Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Intermediate Class

The intermediate class at Worldwinds mostly refines the skills you learned in the beginner class.

When I took the intermediate class with Jason and Stephen in October 2006, we switched to smaller, more streamlined boards than were used in the beginner class. These were JP 180 "New School" boards. For comparison, I think the beginner boards are in the 200+ liter range. The JP 180s look more like real boards and less like floating tables. The JP 180 boards are still stable, but not as stable as the beginner boards.

We also used bigger sails, ranging from 4.5 to 5.5 square meters. The larger sails and smaller boards mean more speed and maneuverability. You should get a much better sense of how to control your direction on these boards.

In this class, you work on posture and positioning quite a bit. I suggest practicing as much as possible after taking this class so you have a chance to memorize the skills while they are still fresh in your head. The posture didn't really click for me until I got to the harness class. I probably would have had an easier time if I had practiced the next day after the intermediate class.

The first aspect of posture is standing so that you are more prepared to resist gusts of wind and so you don't have to use much strength to hold the sail up. If you're leaning forward a lot or your back feels tired, you probably need some help on your posture.

If you still hold the mast with your front hand, this class is where you start to migrate it to holding the boom. This will be a necessary skill for getting into a harness in later classes. This seems a little tricky because the mast won't be straight up and down like you probably held it in the beginner class. You'll need to adjust your idea of how to hold the sail.

Finally, you will try to move back on the board as you gain speed. This part is easier said than done. I still can't move very far back on the board. To be able to do this, you need enough speed and power in the sail so that the back won't sink as you move. If the back sinks, you'll quickly turn up-wind until you lose power.

Keep in mind that these are my personal thoughts and notes on the class. I'm a student, not an expert.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Beach Start

You stand with your board in knee-deep water. No, you're not sailing. One possible solution to this terrible situation might have you climbing on the board, balancing, hoisting the sail out of the water, and sheeting in.

A more elegant and fun method of starting to sail exists: the beach start.

Imagine... You grab the boom, aim, step aboard, and zoom away. It's a lot more fun than uphauling, faster, and the wind even does most of the heavy lifting for you.

A few limitations spoil the convenience of the beach start. You have to properly position the sail and board relative to the wind. This requires either planning or work on your part, but uphauling has the same problem.

Also, the water has to be deep enough that your board will float while holding your weight. At the same time, you can't really perform a beach start unless the water is shallow enough so you can easily step up on the board. That means water about knee deep, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less. Unless your knees are in a funny place.

If the water is deep enough that you can't comfortably step onto the board, then you'll need to either learn the water start, or bite the bullet and uphaul.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Corpus Trip Plans (April 13-16th)

The time has come. Another windsurfing adventure has been scheduled for April 13-16.

This will be my fourth trip to Corpus Christi for windsurfing. A trip to Corpus means windsurfing classes during the day. At night, we'll be eating wonderful seafood and drinking a good beer or two. Except for the windsurfing, everything is within walking distance of the hotel downtown. You can see the photos from a past trip here.

Here is the plan for a windsurfing 4-day weekend in Corpus. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment, call me, or shoot me an e-mail.

Feel free to invite others!


For lodging, I'm staying at the Best Western (Best Western Marina Grand Hotel). This 2-star hotel is downtown, right next to a marina on the bay. You can find more info on it elsewhere on the blog. Check-in time is 3pm, checkout time is noon.

To Join in the fun:

This is your to-do list. Please don't procrastinate:
  1. If you have an invite please respond. If you don't have an invite, feel free to come anyhow -- just introduce yourself in the comments.
  2. Make reservations at the Best Western Marina Grand hotel or arrange to share a room with someone who did. Check in on 13 April, checkout 16 April. When I checked, the internet rate was the best deal. I am willing to share my room with someone and spit the cost. You are responsible for your own hotel reservation.
  3. Call Worldwinds at 1-800-793-7471 and schedule your classes, or reserve a board rental if you don't want to take a class. Tell them that you're with my group.
  4. Arrange to carpool and share your room. You can post a comment to try and get some passengers.
You can find more information on Worldwinds, what to pack, and more in other posts.

Class Suggestions:


You'll want to take the beginner class on Friday. You can ask Paul, Jay, Jason, or Freddy -- it isn't hard, and it's lots of fun.

On Saturday, you might want to try the intermediate class. I suggest at least giving it a shot, but it's up to you. The difficulty level increases a little, but it just means falling off the board a bit more often. Falling is half the fun.


I think you'll probably want to take the intermediate class on Friday if you already took the beginner class before. On Sunday you might want to take the beach-start or harness class, but I suggest some practice first.

Beyond Intermediate:

If you already took the intermediate class, you may wish to consider the beach start or harness class. You'll probably want to get some practice under your belt first though. Reserve a rental board for the days you don't want to schedule a class.

Schedule (suggested):


The drive from my place down to Corpus takes about 4 hours. If you live north, it will take longer. Lets leave Austin at 7am. This will give us some time to get there without rushing, and maybe pick up lunch along the way.

We should be at Worldwinds at noon and start surfing. Worldwinds closes at 6pm, so we should all be checked in at the hotel by 7pm. We'll desalinate and aim to grab dinner downtown at around 8pm. I'm thinking the Waterstreet Seafood Co.


