Monday, April 30, 2007

Wave Sailing Video

Do you think worldwinds will teach us to do these moves? Launching 15 feet in the air looks fun...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Windsurfing Antarctica Video

Check this out: windsurfing in Antarctica. Icebergs, mountains, seals, penguins, and desolate loneliness.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How to Uphaul Incorrectly

I spent much of Friday the 13th of April uphauling my rig instead of sailing. Some jealous observers may have thought that I avoided sailing only with the help of a strong wind to blow my sail down. They'd be wrong. Sure, the wind makes it easier, but the real reason I could enjoy most of the day uphauling had much more to do with skill.

Learning the proper uphaul techniques to defeat sailing isn't hard, but it will take some practice. Carefully follow these directions, and your days of uphauling will never be interrupted by sailing again.*

Technique #1, The Scissors (of doom):

The best place to sabotage your uphaul is before you start hauling. This is a simple beginner technique: tug on the uphaul line as you climb on the board. The board and the sail should pull together in the water, just like the closing blades on a pair of scissors. By the time you stand up, the board inconveniently points up or downwind. This should make sailing difficult.

If you find the board remains properly oriented in the wind, or if you have to yank really hard, you probably aren't pulling the right way. Gently tug the uphaul line while holding it a bit to either side of the mast. It will require little force to turn the board. Pulling straight up or back usually won't provide as much leverage.

Technique #2, The Wounded Pelican:

If the scissors fail, you still have a chance. Once you're standing on the board, lift the rig slowly. Hold the sail by the uphaul line for as long as possible. As the sail clears the water, you want to give it a chance to flap (luff) like crazy. Eventually the uphaul line will tear right from your hand as the oscillations grow stronger.

If you quickly get the sail up and the boom in your hand, you're not giving the sail enough time to misbehave. You can cheat a bit by swinging the uphaul line like you're trying to steer. Once you get the sail jumping around, there is little chance you'll be able to sheet in and actually sail.

Technique #3: The One-Claw Crab:

If you somehow manage to stand on the board and get the sail out of the water, you'll need stronger measures. As you move your front hand from the uphaul line to the boom, reach as far towards the clew as possible. Grab the boom far enough out and the sail will sheet in without needing a second hand. This way the board immediately starts moving, and the sail starts tugging before you can get positioned. The sail will rip from your grasp or pull you over. Either way, you'll be back to uphauling in no time.

The key to this technique is to get the sail sheeting in early, before you can adjust your stance from uphauling, and before your back hand can help out. If you grab the boom too close to the mast, the sail won't properly bite the wind. Try to reach your front hand near the harness lines -- that should put enough power in the sail to pull it right back into the water.

Some anti-sailing purists argue that this is a "walking" technique rather than an uphauling technique. They have a point because you and the board can be pulled downwind fast (almost sideways). This will eventually require you to walk the board back upwind (the desirable "walk of shame"). However, an expert can usually get several uphauls for every walk this technique provides. This is why I classify it as an uphaul technique, not walking.

There may be elements of both walking and uphauling to the crab, but either way it is still a useful weapon to add to your arsenal of anti-sailing techniques. Walking novices may wish to save this technique for later. You can easily end up in advanced walking or swimming territory (deep water, long walks, lost aqua socks) using the sideways run.

*Yes, this is all a joke. Normal folks will want to avoid these "techniques" which are based on my own mistakes.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Thinking About May

Damn the torpedoes! I want to surf in May. I'm going to do my best to sneak a trip in somewhere between Jury Duty (as soon as I hear back) and work.

So, what do you think? Toss any comments, suggestions, tomatoes, or preferred dates in the comments below.

Friday, April 20, 2007

April 2007 Trip Review: Monday

Monday, I was the only adventurer left. After I got breakfast and coffee at Agua Java, I took a short walk around the Corpus Seawall. Then I checked out of the Big Blue Best Western and drove to Worldwinds.

The beach wind blew strong, back up in the 20's. Unfortunately, the air was cool and the sky somewhat cloudy. I was back down to a 4.7 on the JP X-cite ride 145.

