Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Inlet to Inlet Race Report

**Note: Since I originally posted this, Ron has put a great summary of the race up on his website, including official results, stories, and a photo album- http://www.i-to-i.org/**

Woo hoo! I finished Ron Kern's annual "Inlet to Inlet" windsurfing race in Fort Lauderdale.

Ron explains the race to some of the windsurfing and kiteboarding competitors.

This is my GPS track. It was a 24.5 mile round trip. The second picture is a close-up of the southern part of the course. 

The wind was 15-20 knots side-onshore from the East-Northeast, which made for rough water and intimidating shorebreak. (See what happened when a catamaran tried to launch.) Fortunately, all the windsurfers who showed up made it out successfully.


I rode my Starboard Formula 135 with a 58 cm fin, and I played it safe with the sail choice, rigging a "small" 8.0 sail- an Aerotech Freespeed. The previous day I had tried my 9.5 Ezzy Cheetah in similar conditions at the race site and found it doable, but more tiring. Since my goal was to finish the race without crashing or running out of stamina, 8.0 was the right choice. The only thing awkward about it was that my boom was too long, leaving some bare line between the clew grommet and the clew. Oh, well.

My setup-

Compared to 2008 I improved one notch in the standings, getting 3rd place. My 1:35 time was a lot better than my previous 2:43, thanks to a favorable wind direction requiring just one tack, and thanks to riding a Formula board instead of the Kona ONE. (There were four Kona ONE competitors in the race this year, and I think they all finished. Their course was a little shorter than ours. The Port Everglades Buoy was the downwind mark for everyone, but the Kona boards had an upwind mark a few miles closer than the Hillsborough Inlet Buoy.)

Though I was satisfied with my own time, I was way behind Ron Kern and kite racer Zack, who finished in 1:10 and 1:13, respectively. Ron was on his 9.5 Neil Pryde sail and Mike's Lab formula board with a 64 cm Ifju fin. Zack was riding a custom 70 cm wide tri-fin directional kite-race board with 42 cm side fins and 38 cm back fin. Initially I thought Zack had won the race, because he was leading on the way to the Port Everglades Buoy. But Zack said Ron passed him on the upwind leg and was untouchable after that. Both the leaders were real gentlemen who were good sports about the competition.

My video for the event didn't turn out as great as I was hoping because the !@#$ camera fogged up. If you want to see the schools of soaring flying fishes, the deep blue water, and the giant sea turtles that I saw out there you'll just have to do the race yourself next year.

Inlet to Inlet Windsurf Race, 2012 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

After the race, Ron and Sue Kern hosted a nice "debriefing"  at their beautiful house. There were tons of prizes and beverages donated by the race sponsors:

Adventure Sports / Neil Pryde / JP

Liquid Surf and Sail

Sandy Point Progressive Sports / Aerotech / Exocet


I left with a purple ladies waist harness for Rhonda, plus a downhaul tool, uphaul, and rashguard for myself. Thanks! :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hobie Cat Crash

I'm working on a doozy of a blog post describing my adventures at the Inlet to Inlet windsurfing race in Fort Lauderdale today. In the meantime, check out this video of a catamaran mishap that I filmed at the race site:

Hobie Cat Crash in Surf in Fort Lauderdale from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I Ought to Know Better Than to Do this Race Again

The wisdom of "quit while you're ahead" is apparently lost on me, because I've signed up to do Ron Kern's "Inlet to Inlet" windsurfing Death Race in Fort Lauderdale tomorrow. I'm "ahead" only because when I did the race in 2008 I actually finished the whole 23+ mile course from Port Everglades Inlet to Hillsboro Inlet and back. About 20 people entered the race that year, but several were destroyed by the shorebreak before reached the starting line, and most succumbed to cramps and fatigue while zig-zagging upwind through big ocean swells and chop for hours. I was the fourth and last finisher on my Kona Longboard with a 7.8 sail- far behind the top three hotshots on their formula boards and >9 msq sails.

This is a picture of race organizer Ron Kern's GPS track from 2006. This year the wind is supposed to be about 15 knots from the East-Northeast. The amount of East in the wind could have a strong effect on how many tacks it takes to get to the upwind mark. If it's more East we might be able to make the mark in one tack, but if we're on the same tack for 11.5 miles straight our legs are going to die, so I almost hope the wind is more North. 

This year, since I have an old formula board and a 9.5 msq sail, I think I'm going to try that. If it's real windy I might use an 8.0 msq sail instead. I'm going to put my GPS and cell phone in waterproof bags in a "Camelback" pack with freshwater and some candy bars and stuff. If I have to drop out of the race I'll limp to the nearest shore and call for rescue.

Wish me luck.

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's the Little Things: Tuning New Boards

"Tuning;" making small adjustments in the settings and setup of one's equipment, is an aspect of windsurfing that is both frustrating and compelling.

The right tuning can take you to a higher plane of ecstasy; a feeling of effortless oneness with the ocean elements. Equally, the wrong tuning can make you feel like you're trying to carry five bags of groceries while balancing on a log floating through river rapids.

