Tuesday, November 05, 2013


The word 'epic' gets used a lot these days, and what does it really mean?  In some instances, it means simply an experience that was incredible, or beyond the ordinary.  In other instances, it is used to talk about the conditions - conditions that were incredible, or beyond the ordinary.  I am guilty for calling sessions 'epic' regularly in the fall, when we typically have anywhere between 3 to 5 really good days.  If that is the case, Friday November 1, 2013 trumps them all as the most epic of the epics.  Time to stop using the word 'epic' and just call it what it was, just damn incredibly epic.  Oops.  Did it again. Nope, how about this:  


That's my new word!

Out in the middle.  Photo: Pierre Boily
The insanity of it all...  Photo by ILAN!.

At Sandbanks, it takes a lot of wind and a narrow directional wind-range to get the conditions we all want.  Basically, it takes anywhere from SW through WNW perhaps, to set up well at Mac's or West Point.  SW is a bit side-on even, making the riding really difficult.  Safe to say, West is best.  When we get strong westerlies, the riding is beautiful and there is usually enough wind to fill in the hole near shore from what amounts to mildly side-off conditions.  Fire up to upper Mac's and everything is even better.  What gives us the down-the-line conditions is not perpendicular wind and swell like Maui gets, but its the wrapping of the waves along the northern part of Athol Bay that generate 'psuedo side-shore' conditions, or down-the-line.

JF Lemay going big.  Photo by Ilan.

Funny how this seemed really high at the time...  Photo by Fathom

Friday was a different beast.  It was a bit weak on the westerly component, more WSW, but the wind strength more than made up for it.  The forecast was big and it delivered.  For most of the day, winds were overpowering for most people's small sails, me included.  The anemometer at Pt Petre suggested sustained average winds for much of the 9am to 6pm range of over 35 knots, peak around 2pm at 44 gusting to 53 knots.  Needless to say, small sails were not small enough.  Although the direction wasn't perfect, the size and wave wrapping were certainly working for us.  Longer period waves will interact with the lake bottom at greater depths, and hence start wrapping towards the shore (refraction).  So, the big winds created longer period waves (got to 8 seconds I believe), which created more wrapping.  The waves were damn fine.
(For my previous dissertations on wave dynamics at Sandbanks, check out my older blog posts:  Wave Theory and Principles Interpretted, Part1 and Part2).

Down the line.  Photo by Fathom.

Sailors were on 2.9's to 3.8's out there - whatever people had on hand.  Diapers, winter jackets, snot rags... whatever could be successfully rigged was used.

Fathom getting a beautiful hit.  Photo by me.

It was great to see such a keen core gang of windsurfers out there.  I know scary strong winds were forecast throughout southern Ontario and Quebec, so we didn't have as many people as on other good days, but the gang who was here was stoked and ready to sail whatever conditions actually came our way.  Great to see my mates JF, Ilan and Jacek from Montreal among others, the Durham gang Windchiro, Fathom and rINR, and the locals Joe and Old Whitey.  Met some new guys too!  Lots of short sessions with rests in between.

Another down-the-line.  Photo by Fathom.
Nice backside hit.  Photo by Fathom.

Some highlights:
  • JF Lemay sending huge on numerous jumps!
  • Ilan looking really in control with his 3.4 and getting some sweet hacks.
  • Pierre Boily, whom I think I have met before, hucking a huge ballsy endo forward right behind me (Got a great view!).
  • Fathom getting some great rides and linking some good turns.

JF getting flattened.  Photo by Fathom.

I had an incredible time.  Yes the 3.7 felt huge, especially in the gusts, but ya know, you just make the best of it and try to ride those beautiful waves as best you can.  I think over the course of sailing about 2-3 hours, I had maybe 2 to 3 wave rides that I considered really good - one with about 6-8 turns, and one in particular with a not-so-forced aerial.  After watching Pierre's Endo, I tried to man-up myself with a forward of my own off some near-shore whitewater but totally lost my back foot out the strap and crashed bad.

One-handed top turn.  Like most of 'em ;)  Photo:  Ilan.

