Thursday, December 02, 2010
So, recap of the year? Certainly some positives and negatives:
- Great stint in Hatteras in early May and finally made the effort to meet & sail with some locals, including Andy McKinney of Wind-NC, Olaf Podehl of Avon Sail House and Bill Bell of OBX Beachlife and the Hatteras Wave Jam. Certainly had some fun times playing with my buddy Amine in the sound, exchanging tricks in close proximity.
- Got my boys Jalen and Bradley out for their first rides!! Totally stoked on that!
- Sailed some perfect flat water in Shippagan with Eric Girard of Club Wind & Kite and buddy boosting big airs all around. Also had a wicked fun session at Haut-Shippagan, all by myself, again in strong wind, near dead flat (btw: this is very nice for freestyle!).
- Some of the best Sandbanks sessions of my life shared with a whole slew of new friends from Quebec! First one in early September (had to delay our departure for Shippagan for that one!), and another banger in October.
Unfortunately, on the downside, a couple of things:
- I gotta get back into shape!! I've yet to establish a reasonable balance between family-man Dad and active healthy adrenaline-chaser. Challenging. The result: I'm tiring out way quicker than I used to (I used to be the king of 3-4 hr sessions with no breaks) but probably even worse, I'm having a lot more close calls with serious ankle, leg and shoulder injuries. If I hope to progress further with freestyle, this can't continue.
- I learned nothing new. I've had the same goals of learning some new tricks, including flakas, pushies and shakas, whichever one, whichever order, I don't care... I just need something new to help me keep the stoke. It is becoming quite clear that it's the progression that keeps me interested and coming back for more. Not sure what will happen as that progression naturally slows down - and it seems to be!!
Lastly, I have been working with a few others to get an article or two published in Windsport, but to date, no luck. Fingers are crossed that something will materialize in the new year.
All in all, a decent year, but definitely need to get my ass in shape for next year. Cheryl and I are committing to do 3-5 orienteering/adventure races next year, so I think inherent in that will be getting to where I need to be in terms of cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. We're starting fresh in the spring with the long version of the Giant Rib's Raid, a 23-25km orienteering run.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Hopefully this page can act as a bit of a resource to reach out to even more people, from Canada or abroad, to join the Canadian Windsurfing Community in addressing issues of access, water quality, safety, you name it, things that effect us windsurfers in Canada.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Here's a beauty hack at the lip by Pierre Morneau from Montreal, at Sandbanks last fall. Great shot by Nic Chapleau. Pierre rips.
So, when I talk about waves "feeling" bottom, it means that the bottom is interfering with the orbit of the water particles and hence the orbits become non-circular, and more horizontally stretched as ellipses. Again, keep in mind this is all theoretical and not a whole lot in real-life will look much like this due to so many other factors.
Here's one of my faves of me from last year, by Ilan Artzy. I like the spray on this bottom turn. Not a huge wave or anything like that, but a fun one nonetheless.
Two things happen when waves begin to interact with the bottom: 1) Refraction & 2) Shoaling.
1) Refraction. Wave refraction is a change in direction of the wave due to a change in speed. Picture in your mind a wave coming side-onshore (like in the photo below, from the southeast). As the wave front/crest starts to enter shallow water, it will begin to slow down. Now imagine this happening along the whole wave crest. The wave crest will start bending since the part of the wave nearest shore will have wrapped/bent more than the part of the wave further offshore (because it has slowed down the most).
Ultimately, waves tend towards shore such that the wave crests will ultimately strike parallel to the shoreline (or in different terms, the wave ray will tend towards perpendicular to the shoreline).
The end result is that waves bend to become almost perfectly onshore by the time they hit the actual shoreline. See image. For those Sandbanks regulars – this is very important to us!!! Without refraction the wave action at Sandbanks would be pretty damn lame – it is the refraction that turns on-shore conditions into our pseudo-'side-shore' conditions.
And here is a diagram of a wave wrapping around an island. Suffice to say that sailing in lee of the island would suck for a couple of reasons: No wind & messy waves!
2) Shoaling. Another thing happens when waves start to touch bottom. As the bottom begins to interfere with the circular motion of water particles under wave action, the shape of the waves begins to change and this is called shoaling. The shallower the water gets, the more the waves shoal, or bunch-up and steepen (jack up) until ultimately they break. This is a pretty intuitive transformation that most anyone who has watched a wave will recognize and understand: As waves approach shore, they will appear to jack up and get bigger and ultimately break in one form or another. The bigger the wave, the further out it will break. It is pretty obvious to most people that the bigger waves at Sandbanks are further out from the beach, or further upwind near West Point, because they haven't shoaled as much, or for as long, and thus have more of their original energy left.
