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.