Sunday, May 31, 2009

New waveboard - When will it get wet?

I went up to Cocoa Beach on Sunday for a "board meeting" of the windsurfing magazine volunteer test riders. We were wrapping up our findings on a batch of light-wind shortboards for a review that will come out in the next issue. There were some AWESOME boards in the test, and it was cool to see how we mostly agreed in what we thought about them.

The day was also exciting because the magazine editor delivered the high wind board that I bought from a guy in Saint Petersburg. It's a 2006 Starboard Evo 83, designed to be ultra-maneuverable and exciting in rough water and waves.


I have no idea how long I'll have to wait until it's windy enough to ride it. It might be this week in a strong sea breeze, it might be later this summer in a near-miss hurricane, or it might not be until the first frontal system of fall. You can make your bet in the poll in the sidebar.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Selling Two Boards, Buying One

*UPDATE - 1 July 2009 - Both my boards have been sold. If you came here looking for used windsurf gear for sail in the US, try the iwindsurf buy/sell section instead. It's like Craig's List for windsurfing.*

*Begin original post*

Florida has entered a depressingly wet and un-windy weather pattern that looks like it may last all summer. I haven't planed in two weeks. And check out the forecast for tomorrow:

bad forecast

San Francisco Bay, for reference (Damn you Catapulting Aaron)-

Florida has typically light and inconsistent flow from the West; just enough to squelch any chance of a sea-breeze from the East. Plus, thunderstorms. Sigh...

Anyway, to satisfy my need to do SOMETHING windsurf-related, I've decided to update my board quiver. I'm selling the Tiga Free-X 281 that I recently bought and fixed up, because I haven't been using it much. It overlaps too much with my longboard. Here's a picture and details on the board in case anyone wants to buy it:

Board = Tiga Free-X 281 from 2000; same mold as the Bic Techno 283
Condition = Some peeling cloth on deck pad, one glassed-over repair on nose, otherwise fine.
Volume = 150 liters, Length = 281 cm, Width 69 cm
Fins = 48 cm Finworks pointer, good condition, 40 cm Curtis weed, well-worn
Footstraps = Brand new JP footstraps
Characteristics = Easy-riding, fast, good for 6.5 - 9.5 sails, and especially suited to first-time shortboard riders or heavier intermediate riders.
Price = $190, or $100 if you're poor and under 30 years old

I'm also selling my smallest board, an F2 Maui Project Style 250. I really love this board- it's quick, jumpy, and turny, but always under control, even in the air. It has been a big confidence booster for my sailing in the ocean on rough days. The only reason I'm selling it is to make room for a hopefully-even-better pre-owned board that I just bought. (I'll report on that board soon.) Here's the pics and info on the Style:

Board = F2 Maui Project Style 250 from 2002
Condition = Good. Some chips in the paint that I spray-painted over with white enamel, otherwise fine.
Volume = 87 liters, Length = 250 cm, Width 55 cm
Fin = 25 cm MFC freestyle / wave fin
Footstraps = DaKine Supremo aftermarket straps
Characteristics = Nearly-perfect blend of speed, control, and maneuverability for jumps and jibes. Also good as a waveboard. Suits sails from 4.2 - 6.5, but you'll want a bigger fin for sails > 5.8.
Extras = Comes with the 255 cm board bag.
Price = $300, or $250 if you're poor and under 30 years old

The boards are also posted in the classified ads section of iwindsurf.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Windsurfers Have a Third Leg

When I first started windsurfing I remember looking at my dad's longboard and wondering how the heck anyone got their feet all the way back into the footstraps. What kind of sadomasochistic board designer put them where you couldn't even stand without sinking the tail? A few years later, I was able to occasionally get my back foot in one of the back straps, but only by almost doing the splits, with my front foot much further forward. The only time I ever tried to put my front foot in, too, I took off with terrifying, uncontrolled speed until I veered downwind and catapulted over the handlebars. I didn't try it again until after college when I moved to Virginia and got my own windsurf.

All that confusion and retarded progression was because I didn't realize I had a THIRD leg. In fact, all men and women who windsurf have one. It's the mast base. What I was failing to do as a youth was to transfer weight up off my first two legs, through the sail, and down into the mast base. If I'd done that it would have been much easier to get my feet back in footstrap territory without sinking the tail. And by maintaining mast base pressure (MBP) when in the footstraps I could have distributed my weight more evenly for a less bucking and swerving ride.

If you compare a windsurf board against a surfboard or a directional kiteboard, you can totally see why the footstraps are so far back. It's because the mast base substitutes for the front foot.