One particularly memorable wave was really going well until about my third hit when the wind extracted my kit from my claws... and it was gone!  After the first wave, it came to rest about 50m downwind but then just kept on going.  Each wave seemed to take it further and further towards the beach, and each successive wave carried it further than any distance I covered.  I was not going to catch up - I was destined for Outlet Beach.  Thankfully Ilan saved the day and grabbed my stuff for me while I caught up.  We then shared a long reach out to the middle to regain the 600-800m downwind positioning.  The waves out there were nasty huge, with little waves on top of big waves.  Really gnarly stuff.

Smack by Ilan.  Photo by Fathom.

In the end, not a single person made the effort or successfully made an upwind attempt towards Upper Macs or West Point.  I can only imagine how incredible it must have been up there.  I guess the safety of proximity to the gang and the launch was enough to keep everyone close.  I know I certainly didn't want to take any long reaches way out in the bay - way too crazy out there, with liquid smoke everywhere and gusts that flattened you from time to time.

Aerial!  Photo by Ilan

With everyone's busy lives and long commutes, it often proves difficult to get together afterwards.  This time, many of us made the effort.  Old Whitey kindly booked us a big table at the Acoustic Grill in Picton and about 12 of us got together for tales of gusts, explosions and shit-in-the-pants.  What a great time - with delicious local brews and scrummy blue cheese burgers to boot.  Beer and burgers never tasted so fine!

Thanks to all those who made it such a legendary day!

Lots of photos were snapped.  I've put a few in the text here (with credit), but here are some other folders I am aware of.
Beautiful end of the day/carnage sunset.  Photo by Ilan.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pansy Hands

I have pansy hands.  Not proud of it.

How bad? Two week trips to Cape Hatteras are interesting balancing acts between wearing irritating gloves, versus suffering the debilitating appearance of blisters and torn-off blisters.  Then I go nuts with hockey tape.  By the time we're driving home, it's like a thermonuclear explosion of pain every time my hands make contact with anything, including any microscopic airborne particulate-matter.

Frustrating to say the least... sometimes I'll get a handful of nasty ones after just 2-3hrs!

Not working in my favour, I am a desk worker, paper pushing, all-day-at-the-computer type worker.  So, I'm never going get those leathery manual-labour dream hands that can repel napalm.  I need a pro-active solution.

Have you ever suffered from Pansy Hands Syndrome imparted by windsurfing?  If you haven't, then you're lucky, or maybe you get to sail too much and are therefore well-conditioned which is unfair, and also lucky.

Have you found something that helps aside from gloves?  If so, what do you do that helps or eliminates?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

October Double-Header

Truth be told, the first session was not much to write home about after experiencing the second session... But none-the-less, a right October Double-Header it'was!

Session 1:  Everitt Park Dawn Patrol.

With the forecast so dang variable and with lots of rain to boot, I never felt confident that an afternoon blast would actually happen, or happen before dark.  Add into the mix the fact that the LOOFS website I rely on is only updating once a day (due to the USA being closed for business or whatever absurdity is going on down there ;), I was doubtful, and felt the prudent thing to do would be to sneak in an hour sesh before my morning meeting.

It was decent!  Really warm (for October), just 2mm suit required.  Sailed full-on 4.2 Goya Guru in winds shifting from SE (no waves!) to ESE and improving waves.  Just made the most out of the little time I had, enjoyed about 10 minutes of the orange morning sky when the sun poked through, packed up, and off to work!

A couple of my best moments here were getting a few one-off front-side hits.  Why is this a big deal for me?  Because I'm solid regular foot, that's why.  I skateboarded regular foot, I snowboarded regular-foot.  Regular-foot stance is so entrenched in my mechanics that getting hits on the starboard tack is monumental for me - it all feels so foreign, so I was pleased with getting a few hits that way.

Note to self:  Dawn patrol in early October means 7 a.m., not 6 a.m., ya damn fool.

Annoying Interlude:  Work

Yes, I work to make a living and when talking about windsurfing, 'annoying interlude' is a quite accurate description of work, or anything for that matter.  I'll take it my boss will understand if he reads this.

