Tampa Bay Windsurfing

Location, Location, Location

This isn’t a post on real estate but it is related to the question that so many of us in the windsurfing community are asking, Fin or Foil. Last year I posted “Questions that lead to unexpected results” about my questions regarding Wind foiling and Wing foiling and after a few months of reflection I’ve come to some new conclusions.

The fundamental questions haven’t changed. As a recreational windsurfer what is the best way to manage your time on the water, the cost of equipment and instruction and very importantly personal enjoyment. Here in Florida we are coming to the end of our windy season (October – April) and this season I have had some great days on the water which have put into sharp focus for me the importance of my location.

In SW Florida (Tampa Bay area) we have some of the best windsurfing locations for every possible wind direction in the US. Some of my favorites are flat water, long run locations with shallow water. For the most part they are either to shallow for foiling or provide only limited options.* We have great foiling options as well, hell we have the Gulf of Mexico but I love these flat/shallow water locations for freeride windsurfing!

I’ve now been in the sport for five years and in the last year or so my windsurfing enjoyment has rapidly increased as my skill level continues to improve. I work with Andy Brandt (https://www.abkboardsports.com/) during his winter visits to our area and this year I decided to put Wind Foiling on hold for the most part and focus on my fin skills, specifically the Carve jibe but also my sail handling and general skills. My focus is “lock in my freeride skills before moving onto something new” and in doing this I’ve been reminded how much I love my local flatwater spots.

Bottom line: In SW Florida we have great locations for both fin and foil sailing and my plan is to enjoy both as the seasons, winds and my skill level dictate. Summer will be here soon enough and I’m looking forward to focusing on my foiling skills this summer but in the short term, my new Starboard Carve 119 arrives this week and I can’t wait to check out the Auto-Jibe option!

For more on this discussion check out Peter Hart’s recent article in the April 2022 edition of Windsurf, The Paradox of Choice. As always Peter does a good job stating some of the challenges that we face when considering so many incredible options for spending time on the water.

* Favorite locations

Hawaii – Maui

I recently had the good fortune to spend time in Maui and check out the windsurfing and winging locations and also meet some great windsurfers.

I’m not really sure I should be writing a post about Maui as there are so many folks that have far greater knowledge about windsurfing options on Maui then I do. Therefore I’m going to keep this one short and simple.

FYI – Seeking local knowledge/expertise is really a must do. Maui is an incredible windsurfing location and well worth a visit but I strongly recommend connecting with the locals before heading out on the water. My first day on the water a local coming in from sailing past the reef told me that the waves were above his 370 mast. I can’t contemplate conditions like that.

Local experts/World Champion!

Matt Pritchardhttps://pritchardwindsurfing.com/pw2020/

Matt is a World Champion Windsurfer. He has great equipment for rent and provides options for on the water instruction and on-sight expertise. He is a great guy and a great resource for all things windsurfing and foiling in Maui. I had hoped to spend time with him on the water but unfortunately the wind decided to take a vacation during my visit so my sailing time was very limited. He also teaches Winging.

Great surf shops on the north shore with rental and instruction options.

Talk to the locals. There are some incredible local windsurfers that can be great help regarding current conditions and options. Best place for me to chat with locals was at Kanaha Beach Park.

The North shore of Maui is incredible, of course the world famous Ho’okipa, but also Spreckelsville and Kanaha Beach Park and on the South side Kīhei . Flat water options at the Port via Ho’aloha Park. Very popular for Wing foiling instruction. My sailing was focused on Kanaha inside the reef. I did check out Kīhei but was warned by a friendly local it isn’t safe to sail alone as you might end up somewhere in the Pacific if something goes wrong!

Wing foiling is incredibly popular in Maui and it was amazing to watch the local experts! A couple of world champions explained to me that the popularity of Winging was due to gusty conditions and fantastic surf/wave riding options. If I get back to Maui I will be signing up for Winging lessons!

Hanging with Robby!

Questions that lead to unexpected results

I’m writing this post from beautiful Maui. This is my second visit to Maui but my first time as a Windsurfer. My next blog post will be a “beginners perspective” on what I learned about windsurfing in Maui but this post is continuation of my previous post on fin vs. foil and what can happen when you ask questions with the assumption that you know the answers.

As posted previously I recently purchased a Starboard Freeride Wind foil setup with the goal to foil over chop/waves and enjoy long range cruising (Time on the Water). I’m not planning to give up fin windsurfing but that does appear to be a trend amongst windsurfers I’ve chatted with but that is for another post.

