Friday, April 25, 2008

Longboard Love Story

Check out this excellent post on Paul Richardson's Blog.

And here's a couple more pictures from windfest. These are the W&M undergrad beginner windsurfer babes who did so well there.



Monday, April 21, 2008

Am I the only one who thinks driving on the beach is silly?

**UPDATE- Wow, this post has attracted more attention than I expected, especially now that it's getting linked to from several recreational fishing forums. Originally it was just an expression of my personal opinion about beach driving; I'd rather we drove on the road and walked on the beach. I didn't mean to imply that I categorically support all aspects of the National Park Service's current obx beach closure plan. However, because of the strong response, I've done my best to weigh in, fairly, with regards to the NPS plan in the comments section. Please read the other comments and my replies before adding your own. I will do my best to respond to everyone, but will give priority to non-anonymous posters.**

**Also, FYI, I love fishing. Anyone who knew me growing up can attest to how obsessed with it I can be. So just because I characterize beach driving fishermen as "whiners" in the next paragraph doesn't mean that I'm down on fishing itself. I think it's a great way for all ages to get out and learn about nature and stuff.**

It seems like everybody is freaking out now about the proposed closing of some Outer Banks beaches to off-road vehicles to protect nesting birds and turtles. The loudest whiners are the recreational fishermen, who will apparently shrivel up and die if they are forced to walk more than 20 feet from their 4x4s to reach the water. Some people in the windsurf / surf / kiteboarding community are pretty upset too, because the closures will make it harder for them to launch from certain "secret spots" on the oceanfront. And there is concern among local businesses that the beach-driving prohibition will reduce tourism revenues.

Most of the perspectives on this that I have read so far in the blogosphere have been pro 4x4, so I thought I would share my own, alternative perspective. Don't hate me.

1. Beach driving is tacky.

In a vast and sparsely populated wilderness you can blow stuff up, chop things down, roar around in all manner of vehicles, and shoot or hook just about any critter that wanders by without causing irreparable harm to the environment or bothering your neighbors. Needless to say, the Outer Banks are no longer such a place; the islands are shrinking while human development on them is growing. Unfortunately some mindsets and traditions persist from the free-for-all wilderness days; namely, beach driving mania. I'm sure it was fun back in the day when it wasn't so crowded, but now it's just cheesy and obnoxious. With paved roads that go almost everywhere, and numerous parking and public access areas, even piers and boardwalks for the disabled, nobody really NEEDS to drive on the beach to get a decent fishing, sunbathing, or boardsports experience.

2. Beach driving really does put cute endangered species at risk of extinction.


The environmental impact of beach driving is not just propaganda from "eco nazis". Animals are significantly less likely to nest, and less likely to successfully produce young when they do nest, in areas where driving is allowed. It's not the sweet, dumb birds and turtles' fault that they need to nest on the beach. (Which is why people who blame the animals are assholes and I will never stop at a surf shop that has THIS stupid sticker on the door.) It's just that the critters evolved over millions of years to specialize in a certain type of beach and dune habitat, and now they can't live without it. While both people and animals want the same areas, only the critters actually NEED them to survive. And I'm not just talking about the survival of individuals; were talking about extinction, at least in the case of the much-maligned Atlantic Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). So, I think we have an ethical obligation to set aside adequate areas for the beach-dependent wildlife, even if it's moderately inconvenient for us.

We can adapt. People have been frolicking and fishing on beaches for thousands of years, but the dumb idea that we need giant motor vehicles for our beach play has only been around for a handful of decades. It's time to go retro and put our toes, not our tires, in the sand again.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Windfest Report + Longboard Review

Windfest Report

Woo hoo! I just got back from Frisco Woods Windfest 2008, which was awesome.

Sam Lake and I made ourselves at home in one of the nice camping cabins.

The wind was light and offshore, only briefly getting into the 12-15 knot range, but that was no big deal because the weather was beautiful and warm enough to sail in swim trunks. Paul Richardson took some good pictures of sunsets and stuff.


The social schmoozing was also top-notch.

Me (left), John Gelinne (middle), and Catapulting Aaron (right)

I went down with a nice group from the VIMS Sail and Paddle Club, met up with homies from Virginia's W.E.T. club, and united with some cool, never-met-before-in-real-life folks from the blogosphere.

Elia from the VIMS club won the "board toss" event. At the tap in the background is Peter Bogkucki, New England Windsurfing Journal editor and windfest organizer.

Paul Richardson from VIMS jury-rigged his daggerboard gasket with Gorilla Tape.

There was a good turnout among windsurfers / campers, but there weren't as many equipment vendors doing demo's as there usually are at windfest. Nevertheless, I was able to try some interesting new gear, both from the vendors and from friends who brought their newish stuff. A big trend this year was a renaissance of longboards and stand-up-paddling. SUP seemed to be especially popular among the kids who were there.