I took a class with Randy for the first time. The class consisted of half review, half harness, and half fast-tack. The review went great, even if the water was freezing cold. I had tons of material for Randy, little habits and errors in my technique that were correctable. Randy's explanations were very clear.

I still need a lot of practice with the fast tack and harness, but by the end of the class I was planing for the first time. The planing felt like magic. The nose lifted, the gusts blew, and my board moved. Now I just need to clean up my tacks so I don't lose so much ground on windy days.

After the class, I borrowed an old sail batten from Randy so I could hook any HEB bags I found while dumpster diving (see the previous post). The dumpsters smelled quite ripe. Lucky for me, there were only a few HEB bags in either dumpster. I easily hooked them with the batten and inspected their contents through the side of the bags. Pistachio shells. Beer bottles. Slightly used napkins. Well used napkins. No wallets.

Standing in the one spot with reception on Bird Island, I called Jeff. How full, I asked, were the dumpsters when the wallet was trashed? Apparently they were nearly full yesterday. I informed Jeff of the bad news: the dumpsters were now almost empty. He took it well -- his wallet was gone.

I ate some trail mix, a granola bar, and drank some water before starting the long drive back to Austin. I found myself wondering: is the 145 it? Should I buy a board so I can practice on lake Travis? Next time I'm down in Corpus, perhaps I will.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 2007 Trip Review: Sunday

Starting our day the caffeinated way, Matt and Jason and I ate breakfast at Agua Java. After breakfast, Jason and I took a stroll around the marina to get a closer look at the Calixas 105 moored there. The Calixas is an amazing floating palace of a yacht. If you happen to buy one, give me a tour, ok?

The wind on Sunday was light and gusty, probably in the tens. Friday's beginners seemed a bit disappointed. I guess they were spoiled from having learned in 30 Mph winds. For Jason and I it was a nice break from sailing in a hurricane.

By the time I got to Worldwinds, the JP 160 I used Friday was already taken. Rather than go back to the 180, I tried a JP 145 x-cite ride and a 5.3 meter sail. The 145 was different from the 160 or 180. I nearly threw the 145 over my head when I went to lift it the first time. The board seemed half the weight I expected. Even in the light wind, it felt like a huge leap in technology. I think I'm in love.

Matt and Karen took the beginner class with Angela. Freddy and Gumbo gave the knee a break by exploring Corpus instead of surfing. The rest of us rented boards.

The light winds meant slow sailing, but the occasional gust kept things interesting. As the day continued, the wind picked up a bit.

After a few hours, Mike, Jeff, Jacob, and Saruabh got tired of the light wind. They rented kayaks and paddled over to a nearby island to drink some beer. Mike's new friend and her dog went too.

Jason and I continued sailing, and the wind actually improved a bit as it got later. I practiced my water starts and cruised around.

As the day wore on, a gradual trickle of people drove back to Austin. Matt and Karen, Justin and Freddy were all gone by 3 or 4.

Mike, Jason, Jeff, Saurabh, and Jacob stuck around until around 5:30. The remaining crew closed their tabs at Worldwinds while I signed up for a Monday class.

Afterwards, we all went to Snoopy's for the final dinner of the trip. Snoopy's is located on N. Padre island off the turnaround passing under the first bridge off the island. The food was mostly fried seafood, and therefore tasted wonderful.

We parted ways once full of seafood, I back to the hotel, they back to Austin.

I got a call from Jeff around 11:30pm. Jeff's wallet was missing, and his crew suspected that it had been thrown into the dank dumpsters between Worldwinds and the restrooms. Jeff made the mistake of storing his wallet in a HEB bag which also contained some trash. Someone tossed it so there would be room to stuff 5 people into Mike's car. I agreed to go dumpster diving Monday morning in search of the wallet and the large amount of cash it contained.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

April 2007 Trip Review: Saturday

Saturday morning, Matt and I grabbed an early coffee at Agua Java before the others got ready.

Before breakfast, we got a call not to show up for surfing at worldwinds. Apparently the wind was even more fierce than Friday, in the 30 and 40mph range. Rumor has it that there were 50 Mph gusts.