Back to Maui – Before my trip I hooked up with Matt Pritchard to rent equipment but more importantly I wanted to have an experts guidance while in Maui. I chose to sail on a fin and headed first to Kanaha State Park. (More on this in the next blog post.).

After sailing at Kanaha I decided to check out a flat water location at the Port (Ho’aloha Park) and sail with and photograph a friend learning to Wing foil. While taking photos I see Robbie Naish sail up to the beach on a Wing foil. I’m not bashful so I introduced myself to Robbie and his friend Julia. Robbie was testing new wings and he took the time to chat with me about windsurfing and wing foiling.

As we chatted I asked him Wing vs. Wind foiling? Without a pause he states, 100% Wing Foiling. My wife who was also at the beach said my mouth just dropped open in horror (LOL). So like anyone who has just spend $3k + on a Wind foil setup knowing it was the right thing to do, I followed up with questions. What about this and what about that, nope he answered each question with why Wing foiling was the best option. Finally I asked the question I knew was a sure bet for Wind Foiling, what about long range cruising? Robbie, who reminded me how much he loves windsurfing (I guess the horror on my face was obvious) said when he next sails from Maui to Oahu he would choose the Wing Foil setup right there on the beach!

You might say, well this is just one person’s opinion but this is Robbie Naish!

If you know me you know I’ve been dismissive of Wing foiling. I had closed my mind and was 100% focused on Wind foiling as the best option for me. I felt that I could bring my 5+ years of windsurfing experience to Wind foiling and it would be a relatively quick transition. Well my mind has changed and not just because of my conversation with Robbie but also watching Wing foilers flying across these lovely Hawaiian waters clearly demonstrating the full range of options with a Wing foil. It was impressive to watch.

One additional point, my wife who like most spouses doesn’t see the need for one more piece of windsurfing equipment that I simply must have 😁 thinks I need to try and if need be buy Wing foiling equipment. I think Robbie won her over to!

Foiling is still my next big adventure but I’ve had my mind blown by the best in our sport and I’m looking forward to taking a lesson on Wing Foiling with Jonathan at North Beach if he is willing to put up with me.

FYI – Matt Pritchard (Multiple world champion Windsurfer) also agrees with Robbie!

Will I take to Wing Foiling and sell my Wind Foiling equipment. I don’t know the answer to that question but I will tell you that my mind is open to the possibility.

Summer Time blues

A disappointing summer to say the least for the water sports community and Tampa Bay and SW Florida but now it is time to move forward and focus on renewal and the all the pleasures and challenges of windsurfing.

In May I purchased my new foil setup (Starboard Free Ride, foil etc.) and I was excited to take advantage of the light winds of summer to develop new skills. Well it didn’t work out as planned but now I have something to look forward to with the beginning of the 2021/22 windy season.

Over the next few weeks I will be writing about what I perceive is a very important transition in our sport from fin to foiling, my trip to Maui (I’m writing this from a lanai overlooking Kapalua Bay) and new technologies coming to market that I believe will have a major impact, both positive and negative on water sports.

In a few minutes I’m heading to the north shore of Maui to meet Matt Pritchard (http://www.pritchardwindsurfing.com/) to pick up equipment and learn more about the windsurfing options on this beautiful island. I’m a bit apprehensive as I’m not a wave windsurfer and this is the US mecca for wave windsurfing so working with Matt I believe is a good first step. Wish me luck and more very soon now that we finally have some wind.

Carve Jibe – Putting it all together

A Beginners Perspective

This is the third in my series on what I believe to be three important break through skills in my windsurfing adventure.  

  1. Beach Start – Break on through!
  2. Harness Lines – Commit!
  3. The Carve Jibe

Once I gained competency using the harness lines, (actually way before that) I wanted to start jibing with speed (down wind turns).  As I mentioned in a previous post Let Go! on Instructional YouTube videos it can be made to look easy but for an intermediate windsurfer the multiple steps required to complete this maneuver can be quite daunting. 

The good news is as with the other two steps, competency gained in the Carve Jibe will help you to develop a range of skills that you will be able to apply to even more advanced skills, i.e. Duck Jibes, 360s, fast tacks, backwind sailing etc. and the confidence to take on even more skills.  (The skills I’ve developed while learning to Carve Jibe are a big confidence boast as I take on Wind Foiling.)