Lets get breakfast at La Bahia at 9am. After, Windsurfing class or practice for as long as we can take it. We'll play it by ear for dinner, but maybe the Executive Surf Club.


Sunday, lets get a nice brunch at the Water Street Seafood Co. at 11am. Afterwards, of course, more surfing. We'll play dinner by ear.


Breakfast and then the drive home.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Best Western Marina Grand Hotel

For the past three trips to Corpus Christi I have stayed at the Best Western downtown. This is the fancily-named Best Western Marina Grand Hotel.

There are cheaper hotels and more expensive hotels in Corpus, but this one has a few nice features:
  • plentiful free parking
  • recently-renovated rooms
  • nice view of the marina
  • across the street from several restaurants and bars
  • across the street from a nice walking trail along the seawall
  • across the street from a good coffee shop (Aqua Java)
  • free continental (i.e. sugar-high) breakfast
For directions, use the address 300 N Shoreline Blvd, Corpus Christi, TX 78401. The hotel takes up the entire Lawrence St, Shoreline Blvd, Water St, and Williams St block.

The main disadvantage of this hotel is the distance from Worldwinds and Padre Island. As you can see from these directions, they are about 1 hour away from each other. However, I personally like staying downtown where I can easily walk to everything I need.

Windsurfing Packing List

For windsurfing, you'll want these items:
  1. aqua socks/water shoes -- these are $5 at Academy (beware: their sizes are weird, try them on)
  2. sunscreen
  3. hat
  4. towel
  5. lots of bottled water -- I can easily drink 2-3L per session
  6. snacky snacks -- Freddy's trailmix was a big hit, granola bars are good too
  7. sunglasses
  8. Padre Island National Seashore entry and parking passes (if you have them)
For the rest of the trip:
  1. more water for re-hydrating and pre-hydrating
  2. walking shoes
  3. clothes for bars and sit down restaurants
  4. camera
  5. maps & directions (to hotel, to Worldwinds)
Is there anything else that I'm missing? Comment below.

Taking a Beginner's Class (or Why Windsurfing is Easier Than You Think)

A few of the folks that I've tried to convince to come windsurf have tried the sport before but were frustrated to death. The board they tried was hard to balance and didn't float very well. The sail they were loaned was difficult to lift from the water. They became convinced that the sport was incredibly difficult because they started on advanced equipment and didn't get much training.

Don't feel discouraged. You can start sailing on your first day under the right conditions. The beginner's class at Worldwinds involves a big board, a small sail, knee-deep water, and a good teacher. You will probably fall off the board a few times, but you'll spend more time sailing than anything else.

Based on my experience, the beginner's class will teach you how to stand on the board, uphaul the sail (that is, lift it from the water), steer the board, tack (to turn the board by facing it into the wind), and to get the board moving. Once you learn those basics, you're cut loose to practice for a couple of hours.

As long as you're in relatively good health -- you can swim, you can climb a few stairs, you can lift a backpack off the floor -- I think you can take this class. Windsurfing doesn't require above-average strength. This is especially true if you manage to learn the correct posture early. This is why you'll see skinny stick-people, kids, and retirees windsurfing right along with body-builder types.

As you learn more advanced techniques the sport seems to require even less strength. The harness class teaches you how to pull the sail against the wind by hooking it to a harness (basically a fancy belt). The beach start class will teach you one way to lift the sail by using the wind rather than arm strength. With each class I've taken, windsurfing has become easier and more fun.

Windsurfing Resources

I've discovered a few good learning resources that don't involve water.

Personally, I have not found books and websites to be very useful before I take a class. When I'm on the water I can't remember what I do for a living, much less what a book said.

Plus, diagrams and instructions are much more difficult to understand than demonstrations. Think about instructions for tying a knot -- aren't demonstrations better?

Still, after a day on the water a book or website can help review the experience. So for me, texts aren't a replacement for instruction -- but they can supplement it. They are also good for understanding the jargon, the hardware, understanding what the techniques do, expanding your horizons. And they have pretty pictures too.

Windsurfing by Simon Bornhoft
Windsurfing has about 90 shiny full-color pages that explain and illustrate the basics of windsurfing. It does cover a few advanced-seeming techniques like the carve jibe, but mostly sticks to the basics. It has lots and lots of photos.

Windsurfing Magazine
Last time I was down in Corpus, I met this surfer Pieter who suggested that I get a Windsurfing subscription. I don't have my first issue yet, but the Windsurfing website has some really good content:
  • If you hover your mouse over the "Instruction" menu on the left of the main page, there are some very useful how-to and hints articles. The flash-based tutorials are very cool -- even if the moves are over my head.
  • There is an "Introduction to Windsurfing" PDF that you can download off the main page (if you can't find it, try this link). The "3 Steps to Get You Sailing" article has a great section that illustrate how you should uphaul, tack, and start moving.
  • There is an online forum with lots of discussion.

Planning: April Windsurfing Trip to Corpus Christi

There are currently two potential dates in the running for a 4-day weekend in Corpus Christi.
  • 13 - 16 April
  • 20 - 23 April
April. That is only 3 weeks away, folks.

For those who didn't attend the festivities 16-18 March, the trip was
fantastic. Surfing becomes much easier once you learn to use the
harness and to do beach starts.

I intend to book things by Monday. Please check your calendars
and express your preference now because you won't get a second chance. Just comment below...