I'll admit to experiencing a bit of the latter feeling when riding the Exocet WindSUP 11'8" in waves for the first couple times. Though I'd found the board to be very comfortable and well balanced for flatwater sailing, my first forays into the small, steep, closely-spaced, uneven waves of the Gulf of Mexico were somewhat disappointing. The only tuning I did for the first round was to replace the 44 cm upright stock fin with a 25 cm swept weed-wave fin. Clearly that wasn't enough tuning, or wasn't the right tuning. Part of the problem was me. My instincts for catching a wave with a longboard were developed with the Angulo Surfa 10'4" SUP in the ideal conditions of Nahant- weight forward to catch a wave, weight in the middle to ride a wave, weight back only fleetingly during a steep drop or sharp turn. With the WindSUP, weight forward didn't help- it just made me pearl the nose. And on a wave I couldn't get the thing to turn. Where I had the most success was on a fairly windy day, where I could get the board planing on the wave well before the wave was about to break, and then I could turn the board with an overdone caricature of the moves I would use to turn a shortboard windsurf in the waves. I was starting to think the board either wasn't all it was cracked up to be for waveriding, or was just too dang big for me to manage.

I told Exocet guru John Ingebritsen (see him in a rad youtube video here) about the trouble I was having, and he told me these three tuning tips for the WindSUP 11'8"-

1. Go small with the fin, but not too small because you need some fin length to get planing. A traditionally-rockered SUP like the Angulo Surfa sort of melts into the wave and turns with the whole body of the board, using the fins only for traction. In contrast, the WindSUP uses the wave to accelerate to planing or partially-planing mode, and then turns more from the tail like a shortboard windsurf. Lift from the fin is more critical for this type of waveriding.

32 cm MUFin
NoSpin MUFin

2. Move the mast track all the way back and keep your weight back to "unstick" the nose.
3. Put the footstraps in the inboard positions and make them as loose as possible.

Track back, straps inboard
WindSUP Tuning

The other day I implemented those suggestions and they made a huge difference, both for wave-riding and for pleasant easy-planing in the stronger winds outside the break. For the mast track position, I put it as far back as the two-bolt baseplate would allow. For the fin I chose a 32 cm Maui Ultra Fins "No Spin." Ingebritsen says that's good and that it's actually on the smaller side of the fins he usually uses in the waves- he'll often wavesail with a 38 cm freeride fin. With the centered footstraps and the 32 cm fin, the WindSUP was very non-technical to get planing, and I think it would be the perfect setup for someone trying to learn footstraps and planing for the first time. Very gentle feel with lots of room for error.

The other recent bit of tuning I did was with the Starboard Formula 135. I traded the 65 cm Curtis fin that was sold with it for a 58 cm Finworks fin that is more naturally suited to the board's 85 cm width. It felt great on my first time out with it in good winds around 15 knots, but in slightly less wind the second time out it felt a bit "sticky," i.e. it was bogging down in the chop a bit and sometimes sending water splashing in my face. Today I moved the mast base back as far as it would go on that. It was only a change of two inches or so, but it made a big difference as far as making the board feel more free, fast, and efficient. With perfect formula conditions of about 13 knots of sideshore wind, I rode it way upwind and way downwind, really jamming and enjoying the Florida sunshine.

Life is good when you're in tune. 
Wiggins Sunset

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Formula Board Test Run Video

Last week I got a new, used, "formula" windsurfing board- a Starboard Formula 135, model year 2001. I had been in the market for an early planing shortboard to match my new 9.5 sail, and this one was a steal at Ace Performer.

Ironically, this new toy is the oldest of the four formula boards I've owned during my windsurfing career, due to multiple cycles of quitting and restarting formula windsurfing. It's also the smallest, at just 85 cm wide and 135 liters volume. It probably wouldn't be competitive on the racecourse with a modern, 100 cm wide formula board, but I'm not competitive on the racecourse, anyway, and 85 cm is enough width to get quite good early planing. The dimensions and volume of the F135 actually match closely with modern light-wind slalom boards, which max at 85 cm wide and are similarly thin in cross section. So I've been thinking of the board as a poor man's light-wind slalom board.

The standard fin length for a 100 cm wide formula board is 70 cm, but that would be overkill for an 85 cm wide board. The F135 was originally marketed with a 58 cm fin, but the secondhand board I got came with a 65 cm fin, which I worried would be too long. I tried it for the first time (well, the first time in decent wind) on Sunday. The 65 cm fin wasn't unmanageable, but I think the board will be faster with a 58. I'm trading the 65 for another windsurfer's 58, which I think will be perfect. Anyway, here's a video of my test session at Wiggins Pass in Naples, FL. The sail is my 9.5 Ezzy Cheetah. The wind is side-offshore around 9-13 knots. The songs are by Tomas Walker and by the Ramones.

11-18-12 F135 Test Run from James Douglass on Vimeo.