Here is a wiki on the topic of wave shoaling, with a really neat little graphic that shows the process and impact of shoaling on wave height and wavelength (By Régis Lachaume). See below (its a 2Mb .GIF, so I hope it uploads for you).
(ahh, sorry, looks like animated .gifs don't work in Blogger blogs...)
Another couple of things can happen to waves as they travel through water. They can interact with features they encounter. The refraction and shoaling mentioned above fit this category, with respect to natural shorelines and lake-bottom. Another couple examples of wave transformation are: 3) Reflection and 4) Diffraction.
3) Reflection. If you have ever had the pleasure of sailing in front of the ‘PUC dock’ in Kingston, you’ll know what this is all about. In fact, this is what makes Emily St (Richardson Beach) in Kingston much messier than locations further upwind. When waves strike an object that is unable to absorb its energy (virtually all things), some amount of the wave energy is reflected, or bounces back off that object. This can happen straight on or at an angle to the object. When a wave hits something like a concrete vertical breakwall head on, a considerable portion of the incident wave energy can be reflected back from whence the wave came. This creates a nasty mess of standing waves, or waves that appear to be stationary and pop out of no where. You don’t want to be sailing anywhere near there unless you are experienced in rodeo. All surfaces do reflect some energy, even a sand beach. The least wave-reflective shorelines in nature are likely extremely long, gently-sloped sand beaches and vegetated shorelines such as coastal wetlands. Anything man made or hard tends to reflect energy in a nasty way. So, a big two thumbs down for shitty breakwall design!!
4) Diffraction. Diffraction is the bending of waves around an obstacle in their path, or through an opening. I won’t talk much about this but it is a pretty neat phenomenon. One of our most beloved bloggers Giampaolo (Maui Surf Report) mentions the odd surf session scored in Kahului Harbour. Since I have never actually seen the spot, I looked it up on Google Maps (in fact, I used a NOAA free website called 'Geogarage Marine', which can overlay available marine bathymetry charts under Google Maps aerials - really neat!) . Generally, as waves enter a harbor gap like that, they start to spread out radially from the entrance, resulting in a down-size in wave and wave power as the energy disperses through the harbour. Think of it this way: You have a harbor gap that is about 200ft wide that allows energy to pass through and then dissipate throughout a harbor that is about 1000ft wide or more. I imagine when huge waves are pounding the North Shore of Maui and closing out everything, maybe that harbor still works for surfers since the waves go from deep to shallow fairly quick and the big stuff doesn’t make it through, plus you may have smaller waves getting in, wrapping nicely. Just a guess.
A lot of good useful information for us windsurfers comes from “Small Amplitude Wave Theory”, which is one of the most simple and most widely applicable mathematic principals for quantifying the movement of waves. There are many other theories as well, each having their place. I studied this stuff for a few years, way back in my university days and have forgotten most of it, aside from the basic principles that apply to our beloved Lake Ontario. Despite immersing myself in Coastal Engineering, somehow I still ended up living on a lake, rather than say an ocean, where arguably I should be residing. But, I digress…
Here's a shot of Guy Trudeau at Mac's last year, taken by Nic Chapleau. Looks like a sweet wave to me!
Here is a link to the wiki on the topic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_waves
So, without getting into all the crazy math containing far too many greek symbols, which I have long since forgotten anyway, here are some of the more basic wave principles and observations I took away from all this education, as they relate to Lake Ontario and Sandbanks.
• What is 'Swell'? First off, some terminology: Lake waves, by definition, are not “swell”. Lake waves are more accurately referred to as “locally-generated seas”, or in other words, waves produced by the action of the wind itself, locally. Some refer to this as “wind swell”, which kinda makes sense, but there is actually no true "swell" on the Great Lakes. Swell, by definition, is wave action created by distant wind events. By travelling long distances and moving away from the storm, the waves become much more organized with longer periods, wavelength and speed. In particular, storms send their higher energy, lower frequency waves further abroad, and this is true ‘swell’. Despite the Great Lakes being pretty dang big pools, they are generally too small for true ‘swell’, and generally too small for tides as well.