Remembering to use that imaginary third leg is KEY to almost everything in windsurfing. There are different ways to apply MBP depending on what windsurfing situation you're in. Hanging down on the boom when accelerating onto a plane, extending the body and committing weight to the harness when striving for speed and control, pressing down on the boom and sheeting in during a hard carve or jibe intitiaton... the list goes on. He who controls his MBP controls his destiny.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fort Pierce Beach Renourishment + Sucky Weather

Fort Pierce inlet, which cuts through the barrier island I live on, wasn't always there. People dug it in 1920 to replace "Indian River Inlet", a nearby natural inlet that had closed over. I'm not sure why they put the man-made inlet 1 mile south of the previous, natural one. Maybe to be closer to downtown Fort Pierce.

Anyway, when they dug the inlet, they put jetties on the North and South side to help stabilize it. The jetties do an ok job of maintaining the inlet, but they screw up the beach on the South side. Since sand tends to drift from North to South in this area, the beach North of the Jetty accumulates sand, while the beach to the South is constantly eaten away, threatening to erode naively-placed shoreline developments.

The upshot is that the county has to spend lots of tax money to periodically replace the lost sand on South Beach. They manage to kill two birds with one stone, though, by doing the job with sand removed by dredging the inlet (see video).

Once they have the piles of sand on the beach, they bulldoze them around to get the beach looking smooth, flat and aesthetically pleasing. It's pretty impressive from an engineering standpoint, and pretty dubious from an environmental standpoint.


I'm not sure whether it has affected the windsurfing or not, since lately the wind has been sucky, the rain has been frequent, and/or I've been busy. So far this month I've only managed to get two days of shortboarding in 15 or more knots, compared to April where there were 8, and March with 14. When there is wind, it's usually brief and accompanied by rain squalls and thunder and lightning. I think it has to do with the subtropical low-pressure system that has been malingering around here. Clyde from the East Central Florida Windsurfing group sent out this cool satellite image link that shows the nastyness of the Florida weather. Should be interesting viewing during the more serious part of hurricane season.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nasty Slalom Crash

This picture is from a PWA slalom windsurfing race currently taking place in Ulsan, Korea. The rider on the left is Britain's Ross Williams. On the right is Argentinian Gonzalo Costa Hoevel. Smashed in the middle is American / Cabo Verdian Josh Angulo.

Ulsan Crash

Unlike in other sailing associations, there are no right-of-way rules in PWA slalom. So it's like a game of chicken. When no one backs down is when this happens, I guess. There's lots of daily event coverage and pictures on the PWA website.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm in Windsurfing Magazine

Well, my life is complete now that I've got a goofy mugshot that appears twice in the June 2009 issue of Windsurfing Magazine. :)

The first appearance of my head in a bubble is for a little blurb called "Top 3 Reasons to Teach Windsurfing". The behind-the-scenes secret is that I actually sent in a Top 11 Reasons, but only 3 were fit to print. Since my blog has much lower standards for publication than the magazine, here's the 8 reasons that didn't make it:

Top 11 Reasons to Teach a Friend to Windsurf
1. So you’ll have someone to ride with. Duh!
2. It could be the only time you see what your 3.5 looks like when rigged.
3. You can foist your used gear off on your friend… and buy new for yourself!
4. You’ll double your t.o.w. by getting out on beginner-friendly days.
5. By removing the stigma of selfish escapism from your hobby you may be granted more “hall passes” from your spouse / boss.
8. When word gets out about what a great instructor you are, you can moonlight to earn extra cash or to meet members of the preferred sex.
9. It’s a good excuse to get the Kona longboard, SUP, or tandem board you’ve been eyeing.
11. If you don’t, our sport is doomed, DOOMED!

The next appearance of my head in a bubble is for the mid-sized freeride board test, for which I was one of a number of testers. It gives a little info about me, like that I'm an "intermediate" sailor (heck, I've only been doing it 20 years) and I weigh 160 lbs. It correctly lists my four favorite test boards, except for one typo. For the record, the Quatro Freeride 110 was NOT one of my favorites in the test, even though some other people loved it.

I wrote my subjective opinions of the boards in a previous draft of this blog post, but it has come to my attention that doing so may not be kosher with the mag. I'll see what the editor says about it before deciding whether or not to repost it here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dolphin Intelligence

My graduate advisor recently reflected upon a once-in-a-lifetime dolphin encounter in a blog post titled "The Search for Intelligent Life". Way deep.


Check it out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dock Rock; Dry Tortugas Research Cruise

Twenty four hours after returning to dry land I still feel "dock rock"; phantom waves imprinted in my brain after a week living and working aboard the RV Bellows (below).


