Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stubby Fins - Take 2

An Amateur's Take on Freestyle Fins - Take 2:

Looking back to the archives, I wrote a brief synopsis on my own personal experiences with stubby freestyle fins. Here is the LINK.

I got a variety of comments and noticed that some additional comments were smothered around the WWW with snippets from this blog post. While totally flattered to have readers at all, there was definitely considerable disagreement on my diagnosis of stubby fins. I was using this custom cut down MFC fin, down to 18cm from a big old 31(!), with a wee bit of extra grinding for reduced profile around the tip:

The original chopped down 18cm stubby.

If you read the article, you may recall that my personal experiences with stub fins did not quite unveil the purported benefits. Now in the realm of professional riders, 18cm is considered far from small these days. But, for me, used to riding a 23cm and 25cm MFC freestyle fin (at the time), it WAS small. Anyway, since reading some of the comments, I vowed to reconsider smaller fins, more specifically - purposely-manufactured small freestyle fins (as opposed to custom cut-down) as a result of some of the comments. With the recent acquisition of a spanky new 2010 Goya X1 105L, hereby named 'the Big Booger', I made off with a nice new 20cm MFC Pro UL fin. I've decided to start naming my boards, just like I name my cars with silly names that the kids will find amusing. I figure they'll be nicer to me that way. The boards that is...

New 20cm MFC Freestyle Pro UL

I have to put out the disclaimer that I am a pretty low-level freestyler. Now 37 yrs old, my ankles and other joints are less twistable and such, so it is safe to say my progression is declining (along with my time on the water due to kiddies), but that is not to say I don't try - and I do still love trying tricks! I probably always will. Anyway, I make the claim, again, that this is an amateur's perspective - I am not going for double spins, I am not going switch-stance - I am just trying to work my way through basic flakas and relearn grubbies, which I somehow have completely lost since returning home from New Zealand 3 years ago. The coriolis effect has been working against me. ;)

So, I just got back from two weeks in Cape Hatteras and had lots of time to play on the new X1 with the 20cm MFC Pro UL. First off, to me, it does look like a really small fin, and IS in fact reasonably small. But, in todays world of small fins, admittedly, it is probably just entering what can be considered the small stubby fin domain.

First impressions: Well, there was lots of wind. I was generally riding 4.2 Guru or 4.7 Eclipse for most of my stay, on the Pamlico Sound, which is reasonably flat, yet still I'd often be hunting for the perfectly flat around the shallows and islands. I would say my first couple of days on this board and fin were very positive ones and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't struggle too much to stay upwind.

However, as the wind kept up and the directions wavered, the sea grass also starts to get mobile and form long lines in the water that are completely unavoidable. All it appeared to take was one or two little strands of sea grass caught on the 20cm fin and all bets were off. On one particular day sailing with my buddy Amine, fully wound-up on a 4.7, I was constantly struggling to stay upwind. After getting very frustrated, I finally figured out that it was largely the sea grass slowing me down, just that little tiny bit, that I was having a really hard time. Anyway, this became the norm for the rest of the trip... I switched back to a 23cm fin that allowed me to stay upwind a bit better (albeit catching more weeds in the process). Towards the end of the stay, I even switched to a cut down weed fin (probably about 18-20cm?), which seemed to deal with the weed accumulation much better, but had a wierd feeling to it that I am not used to. All that said, I cannot fault any non-weed fin for the weed accumulation issues.

The trusty 23cm old-school FS fin. I still like it.

Chopped down weed-fin.

The line-up.

As far as trick- and spin-ability goes, to be honest, my sailing was so rusty during those first few sessions (5 months off for winter) and my tricks are so basic, that I really am still convinced that I don't benefit that much from a small 20cm fin. Saying that, I revert back to my previous conclusion that I need more time on the water to be able to form a more firm conclusion. Definitely, without any weed issues, I'd say the 20cm fin was managable and my semi-developed "freestyle stance" enabled me to work with it. Any smaller, I think I would stuggle too much.