One thing I notice looking at the video is how much the bottom of the sail flexes, twists and flaps. I think part of that is the product of it being a camless sail with durable rod battens instead of stiff tube battens. Another part may be the way I'm using a pulley hook through the clew grommet for my adjustable outhaul. I've ordered another kind of pulley system that's integrated with the grommet, and I think that may help stabilize the back end of the sail. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Windsurfing Breaks 50knts, Breaks Back into Olympics

This was a darn good week for windsurfing! Anders Bringdal and Antoine Albeau both broke the previous world record for average windsurfing speed over a 500 meter course. They did it in a special channel carved into a tidal flat at a notoriously windy spot called Luderitz, on the desert seashore of Namibia, Africa. They only broke the record by about 1.6 knots, but in doing so they passed the seemingly impenetrable 50 knots barrier for speed.This puts windsurfers a little closer to the absolute record of 55 knots, set by American Kiteboarder Rob Douglas at the same spot two years ago. (Douglas broke a bunch of bones setting that record.) Most sailing theory and physics people predict that kites will retain their lead in the ongoing quest for speed, but you never know.

Zara Davis broke the women's windsurfing speed record, as well.

Also, the International Sailing Federation reversed its earlier decision to replace windsurfing with kiteboarding at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. I'm glad windsurfing is back in, but I'm sad that kiteboarding is out. Kiteboarding promised to be the first Olympic class to compete under a "production" rule, which would let competitors choose from a variety of off-the-shelf equipment, rather than under the restrictive "one-design" rule that binds windsurfers to using the same board and sail regardless of the conditions.

There's more on both these windsurfing news stories at DaNews blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

4.7 Sail Lives Hard, Dies

The cold season has begun in Southwest Florida. That means the weather is like summer in Washington State, but with warmer water- pretty much perfect. The cold season here is also the windy season, so the sweltering heat, single-digit offshore winds and fickle seabreezes have given way to cycles of frontal passage associated with a nice variety of windsurfing conditions. In an earlier post I described an amazing two-in-a-row of high-wind 4.7 meter squared sail / 83 liter board sessions at Wiggins Pass. The streak continued last Wednesday when I arrived at Wiggins expecting to rig a 5.5 or a 6.8 but ended up doing 4.7 AGAIN, though this time on my mid-sized 106 liter board.

I felt nicely dialed-in on the sail. So nicely, actually, that I started to get that nagging feeling of, "Hmm, I ought to get up the nerve to try a forward loop or something." Fortunately, I suppressed that feeling and instead just focused on trying to ride the lumpy onshore-wind waves with some style. It went well until the wind fizzled at the end of the session and I went down in the impact zone. I got rolled by a wave that didn't seem like it had much power, but somehow it busted one of the main monofilm panels on the sail. (See the end of the video.)

Wiggins Side-Onshore Wavesailing from James Douglass on Vimeo.

I ended up replacing the 4.7 North Instinct with an older 4.5 Ezzy Wave SE from AcePerformer. It's not a perfect match, but the price was right, and the grid construction on the Ezzy should hopefully survive a few more awkward washings. Rhonda tried it on the WindSUP yesterday at Sanibel Causeway and made it look good. I'm proud of how she's been sailing lately- first dealing with very gusty offshore wind and flat water at Bonita Beach, then dealing with choppy onshore conditions at Sanibel. Plus, the other day at Wiggins she was using the Angulo SUP as a giant boogie board, riding waves for the first time in her life. And she can flatwater SUP like nobody's business.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Justice is SERVED! Angulo SUP Recovered

Sweetwater Paddlesports in Bonita Springs is the SUP shop closest to my house. After my board was stolen earlier this week I asked them to be on the lookout in case the thief tried to pawn it off on them. They were very helpful, and in fact reported that a suspicious young guy had come into the shop after the theft, asking strange questions about the resale value of a paddleboard, and asking what was the "round thingy" on the deck. We figured he was referring to the windsurfing mast-base attachment still on my board.

So it didn't completely surprise me when Sweetwater called me again this afternoon, announcing that they had just seen the perp carrying my board towards the beach along the sidewalk across from their shop. Both they and I called the Bonita Springs Sheriffs, who zipped out to the scene and caught him red handed. The Sheriffs interviewed me on the phone to verify that they had the right board, then I drove out there to pick it up. The bad guy was still being interrogated at the scene when I arrived. Apparently he confessed, and now he's going to jail.


It was strange being right there 10 feet from the thief, although we didn't make eye contact or talk to each other or anything. In a weird way I felt sorry for him, just because he was so pathetic in that moment. I would have been more purely angry if he had been trying to sell the board, or vandalize it, but since he was on the way to try to paddle it I had just the tiniest bit of sympathy for him. I've had a wonderful life with lots of cool toys and ocean adventures. He probably has not. Maybe one day after he's paid his dues he'll make it straight and get to ride a SUP that he has actually acquired legitimately. Or maybe not. Whatever...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Angulo Paddleboard Stolen - Waaaaaah!

