Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sometimes It All Works Out

Taking a windsurfing session is a gamble with high stakes. You get adrenaline pumping ecstasy if you score; lost time and money if you miss the wind. Yesterday I hit it just right at Carmine Island on the York River.


I happened to sail precisely when the wind was strongest, between 11 am and 1:30 pm, using a tiny, 4.2 meter squared sail. (It was a little windier at Carmine Island than the Coast Guard Station where the wind is measured, but the trend was the same.)

Around noon a flame-orange Volvo station wagon with darkly tinted windows pulled up to the launch site.


It was "Gloucesterfarian" Paul Dovel, the perpetually-stoked windsurfer turned kiter. I helped him set-up his 9 meter squared kite. We barely avoided disaster launching it because 2 of the kite's 4 lines were reversed, sending it into uncontrollable spirals across the water. Paul was yelling, "Please grab it! Oh God, PLEASE PLEASE grab it!" as it lurched towards a rock bulkhead. But I wouldn't go near it until it settled down enough to assuage my legitimate fear of being entangled and strangulated / dismembered by the flailing bridle lines. Yikes! Eventually I did get the kite, Paul fixed the lines, and we rode for a short while before the wind dropped and I went back to work.

Monday, January 28, 2008

West Virginia - Open for Business?

West Virginia got my business last weekend when I squandered my stipend on a ski vacation at Snowshoe Mountain.


I'm glad I wasn't the one driving, because it's not easy to get to West Virginia. The ancient wrinkles of the Appalachians still conspire to isolate the mountain kingdom. From the East, one must ascend a gauntlet of engine-grinding ridges, and navigate a maze of winding hollows. Deeper in, cell phones stop working, and McDonalds and McMansions are replaced by country diners and cabins. Such seclusion has its appeal, both to hearty locals and to some strange comers from the outside world. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank seems thoroughly out of place, although I'll grant that it might seem out of place ANYWHERE on earth. The relative radio quiet of rural Green Bank is perfect for looking and listening to the cosmos.


Snowshoe Mountain is another strange, outside element in the rural state. Its lines of condominiums and luxury shops are perched on the very top of a remote and windswept ridge. Ski runs trickle down into the valleys below. The set-up is an odd reverse of the ski areas I remember from Washington State, where lodges and resorts were at the bottom of valleys and ski lifts reached UP to the ridges. Although I think it's kind of disrespectful of a mountain to build all over the top, it was neat to be up there in the extreme environment, where torn clouds of wind-driven snow coated every object in a patina of frost.


West Virginia's former "Almost Heaven" and "Wild and Wonderful" mottos were apt descriptions of the beauty and uniqueness I observed. But not everyone thinks the way I do. The state's idiot governor recently decided to change their main slogan to, "Open for Business", inviting all manner of unscrupulous developers and extractive industries to have their way with the land. You can sign this online petition to change the slogan (and maybe the policy) of the state back to "Wild and Wonderful".


Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King


...that peace and justice still need our fearless voices.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

RS:X Windsurfing Worlds - Olympic Qualifier

There's a good report on the Windsurfing Magazine website about the RS:X World Championships in Takapuna, New Zealand. RS:X is the model of windsurfer used for Olympic competition, and this regatta was the final shakedown for RS:X riders before the actual games. It was particularly intense for the American women; Nancy Rios, Farrah Hall, and Denise Parris, because unless one of them scored big in Takapuna, the US wouldn't qualify to send a woman to the games.


Fortunately, both Nancy and Farrah sailed well and made the cut. Nice going, ladies. The overall women's winner was the incredible Italian Alessandra Sensini, shown below getting air.


The men's winner was Tom Ashley from New Zealand. The only difference between the men's RS:X and the women's RS:X is that men use 9.5 meter squared sails, which are usually yellow, and women use 8.5 meter squared sails, which are usually red.


Friday, January 18, 2008

First Person Perspective Kona Windsurfing

"MoreForce4" is the internet handle of a Canadian windsurfing archaelogist living in Victoria, British Columbia. The other day he posted this cool, first-person perspective video of a winter windsurfing session along Victoria's urban waterfront. The film was shot with a "GoPro Helmet Pro" camera, which is a funny name, and probably an even funnier looking device. The music isn't quite in line with my own hard-rock sensibilities, but I think the video came out great. Non-windsurfers, or those who haven't yet tried the sensational new "Kona Style" longboard will definitely get the sense of what it's like to fly over the waves on the big board.

