Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rodrigo and Sergio's BIG adventure - Jericoacoara(Windsurfer's 'Bucket' List)

There’re few places that any self-respecting windsurfer should put on his/hers ‘bucket’ list to visit, and Jericoacoara, Brazil (Jeri) has to make it into top 5…. With air/water temperatures in 80’s , average winds in high 20th every freaking day, all you need is 1 board+1 sail +1 harness, no wet suite, that’s what most local windsurfers have there, board in 70-90l range and sail 4-5m2, depending in their preference to wave or freestyle.

Rigo and I with an entourage arrived into picturesque Jeri mid day, checked into the hotel and walked whole 1.5 blocks to Vela Windsurfing Resort (Club Ventos). It’s a well run place with plenty of latest toys, two things to bitch if one “had to”: Masts are SDM 30% carbon that make sails feel heavier and not as rangy, it’s like putting VW engine into Porsche. The other issue, they glue heavy nose pads to the boards, making them un-balanced in the air, etc... There’re rumors that center is planning to remedy both situations, let’s hope for other visitor’s sake. Conditions in Jeri are very challenging, wind is strong, a bit gusty, off shore with waves close to the beach and big mushy chop and swell on the outside, so bring your ‘A’ game. First couple of days Rigo and I felt like we’re newbies in the sport, but after getting acclimated things got much better. One thing about Jeri is consistency; every day it’s blowing hard, my board selection was from 68-92L, sails 3.6-4.5 m2.

Sand dunes, tropics, sea and a very laidback lifestyle in Jeri make it a very unique place, were you play hard during the day and party till 5 a.m...

Few off bit suggestions if you’re planning to visit:
1. Watch out for rocks during high tide (your feet will thank you!)
2. Most people only speak Portuguese, so learn few words and be prepared to communicated in silent language
3. Bring your own gear if you have and can arrange it easy enough
last leg of the trip to Jeri via 4x4

windsurfing action

Sunset at Jeri (Rigo and Liz)

View from the sand dune at the sunset

our hotel

two of Miami's best:)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Adventure on the High Seas - Without leaving the Shoreline

First let me say, if I ever doubt Angel's advice on sail size again, please smack me upside the head.

I sailed in gusty, marginal conditions today at Hobie Beach for two hours, but I had a lot of fun with my 5.0 & 112 board. (Next time you see a golden sail and board together, you'll know who it is. Looks fabulous.)

At 3:00 the wind at Fowry was down to 14-17, so I re-rigged. I never re-rig so you know I had no choice. Sure, Angel told me the wind was supposed to pick up and sure I trust his wind observations, but this is a 6.3 Ezzy with tremendous range! I figured I'd give it a shot.

The wind had now picked up to 20, but it was do-able, nothing to worry about. Minutes later it was 25-27. The Ezzy hung in there, now totally downhauled and outhauled past its specs, but what could go wrong? The wind was onshore and the 112 is comfortable in the waves. To a point. Now that you've had this huge buildup, I'll get to the point.

Two and a half hours later I was still looking at the shore, which was probably never more than a football field away. After two and a half hours, I had only made it two-thirds of the way in. I must have waterstarted 40 times. Getting up was easy, but then the gusts would power me up instantaneously and send me straight up the ramp of a two-foot wave. That may not sound like much, but it was straight up and the wind was stronger up there, I'm sure. The port tack was better, but the long and the short of it is I really couldn't get back to shore. I tried just floating, body dragging and swimming. To little avail.

Finally, I realized the cops would close the area in just an hour so I decided to go for it and blast downwind as much as I could one more time. Finally I realized I could just hang in the waterstart position and let the wind push me to shore sideways. Good thing it was an onshore wind. Fortunately the tide was going out and I finally found shallow water at 6:00.

Most of the journey was fun and not frightening, although it wasn't really sailing either, just survival. It wasn't until I realized how late it was getting and how slow my progress was that I muttered a small profanity. (Mind you I was probably no more than 60 yards from shore at this point.) Then a strange thing happened. I was just floating, hoping the waves would carry me in when a shadow passed over me. Then another. Was it the angel of death? No. The sun was setting and the waves behind me were big enough to cast a significant shadow.

Well, I made it back. Rescue workers had to come and carry my equipment for me once I hit dry land. They knew I was MIA, but never expected me to be to the west. (I ended up almost to the east end of the big bridge where no one but the construction workers go.)

Lessons learned: 1. Waves do make a big difference. 2. Don't wait till the last minute to form an exit strategy. I was constantly planning ahead to get home safely. Fortunately, I didn't get too tired until I was fairly close to land. 3. Beware the off-shore breeze. 4. Know your underwater terrain. A big part of my problem was that once I got up and heading to shore, I had no idea whether I was rocketing into a sandbar.

The luckiest thing of all? (Aside from not abandoning my equipment, of course, or being eaten by a shark) the water was warm, a cozy 69 compared to the 58-degree+wind chill temperature out of the water.

Phew. Now I can rest.

Posted by Stacey Hanging on for Dear Life Again at 5:36 PM March 3, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quest for the Ultimate Miami Wave Board

I love experimenting with windsurfing gear, ask anyone who knows me… In the last 12 years I’ve ordered numerous custom boards, fins and even talked Barry Spanier (currently of Maui Sails fame) into adjusting the clew of a production race sail for me. Constantly evaluating and re-aligning pieces of the windsurfing equipment puzzle is a normal thing, right? I’m not obsessed, I‘m not obsessed… OK, maybe just a little… So, with the latest quad/duo fin craze sweeping the windsurfing nation,it was only a matter of time before I had to jump in with my take on it.