The Bellows is a 65' research vessel operated by a consortium of State Universities in Florida. Last week I had the good fortune to join 9 scientific colleagues and 3 crew for a 6-day expedition in the "Dry Tortugas" area, about 70 miles West of Key West. The Dry Tortugas are a group of small islands, reefs, and seagrass beds, the centerpiece of which is Garden Key, site of remarkable, civil-war era Fort Jefferson.


The huge, brick structure standing out in the middle of nowhere is one of the weirdest things I have ever seen in my life. A ferry ticket for a tourist trip to the Fort is $180 for the day, so we felt lucky to have two full days moored near the Fort for free. We could go ashore there or explore the nearby islands from a small dingy.

Below, Dr. Cliff Ross, a cell biology professor at the University of North Florida, returns to the Bellows with his crew of students. Cliff is studying a mysterious slime-mold called Labyrinthula, which afflicts seagrasses. Like E. coli in the human body, Labyrinthula is always present in seagrasses, but only certain strains, under certain conditions, cause sickness and death for the host. Cliff is trying to tell the strains apart and to figure out what environmental factors might cause them to become virulent.

Back to the Fort, it was truly amazing, and suprisingly well-preserved for something so old.

The courtyard in the center of the Fort.

The ammunition storehouse, protected by a six-brick-thick ceiling.

Looking through the arches along one of the walls.

The moat around the fort has a lot of seagrass growing in it. The fish visible in this picture are snapper.

Me on top of the wall of the Fort, with its lighthouse and moat visible in the background. The black thing on the other side of the moat is a recent, Cuban refugee raft. I don't know if they made it ashore or were picked up by law enforcement before setting foot and gaining amnesty.

There was definitely a law-enforcement presence in the Tortugas, as evidenced by this NOAA boat arresting some fishermen for dumping fish guts inside the "RNA" (Research Natural Area).

Most of the Dry Tortugas are protected from commercial and recreational fishing, so there are some very large, old fish in the area.

This modest-sized tarpon was hanging around the docks at Key West. We saw bigger ones snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas, though, along with giant barracuda, snook, and nurse sharks.

The most spectacular fish we encountered were Goliath Grouper, formerly known as Jewfish. A group of four 200+ lb monsters hung out beneath the Bellows when we were anchored near Fort Jefferson. I took this video of one from the surface, but you can't really tell how big it is. When my friend Dan gets his underwater pictures back I'll try to post some of those. I got right up close to some of the bigguns, so if the pics turn out they should be sweet.

Adjacent to Fort Jefferson is an island set-aside as a bird rookery. It was constantly swarming with Sooty Terns and Brown Noddys.

The bird poop fertilzed the adjacent waters, causing blooms of the chemical-rich cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) "Lyngbya". Most of the other researchers on the boat were studying the toxic algae to look for compounds with potentially beneficial pharmeceutical effects, so they were overjoyed to collect mounds of the stinking muck. They weren't so happy sorting through it all back on the boat, though.

The Lyngbya stench almost ruined our appetite for dinner, but not quite. Mark, the cook, always came up with stuff delicious enough to dispell any trace of seasickness. Photobucket

The quarters on board were kind-of cramped, but the boat was well-maintained, and the cruise overall was much more enjoyable than my only other multi-day cruise experience, several years ago in a nightmarish commercial fishing vessel off of Oregon. This trip the weather was nice and I barely needed any Dramamine. Only two of the scientists puked.

Watching beautiful, picture-perfect sunsets and swimming in warm, crystal clear waters, I could almost forget I was working.



Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jen's Good Video of My Bad Kiteboarding

This was taken Monday.

I wasn't wearing a lifejacket or a helmet because my instructor had kinda dismissed their value when I brought them to the beach. But in consideration of everyone else's concerns, and my own, I wore them when I went out again today. The vest (a Kokatat kayaking pfd) didn't interfere at all, and actually helped a lot when I was doing water-relaunches.

Thanks to watching the video from Monday, today I was able to correct some bad stuff I was doing, like making too-short strokes with the kite and not edging the board properly. With longer strokes, all the way from 12:00 to 3:00 or 9:00 and back, I was able to get going faster, then keep going better. I still crashed my kite a few times, and had to walk back upwind once at the beginning, but then after that I was able to stay upwind and ride pretty well on both tacks. I felt proud when the sun was setting and I returned to the same spot on the beach I had launched from with a relatively dry kite. Stoke!

