Friday, October 31, 2008

Herb's shots

I got an email with these three shots that Herb took while I was rigging last Sunday. Hats off to Herb for hanging with me for hours while the winds didn't produce what we were looking for. What more can you ask for in a good friend!?!

I owe you buddy!

In the shot below, you can see the channel behind me on the left. I wanna try some runs in there sometime and see how well it would work. ;-)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Welcome back my friend

Typically fall brings us a decent cycle of winds that start in the last week of September and continue through mid November. This fall has been somewhat inconsistent in terms of patterns, except for now.

Today saw south winds gusting to 40 knots. Overnight the winds will clock west and eventually north as the system passes. Then they're swing back to the south and blow again for a few days - only to turn west then north and repeat.

You'd think that the strongest south winds would be in the spring when summer is beating back old man winter, but that's not the case. Our strongest and best southerly winds are in the fall when summer is trying in vain to defend her turf from the onset of winter.

Starting Sunday, south winds will build into the 20-25 knot range and blow for a few days turning the wind driven wave fetch on the lake into an amazing spectacle of surf that only the most determined watermen will enjoy.

While I'll only get a few sessions out of the next system before I fly back to the west coast, I look forward to them like I would seeing an old friend again. When the southerly gales blow on Lake Michigan, there's really nothing like it anywhere in the world. One minute its sunny and inviting with the suns warming rays almost, but not quite, enticing me to pull my hoodie off of my head. But the lights turn out as the low scud snuffs out the warmth, and on cue, the lake turns into a dark, dangerous beast that you can't turn your back on.

Of all the places I've sailed in my 30 plus years on the water, Lake Michigan in the fall is some of the most technical yet rewarding sailing I've ever done.

I look forward to it for its recognized character, but I relish in the chaos that it dishes up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Less than epic

Herb and I loaded up and headed to Oconto this morning with the prospect of blasting winds and blazing speeds. However, Mother Nature had something else in mind for us. Area showers put a damper on the winds and only gave us bursts of winds, and even then, nowhere near the forecasted 45 knots.

I was thankful I put the 6.6 and the 98 RRD in the truck, as those ended up being the tools of choice. While I didn't crack my personal best - and came nowhere near the 45 I was after, once I got tuned up after the first run I was hovering at 38mph ... cruising comfortably in the flats looking for any sort of gust that would propel me towards and over 40mph. But that didn't happen.

On the plus side, I am totally psyched about the possibilities of the Oconto waters for some high speed runs. South of the jetty is amazingly flat water with nothing ashore for 300-500 yards, so the wind is super clean. It continues this way for at least 2 miles .... plenty of time to put the hammer down when that gust arrives.

I'm also intrigued about the idea of blazing some runs INSIDE the jetty on a north or south wind. Essentially the track would be in the boat channel and aside from the possible no wake rule, this could also give way to serious speeds. But, not a lot of room for error if things go bad.

After 4.5 hours of time, about 40 minutes of it was spent actually sailing and no outstanding speeds, I'm still smiling.

Next time.... next time. ;-)

Did you know...

Did you know that Lake Michigan's surface is roughly 577 feet above sea level, but it is 923 feet deep such that in its deepest parts it extends below sea level?

The largest recorded wave on Lake Michigan was 50 feet in 1947. (it was recorded as a 100 foot wave face)

(picture is from the Superior Surf Club website gallery "Lake Michigan, Sept 7")

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thoughts on trimming

Chris and I had a quick call after his Thursday sesh at his home break in Tynemouth England in which he really didn't have a good time. He was overpowered, but regardless, he was having balance issues with the board in terms of trim to the water and was spinning out all the time. For his weight, the footstraps were too far forward, the fin was too far back. It was an easy problem to diagnose and solve from 4,000 miles away and today I just got word that he tore it up on a 5.3 in epic conditions while bigger guys were on smaller sails and the board handled perfectly for him. Sweet!

I was outside rigging and trimming my KA Koncept 5.8 - a sail which I have yet to sail. Being fresh out of the bag, it needed a lot of work, and it was WAY easier to do it in the yard today with no wind than doing it next to the water tomorrow in 45+ knots of wind.

I also spent a good deal of time working the fins I plan to use in the 75 liter RRD X-Fire - again a board which I have yet to sail. The Tectonics fin(s) were SUPER tight in the box, and in addition to the sanding needed to get them to fit properly, the screws I have are too long and the short ones I have are metric threads. Doh! Again, time well spent today so I can run around and get all the necessary parts now instead of tomorrow.