The second bit of bad news was that Freddy's leg was injured. He hurt it a while ago playing football. Apparently windsurfing in Friday's howling wind wasn't therapeutic. Now his leg was black and blue. Understandably, Freddy was concerned that he tore the muscle. Freddy and Gumbo decided to visit a doctor.

All of us, sans Freddy and Gumbo, ate breakfast at La Bahia. Over the feast of Mexican delights, we discussed possible plans for the day. One group wanted to visit the Lexington, the other wanted to explore some other beaches in Corpus. We decided to split into two groups.

After breakfast, Matt and I took a stroll down to the marina. Justin joined us after a while. We explored for a while, and watched some Laser sailboats get blown around in the wind.

Jason, Matt, Karen, and I drove to the state beach on Mustang Island. Justin, Jacob, Mike, Saurabh, and Jeff went to the Lexington. Freddy and Gumbo went to see the doctor and visited some friendly girls at Hooters for lunch.

The Mustang Island State Park was a little disappointing for the former Floridians among us. Somehow we managed to put our expectations of white sand and leaping dolphins behind us and have a good time. We walked along the beach, chatting, enjoying the sun's warmth.

Karen found a sand dollar (or was it Matt?). Matt touched a jellyfish, proving it didn't have stingers. Sand blew into our eyes. The blue angels performed overhead in perfect precision.

We climbed a red granite-block jetty into the gulf near a group of hearty surfers. Waves crashed into the end of the jetty, the wind throwing spray into the air.

A fisherman caught a small hammerhead shark as we watched. He held it by the tail so we could get a better look at him. The fish got a better look at us too, aiming his tiny eyes and open mouth at each of us in turn. The scales flashed holographic in the sun as the fisherman lobbed him back into the sea.

Matt, Karen, Jason, and I drove to Worldwinds so we could participate in the events there, a combination windsurfing Q&A and free Sausage Wraps. While waiting for the show to start, we watched the windsurfers tearing through the water.

For much of the Q&A, Randy and Angela fielded questions about various kinds of jibes. Randy stood on a old board carrying a skeleton rig of mast, boom, and a length of cord. Most of the Q&A involved fancy-pants skills beyond our abilities, but I think we still picked up a few useful pointers.

After the Q&A, most of us ate at the Executive Surf Club. Matt and Karen ate at the Waterstreet Oyster Bar. They reported that the Oyster bar was awesome.

After dinner, we all walked to Havana for a few more drinks. This time was Mike's turn to make a new friend. After Havana, it was back to Bourbon Street for the Saturday night crowd. I think everyone -- especially Mike -- had a good time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April 2007 Trip Review: Friday

Friday the 13th marked the start of this trip to Corpus Christi. The cast of characters included Jason, Saurabh, Mike, Jacob, Justin, Jeff, Matt, Karen, Gumbo (the dog), Freddy, and myself.

The excitement started early when a rental car had to be returned to the airport before Jason's crew could start for Corpus. The detour delayed my rendezvous with them at the Whataburger at Slaughter and I-35 where we evened out the carload for the drove down.

Jason and Jacob rode with me. We chatted for a while, Jacob told us some very funny stories, and we listened to a podcast of Cory Doctorow's Ownz0red to pass the time.

We stopped for some McDonalds before meeting everyone at Worldwinds -- almost right on time. The wind was blowing near around 25 Mph. As the day progressed, it got near 30 Mph with gusts up to 41. Holy smokes.

Justin, Saurabh, Mike, Jeff, and Jacob all took the intro to windsurfing class. Considering the amount of wind, they did quite well. In fact, they were more successful than Jason, Freddy, and myself -- all who had taken the intermediate class and were renting smaller boards. Show-offs.

I rode a JP 160 xcite ride, and flew a 4.7. the other intermediates had various sails and started with JP 180 boards. Everyone but the beginners had an incredibly difficult time uphauling and sailing in the stiff wind and choppy water. The sail tended to whip out of my hands, or the board tip before I could get moving. Almost the only time I got really moving, it was by performing beach starts.

