Monday, June 23, 2008

Trip Report 13-15 June 2008

A passing stranger asked me what size sail I was rigging early Friday afternoon. He got a funny look on his face when I said 6.5 meter. I felt the same way. A bigger sail would have been nice for the light breeze. But I only own one sail. On windy days I sail a 6.5. On still days I sail a 6.5.

Lucky for me, the wind didn't wait long to get serious. While the wind grew to fit my sail, the stranger struggled with an overpowered 8.0.

I was thrilled to get enough wind to plane. My goal this weekend was to get my feet into both foot straps, and a light breeze wouldn't cut it.

Up to this point I had only managed to slip in the front straps. When I mentioned this problem to Angela at Worldwinds, she said the back strap was much easier than the front for her.

With this encouraging thought, I returned to the water. I easily planed with my front foot strapped in. I could easily get my back foot next to its strap too. But when I lifted my back foot to slide it in, the board immediately carved upwind. I was sinking the rail, but I couldn't really see how to prevent it.

Just like the harness and the front foot strap, the maneuver felt a lot more dangerous than it was. Even as I flubbed the back foot strap, 80% of the time I was able to recover by stepping to the mast and tacking, or by simply turning back downwind. When that didn't work, I simply fell over backwards with almost no speed.

After rocketing around Laguna Madre for several hours, I drove downtown to the hotel to clean up. I met Jonathan and Marty at the Executive Surf Club where we played a few games of foosball before dinner at Waterstreet Seafood Co. After that, we watched a band play at Bourbon Rocks.

Saturday morning, I met Jonathan and Marty at the City Diner for breakfast. We carpooled down to world winds as we listened to You Look Nice Today. Jason met us at the beach.

Jonathan and Marty practiced for a while before their class with Olivier. Much to their surprise, Olivier had them wear a harness for what they thought would be an intermediate class. Despite their initial reluctance to strap a sail to their waist, they did well. It was difficult to believe this was their second trip to Corpus.

Meanwhile, Jason finally pulled the trigger and purchased his own windsurfing rig. He got a completely new rig: a Maui Sails "Switch" 6.4 meter sail, a JP Australia X-cite ride 160 board, and a very light 55% carbon mast.

After surfing, all of us met Carlos and Vincent at Aka Sushi for dinner. Jonathan, Carlos, and Vincent left a little early to set up for their performance as Milhouse. The rest of us then met up with them at the Mug Room to watch the show. Although the bar was freezing inside, the show was quite entertaining. I think everyone agreed it was sophisticated too.

Sunday morning, I got coffee at Agua Java before we all met for breakfast at La Bahia.

At the beach, Marty and Jonathan rigged up with bigger sails for more harness practice. I went out to take a few more shots at the back foot strap. Meanwhile Jason assembled a new roof rack on his Civic.

Jonathan was really hauling on a 180 liter board. Both the Worldwinds staff and I tried to convince him to get a smaller board or bigger sail, but he seemed content to practice harness with the board he had.

After a few hours on the water, I came in for a break. While I was hydrating, I told Randy of Worldwinds about my frustration with the back foot strap. He suggested that I put the toes of my back foot directly on top of the back foot strap. Once I got stable in that position, I could pivot my foot into the strap without lifting it.

I returned to the water and tried Randy's suggestion. I easily put my foot on top of the back foot strap, but I had a hard time using only my toes. Gradually, through sheer force of will, I pulled my toes back to the edge of the strap. As my toes fell off the top, I pushed them under the pad. For a tantalizing instant before the board lost power carving upwind, my toes were in the strap.

Determined to get it to work, I repeated the exercise. This time, I focused on keeping the sail powered, and struggled to keep the board level by pushing with my front toes. As soon as my back foot found the strap's opening, I jammed it in hard. The board again turned upwind slightly, but this time I corrected the motion by getting low and pushing through my toes.

It took a few seconds for the exciting truth to register: I was finally planing in both straps. I did it!

As I experimented with my stance in the straps, I found that I could really lean out and back now that I was anchored to the board. I could also lean the sail back enough to nearly touch the foot of the sail to the deck. Going upwind was also much easier; it felt like I could rocket directly into it. Straps are fun.

Like many windsurfing skills, the straps felt almost trivially easy after only doing it once. After I tacked at the end of my first back strap run, I jammed my feet into the straps like I had been doing it all my life. What was the big deal again?

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