Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Distance

Making as many kilometers as you can in 24 hours - of course, on the windsurfing board - so called "distance" somehow made its way into speedsurfing world. I am not convinced that it belongs there, because it is sort of an endurance discipline. Ok, if you go faster, you will make more distance, but actually it is more a matter of how strong and determined you are; or, honestly, how badly you want that number on your GPS device screen, in spite of ruined hands and uttermost tiredness next couple of days.

But, however you look at it, it is here: if you are into speedsurfing, you will have to deal with the distance.

I don't like it, actually, because, from all speed disciplines it is the least fun. After couple of hours (and you have to windsurf many hours if you want to make a notable result), it gets boring. You have to occupy yourself with some other thoughts, otherwise you are in danger of literary falling asleep.

Well, this summer, in spite of what is written above, I used one nice day on Karpathos to make 200 km of distance for an Odyssey of Speed competition. For a while it was the best result. Johan Huitema from Netherlands made 216 km, a week latter (his best distance is 398 km, just to be noticed). In that moment I told Tim Otte, an organizer of Odyssey of Speed event that Vladan Desnica, from Croatia, the defender of the crown for last year competition, will surely made 300 km.

And he did (322 km). At the moment, due to other amazing results, specially 500m alpha turn, he is in a tight race for an overall win with Alexandros Petikidis from Greece.

At the same day (August 31, 2015), Urška Desnica, Vladan's spouse, made also an impressive 134 km distance - very rare for a lady windsurfer (6th all time place for ladys on GPSTC). Again, just for noticing, the best posted distance on GPS Team Challenge site is 538 km (Craig Hollins, Australia) for gentlemans, and 207 km by a unnamed lady from Belgium going with the nickname "speedfalconster").

Here is what Vladan says about that day:

"The day before we made a recovering pause from windsurfing, to gather the energy. I started at 09:20, and ride in 6 blocks for hour and a half (see GPSR picture), with 15-20 minutes rest in between. I ate some 5-6 bananas, 1 twix, 1 bounty, 1 snickers and 1/2 lit energy shake. And a lot of water. All in all, 8,5 hours pure windsurfing. I finished after the sunset, around 19:20. The secret of making distance is a good trim; everything has to be perfectly aligned, to avoid blisters on hands and unnecessary tiredness in jibes. I made some 250-300 turns without falling from the board."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Karpathos, 2015

For more than 10 years, from my very first visit to this magic island, Karpathos has been my winter dream; a place you are longing for when days are short and nights freezing cold. Each summer, at least for a short while - and preferably for as long as possible - I have been able to fulfill that dream. And after each visit, in spite of any shortcomings, I know I will be back.

There is only one ferry, one boat, taking tourists and supplies from and on to the island - the legendary Prevelis. After boarding it, while watching familiar streets and houses of the port of Pigadia disappearing in the distance, I was thinking how strange is this passion of true (soul)windsurfers. It can take you far away from home, just to catch right gust of wind. It can fill your thoughts with blueness when everything is white around you. It can make you wonder about the meaning and purpose of anything else beside windsurfing. Or, if you are lucky, it can give that meaning and purpose to everything else.

Karpathos feels the climate rhythm of the Europe. The island is always sunny, always warm. But, if you are a windsurfer, you can sense the change in the wind. This years weather was strange. The Europe was either to hot, or to stormy. Consequently, I have never experience so many windless days as this summer. But, there is nothing to be worry about. As my friend Johan Huitema from Netherlands says: "Waiting for the wind is better than waiting for nothing." And, all in all, we didn't wait for too long. "No wind" on Karpathos usually means enough wind to have fun.

One of the reasons I like windsurfing so much is that you never stop learning. This year was no exception. I am returning home with many new insights. I have learned a lot from people I have met on Karpathos. The only problem is that I always get the feeling of needing just one more day to try this or that new thing I have learned about. The dream is always one day too short.

Maybe, that is exactly the reason why it is so attractive, and in the same time so utterly indescribable to outsiders. How can I tell you about the minute corrections in the stance; about the releasing or adding the pressure on the fin; about the details in trimming the lower batten or, in general, making the sail looks like it should look (the one thing I am never getting right, it seems)? There are only few people who would understand that, and, honestly, it may be that I am not one of them. But, I like to listen. I like to make small adjustment and make experiments, even if they are not practical or successful. One more pearl I have heard from a Karpathos friend from Norway, Morten Knutsen: "The beauty of windsurfing is that there is always one more door left unopened."

For me, it is more than one, for sure. But, I am young, and I still have time. I can learn. Until next year, on Karpathos.

The video below is basically inspired by the playful peace of music by Antonio Bazzini, La Ronde des Lutins (The Dance of the Goblins), played by violinist James Ehnes). The shots are taken on one busy day (thank you, Linda!), with lot of freriders and freestylers interfering with speedsurfers. If you look at the bay from the above for long enough, your head starts to spin a little, and all you can see are strange lines and forms made by seemingly chaotic movements of windsurfers. There are few interesting scenes to see, if you know what to look for. I am leaving to you to decide who are the goblins in this dance. :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

No wind day on Karpathos

When you see the weather forecast telling you that there will be no wind on Karpathos, do not believe it. Because, instead of silence, you will probably get something like this:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Luderitz - My personal challenge

by: Alberto Possati

Since I've been able to windsurf (I've started back in 1978) I've  always been fascinated by speedsurfing. To go fast is fun, I kept saying to myself. Back then, my windsurfing activity was restricted to 2-3 weeks every summer, in which when possible I looked for the windiest spots I could find, to maximize my time into the water.