So maybe, I can theorize that I have found a rough fin size that balances my current abilities with maneuverability and purported 'ease of rotation' on tricks. 20cm.

Saying that, I have yet to truly realize the 'easier' rotation and slide-ability of the smaller fins, perhaps due to my relatively basic aerial freestyle level and lack of consistent conditions to work on tricks with different fin set-ups. My case is simply not amenable to a proper, professional fin review, let alone my deficient style and stance development to permit shorter fin use.

I am going to toss in a quick props for the 2010 X1 - the 'Big Booger'. I defintely like it! One of the struggles i seemed to have with the older 2007 model was that it didn't seem to like to carve very well (or probably better put, I never figured out how to make it carve well). On those rare occassions when I actually did want to jybe, I struggled to set a rail and make it turn smoothly. While I don't care a whole lot about jybing these days, this issue presented itself mostly when trying shove-its. I really had a hard time doing nice shove-its with that board - it was always so much easier with a smaller (and turnier wave board (and more wind - coincidence?)). No such problems though with the 2010 model. It carves nicely and can easily manage the tight aggressive upwind carves to hit those shove-its in small chop. In general, it also seems to have a smoother all-around ride, which is maybe part and parcel with my point about the carving. Definitely happy to be playing with the Boog.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ramp 34

On the first Tuesday in Hatteras, I tried sailing Ramp34 just north of Avon, just to partake in some of the waves... While I was already pretty spent from a couple days of high winds following a long winter of hibernation, Keith McCulloch who happened to be sailing there as well, was kind enough to focus his lens on me for a moment on probably the only wave I got in that short session.

Big props to Keith, and for the advice on how to get my Subaru out on the beach and back without getting stuck.

Hatteras final day...

After a few days of light winds, it was nice to score a big fat sound-side day on Saturday, before pushing home in the lead-sled. I sailed with Amine and Christine mostly on the sound side around the big-island.

First on the water, I went out with the 105 Goya X1 and 4.2 Guru. Fun combo. I played around a bit in the flats near the Big Island hoping to make some progress on flakas. Status: denied. Progress: Zero. Man, that trick is bizarre... I'm having a really tough time cracking the initiation part of it.

Amine then popped out from his new digs at the 'Octaview' equipped with 4.2 and wee little Quatro Wave 63... I switched to my Wave 76 and we headed out for some fun. Lots of small shove-it potential out there, and worked on some ugly port-side forward attempts too. The extra pounds I have been shlepping around really revealed themselves in lee of the island. Amine would some how manage to rip right through the marginal gusty winds back there while I barely could keep on a plane. At some point, it's clear that I'm going to have to stop with the excess beer and donuts ;)

Definitely a great session to finish off our stay! I basically sailed until I couldn't hold on any longer and my hands were fully blistered. Thankfully, a Quebec sailor named Michel was keeping an eye out with his camera and snapped a few shots (loopy shots embedded above). Check out his blog here.

All in all, Hatteras was a score! We stayed two weeks and I sailed most days, mostly powered up on sails ranging from 3.7 up to 5.3, but also with my boys on the big fat beginner board in 5 kts at the Canadian Hole. Honestly, unless you are a parent, you probably cannot fathom how incredible it is to have your 3yr old kids asking to go out windsurfing.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Amateur Aeron V-Grip Boom Review

Just had two weeks in Hatteras with lots of winds using a couple of new 140-190 Aeron V-Grip continuous alloy booms purchased at 2-Rad in Quebec.

The summary: I like them.

It is quite simple: if you have never been a fan on splashing out $500+ on carbon but have been tempted by the extra inherent stiffness, these might be for you. I've always ridden alloy booms and have maybe, at most, bent or broken one on average every couple of years. I'm 165-175lbs and I play fairly hard on the gear - get catapulted, land on them, loop them, etc...