Dang! Some worthless creep sneaked into my driveway in Bonita Springs last night, cut the roof rack straps on my van, and stole the expensive Angulo Surfa 10'4" paddleboard that Josh Angulo and I had painstaking upgraded with a removable center fin for flat water windsurfing.

Have you seen this board? Call the Bonita Springs Sheriff's office 239-477-1840. On the underside is has a "Thruster" triple fin setup, and it also has an extra finbox installed in the middle of the board. The bottom says, "Jesus Loves You" so whoever stole it is going to hell unless they return it to my front yard and repent.

They left the WindSUP 11'8" still sitting on top of the rack (maybe they couldn't lift it) but I can't use that until I get some new tie-down straps. I'm also going to get some of those "Docks Locks" to secure it on the roof rack.

Best Gulf Coast Windsurfing So Far

Wow, I am riding high on stoke after two weekend days of epic 4.7 sail + 83 liter board wavesailing at Wiggins Pass in Naples, Florida. The strong, side-onshore, NW winds were related to the "pinch" of Hurricane Sandy's low pressure and the high pressure cold front over the mainland US.

Saturday I was overpowered with the 4.7- really should have been on a 4.2 or smaller. A German tourist was blasting around on an old 3.5! Tweaking the downhaul, outhaul, and harness lines on the 4.7 helped keep it controllable, and there was enough current pushing me downwind that I didn't have much of a problem getting stuck upwind, as sometimes happens when overpowered.

Sunday the 4.7 was juuuust right and I felt a lot more dialed into the onshore wave conditions. Wiggins has a long area of breaking waves with a smooth transition from smaller ones on the inside to bigger ones on the outside. In contrast with Nahant Massachusetts the waves are a bit more "lumpy," so it's easier to weave around the bumps on the way out without having to go right through a pitching face. An extra bonus of Wiggins was that the outgoing tide from the pass would give you a boost back out to sea at the end of your wave-ride. It was super fun doing that perpetual motion circuit again and again. 

The wind are supposed to be more mellow today, but I think the waves will be up for a while, so I'll try to get a session after work. I haven't been able to give the WindSUP 11'8" a fair shake in the waves yet, so this may be the day. (I did give the WindSUP an unfair shake in the waves around sunset on Friday, right as the wind switched from side-onshore 20 mph to mostly-offshore 3 mph. Doh! I was not impressed with the board in those limping-along conditions. Hard to catch a wave unless you were right on the peak, and then it was hard not to pearl the nose. A little more wind and/or a little better angle should help.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Got a new tractor - Wheeeooo doggies!

Actually, it's a new windsurfing sail, but it PULLS like a tractor. It's a 9.5 Ezzy Cheetah (camless freeride sail) and I got it Ace Performer in Fort Myers. Here's what I like about the sail:

1. It's big and powerful.
2. It's light for its size.
3. It's made to rig on a 490 mast, so I didn't have to buy a new mast for it.
4. It's made in 100% grid construction with lots of reinforcements, so it should last a while.
5. It's easy to rig because the luff sleeve is wide and there are no camber inducers.
6. It can be tuned for "grunty" power, pairing well with my Exocet WindSUP 11'8" longboard.
7. It can also be tuned for high wind speed and control.
8. It has a distinctive visual flair.

Friday evening I took it out for a spin at Wiggins Pass. The wind was offshore, blowing about 5 mph at the beach but 15+ mph once you got out a ways. It was a WONDERFUL session. The WindSUP is a smooth and balanced board that handles well for its size, and the Cheetah is a smooth and balanced sail that handles well for ITS size. The two together are a killer combo. Song #1 in the video is "Mariposa" by Al Petteway and Amy White off their album Acoustic Journey. Song #2 in the video is "Shake a Leg"by ACDC off their album Back in Black.

12 Oct 2012 WindSUP 9-5 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The next test for the WindSUP 11'8" is going to be getting it in some waves or swells. Pshhhh. By the curse of West Florida's unexposed-to-waves geography I could be waiting a long time for that.


I'll have to plan a weekend trip back to my Fort Pierce stomping grounds on the proper side of the state.   (Note how the smallest waves in Fort Pierce this week are bigger than the biggest waves in Naples.)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Big Wonderful Things, Little Annoying Things

Big Wonderful Things:

1. Getting my new windsurf board up to planing speed for the first time in the gorgeous light of a Gulf of Mexico sunset.

2. Returning home to have nice dinner and relaxation with my beautiful sweetheart.

Little Annoying Things: 

1. Having the "twist-lock" mechanism on my fiberspar boom slip repeatedly during the windsurfing session, indicating that it's time once again to order replacement cuffs. And indicating that I'll likely miss a weekend of good windsurfing waiting for the cuffs to ship.

2. Getting bitten by ten zillion mosquitos in the parking lot de-rigging after the beautiful sunset.

3. Agonizing over the one Achilles' heel of my new board; the chintzy Allgaier daggerboard gasket, whose loose lips create drag in the water (or at least create drag in my mind) hindering my high performance potential. Putting an Allgaier daggerboard gasket on a high performance windsurf is like putting wooden cart wheels on an Indy 500 car.