Way to go "MoreForce4". I'll have to get myself one of those helmet cameras.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Creased Comics

Cartoonist, animator, and bootleg-voice-over artist Brad Neely is my new hero. His unusual and sometimes profane humor may not strike everyone squarely on the funny bone, but I love it. Neely's one-panel cartoons are similar to Gary Larson's classic "Far Side" comics, but they tend to go a little further, even. The characters are so self-absorbed, desperate, and pathetic that they could almost be real people.


The artist also has, in spades, one of the key ingredients of funny, which is the ability to perceive the masked absurdities of life and society, and to reveal them hilariously.


I just love the one with the shark. The stoked dumb-asses in the boat are being delivered precisely the spectacle they came for. It brings to mind the way nature shows pander to our obsession for thrills and our inability to appreciate nature unless it's over-dubbed with macho narration.

Brad Neely is famous for some other stuff besides his single-panel cartoons. He narrates over the first Harry Potter movie with his own sly script in "Wizard People, Dear Readers", and he has a series of short animated cartoons on the comedy website "superdeluxe". The animated cartoons are pretty risque, so, you know, don't say I didn't warn you. The clip below is from Wizard People, which is tamer.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

To kite, or not to kite...

...that is the question.

It's a dilemma that every windsurfer faces, and it creates a contentious, ego-fueled debate between windsurfing diehards and kiteboarding converts. There are several key angles to the debate: 1) Which sport is cooler?, 2) Which sport is easier?, 3) Which sport is more practical?, and 4) Which sport is most dangerous?

1) Which sport is cooler?

Kiteboarding is cooler. Duh. I know so because whenever I tell someone I'm a windsurfer he gives a dismissive grunt, scratches his head, maybe picks his nose for a while, then perks up and says, "Hey, so uh, you know what looks cool? That kiteboarding stuff! I saw this thing on the Travel Channel once, and those guys were catching, like, 20 feet of air!" Sometimes I try to respond by emphasizing some of the positive advantages of windsurfing as opposed to kiting, but really there's no point. We windsurfers lost the battle for coolness a long time ago. Kiteboarding is a newer sport, provides a quicker route to extreme thrills, and attracts a younger, sexier crowd... which attracts a younger, sexier crowd.


However, along with coolness comes image-consciousness... the nagging, un-fun compulsion to buy expensive surfer-sunglasses, get a labret piercing, wear ironic trucker's caps, and put boardshorts on over your wetsuit. A wetsuit is one of the few excuses modern humans have to prance around in near-nudity, but of course the fashionistas ruin it for themselves with the boardshorts on top thing.


2) Which sport is easier?

Windsurfing is much easier to learn. With the right stuff you can learn from a friend in less than an hour. But the kind of windsurfing that you can do after an hour is not at all the fast, cool-looking kind; witness the author with a beginner board and sail last summer:


Cool looking windsurfing skills take much longer to acquire, and thwart many would-be sailors. By contrast, learning kiteboarding involves several days of expensive, professional instruction and is very tricky and intense. But at the end of that you're going fast and looking pretty cool, even though you may be wiping out into a garbage scow 5 miles downwind of where you started.

3) Which sport is more practical?

I have to qualify this one. In terms of storing and transporting gear, kiteboarding is more practical. The boards are small as a bath mat, the kites can deflate to the size of pillow, and there are no rigid rig components like masts and booms to worry about. However, in terms of actually getting to RIDE your toys, windsurfing wins hands down. Case in point, I windsurfed within a couple blocks of my house almost every day last summer, while my kiter buddy Sam only got out a couple times. Kiters need consistent wind greater than about 10 knots, a wide-open place to launch and land, and shallow water with no obstacles to dodge or current to fight. (Advice to windsurfers: If you want to maximize the advantage you have over kites in sub-optimal conditions, you need a longboard.)

4) Which sport is most dangerous?

