Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wakeboarding an Original Windsurfer

Several years ago while moored off the coast of Catalina Island, Daniel and Elizabeth buzzed by us and asked if I wanted to go wakeboarding. " SURE! " I yelled as they passed our stern in their dinghy. 

Daniel is a surfer and always had his surfboard on their boat, it was about a 6' 0" so we used his board.  It was challenging to get up from lying down on the board to standing up while being pulled and timing it just right to coincide with accelerating to a plane. It took talent and energy to get up but it was well worth the effort. The surfboard carved easily but didn't allow for any mistakes and we both ended up having some good wipe-outs.

Wakeboarding on a short board, Catalina Island.

Fast forward to last summer. It's the end of another perfect day in Northern Michigan. The wind died hours ago and the sun is positioning itself for a spectacular set.  I am restless to get some sports in, to squeeze just one last ounce out of the day. I grab some line, peal on a wetsuit and I paddle out —this time on my 12' Original Windsurfer— and wait for Brad to meet me beyond the harbor. Brad maneuvers the boat slowly past me and tosses the line.  Once the slack in the line is gone,  I casually stand up. I give Brad the "Thumbs up" and as he throttles-up a wake forms behind the boat. I slip into the wake and begin walking around the Windsurfer board like I am the only person on a dance floor and I have it all to myself.

Original Windsurfer Wakeboarding, stepping forward...

The board is stable, and I realize quickly that we could be dance partners. I am not a cowboy breaking-in a wild horse. No, we are working together. I step towards the tail, moving my weight towards the inside rail to carve a turn, then several steps forward to keep the board in the wake, then a few steps back to enjoy the ride. Brad accelerated more and the wake gets larger and the board glides into a sweet spot. We are one and I am not getting bucked off for some time.

Constantly making adjustments —and playing with the wave— on a long ride.

Wakeboarding the Windsurfer reminded me of longboarding a point break. Relaxed, time to really enjoy the ride and loads of places to move your weight around to work with the board to play in the wave. Constantly making adjustments —and playing with the wave— on a long ride. 

I've described the Original Windsurfer as a surfboard and I guess this is just one more way that it is. I was stoked to squeeze that last ounce out of the day!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Laugh & Fall


This last summer we had two separate families — with a total of 6 kids — visiting at the same time. Now being one who bonds best with others thru sports, I knew I had to act swiftly and take the lead on a group activity, and I suspected it would have to be something new for everyone because doing something we would all be "comfortable doing" meant we'd be sentenced to a day of the dreaded going out to lunch and window-shopping in town, a real default for everyone —especially kids with energy to burn and a deep sense of discovery! Not to mention my own selfish reasons.

Left to right: Noah, Holland, Natasha & Henry. 
They not only learned fast, but also had a great time.

My arsenal for persuasion was simple but strong: a few Windsurfer boards;  a couple SUP paddles; SPF 30, and a quiet sandy beach. Once at the beach, the kids were corralled and I went through the basics of Stand Up Paddling. They listened with interest, and after some initial hesitation, most of them were off on their own independent way. Just like that!

Fearless and having fun

I was impressed with how quickly they were able to stand up, balance, and start paddling. A few falls here and there, no big deal. Especially impressive were the kids that were sharing a board, they had to figure out how to coordinate paddling between themselves while balancing together on the board.  They were laughing and chattering amongst themselves all the while. They were fearless.  And that's what stuck me most, they were so busy having fun, there was no fear of learning something new, and no shame in falling. It was wonderful to witness.

As we continued to watch the fun, and of course some drama unfold between the kids,  I couldn't help but reflect upon the adults I'd taught to SUP over the past summers. These kids were by far the quickest adapters I had ever had as students.  I wondered why teaching (some) adults was generally more involved and took longer? How come it took adults longer to get their "legs" than kids?  I know there's many logical reasons, like kids have a lower center of gravity, and that some adults have physical limitations, but I also believe us "older kids" might be too focused on not falling.  And sometimes we just forget —or have forgotten how— to have fun while learning a new skill.  Or for that matter learning anything new at all.  It is easier said than done. And besides we don't want to run around with the sheer abandonment of a child, we would get hurt. But still, watching the kids was a great reminder not to lose my sense of humor. And also to enjoy the challenge of taking on something new, whatever it may be.