• Fetch. The wave period, height and degree of wave organization is also a function of fetch (distance over which the waves can develop) and duration of the storm. The longer a storm blows, the more organized and longer the waves become (tending towards a "fully developed sea"). At Sandbanks, if a really good storm whips up, we usually get 5-7 second waves. Heaven forbid it should blow for a day or two straight, we may even get up to 8s waves, in which case let the ejaculation begin.This is the ‘peak’ wave period, or the period of the wave spectrum with the most energy. The peak wave period can be either wind duration- or fetch-limited. In the case of Sandbanks, the limitation rapidly becomes fetch – we’ve got 200km at best. Anyway – this has two impacts: First, the waves are generally a lot messier than ocean swell since there is a fairly broad ‘wave spectrum’, in that there are waves with all sorts of different frequencies (periods) and directions out there, interacting with both positive and negative interference. Second, the biggest and best waves are still relatively small and limited in wavelength, meaning the waves are spaced fairly close together.
• Getting beat down. Speculation: I believe that a good indicator of what we feel when we get shmucked by a good wave and have our gear and gitch extracted from our clenched bodies, is wave ‘power’. Wave power is a function of wave period and height squared. So don’t think you can dominate the pesky 7 second waves at Sandbanks, then cruise on in to Ho’okipa and own the place. Typical true ocean swell there is probably more like 10-15s, and up to 15-25s on the big gnarly days. That’s why sailors like us from eastern Canada get pummeled and really feel it when we go to Hawaii. It truly is bigger and much bad-er!
Here's a shot of me with a weak bottom turn at Mac's last year, by Nic Chapleau. Despite looking like a nice head-high wave, they are pretty gutless. Damn fun though!
• Wave Speed. In general, the longer the wave period, and hence wavelength (these are related), the faster the waves travel. While waves do slow down as they ‘touch bottom’ and diffract (wrap) and shoal (‘jack up and break’), to be discussed in Part II, this trend still holds true. In Sandbanks, on the good days, one of the bigger shortcomings to the otherwise stellar front-side riding is the speed of the waves – they are simply too slow, making it fairly easy to outrun the waves on bottom turns, making it a lengthy and challenging approach back towards the wave to shmack the lip. This has a great potential to result in backwinding. While at Sandbanks, the psuedo-‘side-shore’ conditions (wave vs wind direction) are partly to blame, but so is the slow speed of the waves.
Here's a wee shot of JFLemay at Mac's, by Nic Chapleau:
Anyway, that is Part I of my blog-length dissertation on some basics of wave terminology and physics as it applies to real-world observations. Some of it straight out of the literature (interpreted by me), and some of it based on real-world observation in alignment with principles I have learned. Part II gets a little more 'interesting' and talks about wave wrapping and breaking...
Here's a shot by Ilan Artzy from the beach. This is all totally onshore...
Please let me know by posting a comment if this type of blog post is at all interesting or just too damn dry and boring. I tried to interject the science with the odd photo of some of the more decent waves from Sandbanks. Most photos courtesy of Nic Chapleau (unless otherwise noted), and the text-book images are all from the USACE Coastal Engineering Manual –Part 2. I had to buy an older version of that manual back in Uni for well over $100 so I don’t feel bad at all about snipping pieces out of the new on-line version. That was a lot of frickin' beer money I will have you know... Let’s hope the US military doesn’t come and send a drone over my house.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The stick that appears to come out with top marks from the Boardseeker.com test is the Goya Quad, for quite a wide variety of user abilities and wave conditions. Its main weakness, unfortunately - straight-lining and B&J. Next in line, perhaps the Quatro Tempo - pretty damn good in all wave conditions, but also shining in top-end and B&J amongst the tested board. Maybe that is just my interpretation of the results, but hey, of course I am biased. Next in line, the JP Thruster.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
The morning arrival revealed somewhat dubious conditions. I was there early - too early, while all the other bums were sleeping in and enjoying a nice breakfast at Isaiah Tubbs. I was on the verge of launching from West Pt proper when my buddy Ilan called and said he had secured rental of a cottage lawn off MacDonald's Lane - not the cottage itself, just the lawn. Eventhough the launch at West Pt would have put me right up in ye old G-Spot, it would have been damn lonely, so I packed back up and went to the cottage to hook up with some great guys who are rapidly become great friends. Some of the regular crew that I seem to be logging some decent SBX time were there; Ilan, Amine, JFLemay, Uncle Tom, Guy Trudeau and a number of others that I met for the first time.
The worst was, we all showed up, and the conditions looked lame as.
