Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Do I Miss Kiteboarding?

**Background: I quit kiteboarding and sold all my gear late last fall.**

**Begin Post**

One of my favorite things about blogging is that I sometimes get interesting questions from readers. Today was special because two different people separately asked me the same question.

Person #1- Hi James, Do you ever think about returning to kiting? Do you miss it at all? Just wondering. [Person#1]

Person #2- James, do you miss kiting at all?

Here's an excerpt from what I wrote back:

Hi [Person #1],
Yeah, I think about it sometimes. There are some conditions where it's easier to get powered and have fun with a kite, and it almost always looks more impressive than windsurfing to the people on the beach. But I feel that I've satisfied my curiosity about what kiting is like, and proven that I have the ability to do it pretty well. So the only question I ask myself now is, "Is the added joy, compared to just windsurfing, enough to justify the added trouble, expense and danger?" And my answer to that, at least for now, is a fairly clear, "No." Windsurfing gives me basically all the same thrills, challenge, and exercise I got from kiting.

Person #2 asked an interesting follow-up question...

Hey James,
I asked because I saw something you posted on the iWindsurf forum saying that you would look into the [brand x] kite if you would kite again.
In this area there are very few windsurfers left, everyone seems to have switched to kiting. I envy their camaraderie, if not their sport.
I love it that I can windsurf in offshore winds or go out in a really light breeze for a leisurely cruise. I just wish there would be more of us.
[Person #2] which I replied:

Well, in Florida, peer pressure was one of the main reasons I tried kiting. My local spot was very popular with kites, but I would usually be the only windsurfer. There's no reason you can't hang out with kiters as a windsurfer, but trying kiting did give me a little head start with the camaraderie there.
If I had tons of money I might pick up a 13-15 meter kite and a big twintip for the sub-15 knot seabreeze days where there's no waves to SUP and I just want to plane without working hard.

So there you have it. I don't miss it much, but if I had all the time and money in the world I would still do it when conditions were good.

Just to put something multi-media in this post, here is the video from my last kiteboarding session EVER, November 30th 2010 in Nahant. (This doesn't count once or twice on buddies' gear when I visited Florida over the winter.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Not Windsurfing Hurricane Irene

I did not windsurf in Hurricane Irene on Sunday. No regrets- I stayed cozy away from the beach. The storm does seems to have been sailable, though, and several of my buddies made it out in Nahant. Josh Angulo wrote a little blurb about his Nahant adventures with local badasses John, Fred, and Matt. Next time there's a storm I'll make sure to get my GoPro camera on the big man's rig to document his glory and maybe analyze it to improve my sailing.

Whether a hurricane is "sailable" or not is kind of a vague measure, because where you are, where the center of the storm is, and what point the storm is at in its life cycle all make a difference. At some point it's simply not possible to stay upright on the board or make forward progress, but bad things can happen well before that point is reached. Needless to say, the windier and wavier it is, the more likely you are to injure yourself, get too exhausted to hold the sail, break a piece of equipment, or get separated from your gear and not be able to catch up with it. Also, whenever you're dealing with a hurricane, there's the potential for the winds to change rapidly from sailable to unsailable while you're still on the water. Being a good windsurfer doesn't necessarily help you in a serious emergency, and a rescue is also less likely to come because the conditions make it dangerous for the rescuers. Anyway, what I'm leading up to is a very sad part of the Irene story: An experienced Long Island, NY windsurfer named Joe Rocco was killed sailing the hurricane in East Islip on Sunday. I believe it was at the same site where Angulo and I attended the East Coast Windsurfing Festival, and if I'm not mistaken Joe was one of the many nice windsurfing folks we met there. :( My condolences go out to his family and friends and to the whole Long Island windsurfing community.

*UPDATE- You can read Long Island windsurfing blogger Michael Alex's reflections on Joe's passing, and what actually happened, at The Peconic Puffin*

Friday, August 26, 2011

Curse my Dumb, Dumb, Dumb Male Ego

The male ego is a terrible thing. It sets one up with the ludicrous and impossible expectation of being better at all "important" skills than anyone else in the entire universe. Especially better than the girls. Especially better than the girl you're dating.


