Wednesday, August 29, 2007

August Trip Report: Saturday

As tradition demands, most of us ate at Agua Java for breakfast. Unfortunately Jason didn't feel well. He dozed through breakfast despite a wake-up call. He still made it out for windsurfing though.

At the beach the wind ran 18-25 MPH. Perfect weather for planing. Jason decided to purchase his own harness. I believe he got a DaKine Nexus. Meanwhile Alex took the introduction class. Chris, Matt, and Karen rented boards and just fooled around.

On the water I scored lots of planing action. I'm getting better control over the planing process and steering. Still, I occasionally drop out of plane for no good reason. I suspect that I am unintentionally sheeting out or maybe cutting too close to the wind. Despite this, my comfort level really increased over the course of the day.

For the most part I resisted the urge to wrestle with the boom as I skimmed along. Instead I tried to lean back in the harness and relax. Of course, this is hard when you're having fun going faster than ever before. Blasting along at power boat speeds on a tiny sail-powered board is insanely fun.

I still need to improve my steering, but my new challenge is dealing with chop. I have trouble maintaining direction and speed in the larger chop that the wind occasionally kicked up. The faces of the waves bump the nose of the board around. When I get launched off the bigger waves and catch a little air, I tend to sheet out. I have no idea if this is the right move or not. I suspect that getting into the foot straps might help, but I'm still a little nervous about them. I worry that I'll get catapulted while my feet stay behind.

Speaking of catapulting, I think I had my first serious launch off the board. A giant gust hit me when I was standing far too upright on the board. Next thing I knew, I was shooting down and off the top of the sail like a slip 'n slide. Surprisingly it was a lot of fun. A quick inventory revealed no damage to myself or the board, but from the shore it probably looked like I bought the farm.

Jason and I both experimented independently and attempted a few water starts. Although I managed to get on the board, it was a real trial and error sort of maneuver. More often than not, the board would steer into the wind or sink as I tried to get up. When it did work, it felt surprisingly graceful, easy, and lucky. I think I'll take the water start class next. I'm guessing that some actual instruction on the topic will help significantly.

Jason apparently still didn't feel well, and after a few hours rode back to the hotel wedged in the back of Matt and Karen's TT coupe. After a couple more hours on the water I returned to hotel to decontaminate. Jason had been napping, but seemed ready for some food.

Matt, Karen, Jason, and I met at Aka Sushi for dinner. Alex and Chris opted for the Executive Surf Club instead. I ordered a spicy beef hot bowl and shared in the sushi with the rest of the table. The beef bowl arrived in a big smoking-hot stone bowl. Resting on top of the food was a partially cooked egg. I gathered from the waitress's vigorous stirring motions that I was to mix the egg into the food and let the bowl finish cooking it.

Jason must have felt a lot better. He devoured his own meal in addition to a share of the sushi. I agree with the sentiment. Although I was previously wary of the wasabi-colored sushi restaurant, I really enjoyed the food there. The 80's music they played was pretty cool too. Yet another good restaurant within easy walking distance of the hotel.

After dinner, we all wandered downtown to Smokie's Bikini Bar. Now, the idea of a bikini bar seems sound to me. Until I visited this one, I even never suspected that you could go wrong. Silly me. The service wasn't too great, and the main attraction could have been a little more attractive. Understandably there weren't many folks hanging out there. The place seemed new -- perhaps they will get the hang of it later.

After abandoning Smokie's, we walked to Havana. Most of us ordered the (expensive) mojitos. Jason opted to make up for his missed breakfast by ordering an "El Infidel" sandwich. He seemed surprised that no one else wanted a second dinner, but wasn't too concerned. While he ate, the rest of us constructed swizzle stick sculptures and joked around.

We looked for more trouble after leaving Havana. Not finding any, we decided to call it a night.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

August Trip Report: Friday

Jason and Chris met at my house early so we could carpool through the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin. One or two other folks canceled their plans due to storm concerns, but the rest of us remained optimistic.

To get to the coast we drove through many rain bands. Once we hit North Padre Island the weather was OK: overcast, warm, but not wet. It was just like the past few trips: the weather reports make the conditions look much worse than reality. We got lucky again.