Thankfully, it didn't take more than about 15 minutes for the conditions to kick in. The winds were reported to be WSW, which puts it a few degrees offshore there, so the inside was a bit on the light side, and the waves were small. I rigged my 4.2 and ventured way upwind to 'Upper Macs', the 'G-Spot', or whatever you want to call it. JF soon followed but Amine had rigged a 4.5 and was too overpowered on the outside to come up. Everyone else was still rigging, or bitching about their gout ;) I'd say, in the beginning, it was much better up there. I stayed at Upper Macs for about an hour riding some head- to logo-high waves, waves that were wrapping just enough so the smacks were working well without needing to get too backwinded. I had some sweet rides, and some waves just kept going and going down into the shallow bay. Not always, but most of the time, waves were clean clean clean with easily 5 turns or more. Blissful. A very cool experience to be only two of us up there just picking off the best of 'em.
Probably even more fun than the 'riding up there' part, was the proceding 'downwind part'. Just the way the waves work there, you can keep riding and riding, then jibe onto the next one without the up-wind battle. By then the wind was smoking - nicely overpowered on the outside, and usually just-about-right on the inside - the way I like it. I think it took me about 3 waves to get back down to the cottage, which was about 400-500m downwind. More sailors had emerged, Nic was filming and guys like Guy and Amine were pulling out all their material for the lens.
Around that time, the sun started to poke out and you could see everyone's energy level starting to ramp up a notch or two. Lots of action out there. I saw JF trying some pushies, Guy working the backs with some freestyle stuff like air taka attempts on the inside, and lots of guys just working those waves hard and pushing their personal boundaries. What a day! Probably one of the highlights as I mentioned was Mathieu from Quebec City. His riding was refined for sure but what stood out to me was his ballsy jumping. There are not many folks who go for brokes when they loop, but he sure was. I saw some nice beefy stalled forwards, numerous pushies and backloops (landed?, not sure). Anyway, it appeared that in the air, he was for sure a substantial notch above the rest of us folk in terms of comfort, how high he was going and what he was landing.
I also had one particular wave, nothing special, but the guy upwind of me (Le Jeune?), had picked up a set wave. I kept trying to look back, since it was worth watching. I think he rode that thing with all he had... I recall at one point, glancing back to what looked like about mast-high, and there he is cruising down the face frontside with the wave peeling around him. Awesome! I heard later he was pulling some nice lay-down bottom turns 'a la Polakow'.
The vibe was great, the wind and waves were excellent, and we were all together, sailing the same spot, pushing each other and making the most of what could always end up being the last session of the year. Smiles everywhere! I think that is what I really like about this gang - no bitching and complaining (albeit there was nothing to bitch about), just smiles, banter and stoked people all around me. I miss that - that just isn't Kingston anymore. Our once thriving and boisterous scene is largely disbanded... :(
A bunch of us got together for fish'n'chips on the way out of town to wrap up the day with bullshit tales of our double mast high waves, one-handed cut-backs and goiters. Great gang, and an awesome day. Maybe someday I'll have to get off my butt and re-learn french! Gotta throw in a thanks to the guys for tolerating my lack of francais...
A huge props to Nic for coming down all the way from Ottawa to catch the action! As it becomes available, I will start adding some of his footage to this blog post.
Some photos in the Windsurfing Quebec Website.
Also some photos by Fathom (John Vu, including the tree photo at the top).
Sandbanks really is an amazing place. I imagine anyone who sails there during a day like this realizes how lucky we are to have this priceless spot, a spot that is simply shaped right and set-up to go off a handful of times per year, and produce some of the best wave-riding dare I say in the entire country. For those who experience the front-side down-the-line riding it has to offer, there is nothing better. I imagine it's akin to a skier scoring their first two feet of fresh powder, or stomping their first big cliff jump. You just know it is something you have to do again, and the sooner the better. To explain it to the non-windsurfer - it's our version of crack. It's just SO damn good.
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Everyone has their own tastes right... and everyone looks for certain elements in movies that make them love it, like it or dislike it. I think this movie is pretty good. Good work PoorBoyz!
What I have always liked in high-end movies from top pros is to see the innovation taking place, whatever the sport - skateboard, skiing, windsurfing.... Now that in itself is a hugely tricky thing, since often by the time a movie is out, what may have been brand new trickery caught on film has often seen the rounds on the internet, magazines and such, simply due to the quicker speed of delivery of those forms of media.
Anyway, in the end, I was pretty stoked to see some newer moves caught by the film crew and certainly some nice innovative riding by Levi and Kai Lenny.
Add a mix of beer, friends and big screen TV to mix, and you've got a winner. Great flick.
The Poorboyz ski flicks are pretty hot shit too. Check out the trailer for their latest movie 'Revolver' here (and early season trailer here).
