Thursday, April 29, 2010

Advice to Obama, The Discovery Channel, Charlie Crist, et al.

Dear Obama- This is 2010, not 1810. So what the heck are you thinking supporting the IWC's outrageous proposal to LEGALIZE commercial whaling? Whales are still highly endangered, and there's no way to kill one without it suffering for a long time on the end of a harpoon. Even if whaling was sustainable and humane, which it is neither, isn't an intelligent, human-like being worth more alive, gracing the ocean with her ancient majesty, than as a few pennies in greedy pockets and a pile of dead meat in a foreign seafood market? Instead of ending the ban on whaling you should be STRENGTHENING it by cracking down on countries like Norway, Japan, and Iceland that are currently exploiting loopholes to kill thousands of whales. I signed this petition to let you know what I think.


Dear The Discovery Channel- For better or for worse, you are looked to by Americans as a trusted authority on science and nature. So what the heck are you thinking preparing to air a grossly biased, anti-science, anti-environment documentary by Sarah Palin? The lying, misleading, and sleazy politicizing in Sarah Palin's Alaska documentary would fit right in on Fox, but has no place on what's supposed to be a real science channel. I just signed this petition calling on you to refuse to air it!

Dear [Florida Governor] Charlie Crist- You're a self-serving son of a gun, but at least you have paid enough attention to popular opinion about the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to temporarily back away from your plans to drill for oil off the coast of Florida. If that accident had happened nearer to our state we could kiss our nice marine life and tourist-friendly beaches goodbye. You darn well better position yourself firmly in the no-drilling camp and stay there if you want to have a chance in heck of getting votes in the next election. Not that you would be getting my vote, anyway, since Kendrick Meek is a much better candidate who has been against drilling all along.

Dear Obama, again- I'll bet you feel pretty stupid for supporting more drilling off the US coast right before this horrible disaster occurred in the Gulf. You should take a page from Charlie Crist's book and scrap your drilling plans. Anyway, we can gain a lot more energy security by improving energy efficiency and conservation than we can by expanding drilling. I'm sharing this Sierra Club petition with my readers asking them to tell you to knock off the new drilling.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Florida Windfest, Plus Blogging at

Followers of this blog know that I've occasionally written short articles for windsurfing magazine, like my "How Green is Windsurfing" piece in the latest issue. I'm starting a new gig with the magazine now: My windsurfing-related blog postings will be hosted on their website, with just a placeholder link from this site to there.

I won't be blogging any more or less about windsurfing or anything else, and all my old windsurfing content and new non-windsurfing content will still be hosted here on blogger. I reckon it's good for me because it gets me a larger audience, and it's good for the magazine because it gives them unique coverage of the Floridian science nerd windsurfing experience.

My first post on the magazine website is about the Florida Windfest held at Calema Windsurfing and Watersports on April 17th. Here's the link:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Glorious Windsurfing, Disgusting Kite Injury

Saturday was perfect for windsports. Blue sky, blue water, 80 degrees, 20 knots, and a beach shared with good friends. I got a great windsurf session on a 5.5 sail and 106 liter board. My buddies Brandon and Mike windsurfed, as well, with Brandon dialing in the not-too-shabby gear he got for free at Florida Windfest last weekend, and Mike trying and liking my Starboard Evo 83. My kite buddies Marc and Ben were also there, cruising.

We spotted some interesting marine species in the clear, blue waters. I accidentally ran through a massive school of jacks (big, tuna-like gamefish), Ben saw a manta ray, and we all saw loads of sea turtles. If you look closely and don't blink you can see the jacks splashing around in the boom-mount video I took (below).