Before continuing to the beach we stopped at the Island Italian Restaurant for lunch. I tried their Italian Sub. Highly recommended. Just watch out for Elvis on your way to the restrooms. He still scares me, even when I expect him.

At Worldwinds, the wind was light and gusty, mostly 8-10 MPH. By coincidence, Ron, the President of the Austin Windsurf Club was loitering at Worldwinds when we arrived. He gave me some harness pointers and made fun of my crazy new windsurfing shoes.

Chris took his beginner class and Jason rented a rig while I purchased a harness: a black DaKine T3. My first chunk of windsurfing equipment.

Chris finished his class in record time -- ten minutes he claims. He was the only student for the beginner class and apparently he had some prior sailing experience. Jason, Chris and I surfed around for a few hours and enjoyed the peaceful conditions. Chris stopped for a while later in the day and took photos using his new camera and telephoto rig. The photo above is his.

A few guys were out in the shallows taking turns freestyling on an old style Windsurfer. The old longboard with the billowy yellow triangular sail looked strange next to new rigs, but it seemed to do real well in the light wind. Ron came out on a JP 180 and joined them for some freestyle fun.

We desalinated at Best Western before Jason, Chris, and I met Matt and Karen for dinner at Waterstreet Seafood. Alex got into town late and joined us for the second half of the meal.

After dinner, we played foosball at the Executive Surf Club before we went clubbing. Chris showed off his ridiculous foosball abilities. It would seem that he plays foosball all day instead of actually working at his job. As a result, in many rounds he was the first and last player to have the ball. Jason seemed to pose the only credible threat to the dominance of Chris, although we are all getting much better.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

July 2007 Trip Review: Sunday

Wake up. Go directly to Agua Java. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. After coffee Saket, Shruti, and Jason joined me at La Bahia for a predictably fantastic Mexican breakfast.

After breakfast, most folks returned to Austin. Jason and I decided to return to Worldwinds for more fun. Jamie and Apollo, her canary or parakeet or toucan were minding the shop at Worldwinds. Jason rented a F2 Stoke 155. Both of us were having a blast sailing around and practicing even though the wind was a bit weak.

Around 3 or so, another surfer sailed up to me and asked if I was scheduled to take the beachstart class. I wasn't, but I suspected that Jason was. I sailed out to him to let him know. He returned to the beach to meet Olivier.

We didn't stop surfing until a bit after 4pm. I asked Jamie about a good place to eat on the island and she suggested the Island Italian Restaurant and gave us a coupon. Jason and I drove there only to discover that they don't open until 5pm on Sundays. Drat!

Italian food appealed to Jason and I enough that we climbed back in the Jetta to kill time. We explored an nearby North Padre neighborhood where we admired the houses and the fantastic views.

When 5pm rolled around, we drove back to Island Italian and ordered the largest pizza available. We decimated the excellent pie in record time. It was the perfect ending to another successful windsurfing adventure.

Friday, August 24, 2007

July 2007 Trip Review: Saturday

I woke early Saturday to eat breakfast at Agua Java. I'm a creature of habit.

The wind was a bit light at the beach, but this was made up for by the presence of dolphins. No, the mammal. Not Mahi Mahi.

Dolphins are fun creatures, even if you can't trust critters that smile all the time. They are especially cool to see in the wild. In parks you can never be sure if they are just hanging around with you because they like you or because they can't leave. If they come visit you in the wild it's because they like you.

At least, that's my theory. It could be that they just like laughing at your limited swimming abilities. Whatever, Mr. Dolphin. I'd like to see you try to walk.

As I sailed a bit past the Worldwinds "boats" buoy I noticed a fin arc from the water just downwind from me. I couldn't believe that dolphins would be so close to shore in the muddy brown water of Laguna Madre -- the inland side of Padre Island.

I let my board slow and watched for another dorsal fin. I didn't have to wait long. Another dolphin appeared maybe 20 or 30 feet from my board and aimed broadsides. The curious mammal must have passed right under me. Sweet! A second dolphin seemed to be cruising parallel to my path.

I wish I could say that I performed some sort of amazing windsurfing trick for them. Maybe they retaliated with synchronized back flips over my head. Then I showed them up by flying my board through a giant flaming hoop. But no. Instead I lost track of them as I started sailing again.