The only thing that saves us men from self-destruction is our sneaky ability to excuse ourselves from having to be better at certain things. We do this by rationalizing that the things we AREN'T better at are somehow less "important" or less indicative of our true personal greatness. It would be smartest to do that for everything; to get past the need to obsess and compare by saying, "Nothing you could test or measure really defines my greatness; I just feel that I AM great." But we don't typically go that far. We usually keep our pride staked in a few arenas where we feel relatively assured of rule, and that can get us in trouble.

That brings me to my story. The other day something caught me off guard and made me really scramble to protect my ego. It was finding out that my girlfriend is an expert in the martial art of Taekwondo. She is not just a "dancing around and kicking the air" kind of expert, either. She is an "able to break two triple stacks of boards at one time using downward blows of her palm heels, which none of the men at her level could even do," kind of expert. WOW.

The proper reaction for me, the one I want to have, is to simply be proud and impressed, and to feel lucky to be dating such a badass. That IS how I feel about the other things she's good at, even the other athletic things, like being a successful college volleyball player. For whatever reason I've never been a real sporty guy (windsurfing doesn't count), and I therefore haven't prided myself on traditional sports ability.

Strength, though, is different, because I haven't been smart enough not to pin a chunk of my male pride on it. So for my girlfriend to be so good at something that seems like the ultimate test of strength makes me feel awkward and unsettled, like I either need to go out and try to match the feat, which would be dumb, or I need to make a difficult change to my expectations of what I think I should be better at.

For her part, my girlfriend thinks I'm totally ridiculous to let any of this bother me. She points out that I am obviously "stronger," in terms of how big my muscles are, how I can lift heavier things, etc. And she points out that Taekwondo breaks, like golf drives or a softball pitches, are much less a matter of pure strength than they are a matter of learning and practicing a specific technique, then being able to focus and execute it with max speed and perfect form. Which means that, even with some strength advantage, I would have to get very good at Taekwondo to do the kind of stuff that she does. It would be tough and time-consuming, and there would be no guarantee of success given some of the un-trainable kinds of quickness and natural athletic coordination that seem to be involved.

Discussion Question: What do you readers think? Should I make a ridiculous, clumsy attempt to preserve a primitive version of my male ego? Or should I just try to evolve mentally to where it doesn't bug me? What would you do or have you done in similar situations?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wrong Weekend to Camp on Long Island?

*26 Aug 2011- UPDATE. Saturday PM and Sunday ferry service was cancelled, which means if I went to the wedding I'd be stuck in a tent, on an island, in a hurricane, until Monday. So I have to cancel. SIGH. Sorry Catherine and Andrew! You'll just have to stay married for a while so I can toast your blissful union another time.**

My friends Catherine and Andrew are getting married this Saturday in Greenport, NY, on the North Fork of Long Island. Being a cheapskate I opted to reserve a campsite instead of a hotel room there for my date and myself. Now it's looking like that may not have been the best idea, on account of Hurricane Irene. You know it's a real threat when you start to see magenta and fuschia on the iWindsurf forecast...


I can't imagine our ferry back across Long Island Sound will run if it's blowing 60+ mph.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First session of "Rocktober"? + Bday Shout-Outs

New England windsurfers call the fall season "Rocktober" because it's frequent Nor'Easter storms and blasting frontal systems make for epic riding conditions. August 15th, which also happens to be my awesome little sister's birthday, may have been the first day of Rocktober 2011. At first it just seemed like a dreary, drizzly washout, but as the East wind steadily ramped up into the 20+ knot range it started to look like paradise to wind-starved sailors like myself. I got on it at the Nahant causeway at about 5:45 pm, joining John Coelho and Fred on their 5.2 and 5.8 Ezzy sails. I rigged a 5.5 Aerotech for myself, and initially put it on my 106 liter Exocet Cross. That was a powerful combo for getting planing quickly, and blasting out though the crumbly waves. I was on the verge of overpowered, though, so I later switched to a smaller board- an 83 liter Starboard Evo. Good times.