My mother always taught us kids to not be afraid of falling. (She also said that a glass of wine at lunch helps you ski better in the afternoon.  In fact we had a saying when we skied together, "if you don't fall you're not trying", or as we've often modified it: "if you don't fall you didn't have enough wine with lunch!").  I believe Mom was right-on about trying something new and trying something more difficult. Get outside your comfort zone. These kids reminded me to not forget to laugh when I fall (into the water of course!); it makes getting up and trying again a lot more fun.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Everyone's a winner

The Original Windsurfer Summer Series #3 was on Saturday, August 11th and brought a few sailors up to Traverse City from Ohio. It was a great day to go sailing and we had a nice breeze.

Panoramic view of the regatta site. Thanks to Joel Scinchak and Brad Bickle for the photos.

The wind was puffing up to 13 knots from the north/nw/ne and quickly carried us around the course in about 20 minutes time. The windward part of the course was very"tactical" due to some drastic wind shifts close to shore and kept everyone on alert - one unfavorable tack could take you from being first to the windward mark to last - or worse, dump you directly into the water. And I know this to be true by my first-hand experience. But it did feel good to get wet!

Mark positioning himself for a good start.

We were having much fun sailing, so much so that we had several races before mid day.  With a long break for lunch —thanks to the Boathouse restaurant— we were re-fueled with some humongous sandwiches and ready for more sailing.  The sun came out, we peeled our wetsuits off and ended up having 9 races. The competition was tight and the outcome of each finish was different every race.

Gordon out front
Joel holding onto his lead...

After a good day on the water, some cold beverages and a BBQ hit the spot. And in the end everyone was a winner!
left to right: Joel Sminchak (light weight class); Gordon Bittle (heavy weight class); Mark Drotleff & Ted Schweitzer (medium weight class)

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Slow Summer Start

Much like a wonderful summer vacation that allows us to slow down and enjoy each moment, it's been a slow and somewhat relaxed start to the Summer Windsurfer Series.

The Original Windsurfer Regatta Series in June was cancelled and July got rained out. But a few of us did manage a nice long sail exploring the other side of the bay and sailing out to Tucker Point in a firm wind, tacking back and forth against the breeze, and then a long downwind back to shore.  It was a sporatic journey, I sailed without a harness and took every opportunity to hang off the booms and splash my body into the warm water; because there was a mild cold front blowing thru the water was warmer than the air so it felt great to do body dips or fall in and become completely submerged in the warm lake water! 

A few colorful sails on a grey day, a relaxed journey to a scenic shore, warm clear water and some companionship on the water, not a bad start to summer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Original Windsurfer Summer Regatta Series #6

Summer wrap up
This was the last regatta for the 2011 season. Thank you to everyone who supported these summer event. Those that came from out of state, down state, and those locals who decided to try an Original Windsurfer for the first time or revisit it after many years. By all the warm handshakes, hugs and smiles I feel certain everyone had a good time and came away with some improved long boarding skills.
Jon reaching towards the finish.
Photo: Dave Dalquist

Special thanks to Dave Dalquist who has an amazing talent for capturing the essence of the moment thru his photography. Dave not only sailed in almost every regatta but also managed to take bundles of photos from the Summer Series Regattas  -you can view his photos at

After the start, Bill & Ted heading towards windward mark.
Photo: Dave Dalquist.

And thank you to the Boathouse restaurant for all the wonderful lunches this summer and keeping us well nourished throughout the regatta season. The food, the staff, you spoil us!

We held 7 races and like the previous regattas, many decided to sail without a harness even though the wind was gusting to 15 + knots.  I am not sure why most of us didn't sail with a harness. I think it may have started earlier in the season, a few regattas back when the wind was light early in the day and then began to build as we sailed into the afternoon. Some would sail to shore between races and get a harness, and some simply decided not to. I didn't think much of it at the time —to each his/her own. But as the wind got stronger there we were sailing without a harness and experiencing a feeling I can only describe as "pure".  I believe I am able to feel, read and assess the wind shifts more accurately with the uninterrupted connection of my hands on rig. I don't think this is a big revelation, but it is something that has further enhanced my enjoyment of the sport.

Ellis on his 'Original-Original', wooden booms and all.
Photo: Dave Dalquist.

Starts & Board Handling
After the first few starts, and with some encouragement from the race committee, the sailors improved their starts drastically!