I'm not sure that Don believe my story. Apparently dolphins don't visit Worldwinds often. I hear they prefer the Gulf side of the island. I'm glad I didn't mention the deadly ring of fire part.

After the usual post-surf desalination, Matt, Karen, Jason and I devoured dinner at Waterstreet Seafood. Afterwards we all met up with Jay and Dana at Executive Surf Club to play foosball and have a few beers. Matt and Karen called it a night after a few exciting hours of boosting the economy.

Saket and his wife Shruti finally caught up with us at the Surf Club not long before we moved on to Cassidy's Irish Pub. We listened to an entertaining cover band and drank Guinness before declaring it a night.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

July 2007 Trip Review: Friday

As usual, the weather worked hard trying to scare us off. The ride down to Corpus was full of angry looking storms. We weren't fooled though. When Jason and I hit Laguna Madre, all the storms were behind us. The weather on the beach was slightly overcast, with wind averaging around 12 MPH.

After finishing our sandwiches, Jason and I practiced while Olivier finished teaching his beginner class. I rented a JP X-cite Ride 145 with a 6.2 sail and I think Jason was on a JP 160. Somewhere on the water, Saket, Jay, and Dana were cruising around.

After a half hour of practice, Jason and I met Olivier for our combined class. I was taking planing in the harness, Jason was taking his first harness class.

In my portion of the class, Olivier covered how to adjust your stance with the position of the sail so that the body always faces the direction of the sail's pull. I think this suggestion was key for me. As the wind started to pick up into the 20's. I found myself able to get on plane and actually stay there for the first time.

Olivier also helped tweak my beach start so I could more easily work my way into the water start. Previously, I had stepped on the board with my back foot as part of a continuous movement up and on to the board. With the new technique, I start with my back foot resting on the board. This forced me to rely more on the pull of the wind to lift my weight instead of pushing off the bottom with my back leg.

Olivier also gave me a quick tutorial about how to maneuver the sail while standing in the water. Mostly this consisted of how to flip the sail from one side of the board to the other. Flipping the sail across the wind is done by lifting the sail overhead as is done in a beach start. You orient the mast to the windward side of the sail and lift it over the head with the front hand. The back hand holds the boom. Then the tip of the mast is pulled to point into the wind. As the mast passes through the wind it can easily be flipped so that the sail is on the other side of the board with the mast again upwind.

Olivier also pointed out how to get into the foot straps by moving the back foot forward to compensate while lifting the front foot to get into the strap. I wasn't comfortable enough with planing to try this yet, but it's good to know.

After the class, Olivier had me upgrade my sail to a 7.0. This is the largest sail I've used so far. With the wind gusting in the 20's, getting on plane was cake. I was able to move my feet all the way to the back of the board with my feet almost standing on the straps. I did have some difficulty preventing myself from turning downwind on plane. It seemed to help a bit to tilt the the board down on the upwind side, but I think I still have a lot to learn in the steering department.

As I have previously noted, planing is nuts. Distances collapse as the board accelerates like a rocket. I'm sure I'm only moving 25 MPH or so, but on the water, exposed to the wind it feels much faster. The board also becomes much more responsive to shifts in weight and force. I think the largest challenge of all of this is fear. The additional speed is intimidating. Highly recommended!

After sailing, Jason and I checked into the hotel to desalinate. We then visited the Vietnam Restaurant on Water Street for some dinner. The others had eaten separately. The food was quite good, although expensive. Most entrees were more than $17, but the quality was high.

After dinner, Jason, Jay, Dana, and I met at the Executive Surf Club where we drank beer and played foosball. Matt later joined us after he arrived in Corpus. We past the time by burning quarters.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

September: When Should We Windsurf?

My calendar shows September drifting ominously closer. Take control of your destiny and help pick when we windsurf again. It's easy: simply leave a comment below indicating which weekends you can not attend.

The usual caveats apply. Destiny is fickle. There are no promises. Still, I'll do my best to schedule a weekend most folks can attend.

As before, please don't tell me dates in person because I won't remember. Comment below and I'll definitely reference it as I'm scheduling the next trip. I hope everyone can come. Thanks!