Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why Do I Windsurf?

Why do I windsurf?  Its sometimes very easy to go with the crowd and continue what you have always doing without troubling yourself to think about why you do it.  However, it is more fun to question your approach, at least from time to time.  I am like a lot of sailors in my part of the world, I grew up as boards got shorter and was young when planing on a board was the difference between the old (some would say pioneers) and the new (which was once me), so everything was devoted to get planing otherwise you were not having fun; and who wants to have no fun?  Recently, I have begun to think that this has led me to neglect an important aspect to windsurfing and that is simply being out and having fun, as the old surfing quote goes "the best surfer on the water is the one having the most fun".  I have been prevented from doing this over the years by only having boards of no more than 110L which are not much fun where there is little wind or what wind there is is gusty and fluky.  This is something that has preyed on my mind in the last couple of years, especially as now I can usually only sail when I am free and those times are not always windy.  Also, I am lucky enough to live three minutes drive from Bough Beech in Kent and whilst this is an excellent inland venue it still suffers from the more gusty nature of lakes, so again my 110L does not really work that well here (I am 90kgs by the way, in case those light weights were thinking 110L "that's huge!")

So what is the purpose of the rather long introduction above?  Well, no getting enough out of my sailing has been bugging me and I sort of thought that a "long-board" was the answer, but I did not know what to go for. Raceboard?  No (not yet at least) as this would mean buying a new rig and I did not want to do that.  Also, I have tried some old raceboards and just not got on with them for the sort of sailing that I want to do which is playing in small waves and doing old-skool freestyle.  Beginners boards?  Again, no as they all seem to be short these days and do not (in my humble opinion) carve well on small waves - I have tried.  SUPs?  Now that seemed to be getting closer as I have had huge amounts of fun with one in Maui, but when the wind came up a bit, it did not work as a windsurfer at all.  Recently I have been talking to Ian Kraft (aka Krafty) (well know in Kent and other places from Kernow to Tiree) and he was telling me about the fun he has had with an Exocet Kona 10'5 in small waves and light to medium winds, i.e. from 6 to 14 knots.  In fact it gave him so much fun that he has decided to import them into the UK -  Now that spoke volumes to be as its along the lines of "I liked the razor so much I bought the company" - showing my age here with that advert quote.

So when Ian offered me a chance to try the Exocet Kona 10'5 I couldn't wait for rubbish conditions to try it out in.  Last night was the first chance that I have had since the board has sat in my back room waiting to get out.  I met Ed (another Kona sailor) at Littlestone and we checked out the conditions.  As we looked at the time coming in and the familar slow, mushy waves breaking in a pretty confused sort of way I asked Ed what he thought was good about the Kona longboards, he simply smiled and said, "the only thing that I will say now is that they are special", not sure what to make of this he went on by saying "we can talk about them after you have been out".  With that I rigged up my Hot Sails Maui Smack 5.5m and Black Project 28cm wave fin and walked down to the water.  The first thing that I noticed was that without thinking I had picked up the board as I would my short boards with the sail on my head and carrying the board by one footstrap.  Now, even though the version I was trying was not the light "TT" version I could easily carry it as I would a short board; it was so well balanced.  I thought, "well thats good at least its not hard to get to the water, because there is a long walk at Littlestone!"

On the Water.  So to the waters edge, by now the wind which had been strong enough to be out on a freestyle wave board had dropped off and I could see the guys already out bogging and planning in equal measure- that stop-start style of sailing that's so frustrating.  Well that was not for me last night, I simply cruised out through the white water and pushed the nose downwind when a gust came and progressively (but quickly) came up onto the plane.  Then when the wind dropped the reverse happened, no fuss, no sudden stop.  I thought that's pretty relaxing so lets concentrate on finding the waves.  Now, at this point I decided it was time to put in a quick gybe so I leaned into what I thought would be a slow drawn-out gybe and then I was in the water as the board had turned so fast that I had been left behind!  As I was swimming after the board I remembered what Krafty had said "Don't get caught out by your first gybe, its not slow to turn.  Though I bet you will forget this and be too slow!".  So laughing, I had to say, "Krafty, you were right!"

After that little hiccup I quickly waterstarted (though I did have time to notice the raised pad behind the back strap which was in the perfect place to rest the boom and make lifting the sail easy - co-incidence or great design? - and headed back in looking for some waves to play with.

What I found great about the board was the ability to cruise around and either glide to be in the right position if there was no wind, or plane and point high if there was some wind.  This meant that I was catching so many more waves than if I had been out on my freestyle wave that it was not true.  Now, once I caught a wave I had thought that the board would simply straight-line it; but not a bit of it.  In the same way that it carved faster than I had anticipated when gybing it like a long-wave board on the wave.  Simply put, it turned and this fact made it so much fun to play on the limited waves we had.  Also, with the volume and waterline making it easy to get up wind I had the confidence to head down-wind to make full use of the waves or pick up a new ones down-wind.  Again, more fun than I would normally have expected in those conditions.  In fact when I was sailing down a little wave it came to me that the reason that this board was such fun was that it was a longboard that felt rather like a short board, what I mean by this is that it gave very similar sensations to a short board, but at slower speeds and in lower winds.

By the time I got back to the beach a couple of hours had flown by and I was just in time to see some of the other guys leaving in a slightly grumpy mood as they had not really had enough wind to get the most out of their freestyle boards.  But I was lucky to have a broad grin on my face as I had had a great time on the water- and that is what it is all about.

The Future.  Next time, I am looking forward to seeing how close I can get to being able to change down to my Proof 94L  wave board straight from my Kona.  I think that there will be occasions when I can do this, perhaps where the conditions are good, but I think that I will still need a freestyle wave board as a cross-over,  but lets see.

I am also looking forward to trying the Kona on a lake with a 7m as I think that its glide will be a winning formula with a freeride sail - got my eyes on something like a SuperFreak.

Thanks for a great evening sail must go to Ian Kraft, Hot Sails Maui and Black Project Fins and my sailing buddy Ed.

Lots more to come...

Other people's views.  Other tests you may find interesting:


No comments:

Post a Comment