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Tower 80 was our destination. The nacelle is located a mere 80m up from the ground, and unfortunately there is no escalator or 'beam-me-up-Scotty' style hardware, so it's a long climb. My arms, long since retired from any rock and ice climbing, were definitely feeling noodley and useless. Dividing the long climb up are about 5 different platforms, strung together with probably about 250 ladder rungs and a 1/2" steel fall-arrest cable. As you start to climb this beast, you notice a few things. First off, it is moving. The blades were tilted out of the wind and the generator was shut down for our climb up, but the thing still wobbles, and that was in a mere 10kts. Second, you start to notice the little things. There are these small little plastic pieces on every 15th or so ladder rung. Apparently, those are required so that the steel fall arrest cable doesn't wear through the aluminum ladder rungs as it swings a bit with the movement of the tower and rubs against the ladder. You can just see one in the photo above.
It's a long shlog up, but fun... As we approach the nacelle, we come to an upper platform with a junction box. The j-box here receives 12 power cables from the nacelle (3 phases with 4 cables each). When you look up, you see they are exposed and dangling here with some slack. This is to permit the rotation of the nacelle relative to the tower and allow twisting of the cables over a length of about 10-15m. Once the cables are twisted up a maximum of three rotations, a simple switch device automatically powers down the generator, rotates the nacelle 3 times to unwind the cables, and then fires back up. Did I mention those cables are damn fat!? Probably about wrist-diameter, roughly.
We then enter the nacelle. And sure enough, there is a bar fridge and a party going on! Er, well, not quite, but we were pretty high just being up there, it was incredible. Our guide throws a few switches and two large overhead compartment doors open right up wide to the sky. So long as we are clipped in with our fall arrest, we can pretty much romp around as we please. It was a perfectly beautiful sunny day, some larger clouds off in the distance to give some more variation to the horizon all around us. We could see all the other 85 turbines up there, with a clear view to Kingston, Reeds & Big Sandy Bay, down to the States, and even all the way out to the Main Duck Islands. Stunning. With the hatches wide open, we got to enjoy the ride. Our guide first rotated the nacelle around so we could have an easy view and photo shoot of anywhere we wanted, with out even moving our asses.
I was quite surprised in fact how much room there was in the nacelle. I don't find it looks that big from down below. Contained within the nacelle is a large gearbox and a generator. The gearbox has a 90:1 ratio, so for every full 360° rotation of the hub and blades, the generator is spun 90 times. We could view a little display up there that showed windspeed, blade pitch, yaw, direction, rotation, power generation, etc... Then, with the compartment doors wide open, our guide let the beast fire up. Here we are totally exposed to the universe and we get to see this wind turbine do its thing. The blades slowly twist and expose their faces to the wind, and it begins to spin, faster and faster. You cannot believe how quickly that thing spins... When you're looking at them from a distance, it appears as a pretty slow lumbering rotation. From up top, I can assure you that when you glance over the edge of the nacelle and watch the tips of the blades as they swing past the earth, you realize - holy shit, those blade tips are trucking. I guess I could try to figure it out mathematically, but I forget all those silly rotational equations... Needless to say, I figure the blade tips were moving over 200km/hr.
Looking back towards the tail of the nacelle, there are two styles of anemometer on the rear. There is your pretty conventional three-cup hemispherical cup anemometer, with a separate vane to track direction, and there is also an ultrasonic style, which measures both direction and velocity. Interestingly enough, the older technology gets the nod and it is the data acquired from the cup anemometer and wind vane that control the blades and direction of the nacelle.
Sometimes when I have been sailing on the lake, I have seen the turbines shut down, in winds surprisingly light (light 15-20kts). It turns out, that the turbines shut down for a number of reasons. First, if there is wind that exceeds roughly 97km/hr, the turbines will auto-depower by rotating their blades out of the wind. Also, if wind speed or direction are highly variable, the electronics have a hard time deciphering how to rotate, or how to pitch the blades, so the units will shut down. I think, in retrospect, the times I witnessed the turbines shut down was when there were thunderstorms approaching. This brings us to a third reason for shut down, which is the reported proximity of lightning strikes. I believe our guide said that if there is reported lightning strikes within 25miles, the units shut themselves down.
There are also a couple of other neat things in the nacelle that we did not get to play with, including i) a small crane (for hauling materials, supplies and beers up from the ground), and ii) an emergency descent hatch. I forget what our guide called it - an 'Oh-shit' hatch or something like that, but apparently you harness yourself into an emergency lowering device, climb out through a small door and that thing will zip you down in about 27 seconds.
All in all an amazing experience. As my buddy Craig said, he felt like a little kid again and I agree. It was a blast to be up there, and even better that it wasn't windy enough to be sailing! ;) As we were driving away basking in the glow of our experience, I did a quick calculation. Thank you to TransAlta for the downtime of Tower 80 that amounted to a loss of about $34 in revenue. I would have easily paid more than that for the luxury of this experience!
