Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dusting off the 3.5 Sail!

Here in SW Florida we get excited whenever there's enough wind to use a windsurfing sail smaller than 9.5 meters squared. So imagine my excitement the other day day when a cold front made it windy enough to use a 3.5 meters squared sail! That's 6.0 meters squared smaller than what I usually use.

It was a weekend that Rhonda's Aunts were visiting from New Hampshire. I felt sorry that the ladies didn't get to experience the mellow, 80 degree beach weather that had characterized most of our "winter" here in Bonita Springs, but at least I got to show off my windsurfing skills for them.

I started the session with an 83 liter Starboard Evo and an old 4.5 Ezzy wave sail that I got to replace the 4.7 Northsail that I busted in the fall. This was my first time using the Ezzy in real conditions, and I was pretty pleased with it. The wind gradually rose during the session as dark clouds approached. When the clouds arrived I got VERY overpowered. I tucked-tail back to the beach and helped some kiters make emergency landings. For a minute I wasn't sure if I would go out again, but the idea of getting a 3.5 session was impossible to resist.

Often using a super small sail like the 3.5 is uncomfortable and "twitchy." You alternate between being annoyingly underpowered and bouncingly overpowered on the steep, short chops characteristic of 30+ knot winds. Somehow, though, on this day at Wiggins Pass, the 3.5 felt just right. I had an awesome time playing in the choppy onshore swells. The very windy conditions seemed to make the onshore wave-riding easier, because there was still ample wind in the sail when turning downwind on a wave. I made a helmet camera video of the session. The 3.5 part is not until the end of the video. The song is by The Who.

Wiggins Cold Front 16 Feb 13 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

PS- Not to knock big sails, I had a great time sailing in sunny flat water at a windsurfing race in Sarasota last weekend. That's going to be my next blog post.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Seasonal" Blues, Windsurfing Race in Sarasota

I am starting to understand why Southwest Florida locals dread the so-called "Season." The Season, which could stand for Tourist Season, or for Wealthy Retiree Part-Time Resident Season, is INSANELY CROWDED.

Initially I was under the impression that The Season began around Thanksgiving, and back then I thought, "Hey, this isn't so bad. Yeah, there are a few more people on the beach, a few more grey-haired folks in the supermarket, and sometimes there's a bit of a wait at the popular restaurants on a Friday or Saturday night... but it's only a minor inconvenience."

The truth is that the REAL season doesn't start until after the Christmas Holidays. That's when droves of folks my parents' age and older TAKE OVER Bonita Springs. There is no day of the week, and no time of the evening that one can avoid an hour long wait for a seat in a restaurant. Worse, ALL THE PUBLIC BEACH PARKING AREAS FILL UP. Ironically, there are miles of nearly-empty beaches in the region, but they are impossible for peasants like me to access because they lie behind unbroken tracts of luxury private condominiums and seventh homes of (I presume) workaholic wall-street investors, NYC plastic surgeons, neer-do-well heirs and heiresses, and ex-wives of crooked republican politicians and corporate CEOs. The scant public beach lots, despite charging money for something that I believe should be free for everyone, are grossly undersized for handling the lemming-like herds of humans overflowing the land.

Sunday I faced the nightmare situation of driving back and forth for an hour within 8 miles of my house, being turned away from one beach lot after another. I was seething with Incredible Hulk-Like rage, furiously cursing the gods and the county planners, pounding on the steering wheel of my windsurf-laden minivan, when FINALLY I got a spot. I rigged a 9.5 and my formula board, and planed for about half an hour before the wind died and I had to go back home to spend the rest of the day grading papers and planning lectures. Ahh.


I propose a new law to resolve the beach parking problem. I call it the 50-50 law: If a beachfront home or condominium is less than 50% occupied more than 50% of the year, then it shall be BULLDOZED, and its flattened, pulverized remains will serve as a free beach parking lot for the commoners.

In happier news, I'm still living with the love of my life, my Valentine, Rhonda. (Swoon!) Our two dogs are healthy and behaving themselves. Florida Gulf Coast University now lets me drive their boats, so I've been able to get started on my own seagrass research in the Caloosahatchee River Estuary. Also, I'm getting psyched up for a Windsurfing Race next weekend (Feb 22-23) in Sarasota, Florida. It's the "Sarasota Winter Classic." There should be a wide mixture of young and old competitors, and serious and not-so-serious competitors. Also, there is free camping at the sailing site.


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My only dilemma is what competitive division to register for. In the most competitive Formula "A" Class I would certainly be left in dust, since my formula gear is out of date and my skills are rusty. I could sail my Exocet WindSUP in one of the longboard divisions, but that board isn't really meant for racing so I might get left in the dust in that division, too. Hopefully there will be enough other competitors in a similar situation to me that the race committee will be able to run the less competitive "Formula Sport" division. I'm not sure if any of the divisions will let you change boards depending on the wind strength, but what would be ideal for me would be to race on the WindSUP if the winds are too light to plane, and race on the Formula board if we get planing conditions. We'll see.