I'm thinking I might be able to soup up my ride a little, though, if I put a piece of gorilla tape over the leading edge of the gasket. Hmm...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Got a New Board- Exocet WindSUP 11'8"

Oh. Yeah. Baby.

I just got the new board that I've been lusting after for a year. It's the Exocet WindSUP 11'8", AST construction, purple color, 360 x 79 cm, 220 liters volume, 56 cm Allgaier daggerboard, 44 cm powerbox fin.

Mowing the lawn can wait.

I've got the footstraps in the outboard positions for flatwater blasting. There's also a centered footstrap orientation for wavesailing, but there are rarely any waves around here so I'm tuning for flatwater. Of course, some people say they don't even use the footstraps when they wavesail this board, so maybe when I wavesail it I can just step around the straps.

This underside view shows the "step-tail" design, which combines a flat "swallow tail" planing surface with a longer "pin tail" for smooth gliding and catching waves. The 44 cm powerbox stock fin should be good for early planing with my 8.0 sail, but I'll use a much smaller fin for waveriding and SUP- either my 32 cm MauiUltraFin or my 25 cm WeedWave fin. The Allgaier daggerboard system is apparently the WindSUP's one Achilles heel. It's fine at low speed, but at planing speed the loose lips peel partly open, allowing water to shoot through the center of the board and adding drag that limits your maximum speed.

Hibuscus flower motif with flying fish, fitting for Florida. "Exocet" means flying fish in French, and Exocoetidae is the scientific name for the flying fishes family.


I bought the board at "Ace Performer," a nice local windsurf / sup / kite / kayak shop located near the Sanibel Causeway in Fort Myers. (Warning: The Ace Performer website has an incredibly annoying "magical sparkling" sound effect that repeats. Turn off your sound before you click the link.) Notwithstanding his website sound effect choices, the shop owner, Roy Massey, seems like a very cool guy. I'm looking forward to sailing with him and meeting the rest of the local crew at their regular launch sites on the causeway (for flatwater) and on Captiva Island (for the best waves in SW Florida).

Roy gave me some free rack pads to help advertise the shop.

Naturally, I'm desperate to get the thing in the water. The SW Florida weekend forecast looks typically devoid of planing-strength winds or rideable waves, but I should still be good to go for a paddle in the Imperial River or a non-planing cruise with an 8.0 sail at Wiggins Pass. Naturally I'll post a review once I have some data.

PS- Last week I found out that a tidal creek one block from my house links up with the scenic Imperial River. I can carry my SUP board down there without even having to put it on the car! I figured it out by doing the route in reverse, paddling from the kayak dock at Riverside Park in Olde Bonita Springs. Stoke!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beginner Windsurfing: How to Reorient After Falling

The other day a beginner windsurfer (at the uphauling stage) told me he preferred shallow water because he spent a lot of time standing in the water positioning the sail. There are certainly some good reasons to prefer shallow water, like being able to walk back to the beach if you can't sail back, but I don't think positioning the sail in the water is one of the good reasons. That prompted me to write this instructional blog post. The gist of it is this: Getting off the board to position the sail is an unnecessary waste of time, and there's a way you can avoid ever having to do it. (Or at least until you start learning waterstarting, but that's an advanced skill for another day.) Even in shallow water, it's usually a lot more efficient to get ON the board before worrying about positioning the sail. Here's my pictorial tutorial:









Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wiggins Pass: I'm Spoiled Again

When I lived in Fort Pierce on the East Coast of Florida I was spoiled for wind, waves, and free beach parking. Being next to a jetty-protected inlet on a sparsely populated barrier island I almost always had good, uncrowded ocean sailing options. And if the wind was straight offshore, I could find onshore flatwater conditions in the lagoon West of the island.

Moving to New England I worried that I’d be giving up my paradise. Luckily when I traded away Florida’s warm water I got in return Nahant’s frequent strong winds and incredibly perfect wavebreak. I learned how to stand-up paddleboard and how to wavesail frontside in absolute playground conditions, sliding along smooth wave faces unbroken for hundreds of meters.    

Now back in Florida but on the West Coast, which is the lesser coast for wind and the unequivocally WRONG coast for rideable waves, I’ve been challenged to find my groove again. In Nahant I’d often turn to SUP when the wind was down, but here on the Gulf the waves are more dependent on local winds, so if it’s not windy enough to sail it's probably not wavy enough to SUP. Another thing that makes it tough to SUP the Florida Gulf Coast is how the waves tend to break on a short, steep, sandbar just offshore of the beach. They shape up enough to catch only a moment before crunching into one foot of water, and then they vanish where the water gets deep again inshore of the bar. The sandbar is better than a steep beachbreak, but not by much.