I think everyone got blown around a lot. All of us got to take what has been dubbed the "walk of shame" back upwind. Many of us had the pleasure of walking several times. Overall, it was a difficult day for us intermediates.

After the sailing the day away, we drove to the hotel and desalinated before meeting at Waterstreet Seafood. We ate lots and lots of excellent seafood and gave the waitress a difficult time.

Sometime after dinner, Matt and Karen arrived. Matt joined us for a few beers downtown at Cassidy's Irish Pub and then Bourbon Street where Freddy made a new friend.

The trip photos are here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Worldwinds is a business which rents and sells windsurfing equipment. They also happen to teach excellent windsurfing classes.

Worldwinds is located inside the Padre Island National Seashore, a national park. This means that you will need to pay admission to this park and also pay for parking on Bird Island. Admission is good for seven days, but parking is only good for one. The fees can be found here. You may wish to get the annual passes for both -- I have them and they only cost twice the normal costs.

To get directions to Worldwinds, you can use Bird Island Basin Rd., Corpus Christi, TX as its address. The business is located at the west end of that road, on the beach.

Update: It is important to note that there isn't any running water in Bird Island Basin. There are public restrooms near Worldwinds, but they have hand-sanitizer dispensers instead of sinks. This is one reason why it is critical to bring lots of bottled water when you visit.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Eating in Corpus Christi

Corpus isn't Austin, but there you can still find lots of cool places to eat here.

Executive Surf Club

Despite the fancy name, the Executive Surf Club is a burger joint / bar with an order counter. The food is tasty, the bar appears well stocked, and you get to eat off of real surfboards. Well, no, the plates aren't boards, but some of the tables are. The walls are covered with various memorabilia, and they show surf videos on the TV.

They also have a stage outside that bands regularly play on. Located on Water St. across the street from the Best Western.

Waterstreet Seafood Co.

Waterstreet is a nicer seafood restaurant with a small bar inside. The food here is awesome, and the wait staff is very friendly. The dynamite sticks are an awesome appetizer.

Don't confuse this with the Waterstreet Oyster Bar, which is right next door. I have not eaten there. And yes, both are across Water St. from the Best Western downtown.

Agua Java

The Agua Java coffee shop sits right at Water Street and Williams Street, across from the Best Western (again) in downtown Corpus Christi. For some strange reason, this coffee shop smells a lot better than any other coffee joint I've been too. It doesn't have that stale bean reek even though they appear to roast their own coffee right there. Yeah, I notice strange things.

Agua Java serves sandwiches and kolaches in addition to coffee beverages. Their breakfast panini is yummy in my tummy.

La Bahia

The Mexican food at La Bahia warms the heart. The breakfast I had here was very tasty and quite inexpensive. The tortillas are thick and unique, probably home made.

The food probably won't qualify as healthy, but it will fill you up and make you happy. The location lies only a few blocks away from the Best Western (I know!), down Williams St, left on Mesquite St.

Official Corpus visitor website

Texas Outside Corpus website.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Sailing Measurements

The numbers in the name of a board or sail are more than just model numbers -- they are measurements. A New School 180 board, for instance, has a volume of 180 Liters. If a sail is a "5.5" it means it has a surface area of 5.5 square meters.

Board length and width seems to get measured in centimeters.

It seems that surfers like metric.

Speed can be measured in miles per hour, kilometers per hour, or nautical miles per hour (knots). One knot is equal to about 1.15 mph. One kph is equal to about 0.62 mph.

Hint: google has a built-in calculator which understands units. For instance, you can type 5.5 square meters in square feet into google and click search. Another example: 20 mph in knots

Cardinal wind direction is indicated by origin. A north wind comes from the northern direction and blows south. An east wind blows from the east towards the west.

However, it seems that an offshore wind blows from the land towards sea. An onshore wind blows from the direction of the sea on to land. Online I've seen a few folks get this wrong.

Incidentally, offshore winds are considered dangerous because they blow you away from safety. If you lose a fin, you'll have a very difficult time reaching shore.