Kiteboarding is more dangerous by far. When you fall off your windsurf everything instantly comes to a stop, and you get back on. When you fall off your kiteboard the kite keeps pulling, sometimes even harder than before, slingshotting you downwind until you either get it under control, pull the safety release, or hit something big and unyielding, like your mom standing there taking pictures at the water's edge. Lots of people die kiteboarding every year. You should tell your mom to stand further away from the water.

Ok, I said my piece. Now it's confession time. I want to try kiteboarding. I've been secretly practicing with Sam Lake and Paul Dovel's kites, and I watched Sam's "Zero to Hero" kite DVDs. The ones produced by Trip Foreman; the Benedict Arnold of windsurfing who founded Real Kiteboarding and created the infamous "windsurfing has been cancelled" bumper sticker. Yes, I know it's shameful. But even if I do end up learning and loving kiting (I might not) I'll never disrespect or abandon windsurfing and my windsurfing peeps. It will probably be a while before I actually get on a kiteboard but it will definitely make this blog when I do. In the meantime, it's supposed to blow 15-20 knots out of the NE tomorrow, and be almost 50 degrees F. Sounds like windsurfing weather to me. :)

PS- Just because, here's Hamlet's soliloquy, the one I corrupted from Shakespeare for the title of this post, in it's original form:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is Biofuel Overrated?

There's a lot of hype lately about "biofuels", which are liquid fuels extracted from plants. There are two really good things about biofuels as opposed to fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal.

1) Unlike fossil fuels, plants can be re-grown after you harvest them. So, as long as you don't use biofuel from plants faster than you can regrow the plants, you will have an endless supply.

2) When plants grow, they suck up CO2 from the atmosphere- the exact same amount of CO2 that they release when they get turned into biofuel and burned. So, at least in theory, if you used exclusively biofuel for energy, your net input of CO2 to the atmosphere would be zero; no global warming.

Unfortunately, there are some serious problems with the US' current approach to biofuel production, which is intensive agriculture of grain crops like corn, and conversion of those grains to ethanol.

1) Even if we converted all our agricultural lands to corn for ethanol, we would only be able to supply a tiny fraction of the energy we now get from fossil fuels. Plus, we would starve.

2) Corn is inefficient. The energy required to grow corn and turn it into ethanol is often greater than the energy you get back from the ethanol itself. (See picture.)


3) Intensive farming of corn and other traditional crops has some nasty environmental side-effects: A) When forests or jungles are turned to farmland, more carbon is released as CO2 than is re-absorbed by the crops. B) Fertilizer production and biofuels processing release greenhouse gases besides just CO2; gases which, unlike CO2, are not re-absorbed in the next crop cycle. c) Intensive farming causes erosion of the land, and pollution of rivers, lakes, groundwater, and the ocean.

Thus, corn and other traditional crops are unlikely to meet our energy needs in the future without causing serious damage to the environment. Fortunately, corn ain't the only game in town. There are better alternatives under development, including harvesting of natural prairie grasses, algae farming, and conversion of cellulosic material (stems and leaves) to ethanol. In combination with better energy conservation, more efficient transportation, a diet with less meat, and a stabilized global population, these biofuels should keep the wheels of civilization turning in a post-petroleum world.

These issues are discussed in more intelligent detail in today's press release from the Ecological Society of America (below).

For Immediate Release: 10 January 2008

Biofuels Sustainability
Nation's ecological scientists weigh in on biofuels

The Ecological Society of America, the nation's professional organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, today released a position statement that offers the ecological principles necessary for biofuels to help decrease dependence
on fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global climate change. The Society warns that the current mode of biofuels production will degrade the nation's natural resources and will keep biofuels from becoming a viable energy option.

"Current grain-based ethanol production systems damage soil and water resources in the U.S. and are only profitable in the context of tax breaks and tariffs," says ESA. "Future systems based on a combination of cellulosic materials and grain could be equally degrading to the environment, with potentially little carbon savings, unless steps are taken now that incorporate principles of ecological sustainability."

Three ecological principles are necessary:

1) SYSTEMS THINKING: Looking at the complete picture of how much energy is produced versus how much is consumed by extracting and transporting the crops used for biofuels. A systems approach seeks to avoid or minimize undesirable production side effects such as soil erosion and contamination of groundwater. Consistent monitoring is critical to ensure that biofuel production is sustainable.

2) CONSERVATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Maximizing crop yield without regard to negative side effects is easy. On the other hand, growing crops and retaining the other services provided by the land is far more challenging, but very much worth the effort. For example, lower yields from an unfertilized native prairie may be acceptable in light of the other benefits, such as minimized flooding, fewer pests,
groundwater recharge, and improved water quality because no fertilizer is needed.

3) SCALE ALIGNMENT: How agriculture is managed matters at the individual farm, regional, and global level. Policies must provide incentives for managing land in a sustainable way. They should also encourage the development of biofuels from various sources.

"The current focus on ethanol from corn illustrates the risks of exploiting a single source of biomass for biofuel production," says ESA.

Continuously-grown corn leads to heavy use of fertilizers, early return of land in conservation programs to production, and the conversion of marginal lands to high-intensity cropping. All of these bring with them well-known environmental problems associated with intensive farming: persistent pest insects and weeds, pollution of groundwater, greater irrigation demands, less wildlife diversity, and the release of more carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change. Ironically, one of the touted benefits of biofuels is to help alleviate global climate change, a benefit that is considerably diluted under a high-intensity agriculture scenario.

The Ecological Society of America will contribute more to this timely issue in a few months when it convenes a conference devoted to the ecological dimensions of biofuels. The conference, which will be held on March 10, 2008 in Washington, DC, will bring together a wide variety of experts in the biofuels arena. The conference will cover the various sources of biofuels-agriculture
and grasslands, rangelands, and forests-and will encompass the private sector and socioeconomic perspectives. Jose Goldemberg, Global Energy Assessment Council & Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil, will give the keynote address.

Like other organizations, ESA is also concerned about the hardship on the nation's poor communities as higher crop prices drive up the cost of food.

It has been said that biofuels have achieved cult-like status and in the rush it is only too easy to overlook the big picture of environmental implications. Iowa alone has planted more than a third of its land surface with corn and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the federal government has some 20 laws and incentives to boost ethanol use.

A biofuels infrastructure that incorporates systems thinking, conserves ecosystem services, and encompasses multiple scales can best serve U.S. citizens, the economy, and the environment.


The Ecological Society of America is the country's primary professional organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United States and around the world. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has pursued the promotion of the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. For more
information about the Society and its activities, visit the ESA website.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Windsurfers to Know

Compared to “normal” sports, windsurfing is incredibly obscure. Yet, despite its relatively small number of participants, it generates some fantastic stars. These fascinating and talented individuals are worthy of respect in any arena. Here’s a (by no means complete) guide to a few that stand out in my mind. (Note to photographers- I didn't pay attention to photo credits but you can email me if you need me to remove or more thoroughly reference a certain pic.)

Golden Gods

If you are only going to remember one windsurfer’s name, it should be Robby Naish. The tough, blond Hawaiian exploded into fame and competitive domination precisely as the sport itself boomed in the early 1980s. His supernatural speed, wave-riding, and jumping skills were virtually unbeatable. Robby pulled off moves 25 years ago on primitive equipment that even the best windsurfers today struggle to imitate. Naish’s signature hot-pink sail could be seen on every poster, and in every magazine and windsurfing movie. His winning personality and natural aptitude as a windsurfing ambassador have kept him in the limelight long since his retirement from competition in the 1990s.


Naish is a major businessman, too: A few years ago he started his own line of windsurfing and kitesurfing equipment, which is now one of the world’s top brands, and showcases the most awesome moves being pulled off by today’s stars. Robby and his young team-rider Kai Lenny are featured in the fabulous new film “The Windsurfing Movie” by Johnny Decesare and Jace Panebianco.

Have you ever seen the rocky film where Rocky fights the Russian guy? Well, if Robby Naish is Rocky, then Bjorn Dunkerbeck is the Russian guy. (Even though he’s not actually Russian.) Dunkerbeck is some sort of Swiss-German-Austrian-Viking Spanish expatriate mutant Euro-Beast. He came along a couple years after Naish, became Robby’s fiercest competitor, then ruthlessly surpassed him. NO ONE could beat Dunkerbeck, aka The Terminator, in the 1990s. He won EVERYTHING; 11 world championships in a row.