First, I did some research via the Internet, read a few articles and just talked out loud some ideas with fellow windsurfers. Thanks to Adventure Sport’s demo day, I was able to take JP Wave Duo board for a spin, and did like the feel. Next, I had to make THE decision: buy a production board (that’s sooo boring), order a custom (intriguing, but the closest shaper I would trust with this project is on Maui and it would be pricey) or just modify an existing board (Bingo! I got just the right board!!).

What I had was a couple of years old, an 84L Naish Hybrid Wave and although I loved it, I always thought it could use an extra fin or two or three. Analyzing all my options, I went for a Quad fin design, with smaller front fins, 4 fin boxes, If I didn’t like it, I could always use just back fins, but it would give me a lots of flexibility.

In windsurfing nothing is simple, and the next hurdle was the fin box selection. The lightest and strongest box for a wave board would be a mini tuttle box (MT), but availability of fins and fin boxes themselves was an issue. Also the surfboard shaper I recruited for this project, Mike (Birds Surfboards)never dealt with that type of a box and hesitated. After over a month of trying to get mini tuttle boxes and fins without doubling my project’s cost in the process, I reluctantly purchased US type boxes and fins.

Bright and early (so, I could make it to work on time) one crisp, sunny fall morning with my notes, sketches, fin boxes, quad fin set and my guinea pig of a board, I was knocking on the door of the Birds Surfboards shop. Mike, the head guy with a friendly smile and over 20 plus years of experience shaping boards, opened the door and invited me in.

Boardheads! Although we talked on the phone and
exchanged a bunch of emails, we talked the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of board shaping, etc. a lot longer than I planned. When I finally said goodbye, I knew I was running late.

I won’t bore you with details, but we did have few more snags along the road to glory, from minor differences between surfing and windsurfing fin boxes to re-installing back fin boxes due to a little type-o in my notes, but a couple of months later I had my old/new board back with 4 shinny new slots.

Now, if only weather would cooperate. Can I please have NE 20-25 with sunny skies, and make it on the weekend?!!

Back in USSR… or my windsurfing adventure in the motherland - Minsk, Republic of Belarus

As I was planning my trip back to ‘old country’, I decided, this time I HAD TO get some windsurfing action in the place I was born and grew up (a quick background note: I left USSR 29 years ago, and my windsurfing experience of 14 years consists of either US or Caribbean destinations, plus one trip to Tarifa, Spain). Thanks to the Internet, I quickly located windsurfing club that offered some rentals (just in case you’re in the neighborhood: Minsk/Extreme Club

On my arrival to Minsk I assessed the weather condition and decided to pick the day based on the tree bending method, they bend - I go! Two days late the opportunity presented itself, 65-70 F, partly cloudy, a bit chilly for Miami standards but the trees and flags in the city were getting yanked all over the place and the wind was calling my name. I made a quick call to my cousin that lives in the area, he agreed to drive, my wife put her stamp of approval (even decided to come along); last minute, my cousin’s girlfriend joined in. Couple of hours later we piled into beat-up VW Golf, driving in the direction of Sea of Minsk (manmade reservoir next to the city). As we passed smaller lakes on the way, I noticed that the waters were churning and I was getting more and more excited! Twenty minutes later we were there.

I must say, place wise, local windsurfers got it made, the club has its own fenced in property right on the water, about 300 yards of frontage, small office building, few larger steel containers to store the gear, huge grassy rigging area, last few feet to the water some soft sand, no rocks, no weeds, no shore break, shallow and sandy bottom for a bit, than in gets deep – perfect! They even decorated the beach with few poles camouflaged as palm trees with the help of straw, ropes and tape. After a quick conversation with the woman in charge and her assistant, I’ve learned that Minsk is not a high wind Mecca I was hoping for, 5.5-6.5 m2 conditions I was witnessing, was uncommon for summers. Most of the locals have their own gear that looked pretty good, but for rentals I would have to settle for a ten year old F2 Axxis 95 L or something similar in 120L range, and 5.7 NP sail. I chose a smaller board, got changed and carried the rig + board to the water with enthusiastic entourage consisting of my cousin (who could not stop taking pictures with his cell phone camera) and his girlfriend; my wife remained unimpressed and demanded my leather jacket to keep her warm. It was relatively cold for a person that was used to Miami’s tropical weather and didn’t bring his wetsuit along but I was undeterred and ready to go. I beachstarted, only then I really understood how much windsurfing gear progressed in the last decade, board felt twitchy and unstable and the sail felt like a ton of bricks, still seconds later I was on the plane, trying to pop the board in the air off a small chop ahead, the board refused, so I continued in a straight line. After I got to the middle of the lake, I jibed, or better said, I tried to jibe but fell in, surprised I swallowed some water, waterstarted, etc.. Few more semi-successful laps with falling in the cold water, and I made a wise choice to cut the session short.

In summary: I’ve gained new respect for people using older gear, learned that a shot of good ol’ Vodka is a perfect remedy if you swallow some questionable quality water, remembered my own humble windsurfing beginnings and was very grateful that at home in Miami awaiting me was hot ‘no need for wetsuit’ weather and state of the art boards and rigs tuned to almost perfection. There’s no place like new home…
July, 2009