Longboard Review

The first of the new longboards that I rode was Chad Perkis' Kona 11.5. It's the same shape as my Kona ONE, but it's thinner (170 liters vs. 220 liters), lighter, and doesn't have a daggerboard or a fully foam-covered deck. I rode it with the stock fin, which is a 30 cm US-box wave fin. The board was plenty stable for me, although you could tell it wasn't quite as floaty as the Kona ONE. I only sailed the 11.5 in light winds, but I assume it planes pretty well because of the light weight. It went upwind ok when you dug in the windward rail, but it definitely had a greater tendency to sideslip and couldn't get anywhere near the same upwind angle and speed as something with a daggerboard. Another minor thing; the slick nose of the 11.5 made it hard for me to sail fin-first, which I was trying to do so that I could sail, rather than walk, through the extensive shallow area at Frisco.

When it was a little windier I rode the RRD longrider. My first impression was that it looked cool.


The red hull was awesome, and the pattern on top was slightly more testosterone-friendly than the hibiscus flowers of the Kona ONE. There were a variety of footstrap insert position; very inboard and forward for beginners, moderately outboard, and fully out on the rails. The vendor had the footstraps set in the most extreme out and back positions, which I felt was inappropriate for the relatively small, 34 cm MFC freeride fin that was on the board (but which would probably be great for a 50 cm fin and a 9.0 sail). On shore the RRD seemed marginally lighter, thinner, and "less long" than the Kona ONE, but these differences were more apparent on the water. The RRD planed earlier and sustained planing with less sail force than the Kona ONE, and felt more like a shortboard in terms of riding light and free. However, the upwind ability and "tracking" feel was less than on the Kona ONE, probably because of the RRD's thinner rails and smaller daggerboard. A more significant problem with the RRD daggerboard was that lots of water gushed up through the slot when going fast, regardless of whether the daggerboard was up or down. Other people who rode it also griped about the water-fountain daggerboard.


Kona 11.5- Pretty cool, and probably the best of the 3 boards for SUP or serious wave riding, but not as good for flatwater and light wind as the ONE or the Longrider.

RRD Longrider- Most stylish looking and earliest planing of the bunch, with the best features for light to moderate weight beginners. For back-and-forth sailing in flat waters it would be a great alternative to widestyle shortboards like the GO, if only the daggerboard didn't do that annoying fountain thing.

Kona ONE- The best "true longboard" performance because of the big daggerboard and thick rails. It may make up for its more sluggish planing relative to the RRD with better control in high wind and rough water. However, without sailing the RRD in rough conditions I can't say for sure how they compare. Also, irrespective of performance, the fact that the Kona ONE is the only board of the three with a one-design racing class is a big plus for folks who might want to sail in a regatta sometime.


PS- We didn't sail on the last day of windfest (Sunday), but on the way back we stopped at Buckroe beach in Hampton, Virginia for a well powered session on small sails and kites. Sam tried out his exotic new 9 m "Sigma" kite from Naish, I rode a 5.2 m Ezzy sail and 87 liter board, and Paul Richardson destroyed an old 4.5 sail in about 5 minutes.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Top 12 Questions ABOUT Windsurfing / Sailboarding

This post aims to answer the common questions that non-windsurfers have about windsurfing.

Question 1. What is windsurfing / sailboarding?

Windsurfing, also known as sailboarding, is where you're standing on a board, and holding a sail, which is attached to the board with a bendy joint. The sail is roughly triangular, and has a rigid mast and boom. Unlike a sailboat, the windsurfing board doesn't have a movable rudder. You steer by adjusting the position of the sail and moving your feet.


Question 2. What is the difference between windsurfing and kiteboarding?

In kiteboarding you are also standing on a board, but there is no sail attached to the board. Rather, the wind power comes from a large, crescent-shaped kite that you fly high above the water. For more discussion on the nuances of windsurfing versus kiteboarding, see this post.

Question 3. Is windsurfing dangerous?

No. It's safer than almost any other boardsport, and definitely safer than kiteboarding.

Question 4. Is windsurfing hard?

Yes and no. With the right stuff and a trained instructor, most people can learn the basics of going back and forth during their first time on the water, even if they have never sailed or surfed before. If you already have a sense of wind and sailing, and you have decent balance, then you can learn even quicker. However, progressing beyond the beginner stage takes practice and determination. You gradually develop an intuitive understanding of how the wind, the equipment, and your body interact. When it all comes together it is incredibly rewarding.

Question 5. Do you need good balance to windsurf?

No. The modern boards are very wide and stable, and everyone gets their sea legs after some time on the water.

Question 6. Do you need a lot of upper-body strength to windsurf?

