Sunday, July 28, 2013

West Crete windsurf spots

Beside the unique beauty, Crete offers a lot of places for windsurfing. After exploring east and south, I checked the west coast of Crete. With the little help from all-knowing Google, it was not hard to get basic information about where the wind could be found. I was surprised, but Chania area is quite windless during summer. Fortunately, from there some nice windsurfing spots could be reached in less than an hour drive.


Beautiful village on the south-west coast. Good road takes you from Chania right in the middle of it, crowded with tourists. There is a note on the internet that once Paleochora was better windsurfing spot, with some Centers there, but winds started to be irregular and people left. When I came, the wind was from northeast direction and quite gusty. Still, on the east side of Paleochora, in front of the harbor, it was quite strong, with amazingly choppy water.

On the west side, there is a long sandy beach, with flat condition but not so strong. I suppose it could be good for beginners, but I didn't see anyone windsurfing there.


Half an hour from Chania, to the west, there is an amazing long sandy beach in Falasarna. A lot of tourist, though, enjoying the crystal clear waters and white sand. Wind from north direction, good for bigger sails, but again nobody windsurfing. Well, it was anyway less windy day, but I could imagine this place is ideal when there is more wind. During tourists season it could be difficult to get in the water, but once in, there is enough space for long rides all around.

Breathtaking view on Falasarna beach is worth stopping by the road and enjoy for a while.


The most difficult place to reach. It doesn't matter if you go around, down from Falasarna, following the steep west coast, or you take the road to Paleochora and than turn right in some small village (there are visible signposts around, it is unlikely that you will be lost), you are bound to get dizzy from the serpent like narrow road which follows the mountains slopes.

But, in the end, when you finally get there, it is all paid for! Elafonsi is a real pearl! This is an unique beach made from few connected natural basins. Inside them, the water is shallow, light blue, almost white on some places. And full of people, of course. So, you can forget windsurfing inside them during high season. There was some beginners, though, learning to windsurf in perfect condition for them.

On the left side of the basins, there is enough space for windsurfing, all the was east to the nearby much bigger bay. When I was there, the wind was northeast direction, which is, as I understand, not often so. More usual wind is northwest, it seems. But, anyhow, you get the flat water and a lot of space for fooling around. It could be good for speeding, too, when the wind is stronger.

All summed up, west coast of Crete is very windsurf friendly, especially if you are not too demanding about perfect conditions and everyday wind. If you add to that amazing Cretan cuisine, unbeatable scenes of mountains, gorges and the see, you get charming combination you don't want to miss!

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Is Your Heart Doing While You Are Windsurfing?

Previous article from the same series: High Maximum, Low Minimum

I admit, two previous articles were written rather technically. I hope they will be of some use to you. The main point was: keep your heart rate down, as low and as often as possible.

However, while I believe that this is valid for conditional training and general fitness, windsurfing is something else. Do you know what is your heart doing while you are windsurfing?

I would like to share with you my experience during the last couple of months. I am not sure I can explain what is happening and what the significance of this numbers is. See for yourself or, better, check it for yourself, and share with us.

It is not enough to say that I was surprised by the numbers – the right word was: shocked! Namely, it was enough for me just to approach my windsurfing equipment and HR was over 100 bpm! During rigging, it is around 120, peaking at 130 or even more. Just rigging!

I thought that I am in quite good shape. I am doing my exercises (biking and gym) averaging on 60% HRmax – 125 bpm. In windsurfing, it seems that I am there without even getting wet!

Now, while actually windsurfing, my heart averages (during 90 minutes of windsurfing) from the same 60% (125 bpm) up to 75% (142). That is more than I expected, because that includes periods of resting.

Once, during one hour of pure windsurfing in moderate to strong wind (25 knots), average was almost 80% (145 bpm).

When you look at the peaks – they go up to 103% of HRmax (172 once) and many times around 160. The peaks happen during jibes, speed runs and gusts (in that order: a power jibe and speed run will almost for sure get you over 90%, and gusts will increase HR for sure).

During windsurfing in straight line, I was sometimes able to keep HR around 60% (120-130 bpm), but mostly it was higher (135-145 bpm). I am not sure I noticed any connection with the strength of the wind by itself, but gusty wind, even moderate or light, will increase HR.

