Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summertime Single-Digit Winds in SW Florida

The Gulf of Mexico is vast body of water; 1.6 million km2; more than 6 times larger than all of the Great Lakes combined.

The beaches of Southwest Florida are utterly exposed to the vastness of the Gulf; open to 180 degrees of wind from North to West to South and up to 1600 km of fetch for the buildup of waves.

And yet, during our long, hot summer, the ocean is *literally* as flat as a pond. We're too far south to get the West winds of the temperate zone, and we're facing the wrong way to get the East winds and waves of the tropics. Check out the wind forecast for my local beach. Single digits as far as the eye can see.

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But there's always hope! You never know when the afternoon thunderstorms might develop slowly enough for a sticky seabreeze to break that 10 knot threshold for formula windsurfing fun, or when an unusual frontal system or nearby tropical storm might turn the winds onshore and raise some choppy swells. In the meantime, I'm getting a lot of work and reading done.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'm Married - Woo Hoo! + Snorkeling Videos

About three years ago I met Rhonda Mason on a date in downtown Boston. I knew almost instantly that she was the one for me, but it naturally took some time to convince her that I was the one for her. When we were dating, Rhonda helped me find my current marine biology professor job in Florida. After I interviewed and got the job I asked her to marry me and move South. She said yes! We were fiances for two years, then on the 21st of June, 2014 we had a big, wonderful wedding near her hometown in New Hampshire. I am SO HAPPY!

For our honeymoon we decided to do it by car, since we already live in the tropical paradise of Florida, and we could take more water toys with us that way. (Shortly prior to the wedding we had replaced my red rusty minivan with a fresh blue minivan with working AC - luxurious!) The first couple nights we stayed at the Hampton Inn at Manatee Bay, Key Largo. In seagrassy Tarpon Basin behind the hotel is where I shot this snorkeling video. We also snorkeled on the reefs near Key Largo from the charters at Pennekamp State Park.

Keys Tarpon Basin 2014 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

For the second part of the honeymoon we stayed further west at Parmer's Resort on little torch key (see hammock picture).

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We snorkeled near shore at Bahia Honda State Park, on Looe Key Reef via a charter boat, and at Fort Jefferson after riding out to that Historic Fort island on the Yankee Freedom II ferry. This video, mostly shot by Rhonda is a compilation from all our reef snorkeling trips.

Florida Keys Honeymoon Reef Snorkeling 2014 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ingebritsen's Favorite Board (of all time, by far)

It's the Exocet Kona/Curve 11'5, ridden here by Exocet Boss Patrice Belbeoch...


Two important types of people in the windsurfing world are "team riders" and "gear reps."

Team riders are highly skilled professional windsurfers who travel around to competitions, video and photo shoots, etc. Their "team" is the windsurfing equipment manufacturer that sponsors them with free gear, stipends, etc.

Example of a team rider, Venezuelan Jose "Gollito" Estredo, for Fanatic Boards and North Sails.  photo GollitoSum_zps6cdfce3d.jpg

Gear representatives (reps) are usually amateur aficionados who get discounts from the windsurfing gear manufacturer they represent, in exchange for helping show-and-tell and sell the gear.

Example of a gear rep, John Ingebritsen for Exocet Boards and Aerotech Sails.

Among the average Joes and Janes of windsurfing, there's a slight suspicion of gear reps. We figure the reps are likely to present a positively biased view of the gear they represent, and a negatively biased view of other manufacturers' gear.

One of the more recognizable reps in US windsurfing scene (i.e. in the forums) is John Ingebritsen (pictured above) from Florida. Ingebritsen reps for Exocet boards (based in France and run by Patrice Belbeoch) and Aerotech sails (based in Daytona Beach, Florida and run by Steve Gottlieb). John is outspoken and opinionated about windsurfing gear and styles, but his biases don't always fall in line with Exocet and Aerotech's offerings. He loves some of their stuff, but complains about their other stuff no less harshly than he would a competitor's gear. Likewise, if there's something from another brand that he likes, he won't shoot it down. While I don't always have the same gear preferences as John, I definitely trust him to say what he really thinks.

One thing he says is that the Exocet Kona 11'5 carbon was the best light-wind waveboard ever- fast in both planing and non-planing mode, light and stiff, able to catch small mushy waves but also able to shred big heavy waves, etc.

Ingebritsen doing a backside aerial on the 11'5 carbon.

Ingebritsen wasn't as excited about the successor to the 11'5; Exocet's 10'2 WindSUP, which he says was too SUP oriented to work well for wavesailing in light, onshore winds. (Although some other riders seem to really like the feel of the 10'2; particularly those who sail in stronger sideshore or side-off winds.)

Anyway, Ingebritsen recently begged Exocet to make some more Kona 11'5 carbon editions. They said they'll do it, but only if they get 15 orders. Ingebritsen himself has ordered 3 (a "lifetime supply," he says), so that leaves 12 more. I'm not going to get once since I have a new minivan and college loans to pay off, and I already have two step-tailed longboard waveboards that work fine. But you should think about it. There's a discussion thread on the board on iwindsurf: To put your name on the order list, contact Steve Gottlieb,