Board trim is mega important. Footstrap position, fin position and mast track position can turn a good board bad, or make a dull board spring to life. Same for sails - I can't tell you how many people I saw on Maui with improperly rigged sails. Many of them didn't have enough (or any!) batten tension. You also need to be mindful that the manufacturer numbers don't always work best for the sail, and rarely do mast extensions give you the indicated amount of length.

When in doubt - ask someone to take a look at your sail. Play with the settings and go sail and see how the changes effect handling, power and balance. Make notes. Make notations on your booms/bases. (or on your sail bags)

There's nothing more annoying than an unbalanced and funky handling rig to ruin your sesh.

(pictured here is my "light air" speed gear - 6.6 Koncept and 98 liter RRD X-Fire. This setup is good up to about 41mph on the GPS and then it hits the wall.)

Isn't it cold water?

I got an email asking about lake temps. Here's the latest satellite data for the great lakes. (above) And below is another, higher resolution image for the north half of Lake Michigan.

The black areas indicate cloud cover and no surface temp data.

Surface water temps are lower on the western side of Lake Michigan due to the prevailing west winds that push the wamer surface water to the east and cause the deeper, colder water to upwell just offshore. (in the top color image, you can see the green line of cold water along the shorline of Wisconsin on the west side of Lake Michigan)

This can happen even in the middle of summer and many a sailor has been surprised to launch in a shorty with air temps in the 80's and shoreline water temps in the upper 60's/low 70's only to find that a few hundred yards offshore, they are in 34 degree water and could get into a serious hypothermia situation.

This time of year demands a drysuit, booties, hood and mitts. When the conditions are really nasty, I prefer my GoreTex "super suit" with integrated footies where only my head and hands are exposed.

Its soooo comfy - almost like being in the womb again. ;-)

Careful what you wish for

A few days ago, as the weekend closed in, I've been silently wishing for more wind.

I asked for it. I got it. (crap?!)

My most reliable computer models show 34 knots gusting to 48 knots at a slight WNW, which is good in terms of direction for nailing a proper angle for maximum speed.

The storm force winds should lower the water level in the bay by as much as 1 foot, possibly as much as two feet, and that will really diminish any wind chop that I'll be dealing with. On the downside, there is a sand bar that now could now pose a real problem as its located right in my desired track.

Anyway, both GPS's are charged up, and I'm pretty charged up as well. ;-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

The face of stoke?

Josh put up some shots from the Maui trip that Erik took of me. Ok, its true - I'm slightly animated when I'm sailing.

At least Josh doesn't have any video/audio of me singing when I sail. And no, I don't do karaoke. ;-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The need for SPEEEEED!

This coming weekend the forecast is for West Gale force winds to 40 knots. While I'd love to hammer around on a 4.7 and my little RRD, I've got an itch to scratch, and that itch is speed. Since I didn't get to do runs on Lake Okabena and crack out some of the new go fast toys, I'm inclined to head up to Oconto and spend some time burning lanes offshore.

Here's the google map link.

Oconto has a great setup for this weekends west gales. The breakwater has parking at the end of it, so when you launch from the end, you are right into the wind. No shlogging - and since I'll be on a 75 liter board, this is a good thing.

Secondly, runs to the north of the breakwall are in fairly flat water just offshore. Shallow enough that no real chop will develop and offshore enough for the wind to be unobstructed and steady. Port tack looks to be favored off of the launch with the 110-120 degree optimal heading.

Also - with the low air temps, being able to stage off of the nice, warm truck is also very inviting. ;-)

So, I'll be headed out to Oconto on Sunday provided the forecast holds and I think it will. iWindsurf has an average 32 knots and NWA has 28-37 knots for the location.

If you are interested in hooking up for this, drop me an email!

UPDATE : The forecast has been upgraded to gales to 45 knots. Sweet!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Go directly to Jail

Sure I've been on the road for most of the fall sailing season, but what real sailing opportunities were there? Seems that we went straight from summer to winter and skipped fall altogether.

Oh, we're getting wind this weekend, but now it comes at a price. Perhaps I'll make some snowballs while I'm rigging...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sailor's delight

Heck of a red sunset tonight.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Climate shock

After 12 days on Maui sailing in shorts in 85 degree sunshine and warm Pacific waters, you'd think I wouldn't be stoked about sailing back here in Lake Michigan where the morning temperature today was 35 degrees.