Also, I have noticed many oscillations in HR. It is all over the place, so to say – quite different from other excesses like biking or running. I suppose that is due to a lot of anaerobic activity which happens during static effort, short bursts of energy in gusts, jibes and speed runs.

And, what surprised me the most: when I am on the bike and getting 147 bpm, that is 80% of my HRmax, I am breathing heavily, gasping for oxygen and cannot endure such effort for longer than a minute or two. When windsurfing, and pumping with that HR, I am ok, easy, relaxed, breathing through nose and happily surfing around for as long as I wish!

Now, as I said, I have no sure explanation why this happens. There are no available data (at least I could not find them) about HR and windsurfing. One of my speed surfing friends once told me that he used a heart rate monitor for a while, but then he gave up, because "he could not stand to look at such high numbers". Also somebody told me (but I didn't see the paper) about comparison of heart rates in wave, freeride, freestyle and slalom. According to that word of mouth, slalom windsurfers had the highest heart rate, especially during turning around the mark.

I can try to explain some of it by attributing high heart rate to adrenalin rush which we all get from windsurfing. Because, it is obvious to me that beating 145 bpm while windsurfing is not at all the same as keeping that rhythm in other sport activities.

Of course we like excitement – that's why we are windsurfing. However, putting that aside, the fact is that our heart is working hard during windsurfing, and that opens some very important questions, especially as we get older.

First of all: are we ready for windsurfing? The effort of windsurfer’s heart is probably equal to the effort of some professional athlete. And we don't have the same preparation, the same level of fitness, etc. We should have it, though! If my HR readings are at least partially applicable to an average windsurfer, than preparation for such activity must be more serious, especially if you don't want just to go out couple of times per year, but rather to actively improve your skills, speed, etc.

And, second, what about lowering heart rate during windsurf? Is this idea applicable to that kind of sport with so much up's and down's, turns and twists? I believe it is. Peaks will probably not go away, but in general, lowering the average should be possible. Exactly how to do it, that is what I intend to find out during a time to come.

See the example windsurfing session with interactive map, heart rate and speed under title: Warm up more!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Some happy moments - Kouremenos, Crete

Some happy moments from Kouremenos, Crete.

Although, the wind is very gusty and there is always a dilemma what sail to use...


...there is enough beauty around to make a windsurfer smile!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

High Maximum, Low Minimum

Previous article from the same series: The Rhythm of the Heart

The goal of efficient athlete is to have a capability of high maximum heart rate, and as low resting heart rate. John Douillard says: "As we age the heart just cannot beat as fast as it used to. At the same time, the resting heart rate starts creeping up, bringing these two numbers closer together. One of the classic ways of measuring youth, overall health and cardiovascular status is to have a low resting heart rate and a high maximum heart rate."

Maximum heart rate (HRmax) is usually calculated by formula 220 – years of age. It can be measured, though, more precisely (the most accurate way of measuring HRmax is via a cardiac stress test: an exercise monitored by an ECG), but I doubt that average recreational windsurfer will go through that procedure. So, you are quite safe with the number you get with this formula. For me, that would be 169 bpm (beats per minute). Of course, chronological age is measured by calendar years, but this may not be a good reflection of fitness and health. We all know people who appear much younger—or older—than their chronological age. From Wikipedia: "…note that individuals of the same age, the same training, in the same sport, on the same team, can have actual HRmax 60 bpm apart (160-220): the range is extremely broad..."

Resting heart rate (HRrest) is heart rate measured after, let say, good sleep. You may stay a little longer in the bed in the morning, attach your heart rate monitor and measure the beats. Notice the lowest number – that is resting heart rate. Usually it will be around 60 to 80. If you are very fit, it can be less, even less than 50. Also, with exercising the number will go down.

I am not feeling safe to recommend (or to practice myself) any specific exercise aimed at increasing the capability of high heart rates. Of course, this will happen by itself with improved health and fitness. Since the efficiency usually demands lowering heart rate, let's focus on this.

As far as I can see, today’s recommendations also point to lower heart rates than we used to think. For example, exercising on 65-75% of your max heart rate is considered healthy. John Douillard and his zone training would put that even lower, actually so low that when you first time start to do it, you would probably think that you are doing nothing!