My meeting wrapped up at 11:30 and I checked the web:  LOOFS had updated (was looking epic - even some black arrows in the middle of the lake yeah!), and the Weather Network radar was showing rain clearing out of Picton area by 2pm.  YES!  Hit the road!

Session 2:  Sandbanks Epic-ness.

We are fortunate enough to have Sandbanks Provincial Park dish out epic-ness a few times a year - sometimes more, sometimes less.  This year, it's looking to be less than normal, but thankfully, at least we've now got one under the belt before the temperatures start to drop.  Water is still nice and warm and the air temperature was solid at around 13C or so.  The rain dissipated around 2p.m. and then it absolutely went off.

Slash on a small-one.
 First, I rigged up the trusty 4.2 Guru with the Quad 78 and had some fun waves - still pretty small mind you, but it didn't take long for the winds to ramp up to 35kts+ and start removing bodies from rigs, including mine. Top turns became one-handed.  The waves jacked, we all rigged our 3.7 and less, and out we went again.  Great gang here on this day - a crew including Ilan, Pierre & Mimeault from Montreal, the locals Andrew & Joe, plus John & Reiner from T.O., Peter, Guy & others from Ottawa, and myself and Craig serving up the Ktown contingent.  I also met 'windchiro' and another Picton local, whom I cannot remember his name - sorry!

Peter getting some airtime on 3.2!
For the first while, a bunch of us sailed upwind towards West Point, to an area we call upper Mac's.  Not sure why (maybe because we were overpowered), but we didn't venture upwind as far as we have in the past, up near the true point where the waves are colossal, but just opted for near the top of MacDonald's Lane (barely considered 'uppers').  The waves there are clean, and easy to spot.  With a handful of others, we traded off on smooth head- to logo-high wave-faces.  Seems like I was botching more than my fair share and getting grumpy about it, but I managed to fend off those negative vibes and find the groove a bit better as I rode a couple back downwind towards the launch.

Ilan on a small one near-shore.
Medium size long peeler.  About 100m out was the place to hop aboard.
By the time 4p.m. rolled around, the overpowering conditions started to take their toll.  After my first real rest break, heading back out I totally floundered on the launch and found my arms cramping immediately once I finally made it out.  I just kept at it since I felt was no where near ready to call it quits, and luckily that cramping vanished and I ripped as many waves as I could before needing another break about an hour later.  Quite frankly, I thought I was done, but I went out again for round three, fought through the cramps that hit right away, and lasted probably another hour in blissful conditions.  

Local Joe holding down a 4.5 and charging those waves full-speed.  Awesome!
Every once in a while, I find that you can pick off a wave near the launch, and connect all the way down with 5-10 turns.  It's a very neat sensation, just hopping on a wave and letting it keep you going along the face without any power in the sail, rather than bottom turning all the time - a very useful method for connecting long rides where the wave is sectioning.

Local Andrew getting dialed on the new RRD Quad
All in all, what can I say but it was an incredible afternoon!  Great to have Mac's to a limited number of excellent sailors all with huge perma-grins on their faces.   Supporting each other, filming each other, joking around and just having the time of our lives.  THIS is why I windsurf.

The AfterGlow & AfterMath:

The afterglow from sessions like these is incredible.  For me, it usually lasts a few days as reports, photos and tales of epic-ness begin to show up on the internet, to help relive the glory. Still completely sore, but a 'good' sore that only other windsurfers can understand.  Only regret?  Rushing off for the long tired drive.  Definitely, we should have collected the gang, shared some burgers and beers!  Next time...

Didn't do much in the air (its all about the riding!), but hard to resist the odd loop.
But the aftermath....  I wonder how John is doing, after crunching his foot?  I wonder how many bandaids were used in patching up zebra mussel foot slices?  Volume of Advil consumed?  For me, I should consider myself fortunate that despite going full-on for 3-4 hrs on the water, my shoulders have come through just fine.  I'm sore all over, my feet are sliced & diced, my hands are raw meat, I've definitely bruised a rib because merely living hurts, but the shoulders are fine!  Bring out the champagne!!  Maybe the worst is over for my 2-3yr adventures in shoulder tendonitis!  Fingers crossed, knocked on wood, all that.

