Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Smorgasboard: Formula, Wavesailing, SUP

This Thanksgiving holiday has been awesome. It started last weekend with Rhonda's sister Andrea and brother-in-law Jon coming down from New England for early Thanksgiving-like festivities. We made pecan pie and watched the Patriots kick butt in overtime. Jon learned to windsurf with a 4.5 on the WindSUP 11'8".

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We also divided forces one day so the New Englanders could do craft-fair type shopping and I could test a new formula windsurf fin. The fin is a 72-2 cm F4 "xs" (extra soft). Compared to my older, cut-down Curtis fin the F4 has a more curved outline, which hides the fact that it's actually more upright (less rake angle) than the older fin. It's also more flexible, which is supposed to help generate the "foiling" effect that gets the board planing and helps it go faster with less of the hull touching the water. My maiden voyage with the fin was with an 11.0 sail in offshore winds around 5-15 knots. I definitely felt like the fin improved my planing threshold and my ability to coast through lulls. Upwind angle also seemed better.

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A nice treat at the end of the session was Dr. Alex from Naples showing up with his 9.0 and 90 cm wide FreeFormula board. I was about to quit but instead went back out and filmed some with my helmet camera. It's really nice to have someone else to windsurf with when you're used to windsurfing alone.

Formula with Alex 11-24-13 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Rhonda's family had to leave and I had to go back to work on Monday and Tuesday. But the two-day workweek was a cinch, and I was back on vacation just in time for the FIRST BIG WEST WIND OF FALL on Wednesday. While the rest of the country was freezing cold, we had sunshine, 75 degrees, lots of wind, and respectable waves up to about person-size. I was able to use my 83 liter waveboard for the first time since last spring. I rigged a 5.5 sail with minimal downhaul to give me some extra power for getting through the whitewater, lulls, and longshore current on the inside. The board/sail combo worked really nice and I caught lots of waves to practice my turns on. The song in the video is "Lola Montez" by Volbeat.

Evo sesh 11-27-13 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

My folks arrived in town on Wednesday evening and we had a joyous reunion with Thai/Sushi dinner. Some cold air blew in overnight and it was in the low 40s this morning. BRRR! That's frigid when you're used to overnight lows around 70. We watched that giant balloon parade thing on TV in the morning, then did bbq and coleslaw for Thanksgiving lunch. By then the sun was warm enough that my thoughts turned to the surf conditions. The forecast said 2-4' waves with side-offshore wind, so I convinced the family that a long beach walk would be nice while I SUP'ed. I used the Angulo Surfa 10'4" and had a blast. The wave conditions were comparable to a good day back in Nahant, Massachusetts. Actually, they might have been even better because the waves were "peakier," meaning they peeled in a somewhat predictable manner as they broke, so you could get a long ride staying on the shoulder of the wave.

My dad took some pictures and video. Of course he missed my greatest moments of glory, which were later in the session, but from what I saw I realized two things: 1) That I'm still a kook at SUP waveriding, and 2) that I'm starting to get a "not in my twenties anymore" midsection. I think I need to work more on my fore-aft weight distribution; I'm sinking the tail too much. I also need to work on my wave knowledge; sometimes I go left when I should have gone right, etc. One thing that was cool, though, was a close encounter with dolphins.

Dolphin SUP from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Strong Offshore Winds make Weak Waves Fun

Windsurfing yesterday gave me flashbacks to my former life in Nahant, Massachusetts. The weather was a bit chilly (I had to wear a shorty wetsuit for the first time this year), there was sand-blowing wind (side-offshore gusting 15-25+ knots), and I was able to plane on a shortboard to get frontside rides on knee-high swells.

Five Five 11-13-13 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Small waves are a lot more fun when you can come at them already-planing and at a frontside angle. The waves don't have to be big enough to carry you along; they just have to be big enough to reflect your energy when bank a turn against them.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Estuary Horror Story Comic by Justin Jimenez

I teach a class at FGCU called "Marine Systems." It's a basic oceanography course targeted at non-science majors who need to take some kind of science to meet the requirements for graduation. We get a lot of young and sometimes "less-motivated" students, so I have to try real hard to get them jazzed up about the curriculum. I'm not always successful, but one thing that worked well the other day was to have them write or a draw a horror story taking place in an estuary. I had just lectured about all the dangers of estuaries- sticky mud, razor sharp oysters, deadly predators, germs and parasites, etc. -and it seems that the students took the lesson to heart.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Wind and Small Waves with WindSUP 11'8" and Cross 106

It's official. The (relatively) windy season has started in Southwest Florida. Yesterday I left my formula board in the van and took out my "planing conditions wave gear", which is a 6.8 m^2 Aerotech sail paired with an 11'8" Exocet WindSUP (longboard waveboard) or a 106 liter Exocet Cross (freeride-wave shortboard).

Ironically, I'd just been reading the fall issue of the UK windsurfing magazine "Boards," which had 178 pages about wavesailing that barely mentioned sails larger than 6 m^2 or boards larger than 100 liters. When you live on a windswept rock in the North Atlantic you must get a skewed perspective about what light wind gear is. I'd need 20 knots of wind just to use the biggest sail (5.3 m^2) and board (81 liters) that they recommend in their "dream quiver" for a 65-80 kg rider. I'd only be able to wavesail a handful of times per year in Florida if I didn't have MUCH bigger stuff than 5.3 / 81 l.

One thing I did like about the Boards magazine issue was a term they used for wavesailing in less than perfect conditions; "chop bothering." Most of the wavesailing I do here in SW Florida is really just chop bothering, on disorganized lumpy wind-driven waves. However, there was a 20 minute period yesterday where a cold front passed and the wind switched from onshore to sideshore. For a little while I was able to ride small residual swells both frontside and backside with the 11'8" WindSUP at Wiggins Pass. It was the high point of the session- even better than when I switched to my 106 liter shortboard later on.

Heavy metal music in the video is by the band Sepultura.

Fall 2013 "Shortboard Season" Opener 11-2-13 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

It's windy again today, but the angle is a bit offshore so I may not be able to use the shortboard. Waves are supposed to be a puny 1.5 feet high, but my special sandbar spot at Wiggins Pass will probably sculpt them into rideable thigh-high waves. :)

UPDATE: Sunday had offshore wind and small but rideable waves, as predicted, and I filmed another session. I think it's the first I've had much success with the WindSUP in side-off conditions. The song in this video is by The Velvet Underground. RIP Lou Reed.

Offshore Windsup 11-3-13 from James Douglass on Vimeo.