No. Sails comes in all sizes, so you never have to use a bigger one than you can handle. Of course, even you're an athlete, windsurfing will work different muscles than you're used to, and you'll be worn out after your first few sessions. Fortunately, once you get the hang of it, you can windsurf so long that you'll get hungry before you get tired. It's all about finesse and using leverage and gravity instead of muscle.

Question 7. How old is too old to windsurf?

If you're healthy enough to swim, and you can climb out of the pool without a ladder, you can windsurf.

Question 8. How young is too young to windsurf?

They make sails for children as small as 40 lbs, but a kid's ability to process verbal instructions on the water may be a more limiting factor than size. If your kid is smart, athletic, and interested they could learn at 6. If not, better wait until the kid is 9.

Question 9. How fat is too fat to windsurf?

Heavy people can compensate, up to a point, by using bigger boards and sails. But if you're over 350 lbs or you can't climb out of a pool without a ladder, forget it.

Question 10. How much wind do you need to windsurf?

You don't need very much wind at all. As long as you can feel SOME wind on your skin, you will be able to move on your windsurf. 5 miles per hour (8 kph) is plenty of wind for basic windsurfing. That is much less than is required for kiteboarding. For fast windsurfing, it takes 10-15 mph. Beginners may have trouble windsurfing in more than 15 mph, but some experts can windsurf in extreme winds of 35 mph or more.

Question 11. Where can I get windsurfing lessons and equipment?

Well, if you live in the US, you can check the Windsurfing Magazine website. In the sidebar they have a guide to shops and schools organized by state. You should also do a google search to see if there are any windsurfing clubs in your area that have programs for beginners.

Question 12. Where can I get some more specific advice or ask some questions about windsurfing?

There are a number of internet forums with resident experts who are more than happy to answer any question you may have about windsurfing, i.e. what gear to buy, etc. You may have to create a screen name to post a question on the forums, but that's no big deal. Here are some of my favorites:

Starboard's Windsurfing School- This forum is overseen by Roger Jackson and Ellen Faller, two very helpful gurus. Random windsurfers will also chime in with advice, which may or may not be useful. This site combines weather, windsurfing discussion forums, and a classifieds section for buying and seling used gear.

I also have my own list of frequently asked windsurfing questions and answers here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Should these men get to tell you what's right and wrong?

WARNING- Read no further if you don't like incendiary posts.


(Link to article from which I got the picture)

Bush says he wants to honor the Pope's conviction that, “...there’s right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of undermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies.”

Hmm... let's think about that. Yeah, there's right and wrong, but who says the Pope knows best what they are?

Figuring out what's right and wrong takes careful thinking and discussion about the happiness and suffering that may or may not be caused by an action. And that's not at all what the Pope does. Rather, he cherrypicks his definitions of right and wrong out of a crusty, old, racist, sexist, homophobic, self-contradictory body of literature based on made-up revelations from an imaginary being.

So rather than honoring the Pope, I think we should call him out on this prolonged scam. We should realize that "morals grounded in faith" really means "arbitrary rules based on personal bias and ancient superstition". Popes, prophets, and presidents might imagine that they have a magic moral guide, but really, common sense and rational ethics are all that any of them, or we, have ever had to decide what's right and wrong.

Don't let them take those things away from you.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Making the Kona Daggerboard Removable

One of my pet peeves is "uninvention"; the discontinuation of effective products or ideas, and, typically, their replacement with lousy or unnecessarily complicated substitutes. A lot of uninventions are automotive, i.e. it is now hard to find cars with manual transmissions, windows, and doorlocks. There are plenty of uninventions in consumer electronics, too. Like, what happened to those black digital watches that lasted forever, were honestly waterproof and had easily replaceable, standardized bands? Indeed, it often seems that the more pragmatic and economical something is, the more likely it is to be snatched away from us. Generic beer? It was gone before I even reached legal age.


Sadly, even windsurfing has been hit by the uninventers. The windsurfing longboard was vanquished in 2000, taking away the most fun and efficient way to sail in light winds and forcing newcomers to the sport to "schlog" on tubby wideboards instead. Longboards were not reinvented until 2006, when Exocet came out with the Kona ONE (then called the Kona Style). The Kona had some nice new features, like a stepped-tail for improved speed and handling, and a foot-friendly rubber coating on the deck. But it lacked one nice, simple feature of the old boards; the Kona daggerboard could not be removed unless you completely disassembled it with a screwdriver. That means the daggerboard knob is always protruding from the deck of the board, denting your car when you put it upside-down on the roofrack, and stubbing your toes if you're paddling the board around without the sail. I was complaining about it on the Kona Windsurfing Forum, and found these plans for modifying the daggerboard to make it easily removable.


They were sketched out by a Norwegian named Ilan. Trusting in Scandinavian engineering, and hoping that my own handyman skills were up to par, I decided to try the fix myself. To start, I had to unscrew the daggerboard and the mounting plates.