All photos by Craig.
Friday, September 24, 2010
First off, 'kiting'? What am I thinking... Well, it really has little to do with me and all to do with family! Cheryl is keen therefore I am keen for her to be keen. Make any sense? Well, for anyone with a non-windsurfing or non-kiting spouse who drags your family to windy spots - well, that can go well for some and not so well for others. I'd say we are about 50/50, but, her interest in kiting could change everything. To sum it up, I would happily trade water time with Cheryl to have our vacation priorities in alignment. Yes, this could work.
Anyway, the vacation started off on a very windy note! So windy in fact, with Hurricane Earl remnants passing through the whole area at large, that we delayed our departure to Sunday, and I joined the 100 or so others who were feasting on the waves of Sandbanks Provincial Park. Well worth it, but with my current level of condition (rock bottom), I destroyed myself and needed a few days off to recover from a two-ankle tweaker, huge charlie-horse and hands full of blisters. This was good for Cheryl though, as she could easily head off to Club Wind and Kite and get her lessons started without me competing for time! And she did!
Shippagan is a very interesting place - beautiful in many regards, but also challenging in some. One thing we take for granted around here is the lack of tides. There is only about 2ft of tidal range in Shippagan, but where we were staying, it has a big influence on conditions, and whether or not you can actually go out or not (moreso for a windsurfer for sure). Coming from Kingston, where chop is king, what amounted to glassy flat water just out front of our beach house was awesome! For freestyle, my god, everything just gets so much easier!! I never caught the wave conditions quite right there, but was blissfully in heaven anyway in the flat water. There are tons of places to sail, but for sure I was a little wary due to the tides and not 'knowing' the spots, you never know where there are rocks down below just under the surface. Thankfully, it was never a problem. Weeds are abundant and weedfins a must (see earlier posting on the Makani Nai'a)!
On the kiting front... let's just say this is daunting sport. I am more than happy to splurge on lessons for Cheryl and make sure she learns all the correct way to do things right from the start. Nothing but the best for the mother of our children. Me on the other hand... whatever... I'll figure it out somehow. I flew our 12m Ocean Rodeo Rise on the grassy area at Club Wind & Kite's 'Pool' spot, and certainly experienced some pretty scary moments, including one that dragged me across the grass. Thankfully the sacrificial skin on my lower legs was willing to impart some friction to the situation and keep me going further. Second time I tried was in the water, on a light wind afternoon. I figured I could just walk out with the kite, get it up and then fly it in the shallows. If I felt like it, I might even body drag myself around. Alas, the water was just deep enough that I rarely touched bottom, so basically I just got pulled along, my feet just scratching the surface of the muck below (it ain't sand!). Anyway, I had the kite flying for a while until the wind died, parked itself on the water, leading edge down, directly downwind, and there it sat and continued to drag me the 1km across the bay. Let me tell you that the committment level is very different than windsurfing. In windsurfing, you can always let go. In kiting, you are actually supposed to be attached and stay attached. Just the thought that you are at the whim of the wind and your abilities to control the kite is a new sensation for sure. Anyway, despite pretty dismal first outtings for moi, it is definitely intriguing and I'll give it some more go. Maybe in the winter on some fluffy white stuff.
So, what else does Shippagan have going for it? For sure the action had died off while we were there, probably after labour day the tourist population is on a rapid decline. There was simply not much going on. Not so bad for us (for lesser 'crowds' - as if there are any out there), but for the kids, it is a bit more problematic. Next time we go, no doubt we will tackle it in the late summer, when the kids are more likely to be able to swim, but also there will just be more alternative activities going on, like actually having a seal or two in the aquarium seal tank, and having farm animals at the Acadian Village. Those issues aside, still had lots of fun and easily filled our days. There are some beautiful walks/short hikes to do, like at a small 'Eco-Park' at Lemeque, and the Peat Bogs up at Miscou (huckleberries were in season!! YUM!), plus the Miscou Lighthouse itself. Don't forget to pick up some fresh lobster in Lemeque at the Poisonnerie.
For kiting, the place is really good. Eric Girard (see photo below) has done a great job setting up Club Wind and Kite to be a premier destination for kiteboarding and learning to kite. There are not many places like this, if any, in the rest of Canada! He has purchased a hook of land that handles a few different directions well and has some perfectly flat water for kiting, and learning to kite. We'd for sure recommend it, or Shippagan in general, for a neat vacation spot. Obviously though, we like to relax, and will take natural beauty over built-up tourist destinations any day of the week. If you like places like Hatteras for its quiet beauty, then you'll probably like Shippagan too.