Windsurfing's on Fi-yur from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Right when I was about to leave, two of my friends from work arrived at the beach. I didn't want them to go un-entertained, so I took out my trainer kite and we did some reckless fooling around with it on the beach and body dragging in the ocean. We managed to avoid any serious trouble, until I had to go for that one last show-off run. Of course I lost control of the kite while body-dragging through the shorebreak and had to let go of the control bar, which ripped through my hands at an angle such that a line sliced half the skin off my right pinky finger. Ouch! Fortunately, my friend had a first aid kit in her car so we were able to clean and bandage the wound. Looks like I'm gonna have to stay off the water for a while to let this heal. There are pictures of the wound at the bottom of this post, but DON'T SCROLL DOWN IF YOU ARE EASILY GROSSED OUT.

Lessons learned:

1. A 4m^2 foil kite is no longer a "trainer kite" when its windy- it's a dangerously powered two-line kite with no safety system.
2. It's hard to control a kite when you're body dragging through shorebreak unhooked.
3. If the pads where the lines attach to your control bar are worn through it puts narrow, tensioned line near your fingers.
4. Long lines on a trainer kite make it dangerous, because it can loop through the power zone bigger and harder before crashing. Today I realized the lines on my trainer were about 20 feet longer than on my big kites, so I shortened them drastically and added thicker leader lines on the bar that should be less likely to slice fingers.

Here's the wound from when I was re-dressing it this morning. I should probably go to the doctor tomorrow.


Here's the end of the bar where the thin exposed line sliced me. The sand-covered pork-rind looking thing is actually the skin from my finger. Eww.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Best Onshore Wind Sesh in Recent Memory

During April the East coast of Florida has relatively strong and consistent winds from the ocean. Every day this week has provided pumping conditions for sunset windsurfing or kiteboarding sessions. Along with the fun I've experienced two minor kitemares, one broken spreader bar on my windsurfing harness, several portuguese man o' war near-misses, and a ganglion cyst on my right foot. The best evening of windsurfing was Wednesday. I edited up some video from that session so you can watch it (below). Beware that the song is a weird and cheesy mix of techno and heavy metal.

Fort Pierce Onshore Wind Wavesailing Session from James Douglass on Vimeo.

The week's kiting was a little sketchy because of the kitemares, but I did get some ok video from Tuesday before my kite's leading edge bladder leaked and sent it into an epileptic fit for a minute before I got it under control enough to body drag back to shore. This was after Monday's kite-inversion nightmare, where an underinflated center strut (my mistake) caused the kite to bowtie after I tried a backwards roll. That time I got inside the kite for shark protection and floated to the beach in it like it was a rubber raft. During the journey I wound up all my lines and disentangled the kite so once I got to shallow water I could just hop off and carry the kite with one hand back to where I started. When I was almost to shore the coastguard came by but I told 'em I was ok. Gotta admit that kiting has more hassles and dangers than windsurfing. I ALWAYS wear my helmet and life jacket.

Here's the video of the kiting. The song is by the Clash.

Onshore Wind Kite Session 4-13-2010 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Footstrap-Induced Ganglion Cyst

**UPDATE- I went to the podiatrist. He said there was a bit of a cyst associated with the bump, but that most of it was a bone growth that would require surgery to remove. I think I will wait until the end of the windy season to schedule the surgery.**

**Begin orginal post**

You know the bony knob on the top of the bridge of your foot? It's barely noticeable on most people, but one of mine became enlarged and painful after some hard windsurfing a few weeks ago. It stopped hurting after a couple days off the water but remained creepily enlarged. It felt icky when I put it back in the strap, and worried me enough that I decided to consult the experts- my coworkers, facebook friends, and the discussion forum.

There were multiple theories. For a while the leading one was that it was a bone growth analogous to the "surf knots" that surfers sometimes get on their knees or hip bones, depending on how they paddle. The prospect of a permanent or semi-permanent bone deformity worried me. But then someone on the forum identified it as a "Ganglion Cyst", which is some kind of fluid-filled irritation of the tendons and connective tissue around a joint that may be initiated by stress to that area.