Then I used a ruler and pencil to sketch a path up from the pivot hole in each plate to the top of the plates. I made the paths about 9/16" wide (the hole is 13/16" wide). Cutting out the paths in the plates was easy, but only because I was able to borrow a power jigsaw from work (we use it for cutting PVC aquarium pipes). Then I used the little saw and knife in my leatherman tool to truncate the axle on the daggerboard itself to 8/16" wide. I made the truncations so that they would line up with the daggerboard escape slot only when the daggerboard was deployed at an (estimated) 45 degree angle. The axle material was hard to cut. I had to sort-of "whittle" it. Today I reinstalled the plates and (hooray) the system worked. The daggerboard pivots just as smoothly and securely as before, but when you turn it 45 degrees you can slide it right out.


Apparently, the newer edition Konas are going to come with a removable dagger, but if you have an old version you'll just have to do the reinventing yourself.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Windsurfing Thing Report

Well, Marc Rosen's windsurfing weenie roast in Baltimore was NOT cancelled, after all. The weather was actually sunny and mild and there was a decent breeze on the water. We arrived to the sight of Marc's huge sprinter van spilling its windsurfing guts out onto the grass of the park and broadcasting Frank Zappa music far and wide.


We had to rig up our windsurfing stuff carefully, on account of goose shit everywhere. Oh, well. At least it wasn't dog shit. Catapulting Aaron, of blogger fame, showed up and we met in real life for the first time. He managed to sail formula stuff while most of us were riding smaller gear, so I think he's a better windsurfer than the name implies. I rode my Kona with a 7.8, then demo'ed Marc's HiFly Madd 162 with an 8.5. After sailing for a while we came back for the burnt weenie roast and baked beans boogie.


Somehow even bad food tastes good when it's procured in nature by a fine chef.


After lunch we sailed some more and Farrah Hall and I traded windsurfs for a while. It was the first time I had ever ridden the Olympic RS:X board. The up-and-down wind gave ample opportunity to see how it worked both in planing mode and with the daggerboard down. It's not an easy board to figure out, but it actually seemed to perform pretty well. I liked the adjustable downhaul that Farrah had. I had used an adjustable outhaul, but being able to adjust the downhaul increased the range and power of the sail even more. If I ever get into serious formula or longboard racing I'm definitely going to get an adjustable downhaul.

Regarding the Kona, Farrah said it felt "easy ... like a toy". I was like, "Well, it IS a toy!" Half-serious, Farrah said, "Ha, windsurfing isn't about fun, it's about WINNING!" I guess that's how an Olympian's mind works. :)

The picture below is Farrah standing by her RS:X after sailing it in the morning when the wind was stronger and it had lots of downhaul (you can see the top trailing edge of the sail hanging loose because of the downhaul).


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Windsurfing Thing Near Baltimore This Saturday

**UPDATE - Probably cancelled because of rain**

Marc Rosen, who is a representative for HiFly Boards and Ezzy Sails is putting on an event this Saturday at the Hammerman Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park. The launch is a popular venue for members of BABA, the Baltimore Area Boardsailing Association. BABA is mostly made of up of aging boomers, but there is a growing younger contingent, and even the geezers still know how to have fun. Marc Rosen is on the right in this pic from last year's event.


Marc is a funny guy. Here's his announcement for the event:

Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Baked Bean Boogie!

Come to the Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Baked Bean Boogie April Fools Day Wave Jumping Contest and Hot Dog roast on Saturday April 5, 2008 at the Hammerman Area of the Gunpowder Falls State Park. Demo gear from EZZY, HiFly, Chinook and DAKINE will be available for you to test, plus hotdogs, baked beans, hot chocolate and music by The Mothers of Invention. Special guest appearance; Kristen from the Emperor's Club! Start time is 10AM, BWS at Noon, and we'll quit at 4.

This event is presented by Aix sponsa. For additional info contact Marc Rosen at
duckbite (at)

"Get your shoes and socks on people, it's right around the corner"

I'm going to be there, and US Olympic hopeful Farrah Hall is going to be there, too, showing off on the RS:X board or maybe shredding on a shortboard.

Here's directions to the Hammerman Area: From I-95 take exit 67A for Route 43 east (White Marsh Boulevard). Follow 43 to route 40 east. Turn right at the first light onto Ebenezer Road and follow it for 4.5 miles. The park entrance will be on your left.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Like Father Like Son

My dad has started a blog; Johnny's Rants.


Looks like he already has a funny story up there about the attractive maid who cleans their apartment in Caracas, Venezuela.


He also wants to use the massive publicity generated by his new internet celebrity to drum up renters for the Douglass family beach house in Edisto Island, South Carolina. Here's the link where you can rent the beach house if you're interested: link It's a good one.