It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that he finally lost his crown to American Kevin Pritchard (featured further down). Still, no one could dominate like Dunkerbeck, and probably no one ever will again.

The one person who might prove my last statement wrong is the incredible French beefcake, Antoine Albeau, aka “Tony Elbow” aka “The running elephant”.


He is the current Professional Windsurfing Association racing champion, and seems to be every bit as invincible as Dunkerbeck. The only way you can win a windsurfing contest now is if Antoine Albeau is somewhere else at the time, winning another windsurfing contest. Big Tony is even knocking at the door of the ultimate prize; the all-out world sailing speed record, currently held by our next featured windsurfer.

Speed Demons

Finian Maynard, from the British Virgin Islands, is huge for a windsurfer at 260 pounds. That puts him at a disadvantage in light winds, but in strong winds the combo of weight, skill, and balls makes him faster than anyone else. Finian currently holds the world sailing speed record of 48.7 knots over 500 m. That’s over 53 mph!

So far, 50-knots over 500 meters has never been broken by a wind-powered craft on liquid water, and there’s a mad arms race between windsurfers, kiteboarders, and specialized sailboats to be the first to hit it. Maynard it the great white hope that windsurfers will be number 1. I’m rooting for him, but I actually think that the kiteboarders have a better chance, because basically all they have to do is get dragged across a big mud puddle by a hurricane.

The women’s speed record holder is Karin Jaggi from Switzerland. At 42 knots, her speed isn’t quite up there with Finian’s, but it’s still much faster than mere mortals can sail. Jaggi is also impressive because she’s probably the best all-around female windsurfer, having won world prizes in every discipline from racing to waveriding and freestyle.


Women’s professional windsurfing is tough competition, especially with the Moreno Twins around.

Dynamic Duos

Daida and Iballa Moreno, from Spain’s windy Canary Islands, seem too unbelievable to be real.


It’s as if windsurfing marketers created them in a lab. Stunningly gorgeous and exotic with world-champion waveriding and freestyle skills… and there’s TWO of them!

Sibling competitors are actually sort-of a theme in professional windsurfing. Take the Frans brothers, for instance. Tonky and Taty from the Caribbean island of Bonaire started as talented locals in a windsurfing resort town.


They busted into the “freestyle” discipline around the year 2000 and promptly ousted the old guard, leading the charge of so-called “new-school” freestyle. They are still top-competitors, and have now branched out into the slalom racing and waveriding disciplines, as well.

Matt and Kevin Pritchard, from Hawaii via California, became America’s windsurfing golden-boys around the time that Robby Naish retired. Now seasoned competitors, both Matt and Kevin are masters of all disciplines and have won multiple world championships.


Older brother Matt has backed away from the spotlight a little, but the fire is still burning hot in younger Kevin, who battles Antoine Albeau on the race course, and slashes away at his rivals in the waves. Kevin keeps a sweet blog, too, showing a creative and artistic side with his photography.

Dale Cook and Bruce Peterson break the sibling trend for duos, but they might as well be brothers. They are co-kings of the Columbia River Gorge; windsurfing hotspot of the Pacific Northwest.


Peterson is a Gorge veteran who now operates his own sail company; Sailworks. Cook is Sailworks’ number one rider. Bruce and Dale share a common sailing style; riding hard and fast and jumping higher than anyone else. Silver-haired Peterson still dominates Gorge slalom and formula racing, while Cook’s suicidal, mile-high jumps are unparalleled in the windsurfing world.

Hot Right Now

Young Brazilian Kauili Seadi is probably the most skilled and dynamic windsurfer in the world today.


He started as a new-school freestyler, perfecting every high-speed contortion imaginable with a board and sail. Then he combined those skills with his mastery of conventional (no sail) surfing to become the most mind-blowing wave-destroyer in the universe. Kauli started using boards with two, parallel fins so that he could ride waves with an extra-slashy style, and now everyone is copying him by getting twin-fin boards of their own. Seadi has also pioneered previously inconceivable aerial maneuvers, like the incredible "push-loop-into-forward-loop".