The wind was only around 11 or 12 knots, so I was happy with how well the kite gear performed. I think it will nicely fill the 10-15 knot range that I've mentally set aside for it. The riding sensation is really different than windsurfing. It's like being towed by a power in the sky, versus having the power integral to your craft. For just going back and forth like I was doing today, I wouldn't say it's any more fun than windsurfing. I would have had just as much fun on big freeride or formula windsurfing gear, but it would have been harder to carry to the beach, launch through the shorebreak, and de-rig in the mosquito-infested parking lot at sunset.

Anyway, my opinion of kiteboarding so far is that it's a lot scarier to learn than windsurfing, but also a lot easier and quicker to learn. Light-wind kiting is more fun than non-planing windsurfing, similarly fun to early-planing windsurfing, and not as much fun as high-wind wave or bump-and-jump windsurfing. I'm glad I have multiple options available to me now, at least.

I'll be taking a break from both sports for a while, focusing on exciting field work on a research vessel in the Florida Keys. Early next week I'll blog about how that went. It could either be marine biology bliss, or a miserable sea-sickness fest.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kiteboarding, too

I've hemmed and hawed a lot about the pros and cons of kiteboarding versus windsurfing, all while windsurfing exclusively. My main reasons for not trying kiting when I lived in Virgina were fickle winds, awkward launch sites, and the unavailability of local, affordable-to-a-grad-student lessons. However, when I arrived in Florida I found wide-open beaches, light, steady sea-breezes, and lots of friendly kite instructors. So my best excuses no longer applied. I faced the inevitability of learning to kite.

I didn't face it fast, though. The joy of developing my wave-windsurfing skills and assembling a wave-oriented quiver of gear kept my wallet light and my kite-curiosity at bay. Plus, most days that the kites were out I was stylishly-powered on 6.6 or smaller sails, with little room for envy.

Here, Jon Plaster is stylishly-powered on my 6.6.

The 10-14 knot seabreeze days definitely nagged me, though. I could get out on my Kona longboard and maybe catch a few waves if there were any, or plane a bit if I rigged a huge sail. But it's hard to be satisfied with that when you see kiters zipping and jumping all around you on tiny boards.

So I bought some kite stuff: a 12.0 meter-squared Cabrina Crossbow kite (2006), and a 161 cm litewave twin-tip board (old). I then proceeded to NOT use it, because my friggin' car broke and I couldn't afford lessons. Also, the late winter / early spring here in Florida was fantastic for wind, so my mind was always on high-wind windsurfing. I did get a 4 msq trainer kite during that, though, and flew it quite a bit.

Finally, Thursday, I bit the bullet and went for a kite lesson at Fort Pierce State Park. My teacher was Ray LeRoy (, 772-801-4315). He and his pretty girlfriend Irma are both certified instructors who live in town. The wind was light then so I just practiced kite-skills on land, and did some downwind body-drags in the water. I sustained my first kiteboarding injury, too; a busted toenail where I accidentally kicked my kite-pump when blowing up the bladders. Today there was more wind (10-15 knots) for my second lesson, so I was able to body-drag upwind and then get on the board.

The board-riding was challenging. Things happen fast and it's easy to lose track of where the kite is in the sky, which can lead to getting spectacularly yanked across the water and/or dousing your kite in the surf. I got bounced around more than I stayed upright, and I was nowhere close to staying upwind. At least I avoided major disaster by remembering Ray's #1 rule: "Fly the kite"; i.e. get and maintain control of the kite before you worry about anything else, like where the board is, or how much saltwater is blasting up your sinuses. Ray said it was refreshing to teach someone who picked it up so fast, so that was cool. I guess windsurfing skills do transfer over somewhat, and flying a trainer kite helps.

My plan now is to practice kiting when it's under 15 knots and from an ideal direction, and the waves are small. I'll windsurf the rest of the time. Everyone says that windsurfers who learn kiting always end up dumping windsurfing in a year or so, but I really don't want to be one of those guys. Windsurfing has it's own style and it's own niche, and I want to keep improving and staying in with the windsurfing scene.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Late Night Surprise: Cereus peruvianus

When I moved into my apartment there was an old, potted cactus in the bushes out front. I moved it onto the porch for better display and then basically forgot about it for 6 months.


Until last week when I was returning from a late night event and found it sporting several, spectacular, white blooms.


I like the contrast between how ugly and rugged the cactus is and how soft and beautiful the flowers are. It's neat to think that the genes to create those beautiful, fragrant flowers are usually locked up dormant in the dull green body of the plant.


I wonder what kind of cactus it is and what pollinates it in the wild. I.e. why it would have such big, sweet-smelling blooms that only open up in the middle of the night? Moths? Bats? Mice? Does anyone know? **UPDATE: A helpful commenter answered the question, identifying the species as Cereus peruvianus.**