My goal though is much simpler, I want to keep up with my windsurfing buddies when we are free ride blasting and of course the ability to turn with speed makes windsurfing more fun.  Need to turn, OK! Not a lot of thought, just go and that is very freeing as I enjoy blasting around Tampa Bay.

Practice: On the water I jibe as often as possible when the conditions are right until sometimes I’m simply worn out.  The shallow waters of Tampa Bay make practicing much easier.  When I fall I can jump right back on and go without having to always water start.  I find an open spot clear of the other windsurfers and kiters and put the board onto a plane and run a couple hundred meters or so and  jibe again and again.  Each time I’m trying to improve on the technique(s) I’m working on and it is good to practice on both a starboard and port run. 

Preparation is the key to a successful jibe but once in the turn you have to commit to the carve while preparing to execute the foot work and sail flip required to complete the turn.  This is where so many of us allow the board to level off, slow down and you come off plane.   This is now a non-planning jibe and that is OK because the goal is to complete the turn but that isn’t my end goal but I don’t get discouraged I just try again.   Remember this is going to take some serious practice.  

I’ve been working on the Carve Jibe for over a year now and my goal has been to take it one step at a time.  Unfortunately I’ve recently been informed that my preparation is a bit off and that has been negatively effecting my progress.   No need to go into boring details but work with an expert to critique your jibes and your progress should be quicker.  

I’m now actually planning out of about a third of my jibes and tweaking the little details to successfully complete more of my jibes to provide the speed to get right back on plane on the new tack.  One challenge is still choppy conditions and being prepared for all the variables associated with turning in chop, when to turn, where to turn and managing the extra movements in the board as you carve.  More to learn but what is new.

The Carve Jibe is by far the most complex maneuver I’ve tried to master but all the work is really paying off across all aspects of my windsurfing and that is why the Carve Jibe is number three on my list of Break Through elements in my windsurfing adventure.  

Remember to look around before you turn as I might be right behind you but if clear … throw the board into a carve jibe and enjoy the ride!

Commit!

Beginners Perspective – Harness Lines

This is my second post on what I consider to be three critical break through skills needed to advance and expand my windsurfing range.

Once I gained proficiency with basic windsurfing/sailing skills including as discussed in my first break through post the Beach Start the next big step was understanding how to effectively use harness lines. It looks kind of easy, simply hook in and lean back, but I’m afraid not!

Harness lines open up so many options, most importantly the ability to bring a board onto plane and transition from sailing to windsurfing. As with all three break through skills as you learn to effectively engage your harness lines you will learn far more than simply committing to your harness lines and these new skills will carry you to a new level of challenges and most importantly FUN!

Purchasing the right Harness! So many skills needed but it all begins with the right harness and for that you really need to try on and possibly test a number of harnesses. I use an ION waist harness. This is my third harness – 1st was a Dakine, good but I wanted more back support as I progressed. My 2nd was an ION which broke after a few months and my 3rd is a newer ION harness which is very comfortable and really supports my lower back and really makes it much easier to sail in gusty conditions.

Commit! As a beginner we sail by controlling the boom and sail via our hands and arm strength to counter balance the power of the sail and move the board in a straight line but as the wind and your speed increase you don’t have the strength in your arms or hands to manage the power generated by the sail. Harness lines engage the big muscles in your legs, hips and back as well as your weight to manage the power of the sail but you have to commit and that for me and I believe for most beginners is the tricky part.

My first two years in the sport, I primarily used a long board i.e. Kona One. Long boards are very forgiving but also limit your speed and the types of conditions you will probably encounter. (Long boards in choppy conditions aren’t a great deal of fun due to the size and weight of the board.) Long boards are a great platform to learn to use harness lines but these skills don’t exactly transition to a short board. Short boards are far less forgiving and demand greater skills from the sailor. For me the challenge was the increased speed and chop. You want to go faster and have more control but this requires more wind which means chop in most locations and you must, must commit to the harness lines and really limit the use of your hands and arms!

If you are learning to use your harness lines and you find that as your speed and the chop increase you are bouncing out of your harness lines it is due to one simple reason, you aren’t committing to the harness lines!

How do I learn to commit? Time on the water of course but one great resource you can use is to setup a simulator. Last year I was really struggling with my board position and committing to my harness lines when I came across GetWindsurfing‘s simulator videos on YouTube. Phil demonstrates how easy it is to setup a simulator so I gave it a try and oh my was that an eye opening experience. I had it all screwed up!