One of the things I’ve heard Floridians talk about is a special circumstance when the winds are light but there’s a long-period swell from a storm in the Gulf. I got to see that when we had a long period swell a few days after Hurricane Isaac. Unforunately, the Bonita Beach break was still bad, with anticlimactic closeouts on the sandbar. I decided I needed to look a little harder for a spot with a shoreline geometry that wouldn’t butcher the waves.

Dog Beach on the south end of Lover’s Key seemed to have some potential, with a flatwater lagoon that opened through a pass into the Gulf.  It worked really well as a beginner windsurfing spot for Rhonda, but it would be awkward to get in and out through the pass on a shortboard, and it’s not a place I’d like to break down.

Today I tried a NEW spot that I think is going to become my standby. It’s Delnor Wiggins State Park, on the north end of Naples. There’s a pass there, too, but you launch right onto the ocean side of the pass as opposed to in a lagoon like at Dog Beach.

When I got to Wiggins the wind was mostly onshore and hovering around the barely-shortboardable range (see iWindsurf data). 


I rigged a 6.8 and put it on my Angulo SUP. That was fun, and a good way to get a feel for where the waves were breaking. The sandbar was definitely more spread out and less steep than at Bonita Beach, making for more rideable waves. There were also some Gorge-effect waves happening where the ocean met the tidal outflow from the mangrove-lined pass. It seemed like there might be enough power to shortboard, at least with the boost from the tidal flow, so I switched from the SUP to an Exocet Cross 106. Turned out to be an awesome session. :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hurricane Isaac Sessions

We were pretty worried about Hurricane Isaac here in Bonita Springs last week. For a while it looked like he would hit us directly as a Category 1 Hurricane. Fortunately, Isaac was slow to strengthen, and passed far enough to the South and West that we didn’t get any damaging winds or surge. We did get some good windsurfing, though.

The Atlantic Coast of Florida got the best of it, as usual, with several days of strong onshore or sideshore Easterlies as the storm approached. The Gulf Coast didn’t feel much of that, since Easterlies have trouble making it all the way across the state, and then they’re gusty and offshore when they get here so it’s hard to find a good place to launch. I tried the offshore winds at Bonita Beach on the Saturday before the storm and had an OK flatwater session with a floaty board and a 6.8 sail.  Sunday I didn’t sail because it was really squally and nasty, and still offshore. Monday was the prime day because Isaac had crossed to the West of Florida, giving the Gulf side good SSW winds and some swell.

I had a tough time choosing what to rig because the wind was up and down with the rain showers. I ended up going with 4.2 and putting it on my 106 liter board. At first I was a little underpowered, wishing I’d gone with 4.7, then I was perfect, then I was a little overpowered, wishing I was on my 83 liter board. All told, I made out pretty well and went home fully stoked.

Here’s a video from the session. I tried a little something different this time. I made two versions of the video; one with natural sound including my awkward exclaimations, and one dubbed over with a song by Queen.  

This is the musical version.
Isaac Aftermath 8-27-12 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

This is the "vocal" version.
Isaac Aftermath 8-27-12 no music from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Florida So Far

Y’all might have noticed that I haven’t produced any fresh blog posts in a few weeks. The reason for that is that I’ve been busy moving to Florida and starting my new job as a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

So far, so good. The move was a logistical challenge, but with careful planning on the part of my fiancĂ© Rhonda and help from our friends and families it went pretty smoothly.  We rented a 22’ Penske truck and towed my minivan behind it, while Rhonda and her mom drove behind in Rhonda’s car. Here’s the caravan crossing the Hudson River in NY.

Penske Move

We made two overnight stops; one at my sister’s house in North Carolina, and another at my cousin’s house in Daytona Beach. It was good getting to see the family.

Four days after we left Boston we arrived at our new home in Bonita Springs. It’s a cute little rental house with a screened-in porch and lanai, and a windsurf storage shed in the backyard. Rhonda’s mom stayed for a few days and was a huge help getting us unpacked and settled in.

Rhonda Beverly Beach

The same day that she went home to New England we gained a new family member- a rescue part-bulldog mutt named Grace.

Grace Car Ride Home

Grace is about 8 years old and has a very sweet and mellow personality. We still miss Buri, but it’s real nice to have a dog around again.

Grace Bed

Grace Bed Mirror 1

Getting started as a professor has been an exciting challenge. This is my new office at FGCU (now much more cluttered.) Check out the nice view from the window!

New FGCU Office

Office View

I feel like the job is a good fit for me. The other professors are helpful and sociable. It’s definitely what you would call a “collegial” work environment.  My first week of teaching went smoothly, although I’m learning as I go since I've never taught before. They gave me a pretty easy courseload to start with. I’m teaching one Marine Ecology class with 32 students, and two sections of a Seagrass Ecology discussion course- one with 2 graduate students and the other with 18 undergrads. The Marine Ecology class takes the most preparation time, because I have to plan about an hour of lecture, plus fill another hour and 15 minutes with other learning activities for the kids because I can’t lecture for more than an hour and they can’t pay attention for more than an hour. In both my classes we’re reading a lot of scientific articles, which is nice in a way because it keeps me up to date on the scientific literature that I should be following for my own research.