Head-high peeler.  These were ridable for 5-10 turns into the bay.

A couple great videos!  Thanks for capturing guys!

John's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RG8iNWqQxIg
Ilan's: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BF4igzd_Y9U

Photos on this page courtesy of Craig Butler and moi.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Windsurfing Photo Editor

One day, clearly when I had far too much time on my hands, I crafted this lovely Windsurf Photo Editing Palette.  I believe Adobe plans to add this to the next Photoshop release.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Old Man Syndrome (OMS)

Anyone else have this?  I hit the forty mark earlier this year - roughly mid-life give or take, and I feel pretty down and out with Old Man Syndrome (OMS).  Ever heard of it?

Technically speaking, I'm defining OMS as simply the recognition that one's aging body is not as resilient as it used to be, that somehow the years of abuse have left one with a tattered musculoskeletal system that seems so much more prone to injury and chronic ailments.

This post is a call-out to all the other 40+ windsurfers out there for advice!  I used to sail hard, and long!  How do I get back to that!?!?  Sometimes I wonder if my days of ad-nauseum repetition of freestyle trick attempts are over.  Maybe that's OK, maybe I am content with re-focusing on wave-sailing and old-school freestyle.

Clearly the simple answer is conditioning, but what activities do you guys do to keep yourselves in shape and keep yourselves maleable?  Yoga?  Swimming?  Weight training?  Anything windsurfing specific?  What works for you?  What doesn't?

I am currently in recovery mode from an arthroscopic shoulder surgery and hopefully going to get a grip on my 2-year long bout with tendonitis in both shoulders.  It'll be a while, but I am already dreaming ahead to the fall Sandbanks sessions, and not only that, there's my affinity for adventure racing, orienteering and mountain-biking.  Somehow I need to find that life balance that will keep me physically positioned to do my sports the way I want to do them, but still keep up with my 6-year old kiddies.  In other words, family commitments mean I've got minimal time and I need to figure out a good, yet simple cross-training routine that fits in with other priorities.

Any advice?

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I despise gyms.

Canadian-Hole loopage circa 2010.  Photo by Steve Slaby.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Changing Tides

I remember reading once about a couple, don't even remember where they were from - Vancouver I think.  Their goal was to compete against each other to see who could produce the smallest trash heap over the course of one year.  Then I forgot all about it.  Given my environmental slant, I remember how interesting the idea seemed and wondered if it was something worth trying.  I'm disappointed in myself, I must say, for forgetting.

Then, this morning, I watched a short film called Changing Tides produced by a keen group of Hawaiian residents and activists, including some of my windsurfing heroes involved in Positive H2O, a movement for clean water.  It reminded me how every decision we make when we buy something can impact a beach, a seal, a turtle, and cause harm to some other inhabitant of this planet that has probably far more right to be here than we destructive humans do.  It reminded me of that couple from Vancouver and their quest.

So I went searching, and it didn't take me more than a couple of Google searches to find out where they are at.  The couple, named Jen and Grant, from Vancouver (I remembered something correctly!), have produced a documentary called 'The Clean Bin Project'.  The website is here:

The Clean Bin Project

Can't wait to get a copy of that DVD!  I think the idea sounds awesome and I'm looking forward to sitting down and watching that movie with my family.

Here is a link to the 'Changing Tides' movie, on-line on Youtube.  Think about this the next time you ask for a plastic bag, or buy a bottle of water.

Changing Tides


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wellington, and why it rocks.

It's been a long time since I spent 2 years in Wellington, New Zealand and I don't think a day has gone by without missing the place.  Not only is Wellington amazing, but the whole country is stunning.  If you're into outdoorsy stuff, it is a damn fine place to be.

So, leave it to the guys there to produce a really nice windsurfing video about sailing in Wellington.  Check it out.  The spots are great and the sailors are solid.

Direct link:  http://vimeo.com/60047363