The simulator made it very clear that I wasn’t using my harness lines correctly, wrong position, too long, etc. but just as importantly after finding a better balanced position I could now hang off the boom via the harness lines and be in a correct windsurfing position. For the first time I could feel what it was like to really commit to the harness lines and let go of the boom. You can feel the mast pressure, test different positions, all while staying committed to your harness lines. That is really hard to do on the water but a simulator provides great feedback and your standing still! Seriously if you are learning to use harness lines or bouncing out of your harness lines setup a simulator. It is easy and really helpful. Thanks Phil and Danielle!

One year later: Now I’ve become comfortable using harness lines and it has become second nature to hook in and use the harness lines to connect with the boom, sail, mast and board. It has to all be in sync but getting to that point requires that one must learn to limit your use of your hands and arms and commit to the harness lines and that is hard, at least it was for me!

I’m now free to test myself in harder and faster conditions. Climbing upwind is so much easier and my time on the water is much more enjoyable due to the fact that I have greater control with much less effort.

What I’ve learned is there is no universal setup. You are always making adjustments depending on conditions, sail size, board and also how you feel that day. It is amazing what a couple of centimeters forward or backwards of the harness lines can do for your setup. I don’t really adjust the length of my harness lines but instead prefer to move the boom up and down for different conditions.

Time on the water of course but don’t be afraid to tweak your setup and try new positions. Setup a simulator and hang from the boom via your harness and let go! You will be amazed how it feels! Good luck and see you on the water!

Break on through!

A beginners perspective on three critical break through skills

At this point in my windsurfing journey I have learned a great many things that have helped me to improve my skills but three skills stand out that I consider to be break through skills on my road to progress. Without proficiency in each I would have been hindered in my advancement to a far greater degree than simply not being able to complete the single skill.

  • Beach Start
  • Harness Lines
  • Carve Gybe

What makes these skills stand out as break through skills is that to gain proficiency I had to learn so much more than the skill itself and the resulting experience and expertise gained pushed me to a new level on my windsurfing journey. This post will focus on the first, the Beach Start.

Step on the board and go, I do it numerous times every time I windsurf but if you can Beach Start and really think about it, before each Beach Start you first gauge the wind both gusts and lulls, water conditions, etc. You probably maneuver your board into the right position using the sail and the mysterious (to a beginner) mast pressure, and once all is lined up you step not just anywhere but onto the center line of the board, not to far forward or back but just right as you let the sail pull you onto the board. (To be successful one needs to develop a single fluid motion which again is quite challenging for a beginner.) As the board moves forward your back foot also steps onto the board again at the right point of balance and you counter balance yourself with the sail or if caught by a gust you sheet out until you hook into your harness lines and once again counter balance as you begin your next run. All this and so much more as the conditions change is simply called a Beach Start.

All windsurfers are sailors first and the skills required/learned and hopefully mastered in the Beach Start have been critical for me as I learned sailing handling, board position, tacks and jibes, etc. and these important skills apply to every new skill I learn in my journey.

Without learning how to Beach Start I probably would have given up on windsurfing long ago and not just because up-hauling isn’t fun but I would have lacked so many critical skills required to move up to a new level and that is why I consider this skill an important break through in my journey.

If you are a beginning Windsurfer and reading this post, please take the time and effort to learn how to Beach Start. Ask for help, take a lesson, practice! You are going to fall, many times but hopefully with each step you will be just a little closer to breaking through on your windsurfing journey.

Let Go!

A beginners take on instructional videos

YouTube – We all do it, search for Windsurfing and watch the many great instructional videos online. I have my favorites like everyone but I always get a laugh out of some of the assumptions in these videos regarding my windsurfing skills or really lack of skills.

At this point in my 4+ year journey I’m obsessed with learning how to carve jibe and I spend most sessions on the water practicing this maneuver. As everyone knows the carve jibe is a many step process (as many as 12) and for this intermediate windsurfer I’ve studied and worked hard to try to master this important maneuver.

If you know how to carve jibe you know the steps – 1. Look around to make sure it is safe to turn – 2. Move your back hand down the boom – 3. Drop out of the harness lines – WAIT, WHAT!? I’m just getting comfortable using my harness lines. I’m going 20+ MPH (flying across the water) and I’m suppose to Let Go! The harness lines are my safety lines and now I’m not only going to let go but (4) get low and (5) take my back foot out of the strap and (6) step across to the leeward side while maintaining all this speed! Yes sir!