So far I haven’t done any new marine biology research in Florida (not counting wading around in some seagrass beds when fishing and paddleboarding), but I’m looking forward to starting seagrass monitoring soon. With that in mind, I’ve been sitting in on a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) class that meets on Thursday nights at FGCU. Seagrass ecologists often use the GIS mapping software to keep track of changes in seagrass coverage, which they can then relate to trends in water quality and stuff like that. I’m hoping to get government funding for my seagrass monitoring, so I want to be as GIS savvy as possible when I make my bid.

The wind and waves scene here on the Gulf Coast of Florida is VERY different than it was in New England. There’s less wind, and there are no real waves to speak of. More often than not, the Gulf of Mexico is flat as a lake. Literally. Riding waves there on a paddleboard is tough, because the only time the waves approach a rideable size is when it’s choppy with an onshore breeze. Rhonda and I HAVE had some fun SUP sessions, but only on flat water, like on the mangrove-lined Imperial River near our house.

Imperial River Boat Launch

Imperial River SUP 1

We knew we were in tropical paradise when we saw red hibiscus blossoms drifting lazily along the smooth surface of the water.

Floating Hibiscus

I picked up a cheap old windsurfing longboard that we re-styled as a flat water SUP so we can both go at once. One of us uses that and the other uses the Angulo Surfa 10’4”. There are tons of SUP shops in the area, like CGT Kayaks and Paddleboards, so I didn’t have any trouble finding a store where I could buy a second paddle.

Beater Board

I think there’s a lot of potential for windsurfing around here, though I’m a long way from getting my launch sites and equipment dialed. The first time I put up a sail here was at Punta Rassa near the Sanibel causeway. I was out SUP-fishing the seagrass flats with some fellow new professors. (One math dude, and another theater dude.) At first we were catching lots of Speckled Seatrout- almost one on every cast. But then the fishing slowed down and some squally wind came up, so I rigged a 6.8 and put it on the old longboard. The thing was a beast, but it actually planed, in a loggish sort of way. I’m saving up now for an Exocet WindSUP, which I think is going to be the perfect board for around here.

Finding the best water access points for different wind directions and different wave / chop conditions has been challenging. Most of the beach parking areas also make you pay by the hour or day, which I find super annoying. So far our best windsurfing beach find has been “Dog Beach” between Bonita Beach and Lover’s Key State Park. There’s a short walk through the mangroves that gets you to a sandbar on the edge of a shallow lagoon. 

Rhonda Dog Beach

It was the perfect spot for Rhonda to have her best windsurfing session ever, with a 4.2 sail on the Angulo SUP with a jury-rigged dagger-fin.

Rhonda Dog beach windsurf 1

It was a nice spot for me, too, since the lagoon opens up through an inlet to the Gulf of Mexico, where an outgoing tide can jack up the onshore-wind waves. I got some fun rides there on the old 80s longboard, though my fin hit a sandbar once or twice, so I’ll have to be careful if I’m ever riding there on a nicer board.

Today we’re starting to feel some breeze from the approach of Hurricane Issac. The wind is NE (side-offshore), so I’ve been scratching my head about where the best ocean-side launch might be. I’m going to give it a try at Wiggins Pass, a relatively short 8.1 mile drive from my house. There’s a point and an inlet at the N end of the park there, which I think will give me a bit better wind exposure and hopefully enable me to get out on my 106 liter shortboard. Tomorrow and Monday might be unsailably windy and rainy, but there’s a medium-sized lake on the N side of the FGCU campus where the kids do swimming, sailing, SUP, and wakeboarding. I think it might be a good, safe spot in an E or NE wind. As long as the alligators don’t get me.

FGCU Lake Launch.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jibefest at Nahant

Woot! We finally had a big wind day in Massachusetts this summer, with 20 knots from the Southwest at Nahant. I got out after work and was joined by Scott from Michigan. I've never met anyone from Michigan who wasn't a delightful and genuine person, and Scott continues that streak. He sailed a 6.5 Sailworks Retro on a 108 liter RRD freeride board, and I sailed a 5.5 Aerotech Charge on a 106 liter Exocet Cross. I used a 22 cm weed-wave fin at first, but when I realized that the waves were mostly too small to ride I switched to a 32 cm MUfin "No Spin" to have better trim for flat water blasting and racing Scott.

I shot some boom-mounted GoPro camera video and edited it up with a Lou Reed song.

Nahant Waveless 7-17-12 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Looking at the video, I notice my regular jibes are pretty good, but my duck jibes need work to be able to exit with speed.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Big Boards That Do it All

Like a lot of windsurfers I was baffled when the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) craze hit. My thinking was, “How is that even fun? It looks so slow and awkward.” Only after I tried it a few times did I start to see the appeal. SUP may not be the fastest way to navigate the water, but it’s pleasurable in its simplicity, and there’s something about standing on the surface that’s more fun than sitting in a kayak or sprawling on a surfboard. So I get it. SUP is legit.