The weekend forecast looks pretty good with 15-25 Saturday afternoon and 30 knots on Sunday. Sure I'll be in a drysuit - most likely my "supersuit", but I'm certain to have the island spirit in my sailing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

epic SK8R

Seriously, this guy kicks ass.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


No, this isn't a post about my jeans, its the use of a British expression used by Heather which is roughly equal to American english, "crap!", or "shoot!".

So, given that, I say, "Pants! My freakin' feet hurt!"

First day back home and my bruised and cut feet are NOT happy about their enclosure in shoes/boots after 12 days of flip flops.

Truth be told, its a painful reminder every time I take a step about just how bloody amazing this year's Maui trip was. (pardon the pun)

And so every time I take a step, I both wince and smile at the same time. ;-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Maui Board test : Day 11

Good swell plus no wind equals afternoon SUP session. The first killer ride was Heather - I was further out and didn't see it, but I HEARD it. I think she was screaming in delight all the way. I got worked a few times - once with Chris and once with Josh with an overhead set that really threw us around.

Then I caught a nice wave - not the biggest, but a really nice high high wave that turned east as it edged the channel and really gave a nice ride.

The ride of the day goes to Josh. Check out his post on his blog. I think he's gonna smile about that drop for days.

I headed out Monday night on the 7pm flight back to the mainland with a quick stop in Kona where I think we picked up about 40 of the competitors for the Ironman competition.

Another amazing Maui trip in the can.


Monday, October 13, 2008


Windsurfers are like moths to a flame when it comes to checking out the shops on the island. This trip there were two standouts. The first was the expanded Neil Pryde Maui shop. Kevin and the crew blew out a wall and the shop, which was already a large one, is now at least 40% larger. Hella selection of gear - and lots of bikinis for the women. So, its all good. ;-)

On the top of my list, the Goya/Quatro shop is a little bit off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. Easily one of the coolest shops I've even been in, only made better by the guys working the biz. Keith has a new shaping room with a glass wall into the shop so you can watch him in action.

Head into the loft and you'll catch Jason working on some new engines.

Or play some foosball.

As a bonus, the Dakine factory store is next door, so bring your plastic 'cause there's a ton of stuff you'll suddenly decide you NEED to have.

And if they're throwing a party - its a must attend event. No excuses.


Remember the post a few days back about how do you get 11 boards to a dive boat offshore? Well, there's the other issue of getting the team out to the boat as well. Even little Myla made the trip with us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Maui Board Test : Day 10

Day 10 dawned with high expectations and a little sadness as the team is starting to head back to home territories. Aaron pulled out late morning for the quick flight back to SFO and Dave and Jenny caught the mid afternoon flight back to PDX.

That left Ray, Chris, Josh and myself to sail with the afternoon expectation of the incoming swell. The NW buoy was 9 foot at 15 seconds this morning, and around 3:30pm, Uppers was starting to get some consistent action. It was Chris's and Josh's first Maui swell, and they had a killer sesh and are still all smiles from the day. I scored a few logo high sets, and caught one massive set that actually broke on the outside reef and it made my entire trip. Seriously, that one wave was all I needed.

I spent the day on the Wavetwin and while the larger sets were a little big for the board in terms of down the line turns, again this board delivered with killer slashes and float through the notorious dead wind in the impact zone. The Goya 5.3 3D wave sail I was using today not only looks amazing, it IS amazing. amazing range, amazing power... sorry, I'm gushing. Really, I'd like to find something bad about these sails, but I can't. They really suit my style.

We're finishing up some little things with the test, and other than that, we're going to celebrate the swell with some Ahi Poke at Jaques. (and perhaps a little ... er, a lot of sake)

But before we can enjoy Henry's sushi, Chris, Ray and I are soaking our wounds with Epsom salt, and if you could hear the language, I think we'd make sailors blush.

I'm headed back tomorrow evening and I plan to pull it all out tomorrow and board the plane completely used up.

As it should be.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Maui Board Test : Day 9

Erik came down today and we did another photo shoot at Kanaha. We stuck the wide angle GoPro on his helmet, and here's a quick self serving video. ;-)

Day 8 photos

Sierra comes off the water on the Thommen. It was howling and she was tearing it up on a 4.8 when a lot of the guys were on 4.7's. (I was on a 5.0) Go girl!

Aaron (Catapult) and Ray. They've become really close on this trip. Almost too close for comfort. You can't take a picture, shoot a video, etc. without these two doing something either funny, shocking or illegal.