I have not a single windsurf photo from this trip.... Yes, thumbs down for that. Sorry.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Prior to our trip to Shippagan, I had read a comment somewhere about weeds and wanted to be prepared. I had also heard about the emergence of a new fin company out of Quebec, called Makani Fins. At first, I have to admit that I found the use of Hawaii'an names and graphics for a Canadian fin manufacturer a bit weird. Whatever... In the end, it's all about the product anyway!
I was keen to support an upstart Canadian company so I thought I would give their 18cm Nai'a fin (a weed-shaped Freestyle fin) a go for Shippagan. I bought a powerbox for my 2010 Goya X1 105. My sails are '10 Goya Eclipses (5.3 and 4.7) and Gurus (4.2 and 3.7). I got to ride the board/fin combo with the 5.3, 4.7 and 4.2 while there, in a variety of conditions, but most flat-water. When I sail, I basically try tricks on every tack, a variety of vulcans, spocks, 540's, grubbies and swayze attempts (yes, I will still call them swayzes, as I think Web Pedrick deserves the recognition for inventing this awesome & frustrating move - how did 'flaka' ever stick?).
The verdict: It was great! In what way? Well, two things mainly. First of all, the fin just worked well for all those sail sizes in all the conditions I sailed, from dead flat to chop. Second of all, and perhaps the biggest compliment, is that it never felt significantly different than any other non-weed freestyle fin I've used. Given that the MFC Freestyle Pro is probably as close as you can get to an industry standard (hard to say there is really a 'standard' since FS fins in general are so massively diverse in shape and size), I think that is a substantial accomplishment for Makani fins. I would say maybe, just maybe, I could have used a 16cm here and there (due to a bit of resistance to sliding backwards), but I was overall very pleased with the 18cm. Kudos to Makani Fins for producing a winner in my books!
Please note, I don't sail nearly enough to be considered remotely an expert on the subject matter, or even close. All I can say with confidence is the 18cm Nai'a fin clearly worked well for me, shed the weeds like it should (I never had ANY accumulate), and let me do my business without feeling any weirdness under the board. It's a great fin at a great price ($99). If you ever freestyle anywhere weedy, buy one!
The summer has been pretty lame for wind. From my perspective anyway. It's pretty clear from my last couple of posts that I have clearly put myself in this position by semi-refusing to go >5.3. First I'll explain why.
In New Zealand, there was so much wind and so frequent, that I downsized my 5.7/5.0/4.5/3.7 quiver down to 5.0 and down. Yep, sold off that huge 5.7. After all that 4.5 sailing, the 5.7 started to feel real heavy and cumbersome - and there was plenty of 5.0 and down, so it seemed useless. We returned to Canada about 3 years ago now and at the time, I restocked a new quiver of 6.2 and down. Also at the time, I'd say I was in the best sailing condition of my life, and a decent level of fitness and weight. Somehow, while friends were out on 6.0's, I generally could make the 5.3 work well enough with my 105. For some reason, I never felt I could get much more out of that 6.2, and never felt I could match the fun I was having with the 5.3, even if it was sporadic planing with the odd trick thrown in. So, I ditched the 6.2... and have been a sailor with 5.3/105 as my big combo since.
Unfortunately, it has been a lengthy 3 years since returning from NZ, I'm 20lbs heavier and with way less action on the water. I'd say now, I am in probably my worst sailing conditioning of all time, with seemingly less wind each summer, less time on the water and more donuts. I think this info is somewhat misleading though - cuz, in fact, we have had a reasonable number of 15-17kt days - probably sufficient to get me going with a 6.0 semi-regularly. Unfortunately, I don't own one. Finally I am beginning to see the light...
So what's my problem? Well, several: i) Stubborn-ness to get a big sail again & ii) pure laziness for not dropping the 20lbs. Pure and simple. Then there is iii) family life. My kids are at such an awesome age right now that heading home to have a lightsaber battle or build them some star destroyers out of lego is actually pretty damn fun. Regardless, I still love windsurfing and still pine over it every day. So why not buy a 6.0 and go already?
Here comes the pickle. My wife has yet to demonstrate a whole lot of interest in windsurfing. She has sailed a couple of times and we haven't managed to get that stoke factor going (and I am partly to blame). Add to that the lack of a windsurf-based social scene here in Kingston, and it just doesn't turn her crank. Enter kiteboarding. Yes, I said it. Kiteboarding. She played with a kite a number of years back while living in Venezuela and kinda liked it. Tack onto that a number of fellow Kingston Ultimate frisbee players into kiting, and throw in a reasonably thriving social environment with some other like-minded females to boot, and she is keen.