As years passed by, my love for windsurfing was always pretty alive and when, a few years ago, a good friend of mine asked me to attend to a Speed World Cup event with him, the first thing I thought was that I couldn't match up the situation. "It's too late", I said to myself, I thought I should have started earlier. But, somehow, in a few months I found myself on a Fuerteventura beach waiting for some wind. That was the 2006 Speed Word  Cup which was held in Sotavento together with the Fuerteventura PWA slalom event. I was not alone: there were all the top slalom sailors in the world, wanting to test their speed as well, as well as a few 'down to earth' guys like me. I never saw these top guns if not in windsurf magazines, and to be in the water with them was bit intimidating. But I was there, I spent money to be there and...yes, I had to go down the course, and I did it. And I was hooked. Hooked! That event really changed the last ten years of my life. I realized I could do it, there was a lot to learn but I could do it. Great!

Every year I started to attend to all the speed events that I could, together with a bunch of very good friends that I met during the events. UK, Ireland, Greece, Namibia, France, we crossed the sky many times to follow our passion. Results were nor very good neither really important to me, I felt more like the competition was in between myself and the speeds I recorded, instead of winning over somebody else. In other words, even now I like to see my speeds improving, but usually I'm happy if a friend is faster than me. In the end, he's been better than me, and I feel it more like a push to improve myself than a defeat. But it was interesting to see how slower I was compared to the experienced riders, so to have an idea of my performance.

Back in 2008, I started to think that a record attempt could have been closer to my expectations, so I registered for the Masters Of Speed event in the Canal of Saintes Maries De La Mer, the fastest sailing spot in the world, at least back then. But the event didn't go through, and my last competition was in Karpathos, Greece in 2009. Then, somehow, speedsurfing stood still for a few years: no more races, no more calls. A pity, I thought.

In 2012, I heard about a new speed canal in Luderitz, Namibia. They were organizing a speed
event in this newly dug channel that I heard to be
extremely fast. I tried to place my registration and...I was in!! First thought was obviously "will I be able to fly down the strip without killing myself?", second thought was "I'm too old for that" and so on. Lots of excuses, lots of little fears crossing my mind. Final thought, luckily, was "let's go there and see".

Luderitz is hard to reach, especially with 3 quiver bags. I flew 14 hours, drove alone for 2 days for 1.200 km through 2 unknown southern Africa countries and when I got there I said to myself that the record attempt was going to be "bread and butter", compared to what I faced during the trip. Actually it was not really like that, but the excitement I started feeling the day I reached Luderitz was really a great, great feeling.

The next morning I was at the canal at 10, with many other speedsailors. The atmosphere was nice, with many friends welcoming, and that was really helpful. That fist day was really windy, something like 35kts gusts, and I ordered myself "now you have to go". Not an easy task, when you see the the canal in some spots is probably no more than 6m wide and you are told it can have shallow spots here and there. But if they were going, why not me?? I only made one decisions: no harness on the first run: in case I fall, I thought, at least I'm free to fly (hopefully, in the water).

From then on it all was very quick: jumped in the water, made my waterstart, started planning. Footstraps in, you gain speed with wind on the side then, when the canal bears left, you slingshot yourself down the strip, with the wind pushing you with a 130 degrees angle. No harness, no breathing. Shhhhhhhhhhh, the water boiling under my 49 iSonic. Some 20 seconds after I stopped (actually I crashed, with no consequences) and my GPS was showing 39,5 knots average over 20s. With no harness!?! No you kidding….WOW!

So I finally wore my speed seat and threw myself down the course again and...42.xx knots showed up. And again and again. Then in 2013, 2014. And I'm ready for 2015. My best result, in 2013, was 45.87kt/500m, officially registered by WSSRC. If in 2010 you were telling me that I'd be going that fast I would have laughed and said "forget it". But it is true, and sometimes it still sounds a little weird to me.

Buried into the (too many?) words that I've written in this post,
there's a couple of messages I would like every speedsurfing fanatic to listen to, and the first one is: “YOU CAN DO IT". If I did it, my friend, you can do it. Because I'm an average amateur windsurfer, that has got some better recently thanks to the experiences I've just written about, with the help of many friends. I’m old enough to try to use my head better than when I was 25 but too old to get the best out of my big body. Provided you have the money and time, your windsurfing skills are reasonable and you like going fast, you can do it, and I’d swear that if you’ll be there you’ll have some veterans trying to help you to get the best out of your experience. If I’ll be there, I’ll be one of them for sure.

The second message I’d like to send you is that, at the end of your stay in Luderitz, you’ll probably find that GOING DOWN THE COURSE AT 40+ KNOTS IS ONLY PART OF THE OVERALL EXPERIENCE. The incredible place, the different culture. the riders from different countries, the spirit that keeps them together, all these things make this venue much more valuable than the speed attempt itself. Moreover, the Luderitz Speed Challenge is not a race, it is a record attempt. So there’s no official ranking, and basically you
race against yourself, or your GPS if you prefer. And this is what I like so much.

If you go to Luderitz, I’d swear you will never forget it.

PS: my first year in Luderitz I used my Starboard iSonic Speed 49 with Severne Reflex III 5.6. Now I know that to go faster you need a 40-44 board, 5,6+6.2 slalom sails and a few 18/19/20/21 asymmetrical fins. Sizes depend on your weight, too. Helmet, Weight+flotation jacket and spine protection are a good advice. And your GoPro, obviously.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Karpathos pictures

Folow Soulwindsurf on Facebook or Twitter for fresh pictures from Karpathos in July and August 2015.