Windsurfing Revisited

I walk my windsurfing rig down the ramp to the water’s edge, gently lower it into the bay, wade out a bit, fly the sail and let the wind pull me up onto the board. Looking forward, I hook into the harness, let my toes find the footstraps, and find the balance point with the wind. It’s steady and strong today. I’ve only sailed this spot a few times — I probably couldn’t have handled it just a few weeks ago. In a minute I’m in the churning chop of the deeper part of the Bay. The “terrain” is much like moguls on a double diamond ski run — with the added challenge that the “moguls” are moving. I tilt the board’s left side downward a bit with my heels, turning the board upwind, launching off a wave. I’m only in the air for a second but it’s a great feeling. Upon landing, the fin loses traction and starts to slip downwind but I’ve anticipated this and pull my back leg under my body to bring it back in line. I continue carving a path through the swell, using my knees as shock absorbers to keep the board from inadvertently launching. I spot a nice rolling swell ahead. Just as I’m about to reach it, I carve a steep turn to the right, shifting the balance of the sail, oversheeting a bit so that it depowers, and end up on the slope of the swell, facing down it. Briefly, I’m surfing this rolling wave. The shift from wind power to wave power feels like walking on the moon. I carve left again before the wave crosses another swell and power the sail again, skimming across the surface.

Although other windsurfers continue until they disappear as tiny specs in the distance, I decide it’s better to not venture too far across the bay. I look behind me to make sure nobody is following too close, unhook from the harness line, and perform the complicated dance called a carve jibe. In the space of 5 seconds I carve the board downwind, shuffle my feet (briefly looking like I’m trying to pliĆ©), flip the sail around and grab it on the other side, and end up on the opposite tack. This move, which essentially amounts to simply turning around, has taken four months of intense practice (with many spectacular crashes along the way) to get right. It’s still a joy when I complete it, and I still crash half my attempts. I let out a “whoo hoo!” and carve a path toward shore.

In three short weeks the engine that generates the San Francisco Bay wind will shut down for the winter. My friends will see more of me and I’ll start mountain biking again, mainly to stay in shape for the beginning of the next wind season in March. By the beginning of February I’ll be jonesing so much for my next windsurfing fix that I’ll write a blog post just to relive the last one.