Douillard method is quite similar to old Karvonen formula based on resting heart rate (HRrest) in order to calculate target heart rate. However, while others aim at 85%, in zone training you will go for not more than 60% or 75%, while the best excersize will stay at targer heart rate (THR) of 50% (in the begining, it can be equal to stand up and walk!).

Here is Karvonen formula:

THR = ((HRmax − HRrest) × % intensity) + HRrest

My resting heart rate during last couple of months is fluctuating between 54 and 62, let say averaging 61. HRmax according to simple formula mentioned earlier would be 169.

50% Intensity: ((169 − 61) × 0.50) + 61 = 115 bpm
75% Intensity: ((169 − 61) × 0.75) + 61 = 142 bpm

I have examined, at least by reading, many different training methods. You may do the same. But whatever you do, my recommendation is that you try and keep your heart rate as low as possible. Heart is a muscle and it can be trained to do many things. If you train it to beat very fast when you walk, it will do so. If you train it to go over 150 bpm every time you start running, it will do so. We may think it should be like that, or that it is given by nature, but it is not completely true! Many things, including heart efficiency, can be changed.

I don't want to go into details of some specific training (I might do that in some other articles, although you are free to use whatever you find suitable), but my recommendation (and that is what I do) is to use your ability to control the heart rate via biofeedback-awareness link and make it lower in any case!

For example, I used to do 45 minutes biking exercise with average 125 bpm. That was the constant average for more than six months. I believe my physical fitness was improving just by doing it regularly three times per week. But the average bpm were the same. After only ten days of paying attention to heart rate, I was able to lower it to 118 bpm average, and it seems that I can do even lower. I am not talking now about improved physical condition (training and exercising is the only way to do it), but about the power of attention! That is what makes the difference, and what will, in the end, tell your heart that it can do the job without straining so much.

That is why it is important to use heart rate monitor. Sometimes, just watching it and wanting it to be lower, can do the trick. Sometimes, stopping when you see it goes too high is enough so the next time it will not do it. Breathing techniques can be of great help. I will go into that in later articles.

Whatever your chosen method of training is, do it with at least couple of heart beats less. As I said, with the training it will happen by itself, but using the heart rate monitor as a biofeedback, will make it quicker. In time you will learn to do it even without an intermediate device (heart rate monitor). Of course, if you see that your chosen method of training demands from your heart very high numbers, and there are no signs of going down, it would be wise to reconsider what are you actually doing and why.

There is one useful thing you can do with the resting heart rate. It will change from time to time, even from day to day. To measure it, it’s not necessary time consuming. Although it would be ideal to measure resting heart rate at least 10 or 20 minutes to get real number, for everyday use, you will learn to estimate if the heart rate is average, lower or higher in a very short time (one to two minutes is enough to get an idea). If you notice that it is unusually high, skip the hard exercise that day. Do just warm up or something lighter. High resting rate in the morning may be the sign of stress and fatigue in your body that you might not be aware of. Hard exercise in that condition may do more damage than good, decrease your enjoyment significantly and thus hamper your path towards the zone.

Next article from the same series: What Is Your Heart Doing While You Are Windsurfing?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ierapetra and Koutsounari, Crete

I wanted to see the south cost of Crete and check how is the wind there. From Palecastro and famous Kouremenos beach, to Ierapetra, you have to drive about 80 kilometers through quite good pawed road and beautiful scenery of Cretan hills full of olive trees.

When we came to Makry Gialos, the first little village on south coast, the wind was blowing with amazing force (some 40 knots, at least). I don't know if that was a meltemi wind, or some local thermal wind prevailed. The direction was pure north. And some 5 km further down the road, there was no wind. Near Ierapetra, again quite strong (30 knots, at least).

In Ierapetra, the southernmost city in Europe, you can windsurf on the main beach near the old forest and the heart of the city. It is easy to come with the car and park it nearby. Assembling the equipment is another story, because the beach is full of people, and the is no windless place to find. The conditions on the see - bump and jump, perfect for freeriding and freestyling. For slalom and speed - only if you feel particularly masochistic that day.

