break down.
b. Sail the inlet... but that only works in NW or W, and only on an incoming tide. Otherwise the tide will sweep you to sea in a heartbeat. You also have to watch for boat traffic, and there are purportedly high abundances of sharks in inlets.
c. Sail the lagoon... but the kite launches are narrow and sketchy with no downwind exit areas if you can't stay upwind, the water is shallow and weedy, which is bad news for big windsurfing fins, you can't go barefoot because of the sharp rocks, sticks, and oysters, and if you park your car along Rt. A1A it's liable to get broken into.

After work today I chose "c", launching from Jaycee Park with my buddy Marc. Local kiters Dave and Mike were there when I arrived, and said they were struggling with the gusty conditions. Professional kiteboard racers Mike Gebhardt and Sean Farley were also there, training for the North American Course Racing Championships, coming up in Mexico next month. The boards they use for that are really strange looking compared to a conventional kiteboard, but Gebi and Sean were making them work, riding close together and going way upwind and downwind all over the lagoon.

I thought the wind looked too strong and gusty for kiting, so I rigged a 5.5 windsurf sail and put it on my floaty 106 liter shortboard. That was fine in the gusts, but the wind seemed to be dropping a bit, and I was going real slow in the lulls, so I gave in and blew up my 12 m kite. I rode my new mustard-colored kiteboard for a while, then switched to my tried-and-true brown and orange kiteboard, which works better in light winds. Don't ask me why I picked such ugly colored kiteboards.

Chasing the Gusts at Jaycee Park from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Marc crashed his kiteboard while bouncing through the voodoo chop created by waves reflecting off a concrete bulkhead. Then he dropped his kite in the water and couldn't get it back up because there was a lull. Then his kite drifted into the bulkhead and self-destructed on sharp barnacles and stuff. It's a pretty big bummer for Marc, since he was already on his "spare" 14 meter kite. (The first was attacked by a wave when Marc tried to rinse the sand off it in the shorebreak.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, West winds. Why do I still bother chasing them? Probably the same reason any hobbyist or athlete takes on a challenge- the pursuit of the reward is a reward in itself.


Robert Bruce said...

Is that Jaycee park in Vero Beach? I just showed it to my visiting sister, another Marine biologist.

James Douglass said...

RB- No, it's the one in Fort Pierce.