What baffles me now is the unexploited potential in the design and marketing of multiple use windsurfer – SUP boards. Yes, there are SUPs with mast tracks that can be windsurfed, and yes, some windsurfing longboards can be paddled. But with few exceptions, the existing multiple-use boards are strongly biased towards either SUP or windsurfing, with limited capabilities for the other sport. I think that’s a shame, for two reasons:

1. There are a lot of things that a big board can potentially do well. Depending on its design, it can be a stable platform for beginner windsurfers, it can sail efficiently in light winds with the daggerboard down, it can carry a large sail for early planing, it can be paddled as a SUP in flat water or waves, or it can be used as a light-wind windsurfing waveboard. 

2. Big boards cost a lot of money and take up a lot of space. So, it’s hard for most people to own a separate big board for every possible big-board use. Hence, the desirability of multiple-use big boards.

I’m not exactly sure why board manufacturers have been so half-assed about adding multi-usability to their big rides, but I have some theories that I won't get into here. For now, let’s review what types of big boards are out there, and what kind of multi-use potential they each have. As I’m prone to do, I made a chart for that, and I’ll say a little bit more about the categories in the chart:


The columns are grouped by three basic types of big boards.

On the left you’ve got typical big windsurfing boards, which are designed for flatwater sailing. They optimize non-planing glide, early planing ability, or some combination of the two. They are not designed to be paddled or wavesailed, but some work OK as flatwater SUPs. The picture below shows me riding a big beginner windsurfing board in planing conditions. 


In the middle are windsurfable SUP boards. They are windsurfable because they have mast tracks, and occasionally a daggerboard or removable center fin, but they are otherwise shaped for uncompromised SUP performance. If they are intended for wave riding then they have soft rails and lots of rocker at the tail- features that facilitate catching waves with paddle power and longboard-style surfing but “stick” the board to the water and prevent it from reaching planing speed under normal sail power. See the figure below:


Given obscene amounts of sail power a surf-rockered SUP may be coaxed to plane, and in fact there is a video circulating around that shows a 12’6” SUP planing on flat water, but that’s with an expert speedsailor using a 6.6 sail in 30 knots of wind. With that much power even a bathtub would plane.  

SUP boards intended for flatwater cruising are rarely equipped with mast tracks (with some exceptions). That's too bad because a flatwater cruising SUP could really cut through the water fast in light winds. It also seems like it might be easier to design a “planeable” flatwater cruiser SUP than a planeable surfing SUP, because the former could have a flat rocker and hard rails. Still waiting to see someone make that board.

An unusual type of windsurfable SUP board is wide but very compact, often with a “fish” style tail and multiple fins. Some of these boards are able to plane, but awkwardly and with no footstraps. They also don’t paddle in a straight line or catch gentle waves very well, making them most useful for specialist light-wind wavesailors who have sideshore wind and good waves and favor a certain shortboard surfing feel. The most famous example of that type of board is the much-hyped AHD SeaLion.

Image of the AHD SeaLion from Bill's OBX Beach Life.

On the far end of the table are step-tail windsurf / SUP boards, the original and most popular of which is the Kona ONE, which was introduced by Exocet in 2005 then became it’s own brand with an associated one-design racing class. The Kona does a bit of everything, but it’s too heavy and boxy to windsurf great in the waves, and it’s too narrow with too abrupt a step-tail to SUP well in the waves- I’ve tried. 

Exocet later made some other Kona boards (now called the Curve 11’5”, 10’5”, etc.) with less volume and no daggerboards. The Curves have unequaled light-wind wavesailing performance  but are less appropriate as all-around windsurfing boards because they have no daggerboards and their “US Box” fin slots can’t support large fins. Some people SUP them, but they’re too narrow for most and the abrupt step-tail impedes their wave catching ability. Below, Florida's John Ingebritsen shreds a wave on a Curve 11'5". 


The most recent step-tail offering from Exocet is the WindSUP 11’8”, which looks like a Kona ONE with a wider, thinner shape and a more refined step-tail design, as seen in the picture from Chuck's blog.


Supposedly it has improved light wind planing ability and SUP ability compared to the Kona ONE. It’s considerably larger than I would ideally want, but I’m encouraged by the mere fact that it exists, proving that it IS possible to have a fully-planing windsurfing board that SUPs well in waves. I really need to test one for myself, I mean, uh, for my fiancĂ©.


Most SUPs and windsurfs on the market are good for their own sport but have very limited utility for the other sport. Fortunately, recent designs like Exocet’s WindSUP show that it's not impossible to have a board that SUPs well in waves AND planes well as a windsurf. Hopefully continued evolution will refine and diversify those designs, and maybe come up with some as-yet-unseen designs like a flatwater racing SUP that’s also an efficient planing and displacement windsurfer.

PS- Late breaking news- Exocet just introduced a 10’0” WindSUP for 2013! They must have read my mind.