After some poking at the bump and comparing it to the gross pictures on wikipedia, I think Ganglion Cyst is most likely what it is, although it could be some combination of ganglion cyst and surfer knot. The particular footstraps that aggravated it were the rather stiff and thin straps on a 2005 Starboard Evo 83. I moved those straps to a board I rarely sail and put some cushier straps on the Evo. We'll see if that's enough to let the cyst heal. If not I'll look for a doc in Fort Pierce on my insurance plan who can drain the thing. Woo hoo!

Pictures: The offending footstraps and the offended foot (on the right). Can you see the bump?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scenes from the Jetty

I had a good windsurfing session after work today, using a 5.5 sail and my small and medium sized shortboards. It was especially cool that I was joined by another windsurfer, Brandon, who recently got his MS in Mechanical Engineering and moved from the midwest to Florida with his wife.


Brandon is fairly new to windsurfing, but he is doing dang well considering his gear is extremely crappy and outdated. Sailing in the wavy ocean with new lightweight gear is one thing- sailing it on a monstrous polyester longboard with busted footstraps and a dacron cambered sail from the 1980s is another feat entirely!


Brandon clearly has the gene that governs the impulse to engineer, persevere, and windsurf, as evidenced by his rollerblade-drawn windsurfing dolly. If any of my Floridian windsurfing readers are seeing this and want to pass along some slightly-less dated windsurfing gear to Brendan, send me a message and I'll put you in touch. He can waterstart but not real well yet, so I'd say no boards less than 100 liters. We're both going up to the Florida Windfest regatta and demo event at Calema this weekend.


There were a few kiters out tonight, but all but Crazy Doug from Fort Pierce and Wayne from the Gorge had gone home by the time I started windsurfing. I had fun riding waves on an outside break with Doug, and I got some pictures of Wayne riding after I had derigged. I think the storm clouds to the South look cool


The next pictures are just some random people, animals, and celestial objects that caught my attention.



Looks to be windy all week, with unusually big waves predicted for Thursday. I'll get the GoPro camera ready.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Most Interesting Woman in the World

Last week I had the good fortune to spend an afternoon with the most interesting woman in the world, or at least the most interesting woman in Saint Lucie County west of I-95. Her name is Linda, and she is a windsurfer, kiteboarder, pilot, skydiver, seamstress, engineer, military veteran, emergency medic, and a bunch of other interesting things.


I'd talked to Linda on the beach in Fort Pierce a few times, but I had never before visited her "compound" out in the country. The reason I went there was to get some kite and wetsuit repairs done - Linda is handy with an industrial sewing machine and you can call her at 332-0941 [Ft. Pierce area code] if you need something fixed or fabricated.


The place she lives is out of this world. It's a whole neighborhood that caters to recreational pilots, where all the houses are paired with huge airplane hangers that open onto backyard airstrips.


Linda builds and restores planes for fun, and she has two beautiful, vintage planes gleaming in the hanger. My favorite was this biplane.


Anyway, if you live in the Treasure Coast Area and have a busted kite or windsurf sail, don't hesitate to give Linda a call. And leave some extra time when you go out there for the guided tour because Linda will be more than willing to share stories of her various adventures.

Bonus- Here's a video from last Sunday where I used the 14 msq kite that she had just fixed, plus a big 17 msq kite when the wind was down.

Big Kite Board Mount Video, 3 April 2010 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Part of my windsurf calculator is in a free iPhone app

For a while there has been an iPhone application that uses the phone's receiver to calculate the wind strength. Michael Alex over at "The Peconic Puffin" windsurfing blog says it works pretty well.

Now, apparently, there is another iPhone application that uses the formula I published in my windsurf calculator to relate wind speed and body weight to the ideal sail size for planing. Unlike the anemometer application, this one is free. You can check it out here.

It would be interesting if they combined the two applications so you could just enter your weight then hold the phone up in the wind to see what size sail to rig.

PS- If you're looking for my KITE size calculator, it's here.