My greatest discovery, however, was the Long Beach in Koutsounari, small village couple of kilometers east from Ierapetra. This is about 3 km long, strait, sandy beach. Half of it is reserved for swimmers, and the other half is free. The wind was wild: between 50 and 60 knots. It blows offshore, and the first 10 meters of see surface is laboratory flat! After that, chop and see dust: I imagine you can get in serious trouble if you forget where you are and let yourself too far out. I didn't have small enough equipment to try to catch some speed on it. It is a pity because this was the first time ever I saw live (not on photos or videos) such long speed stripe, with such strong wind and yet, flat water surface. If I will be lucky, maybe some of this days I will visit Koutsounari again.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Rhythm of the Heart

Previous article from the same series: Turning 51

When we are talking about achieving the zone, we are talking about efficiency of the mind/body functions. Although the main characteristic of the zone is unique joy and pleasure, there are some physiological signs that mostly follow or precede the actual experience. Plainly stated, it’s about doing less, and achieving more. In physical sense, it means that your body is functioning on the lower level, consuming less "fuel", while in the same time performing the same or even more than before.

To transform usual athlete or recreational sportsman into zone master is like turning mean car engine producing 500 horse power and not minding consuming 25 or more liters of fuel per 100 km, into meaner 750 horse power engine, but consuming only 5 liters of fuel while doing the better job. Can it be done? Some say it can. Some shrug in disbelief. I know I was near that place once, and I want to come to it again.

What are the signs of high or low consumption of energy in our body while doing sports? Two things: the way we breathe and the rhythm of our heart. I will dedicate quite some time to breathing, but for now let's start with the heart.

The heart rate is directly related to, and a reflection of, the body’s oxygen need. It is important to know how your heart is working while you are training or compete. Probably every, at least semi-serious person about his or hers sport, have read something about heart rate zones. Everyone knows about heart rate monitors, of course. Nowadays, they can be bought for anything between 20 and 600 Euros, depending how fancy you want it to be, or how many functions you want it to perform for you.

Usual usage of heart rate monitors is to gather the important information about your heart. That is important to evaluate your state, but it can be of utter importance if you have or have had some heart problems.

However, heart rate monitors can be used as something more: as biofeedback devices!

Biofeedback is “the process of providing visual or auditory evidence to a person of the status of body function so that you may exert control over that function.” Biofeedback functions via awareness. For example, when you see your brain patterns on the screen, you may try to change them. It is not always clear how we do it: there are no visible switches in our mind to do something with brain patterns, but if we try, our body will learn what to do when we want it do something.

In ancient times there were people, for example yogis, who could lower, or heighten, theirs heart rate to unbelievable numbers. They used special techniques which are very demanding and time consuming. Today, we are lucky to have easier paths to achieve at least something from their repertoire.

The easier path in our case is a heart rate monitor! Buy one and play with it. See how your heart runs throughout the day. Later on, we will want to lower the heart rate, but in order to do so; we don't only need physical readiness, but also the live relationship between our awareness and the rhythm of the heart.

I don't know how many windsurfers ever used the heart rate monitor, but I assure you it is a very useful tool, if nothing from the standpoint of evaluation of your physical fitness. This will become even more important when you later understand what your heart is doing while you are windsurfing. I was quite surprised and somewhat shocked when I did! And of course, if we want the zone experience, heart rate must be low – probably much lower than you ever expected.

I used heart rate monitors before, but from this spring I have one purpose in mind: to examine how my heart behaves during different phases of physical exercise and during windsurf. I found something quite interesting and will write about it the articles to come.

But, the most important point at the beginning of the zone training is creating the biofeedback link between you and your heart. So, try it and play with it. My recommendation is that you don't do anything with it during the first month or so. Just watch and monitor what is happening when you are doing this or that during the day.

Next article from the same series: High Maximum, Low Minimum

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kouremenos, Palecastro, Crete

A little jump over the see to the island of Crete! Change of scene: Kouremenos beach is very beautiful sandy bay near village of Palecastro on the far eastern side of Crete. It is not crowded, quite a contrary. Most of the tourist on Crete stay in the central part, where the hotels are, and the most popular historical and archeological sites. To come to Palecastro you have to drive at least 2 and a half hours from Iraklion, pass through cities of Ageos Nicolaus and Sitia, and stop by the way and eat some delicious Greek food in one of the many taverns with breath taking view on the see.

Palecastro is occupied by peace lovers and windsurfers. Meltemi blows all the time; it's not so drastic as on Karpathos, but it's quite enough to give you a perfect windsurfing experience.

