Friday, June 12, 2009

Wind Withdrawal; Dealing

Since I started windsurfing regularly in fall 2002, in Virginia, I've been seriously hooked. The first couple years in VA I took the winters off; no sessions between Thanksgiving and April Fool's day. As the addiction deepened, though, I started using more neoprene and doing it 12 months a year. I dealt with Virginia's lighter summer winds by using big sails, formula boards, and longboards, by taking trips to the Outer Banks, and by doing lessons and local races with the William and Mary and regional windsurfing clubs.

Here in East Central Florida, it's different. Ironically, while the weather is warm year round, Florida's "off season" for windsurfing is MORE pronounced than it is up north. From mid May until the end of summer there are no frontal systems of any significance, and no thermal winds besides a piddling, 5-10 mph seabreeze. Check the next week's iwindsurf forecast for my home spot... The horror, the HORROR!


In these winds, planing is not possible on typical windsurfing gear, which requires ~15 mph, and is rare even with formula gear, which requires ~10. My new kiteboard gear needs ~12, but with fickle wind changes, the constant threat of thunderstorms (think Benjamin Franklin), and no experienced kiters at the beach to help launch and land when the wind is that light, kiting really isn't a workable summer option. The majority vote in my "when will I get to use my Evo 83 waveboard" poll was "not until an August / September tropical storm system". I'm afraid that's about right, and it may be similarly long before I can do any kind of shortboard windsurfing or kiting. Sigh.

So, what am I going to do about it, besides whine and blog? Here's what I'm thinking:

1. Work. I'm busy with seagrass research in the Banana River Lagoon, and trying to publish various chapters of my grad school dissertation in science journals. I hate to admit it, but the lack of wind is helping.

2. Scuba dive. No wind means no waves, which means good visibility near shore in the Treasure Coast region. Last Sunday I dived off Pepper Park on North Hutchinson Island, and Tuesday I dived off Kimberly Bergalis Park on South Hutchinson. It was neat to see firsthand the submerged reef that waves break on in rougher weather. It's a mix of limestone ledges (fossil coral; the exposed foundation of Florida) and big boulders of living "worm reef". It rises from a sandy bottom about 13 feet deep to within 7 feet of the surface. Last time out we saw a big nurse shark, and a mix of tropical and warm-temperate fish species. Plus some whopper spiny lobster that might be fun to catch when the season opens.

3. Teach. Maybe if I can get some of my friends and colleagues comfortable windsurfing in this summer's 5-10 mph I'll have some partners in crime for fall's 10-20 mph. I also made a long paddle for SUP and I'm sharing that around, too.

4. Leave. When my seagrass experiment is done I'm going to take a trip to Washington State to visit my folks and windsurf the GORGE. That will be 8/18 - 8/27 if you're going to be there then and want to windsurf with a world-famous blogger. :P


Andy said...

I vote for light wind freestyle, and skate sailing, both of which are possible in 5 mph winds. Did you sell that skate deck you had?

James Douglass said...


I sold the turfdog since I didn't like the falling and hurting myself aspect, the no-good-places-to-ride-it aspect, or the sweaty dusty aspect.

Light wind freestyle doesn't really seem like it would be my cup of tea either, but I guess it's a possibility. I'd like to do one of those ABK camps sometime and figure out some moves to practice.

Oh, btw, I planed yesterday evening for the first time in two weeks. 8.7, Bic Techno. The wind on the ocean was dead all day, but in the late afternoon it got up to around 13 knots on the lagoon. Must be some weird thermal effect. Good medicine. :)

Andy said...

You know, I actually enjoy the sweaty dusty aspect of skating. It reminds me of my life before living at the ocean. I can't guarantee that you won't hurt yourself, but if you keep it slow (light winds, small sail, confined area) you'll most likely be fine.

Definitely, get on the ABK camp!! You will not regret it, even if it only blows 2 mph all weekend, you'll still learn a ton of stuff!!

Glad you got out on the big gear... That's more than me lately :( I've been getting scammed by evening thunderstorms right at closing time :( It's especially harsh when it has been windy all day long...