Jenny ready for a sesh on the Naish. Yup, she started to head into the water without a harness, much to everyone's humor. This girl is STOKED about sailing and she rips!

Chris "Spider monkey" Peacock working diligently on his test form while Myla hangs out.

Smiles in the family - Jake and his dad.

Windsurfing Magazine publisher and the hardest working guy on Maui when he's here, Dave Combe about to go out on a 5.0 - except he doesn't realize its a 5.0 and later was even more impressed with the wind once he realized what he was on. Dave's a cool guy even though he sails with a kite harness. ;-)

Ray working on another test result.

Maui board test : Day 8

Amazing. After the previous post about our various wounds, I slip on an endo-forward and in my quick attempt to get my foot back in the strap, I land and cut my foot on the fin.

Then again, if I came off the water without bleeding, it would be a miracle!

Great day today. I was wound up on a Goya 3D wave 5.0 via Jake Miller and had a great time on it. (more about the Goya wave sails soon...)

Fair evening at Jaques tonight, ran into Cort Larnered and Ken Winner. Boy, how times have changed, and this coming from a 40 year old! LOL

More winds tomorrow and swell coming Sunday/Monday/Tuesday.

We're wrapping up the board tests and from here on out, its all about having fun (like we've not been doing enough of

Friday, October 10, 2008

Beat, sore but ready for more

After a tremendous dinner last night, the conversation turned to our injuries. I don't think anyone on the team DOESN'T have an injury, and some are actually quite severe. The general consensus was that if you don't come home from a vacation feeling more tired and beat than when you left, you didn't take the right vacation. Heck, my office mates used to take bets on which body part I'd injure while off on a trip.

Breaking gear is one thing - you can always get more gear and keep hammering away, but when you're body takes a blow, that's a whole 'nuther story. The close calls on the trip have been Dave Combe's knee (done while chicken fighting on the beach - yeah, that was a silly idea) and Ray's knee that was impacted on the steel decking of the Red Rhino while he was doing his worst Tarzan impersonation. And while its bad, it could have been a lot worse and Ray is very thankful for that. There's Heather's massive bruise on her thigh, her husband Chris has a tremendous abrasion on his left hip, right where his board shorts and harness come together and I bet that totally sucks when sailing. Everyone's feet are cut, scraped and sore and the reef rash on my right foot is perfectly located such that my flip flops and footstraps cause maximum irritation and pain at all times.

There's been a lot of duct and medical tape on the team, mountains of Advil consumed, hydrogen peroxide scrubbed onto wounds, and Chris has been producing all sorts of weird European solutions to our ills. (some which cause more pain than the actual injury) And if nothing else works, alcohol is applied to deaden the senses.

All in all, we're beat, sore but ready for more. The trades are coming back today en force and the first big winter swell is coming with wave faces in excess of 15 feet on the north shore.

Bring it!

Pile on Josh

So, when the editor of Windsurfing Magazine says, "Hey team, go easy on the vodka tonight, we have to be up at 6:30am tomorrow for a photo shoot." What do you think happens .... Yup. dogpile on Josh!

Seriously, what the hell was he thinking?

Quick question....

So, how do you get 11 boards from shore to a dive boat a mile offshore?

You pile all the crap on the little ABS launch and head'er out. Really, its that simple.

Boards boards boards!!!

Got three new boards on the water today. Not the best winds, but still, we got them out and ran them around.

Need to haul a crapload of boards around Maui on your next trip? Call Al West's rental vans. Cooler and beach chairs included. Can't beat it.

Maui board test : Day 6

Ok, Day 6 started with the Haleakala fiasco, but ended with some killer snorkeling with turtles and SUP sesh which amazingly ended up at a nude beach. Considering the amount of bare ass caught on video on this trip, ending up there wasn't so much a surprise as karma.

No, I'm not posting bare ass shots. So save it. ;-)

Maui board test : day 7

Today was photoshoot day. While I can't show you anything about the actual shoot (sorry, you'll have to wait until the March 2009 issue to see the shot ... but trust me, its killer) I can show you some misc. shots and screen grabs from the videos from today. We loaded it all up and headed out to the Red Rhino for the shoot, and nailed it early, so then the fun began. Thanks a TON to Captain Dave - this guy rocks. If you find yourself on Maui looking for an awesome place to dive from, The Rhino is THE place to be. And there's no better host than Dave.

Trust me - we had a TON of fun today. More fun that human beings should be allowed to have.

What happened to day 6? Gimme a break. Its coming soon. Trust me. ;-)