Friday, March 13, 2009

A Solid Dose of Waves

I've lived a few blocks from the Atlantic for a few months now and I think it's turning me into a wave junky. Or at least it's giving me an appreciation for how much more exciting a windsurfing session can be with good waves.

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The waves were definitely good at low tide yesterday and this afternoon at Fort Pierce inlet. Both days I crossed to the N side to ride unusually large, well-organized surf that was breaking from way outside all the way in. I used a 6.6 m2 sail and 106 liter board each time, but with different results.

Yesterday the wind was barely over 10 knots from the SE, so I couldn't waterstart and could only plane on the way in. I kept getting cleaned out and having to swim for my gear. It was so thrilling / terrifying that I was shaking and my heart was beating like crazy every time I uphauled the sail to face the waves again. The rewards were great, though. At one point I got to share a wave with a longboard surfer who had paddled all the way to the outside break. Sweet!

Today the wind was more like 15 knots, so I could plane most of the time and catch the waves more often than they were catching me. Woo hoo! It's amazing how many more ways you can carve the board around when you're being pushed by a smooth wave face versus when you're just sailing along in choppy water. Ahhhh, so awesome. The only sketchy thing today was that the inlet was VERY fishy. There were medium and small sized fish jumping all over the place, and I saw two spinner sharks do great aerial leaps. One was the biggest shark I have seen in the wild. It was bigger than me. When it jumped, there was something else flying around it's head, like a small fish, or a fish head, maybe. I'm attaching this popular YouTube video of a leaping shark, because this is exactly what it looked like. Only mine was bigger, seriously.

I hope it all happens again Saturday and Sunday, minus the shark bonanza.


Andy said...

Siiiick!! Nice, James! Schlog sessions can be some of the most memorable, due to the very challenges you described!

I'm surprised you didn't sail your longboard.

Might I suggest some unsolicited advice about the setup- front straps all the way inboard and forward, and a single back strap mounted as far towards the tail as possible and maybe even offset towards the bottom turn rail. Your stance will feel wide just cruising around but it'll afford you a lot of control and power over that board while on the wave face. Awww yeah.

Here's to many more!!

Scott said...

What Andy says: get those footstraps as far apart and as inboard as possible. And once the size of the waves starts getting past chest high, that 106l board (freeride board?) will start feeling verrrrry long and not nearly turny enough. And the bigger the sail you have, the more sail area you have exposed to the crushing grinding waves; it's just waiting to get totally destroyed. You might want to invest in a smaller reinforced wave sail or two.

Wait `til you get in your first overhead to logo-high, then to mast-high, waves. Man, you will be totally stoked.

Have a blast, this is totally the best.

James Douglass said...

Andy- I have the footstraps all-the-way inboard, but I hadn't thought about spreading them out more. I'll have to try that.

Scott- My 6.6 is an Aerotech Charge wavesail, which seems to be pretty durable. Yesterday it was windier, and I got to use my next size down, a 5.8 Ezzy Wave. It's a 2001 and is starting to show its age. I have a hard time seeing through it when I turn front side, which is sketchy.

When it starts getting around 20 knots I ride an 86 liter board, but that doesn't happen too often. The 86 liter board is actually longer than my 106 liter board (250 vs. 240 cm).

My main equipment dilemma lately is finding the perfect fins for my 106 liter board. The 32 cm, upright, narrow-chord, very-flexible stock fin is not bad for b&j and onshore wave riding with 6.6 and 5.8. For a better wave riding feel and no shallow-sandbar worries I like my 23 cm weed-wave fin, which is the one I was using the past couple days. The only thing is that it's hard to get the speed, angle, and torque for a good jump when I'm using that squatty fin. I'm dreaming of some kind of magic 25-28 cm fin that combines looseness with the speed and upwind for jumps, and is powerful enough to use with 6.6 and 5.8.

Scott said...

Yeah, hmm, fins... I've spent the last two seasons learning how to ride shorter and shorter fins. It's true that you can't point quite as far upwind on a short fin as a long one, but it's possible to do well. For example, I use a 27cm stock freestyle fin on my JP Freestyle board with my largest sail (a 6.9), and never really have any trouble. I switch between 23 and 25cm free-wave fins on my 84 liter Freestyle Wave (23 for 4.2/4.7 wind, 25 for 5.3/5.9 wind). My two wave boards have 23cm US box fins. And my usual fin for freestyle is one of the MFC Freestyle Pro fins in 22cm length; it's got major foil action going on, and, amazingly, goes upwind almost as well as the 35cm fin I used to use on my (now sold) freeride board.

I guess that's a long-winded way of saying, if you are totally getting into waves and bump-and-jump, shorter is better; and it's just a matter of learning to control spinout. Experimenting with boom height (I keep mine at collarbone level) and harness length (I use 24-26") can help. And experimenting with how you use your back foot is useful, too. On free-ride and formula boards, with long fins, you engage the fin by pushing *out* with your feet, But with a shorter fin, this will just cause you to spin out. If you adopt a more vertical stance, and think about pressing *down* with your back foot instead of *out*, you'll still be able to engage the fin without spinning out. Yeah, you won't stay quite as far upwind, but with the shorter fin, you'll have a much looser feel in the water and be able to get much better jumps.

Woot! I want to go sailing right now!!