I have to laugh because all the videos demonstrate these first critical steps and move right on to the next steps without a seconds thought or mention of how unnerving this action is to someone just learning how to carve jibe. When I chat with fellow intermediate windsurfers this always comes up as probably the most difficult aspect of the carve jibe and for some folks where the carve jibe fails due to the fact that they come off plane to stay in control.

My point in all this is though the instructional videos are great, they have serious limitations and this is a result of my limited abilities not the skills the videos are demonstrating. As Dirty Harry once stated, A Man’s Got to Know his Limitations.

So I will continue to watch the videos, find the instructors that I think are best (my three favorites are GetWindsurfing, Sam Ross, and TWS Tenerife Windsurfing) and have a good laugh every now and again when someone demonstrates a maneuver in three foot irregular chop in winds blowing 20+ knots with perfect form and ends with “now you try it!

PS After much practice I’ve become comfortable Letting Go! and you can to. Just try it!

Time on the water (ToW)

Time on the water – A finite and precious resource that must be utilized to the best of our abilities.

I’m on the east coast of Florida this week sailing from the Stuart Causeway. I didn’t anticipate the choppy conditions and unfortunately only brought my flat water (Falcon 159) and light chop (Gecko 133) boards and large Ezzy Cheetahs, so not a very effective use of my ToW. I needed my Dyno 115 and smaller sails but lesson learned not all locations in FL are like Tampa Bay!

This error on my part got me to thinking as I bounced around in the swells … What is my best use of my ToW at this point in my Windsurfing adventure? Flat water freeride is my goto passion but as I see it I have two options to improve my skills but just as importantly upgrade my existing windsurfing quiver.

  1. Freewave – Add a couple of smaller and lighter sails, possibly a Freewave board and focus on improving my skills not only on small waves but in chopper conditions.
  2. Foiling – I own a Falcon 159 which is foil ready but I will need a couple of foil focused sails plus of course the foil.

So either way I’m going to spend some money but I think today I made up my mind. I believe it will be more fun to fly over the chop so Foiling is my next big adventure! This idea of flying over chop suits me best as I really don’t enjoy choppy conditions and try to avoid it whenever possible and I believe foiling will open all kinds of new options and locations for my windsurfing adventures. I have much to learn but I’m excited to take this next step.

As part of this new adventure I will soon be adding a new Foiling section to tbwindsuring.com with a focus on Foil friendly locations in and around Tampa Bay.

A Beginners Perspective

Longboards and Andy Brandt

Four years ago I began my windsurfing journey. I’ve decided to start a new blog series to chronicle my adventures, experiences and the wonderful and very positive impact that windsurfing and all the great people in our sport have had on my life.

I’m going to start with my most recent day on the water working with one of the premier windsurfing instructors in the world. I’m speaking about Andy Brandt and ABK Board Sports. Andy is normally in Bonaire this time of year working with World Champions, (past, present and future) but due to Covid we in Florida have the great fortune to learn from him this year. No matter where you are in the sport, Andy will take you to the next level! Check out his website and sign up for his next sessions! I know I will be part of his next sessions and I look forward to working with him in Bonaire in 2022!

Back to my blog: I just turned 60 and the picture above shows me on my Kona One long board in Sarasota on one of my first days on the water. I made a number of mistakes early in my journey but one great choice I made was the purchase of a Kona One long board. I still own this board and though I now own three short boards, the Kona One was my foundation for learning to sail and windsurf. I’m not selling Kona Ones in this post because there are a number of great long boards on the market but if you are beginning your windsurfing journey, seriously consider a long board as a first option.

The reason is simple, at least it was for me. Windsurfers are sailors first and before you can windsurf you first have to learn to sail. My Kona provided me with a stable, forgiving platform which allowed me to progress at my own pace. I learned to sail, use harness lines, get into foot straps and then one wonderful day I felt the exhilaration as the board came up onto a plane and I was windsurfing. I still love that feeling!

As mentioned I now own three short boards but I sold my first short board, a JP 135 shortly after purchasing it early in year two of my journey. The JP was simply too much board for me at that early point in my process and I really struggled and almost quit windsurfing. Short boards can do wonderful things but they will also highlight your flaws if you aren’t ready for one and I wasn’t ready and it really shook my confidence. Fortunately I still had my Kona and with it I rebuilt my confidence and sharpened my abilities so that when I purchased my second short board (a Gecko 133) I was ready for the challenge.

I still take my Kona out on occasion and it is a great board. It is great fun to drop the dagger and rail on a light wind day or practice non-planning sail and board control. I might sell it some day but if I do I hope the next person enjoys it as much as I have.