PS- Happy Birthday Anna! (15 August 1982)

PPS- Happy Birthday Mom! (17 August 1947)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Quick Vid

I got a decent little shortboard windsurfing session at Nahant last Thursday after work. It was tricky with a straight offshore wind angle, but I managed to snag a few waves before the breeze got too light to catch them anymore. Video is below. Sorry about the camera fogging problems. PS- I crash pretty bad at the end.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Recent Windsurfing "Best Ofs"

The other day while I was taking a little coffee break or something, I thought about how I've been slacking off from my usual obsessive pace of windsurfing and blogging. I could attribute it to a combination of summer fieldwork, scheduled weekend activities, exciting new romance, and lack of wind. But I'd rather not substitute excuses for action, so I'll try to get back on my game, following the James' Blog philosophy of "100% Science, 100% Windsurfing, 100% What-have-you." To begin with, I'll do a little review of some of the "bests" of the Summer 2011 windsurfing season.

Best Jibe = Josh Angulo's high-wind slalom jibe at the recent PWA contest at Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, captured in this photo by John Carter. Look at how aggressively he's laying down the sail and digging in the rail. It's like a hardcore wave bottom-turn applied on the slalom course. Badass. You can see a bunch more photos and videos like this on the PWA website, which seems to get better every year.

Best New Competition = The American Windsurfing Tour. This year kicked off the "AWT", which is a series of expert-to-amateur-level wave windsurfing events in North America, the likes of which has not been seen since windsurfing's heyday in the '80s and early '90s. They've already had successful events in Santa Cruz, California, Pistol River, Oregon, and San Carlos, Baja, Mexico. The next one coming up is in September in Hatteras, North Carolina, and the final is in November in Maui, Hawaii. The competitors in these events are an interesting mix of up-and-coming youths, wave-savvy women, semi-retired professional legends, and local wind gurus taking it to the next level by competing. All in all I think it's a good indication that hard-core windsurfing is still alive in this country. (Photo is from Pistol River, Oregon. I'm not sure who the photographer was...)

Most Utopian Windsurfing Racing Class = The "Kona" one-design class. The Kona ONE longboard has been around for a few years now. It's a nice board to sail, and it has become the basis of a very successful racing class in some parts of the world, especially Scandinavia. It's successful because it's easy to use, it's pretty fast in both light and strong winds, and because the class rules allocate different size sails to different sailor weight classes to insure fair competition from spry and petite girls all the way up to hulking burly men.

Most Lust-Worthy New Board = The Starboard UltraSonic 147. It's a high-performance, 93 cm wide shortboard that achieves a fine blend of slalom-board speed and formula-board planing power. It has an ultra-light, ultra-stiff, ultra-expensive construction, with fancy shaping features like a deep concave in the top deck and a complex arrangement of cut-away sections in the tail to reduce drag and improve top speed and jibing. I tried it at the Windsurfing Magazine board tests in Cape Hatteras this spring, and I can confirm that it works as advertised. So if you're a successful orthodontist or hedge-fund financier and you've paid off your mortage and your kids' college tuitions, you should get one. And buy me one while you're at it. (The video is a short clip of one of my rides on the board at the board test.)

Best Sign of the New Generation in Windsurfing = The Techno 293 Worlds in San Francisco. The Bic Techno 293 is a board used in a growing one-design racing class for kids and teenagers, which is intended to be a feeder class for Olympic type windsurfing. Though the biggest Techno 293 fleets are in Europe, they had their world championship this year in San Francisco, California, and it was awesome, apparently.

Best Windsurfing Session for ME = August 4th in Lubec, Maine. I sailed around Quoddy Narrows in a nice East Wind from the Bay of Fundy. I was riding a Mistral Equipe XR longboard with an 8.0 camless "Freespeed" sail from Aerotech. I started out going way upwind with the daggerboard down, eventually approaching the shore of Canada's Campobello Island, where I might have sneaked ashore on a small islet and might have stolen a rock as a souvenir. The wind picked up as I went back downwind, and I got some screaming reaches, interrupted only by occasionally snagging a piece of Laminaria kelp on the skeg! When I was in about the middle of the bay I decided to make a beat against the current towards the narrows and the bridge at downtown Lubec. Though there was plenty of wind power, it was amazing how the current turned the water slick flat and slowed my forward progress to almost nothing as I got near the bridge. I barely made it under, but was rewarded when I did with the sight of a bunch of playfully leaping seals in the tidal rapids. As soon as I tacked I was rushed back out under the bridge, and took a series of broad reaches back to my launch site. Ahhh.

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