From what I can tell, by feel only (not having weighed them), they are a touch heavier, than say the newly released Chinook Pro-Alloy, or most other standard booms out there. This is reasonably to be expected, as there is some additional material in the tube cross-section, so the stiffness does come at a small price. But, the weight never bothered me at all, if indeed they are heavier at all. Maybe one day I can actually weigh them side by side with others to do a factual comparison.

What about the V-Grip shape? Well - I found it neither irritating, nor beneficial in terms of hand/forearm stress/strain and palm and finger blistering (something us less-frequent sailors have to deal with when we go on intensive windsurf holidays). I would not say I prefer the v-grip cross-sectional shape any better or worse over plain round. i.e. it's pretty neutral.

They are definitely stiff. Not sure how they compare to carbon, but if all you have ridden prior to these is typical two-piece arm alloy booms, then stepping to continuous (one-piece tube) V-grip shape is definitely a large improvement. I cannot say how much simply the continuous tube would have added in terms of stiffness...

Oh, did I mention the boom head? I really like it! Since switching to RDMs nearly 7 yrs ago now, a problem has always been the need for a shim. I did ride a couple of older Chinook Triple-Clamps without shims and crushed two RDMs trying to get them to grip enough without dropping while riding. So, since then, I have always used shims in fear of repeating the same mistake. But, the Aeron's have such an excellent RDM adaptor included in the boom head, that there is no more need for after-market shims!! YEAH!! I noticed while gazing at the new Chinook Pro-Alloy's in Ocean Air in Avon, that they also appear to have a decently revamped boom head as well with a good integrated RDM shim. Similar looking in fact, but maybe only a touch less beefy looking.

In the end, yes, I definitely like them and look forward to putting on lots of mileage. If anyone wants a few more details, photos or more scrutinous opinion on specific features, let me know. As you can tell, I'm not very techy in my description and analysis but this is me. If I would have had a few different booms to compare side-by-side, perhaps I could offer a bit more...

UPDATE (Jul6-10):
While I can say I am pretty satisfied with the stiffness, boom head, tube shape etc... there is one item that I foresee becoming a problem. The grip is already starting to wear through around my harness line straps. I'm using pretty industry-standard lines, DaKine fixed lines to be precise, and the area around where they attach to the boom is already getting mangled. I suspect this will become a problem, as I need to move them around for various sail sizes...

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Some light winds here in Hatteras today and the last couple days...
But, we did have an awesome play at the Canadian Hole with our boys yesterday. They absolutely loved playing in the shallows. Both took long rides with me on the board and were asking for more, despite shivering uncontrollably. Great times!

I might try renting a Quatro SUP 11'4" today from Olaf at the Avon Sail House.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Still lots of wind.

Wow, good year for Hatteras this one. Sailed a couple days ago fully wound on the 4.7 in the sound - sweet fun trading loops with Amine. Yesterday was a fun photoshoot with Steve Slaby at the Canadian Hole. Hopefully together me have managed to get some nice ones! Big props to Steve for standing in waist deep water for nearly 2 hours.

Today will probably be the last day of this recent "Bermuda High", which has delivered consistent 25kt winds every sunny afternoon for the last 3-4 days. Today will be an ocean session with Bill, Keith and a number of other locals up at Salvo Ramp 23. Should be a fun air-fest with small ramps and strong winds. Stoked.

Tomorrow: Time for a trip to the Manteo aquarium with the family... light winds and rain.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Lots of wind...

Still blowing. Had a couple of days of rest, but now its back on. Sailed the Canadian Hole yesterday, nicely lit on the 4.7. Great to see some excellent freestylers out playing in the froth. Local Stewart Proctor and Lopi were certainly doing well.

Again today. Picked up around 3pm, went out on a 5.2 but needed to rig down soon thereafter. Through on the 4.7, but within 1/2hr could have easily been on the 4.2. Great fun sail with Amine, him on 4.0/63L, me on 4.7/105. Fun trading loops out in the sound.

Lots more wind to come... should be solid evening session tomorrow followed by a big day on Monday! Cracker!