I was here 10 years ago, and now I found many changes. From almost desert place, Palecastro and its environment raised up to green oasis of windy peace. Looking forward to windsurf in this beauty!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Something to Dream About When Winter Comes

08.07.2103., Karpathos, Greece. Light wind, barely enough for 7,0, but more than enough for great pleasure!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I-107 (x2) on Karpathos

03.07.2013., beautiful and windy day on Karpathos, Greece, with Giuliano Raimondi and Alberto Possati!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Turning 51

Some windsurfers make 51 knots on a speed board, but this article is not about it! It is about something much less glamorous and even less glorious; it's about turning 51 years of age!

Ten years ago I was admiring people who windsurf at the age of 70 and more (I still do!), but when I crossed over 50 last year, some things really changed. My body started to call (quite loud) for an extra attention. I suppose, at some point everyone comes to the conclusion that he or she is not so young as before, and that some things that were easy, or hard but enjoyable, now become... well, not so enjoyable anymore.

For some lucky ones, that point is somewhere far away in the future. Some unlucky ones stumble upon it too early (actually, it's always too early, isn't it?). I am not talking about serious health issues, although with age you should consider what impact sport might have on your body, and do you carry some genetic risks that you should consider before you continue to be wild and young at heart.

So, with time, in spite of your mental attitude, you may experience some wear and tear of the material. Your sails and boards are not the only ones that suffer from this. Unfortunately, you cannot change your body as easily as you can change the old sail. Fortunately, the body itself has the way to regenerate and prolong its service, but you have to be careful with it and give it what it wants.

What I have noticed is this:
  • I’ve become more sensitive on general fitness level (for example, if I spend some dull and sedentary two months, I need much more time to come back into windsurf mode)
  • I’ve become more sensitive to skipping warming up exercises (before it was not so much important; now if I don't do them before windsurfing, I'll pay latter for sure)
  • I need more rest after windsurfing than it was a case couple of years before
  • I need to put more effort to achieve the same performance level (e.g. in speed)
  • I lose interest as there is less enjoyment as body discomfort increases

My genetic material is clearly making me potential victim of heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes (quite often in my family). Until now, I managed to stay away from all this (thanks to nutrition, non-smoking, meditation and exercising - among other things, also to windsurfing). But, this winter I had thorough medical checkout induced by some minor problems. Doctors found that I am ok for now (literary, they examined every single organ in my body), but I was not satisfied with my general condition. On the level of everyday functioning, everything is fine. But if I want to continue to be a sportsman, as I have been whole my life, I have to do something. And that something has to be somewhat different than I was doing before, because... well, 51.

I did write before about zone training in general, and I did mention John Douillard's book "Body, Mind and Sport". I also mentioned some specific training procedures, but I never wrote about details. I decided to do it now.

Namely, I am embarrassed to admit that while I am acquainted with these methods of training, I abandoned them, in spite of obvious advantages, due to unknown reasons. Maybe I was just lazy. I intend to correct this mistake because I have at least 51 reasons to start again!

And, I decided to share this path with readers of this web site. I will not preach about this from some high place of achievement. I will do this from scratch, from zero. It is true that I have the advantage as I did this training 15 years ago. I suppose, some things will be easier for me, but it is not necessarily so.

My goal is this: to stay away from western synthetic medicine as long as possible; improve cardio and respiratory efficiency; prolong enjoyable hours, days and years with the wind.

Your goal may be the same, or somewhat different (I firmly believe that this kind of training can improve your performance as well, if you are so inclined). Maybe you will just want to inform yourself about some interesting methods of exercising, breathing techniques and zone training. Or you would try some of it. Whatever you do with it, it is fine. I imagine things I will write about could be useful to middle-aged windsurfers (40 to 60 and more), but I also believe, everyone could benefit from it.

One more important point: if you have any heath condition (especially related to the heart), consult your physician regarding anything you do.

My plan is to share with you most of the exercises I will do, starting from some basic concepts about the zone training. I will write as time permits, but I will try to do it without longish periods between the posts.

I hope that in couple of months, I will be able to say that I’ve changed the way I am doing sport. Hope some of you will join me in this adventure so we can share the experience.

Next article from the same series: The Rhythm of the Heart