Moroccan Boujmaa Guilloul is an equally impressive aerial freak.


He is renowned as the master of the “tweak”, meaning that when he reaches the apex of a jump he bends his body and board into a shockingly twisted pose before snapping back into a steady position for landing.

Third in the list of awesome jump-masters is Spaniard Victor Fernandez.

His seamless backloops and double forwards are textbook perfect. And more so than Kauli or Boujmaa, Victor is able to stay cool and score big in competitions, earning him the nickname “Victoryman”.

Hawaiian child and current resident of Africa’s Cabo Verde islands, Josh Angulo has been in the windsurfing scene for a while. As a younger guy in the 1990s he was a promising up-and-comer, but he hit a downward spiral with drugs and stuff, as documented in “The Windsurfing Movie”. Josh had a dramatic religious conversion, though, and was miraculously able to repair most of the damage he had done to his personal and professional life.


The most glorious affirmation of his redemption came when he won an epic PWA wavesailing contest last year in his adopted homeland of Cabo Verde.

Steffi Wahl is a talented German wavesailor. Unlike a lot of her competition, she has a full-time white-collar job and doesn’t live in a tropical windsurfing hotspot. Nevertheless, she took an impressive 2nd place at the 2007 PWA contest in Sylt. Another reason I put her in here is because I think she’s extremely attractive in a German sort of way, like a rose in the rain. Or something like that.

Guru Geniuses

Some windsurfers are famous not so much for their athletic skill, but for their knowledge, creativity, and savvy in designing gear and building the sport. Foremost amongst them is Jim Drake, original inventor of the modern sailboard.


He is still around and still squirting out ideas like Ben Franklin drunk on prune juice and vodka. The leading windsurfing company “Starboard” keeps him in the back room, where he dreams up their innovative new boards, along with Tiesda You.

Starboard’s chief board shaper Tiesda You is the Thai hydrodynamics savant responsible for the weirdest and coolest new boards in the last 10 years of windsurfing.


He and Jim Drake came up with everything from the freakishly fast, super-stubby “Hypersonic” board to the kayak-shaped “Serenity” board that is light-years faster then anything else when there is only a breath of wind.

Starboard is big into gurus. Roger Jackson is their windsurfing instructional and equipment guru.


With guru-ess Ellen Faller he travels around the country giving clinics and demos. What's really neat is that you can ask Roger ANY question you have about windsurfing on the Starboard "Windsurfing School" forum and he will patiently answer it.

Dave Kashy is a local guy from Newport News, Virginia, but he’s famous around the world for building the best fins for formula windsurf racing. His intense competitiveness, bulging engineering brain, and obsessive attention to detail make all the difference.


Professional racers and wealthy amateurs alike will pay nearly $1000 and wait over a year for a single one of his custom-made fins.

Barry Spanier is a highly respected sail designer who has been experimenting and improving windsurfing equipment since the sport’s infancy.


He has a really interesting blog / autobiography on the Maui Sails website. If he ever writes a book I’ll totally buy it.

Blogger Buddies

A final category of windsurfers to know is the blogger category. We may or may not have any particular skills or knowledge. Yet, we are united by being especially obsessed with the sport and eager to share our strong opinions and long shaggy-dog stories.

I think the most popular windsurfing blogger is Giampaolo Cammarota, a charismatic Italian living on Maui. In addition to windsurfing, he writes a lot about surfing, environmentalism, and women’s legs and buns. Giampaolo is a pioneer of surfing-style longboard windsurfing and stand-up-paddle-surfing; exciting new trends that may help bring surfing sports to the masses.

Steve Bodner is a member of the masochistic San Francisco formula windsurfing cult. It’s so windy in San Francisco Bay that most people ride tiny boards with tiny sails. Yet, Steve and his hardcore crew use huge sails and terrifyingly difficult to control formula boards in grueling races covering the entire bay. By writing eloquently about his experiences Steve helps the rest of us live formula windsurfing as it’s meant to be lived; vicariously.

Bill Bell is the alliterative boardsports blogger of North Carolina’s windy Outer Banks Islands. He’s not quite a pro windsurfer, but he’s at the next level above most advanced sailors and thus inspires us to confront intimidating hurdles like sailing in serious waves and attempting forward loops.