My options: Spend the sparse $ on a 6.0 and don't get into kiting. Or, ditch that idea and let lighter-wind kiteboarding fill that 15kt range. Ideally, I would do both. Alas, the cash flow is at an all time low as well, so the reality is, the choice is one or the other, for now. (As a sidebar - check out this recent posting that was cruising around Facebook: "Who Needs Money when you can go Windsurfing!")
So, kiting it is... We bought a used 12m 2010 Ocean Rodeo Rise, a couple of harnesses and a wetsuit for Cheryl, and off we go. A local kiteboarder named Stan Woodman was Über-generous and supportive of helping us get into the sport and is lending us one of his own Windego 138cm kiteboards to start learning on, suggesting that perhaps saving some coin on a board initially could help us get going. And he was right! Thanks Stan! On top of that, Brian Taguchi, part owner of Kiteboarding Kingston also helped us out a bit with a trainer and some words of wisdom.
So, how does this feel? Honestly, it feels wierd. I feel like a traitor. ;)
One thing I know: if Cheryl gets hooked, or at least semi-keen on kiteboarding, it will certainly help with aligning our vacation priorities and maybe in the near future, she will understand why I never get all that excited about a holiday, unless we are heading somewhere windy. Certainly at the moment, I can say with certainty that when I look at kite videos, and when I look at kite magazines, the stoke factor just ain't quite there like windsurfing. It will definitely be interesting to see how this all evolves and unfolds for the Fischer family.
This changes nothing for the kiddies! I am still committed to buying us a big fat beginner board next year!!!! The question becomes, which home renovation or car upkeep project is going to get put off to fund that?!
As an update (I started writing this weeks ago, but never posted it), we just returned from two weeks in Shippagan. My next post will be a report on that trip and how the kitekooking thing is progressing.
My buddy Ilan had rented a cottage up on MacDonald's Lane, just about 250m or so upwind of Mac's launch. It was sweet! Talk about an awesome set up with a cottage for warmth, easy parking, private launch...! Anyway, he invited a number of his friends to sail out of there as well and we all had a great time! The winds came on Saturday, a bit lighter 25kts or so early, but by the time I showed up around 11:30 or so it was reasonable 3.7 and building and the waves were doing their thing, peeling gently around West Point and shoaling up on the shallow limestone shelf of the beach.
I saw some awesome sailing out there by lots of the guys! Maui-based pro sailor Patrick Bergeron dropped by to show us all how it is done, demonstrating full height on a number of perfect pushloops and backloops. Then there was the rest of us mere mortals, still able to get some airtime, throw some loopage and hit some lips. Now I wish I could remember everyone's names, but I can't - I met a lot of the new faces. Alas, I did witness some great riding from Ilan, JFLemay, Jacques and Pierre, Hugues and a handful of others. In fact, I think the nicest ride of the day that I saw was by Hugues, apparently sailing for the first time this year following a knee injury! I saw him accurately time and hit three sweet cutbacks on a single head high wave... and then keep going. Well done!
All in all, I'd say it was an awesome day and worth delaying our trip. I did batter myself quite a bit, not very well conditioned these days with my nice little pot-belly and stiff joints. I attempted a few more pushloops on starboard which feel very odd, and a backloop and small forward here and there for good measure. I had a few nice rides, but more often than not I was just not lining up the right waves to get more than 2-3 turns at most. Regardless, an awesome time! Sandbanks rocks. THIS is why I windsurf. The adrenaline and stoke I get from these conditions is unbeatable.
Thanks to the Montreal crew for inviting me to join them and sharing the stoke!
Ilan's report and link to his photoset on his blog here: WindandBigWaves
Friday, September 03, 2010
Lots of chitter on all the local forums - let's see if Earl delivers what we all need - a first good nuker of 2010 (for this area anyway).
I've seen a ton of postings from OBX Bill and wish them all the best in hunkering down!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Kingston is located on the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Summer conditions used to be dominated by thermal winds - characterized by crisp warm days and thermally driven winds off the lake from roughly 2-4pm. At one point in time, you might be able to count on 1-2 days of 15kts+ every week (not epic, but respectable). OK, maybe that is exaggerating a bit, but definitely more than now. I would say nowadays, those once common crisp, low-humidity summer days have become the exception, replaced by much more frequent hot humid and hazy & smoggy days - the type of conditions that don't let those thermals set up.
Note, this photo (by WaveSpire) is from too long ago to mention....