Photo: Dave Dalquist.
Photo: Dave Dalquist.
I enjoy pleasure sailing and I also enjoy keeping my skills sharp and improving them.  These regattas helped keep me tuned-up and also helped with my board handling.  I also got to meet many new friends.  

Don't be frightened by the word 'Regatta'.  If you're a beginner or haven't been on a long board in a while or maybe never been on a long board, these are casual get togethers of sailors with all levels of ability.  I hope to see you next year!

Photo: Dave Dalquist.

Photo: Dave Dalquist.

Photo: Dave Dalquist.
The sun was out, the wind was up, and a good time was had by all...
Update on Availability of Windsurfers:  It's been nice to say that I am SOLD OUT of Original Windsurfers the last few months, but I also feel bad to those that wanted to get one for this summer.  Boards will be available by Nov 1st and there are new sail colors!  I posted the new sail colors on FaceBook if you want to see them.

Photo: Dave Dalquist.

I never tire of jibes
The light-weight rig; the square tail, sharp rails, and low stern volume of the board; and most importantly the fin — it's not over-sized so the board actually turns. These are a few of my favorite things. And whooppie is it ever fun.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Regatta Series #4

Original Windsurfer Summer Series Regatta #4  July 30, 2011

The regatta site has a large grassy area for rigging and a beautiful sandy beach.

Original Windsurfers were supplied for all sailors along with regatta t-shirt, lunch provided by the Boathouse Restaurant, a BBQ dinner and wine supplied by J Henry Vineyards.
Randy returning to beach.

Stephen watches a sea plane take off.
The morning was calm so several people went SUPing on Original Windsurfer boards.

No harnesses, not even with 18 knot gusts.

After lunch the wind picked up to 6-9 knots and then increased to 15 knots with gusts to 18 knots!

Of course no one was taking pictures when the wind picked up because everyone was having too much fun sailing!

Randy having some fun mastering the agile Windsurfer and entering a power jibe.

The first 2 races were moderate wind and once the wind really picked up the guys in the group declined to use harnesses and decided to hang tight and go “iron-man”.
The race committee counted down to the start so everyone could improve their timing at the starts and boat handling.

Six races were held on a triangle course; a long upwind to the weather mark and 2 reaches back to start/finish line. There were some excellent swells and chop to surf on. The light weight sail makes it easy for steering to catch a wave. And the maneuverable board also helps positioning on a run or reach to catch swells.

Alison hanging on, big smile.
Leading the fleet.
By the sixth race all sailors had improved their start, upwind boat speed, tacks, jibes and mark rounding ability.

Alison at start mark
For some it was their first time on an Original Windsurfer or was their first time in 15 years. No one missed a beat. I guess it's like riding a bicycle, you never forget.

Stephen at finish line.
After the races, we had a BBQ on the beach and trophies were awarded.

Standing left to right: Randy Bass 1st place medium weights; Alison Rowe 1st place light weight; Paul Sandstrom 1st place heavy weights. Below: Dave Dalquist 3rd place medium weights; "Roscoe" and Ted Schweitzer 2nd place medium weights. Not pictured: Gary Kosch 3rd place heavy weights; Stephen Wiele 1st place B fleet/Sport fleet.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Windsurfing Ohio: Reservoir Rendezvous Regatta

For the July 16-17 weekend I loaded up my trailer with a couple Original Windsurfers and drove to New London, Ohio for the 2nd annual Reservoir Rendezvous.

I arrived late in the afternoon on Friday and immediately rigged up to sail away the road dust. There was a light breeze, the water was warm, and any fatigue from the drive quickly washed away.
riding the rail

 As I fooled around doing some freestyle I was reminded what a privilege it is to have a windsurfer, to rig up in a matter of minutes and be on the water —presto! Experiencing and interacting with a new locale.

I sailed to shore, pulled my Windsurfer onto the bank and walked a few steps to my campsite, nice.

skippers meeting

More people showed up and by Saturday morning registration there was a group of sailors, spouses and kids. 

I brought 4 Original Windsurfers and all got used, we had our own fleet. 

Winds were light with some nice puffs and wind shifts blowing thru. 

Six races were held.  Lunch and a BBQ dinner were provided (great food thank you Carl!) and campfire at sunset.

Race results are listed on MOWIND.

Coming out of a jibe, regatta site in background

more fooling around...Body Dip!
Original Windsurfers on course
Original Windsurfer Class: Robbie with son, Ted and Joel.