The “Peconic Puffin” (his real name is Michael) is an extremely dedicated windsurfer living in Long Island, NY. He and his crew sail in even the most ridiculously cold conditions. Whereas I stop sailing when it’s below 42 degrees, the Puffmeister just smears lard over his exposed patches of skin, knocks the ice off his sail, and keeps going. When his fingers thaw out, he’s also one of the most clever and prolific writers about windsurfing that you’ll find anywhere on the web.

Well, hope you’ve all enjoyed this guide to windsurfers for 2008. Obviously I had to leave out tons of good ones. If you want to add anyone in particular that I missed, please do it yourself in the comments section. :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Statistics HEAVEN

It's so nice to have a hobby to obsess over.

Yesterday I entered the records from all my 2007 windsurfing sessions (which I scrawl on my wall calendar) into a spreadsheet. Today I spent two hours fiddling with fun graphs and tables while reflecting on all the good times had on the water.

Some highlights:

I windsurfed 154 times, or 42% of the days of the year.
The most I windsurfed in a month was 22 days in September.
The least I windsurfed in a month was 3 days in February.
The average temperature I went out in was 75 degrees.
The coldest was 42 degrees on February 3 at Geddings House.
The hottest was 95 degrees on August 4 at the Lotto Regatta at Andersen Park.


I sailed in 23 different places in 4 states.
The spot I launched from most was VIMS Beach.


I sailed on 14 different boards (actually it was 18, but I only counted the ones that were my primary board for a session).
The board I sailed most often was the Kona Style.
I bought 2 boards and sold 4 boards, ending with 3 boards of my own.


The average sail size I used was 7.2 meters squared.
The smallest sail size I used was 3.0 meters squared at Factory Point on May 6.
The biggest sail size I used was 9.8 meters squared; I used it mainly for regattas.
The average winds I sailed in were 8 - 16 knots.
The most wind I sailed in was 40 knots on April 16 at VIMS Beach.
The least wind I sailed in was 0-5 knots on August 4 at the @#$%^&* Lotto Regatta.
I caught the most wind per session in November, when my average sail size was 5.2.
I caught the least wind per session in June, when my average sail size was 7.9.


I sailed in every possible wind direction.
The wind I sailed most often was East, which is a typical summer thermal on the York River.


There were lots of ecstatically wonderful sessions, but the best was July 19th in the warm ocean at Edisto Island, SC. The wind was 17-20 knots, the waves were challenging but fun, and I was "dialed-in" with a 5.8 sail and the Fanatic Skate. I got lots of sweet jumps and carves and totally raced alongside a jetski with babes riding on it. I was glorious. That's not a typo it's vanity.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Evolution and ID "Controversy"

There is a lot of hype now about "Intelligent Design", a supposedly scientific theory that presents an alternative to evolution.

Intelligent design is not taken seriously by real scientists because: 1) There's no evidence for it and 2) It's an obvious fraud by creationists to disguise non-scientific ideas as science.

By contrast evolution is supported by overwhelming evidence, and explains nature extremely well without invoking supernatural phenomena. Evolution is REAL, folks.


The proponents of ID know that their theory can't stand up to evolution on scientific grounds, but they have a lot of support from conservative groups to keep pushing it. The strategy they use for getting ID accepted by the public is pretty devious.

First they make it seem like there is a legitimate scientific debate between evolution and ID, which there is not. Then they exploit the media's compulsion to give equal attention to both sides in a debate even when one side is a tiny minority of crackpots. The result is that the message of evolution is diluted, and the message of intelligent design is falsely magnified and legitimized.


Once the ID advocates get their bogus theory on that "equal" ground, all they have to do is nudge people a little more towards ID. They do that by casting aspersions on evolution and playing up the feel-good bits of intelligent design.


I think we need to wise up and not accept the gold-painted BS of intelligent design. Our views of the universe, spiritual or otherwise, shouldn't have to deny an important, obvious part of reality like evolution. It would be much better for us to adapt our spiritual beliefs to encompass evolution, than to accept fake science just so we don't have to change our beliefs.