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USA 4 Windsurfing Campaign

Formula windsurfing regatta reports and updates from US windsurfer Steve Bodner

Last Build Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2018 16:44:11 +0000



Thu, 21 Dec 2017 05:19:00 +0000

I love statistics- keeping track of things and analyzing the data to see what I can learn. For many years, I've used twitter to keep track of my sessions on the water, then at the end of the year I can look back and graph everything to see the trends for the year: how many sessions, how many times on any particular kite, how many times in each month I've sailed, even how many days I've spend racing. All this data may seem like useless information but when properly presented, it gives a better idea of how I've spent my time. After all a self examined like is a life worth living...2017 continued the trend of getting over 100+ days on the water for windsurfing and kiteboarding since I moved to San Francisco 17 years ago. This year I increased my number of sessions by 14 sessions over the 2016 stats. That averages out a session every 2.3 days- just enough to keep this wind junkie satisfied. I kited in 62% of all my sessions- getting more proficient and comfortable in all conditions. My kiting sessions are on stat from last season with 112 sessions- the majority on the foil where Im finally graduating from a seasoned kook to a salty grommet. For the 1st year, I expanded my kiting to hard water when I got to snow kite in Utah for 8 winter sessions.My windsurfing numbers actually increased from 2016 when I only managed 27 sessions to this year with 42 sessions. I still get tons of joy from windsurfing- whether its exploring outside the golden gate bridge in big winter  swells of or racing around the short track slalom course on the city front. The season never really stops but only slows down a bit in the winter months when the wind is not as constant like the spring, summer and fall but with foiling, its becoming less and less of an issue. In the sketchiest of days when the wind is up and down, I'm more likely to get a session in on the windsurfer as it still a safer option for getting back to shore unassisted. While the foil has opened up more light wind days, it can end in disaster when you need to self rescue on the water after dropping the kite and failing to relaunch. I end up taking more risk when I know I've got the support of a rescue boat- especially during the St.FYC events.  The best advice over the years- don't get too greedy.I always sail with a VHF radio as I know the Coast Guard is only a short call away for the last resort rescue. Its been 32 years since I started this journey- hoping on a windsurfing board on Clark Lake at Camp Store in Jackson, Michigan. I really got hooked a few years later as my dinghy experience led me to racing windsurfers. Its been a wild ride- taking me to over 20 countries and 5 continents. While I'm still a relative noob in the kiting world, it has engrossed me just like the days of early windsurfing. The kiting experience continues to evolve. It seems like just yesterday, I learned on the twin tip board, the switched over to the directional board, followed by the race board and now- 3 years later on the foil board. One step forward, 2 steps back.  With 112 sessions this year on the kite, I spent the 66% of my kiting session on the foil board. Its really changed the sport completely. My foiling transitions are still a work in progress but the foil kites really allow more float time when trying to pass the eye of the wind. When conditions are lumpy or nuking, I often opt for the surf board making the most of the ebb.This year I introduced another foil kite into the quiver with the 9m hyperlink to replace the 10m edge.  It's been a love hate relationship with the foil kites as I'm finally getting comfortable managing the bridles and keeping the kite relatively dry and untangled. Sometimes, all you want to do it kite, not untangle bridle lines and swim in a wet foil kite. The hyperlink has been a great success in terms of getting the benefits of a foil kite with out all the hassles if a full on race kite. At this point, its still the rider who's holding back the program- not the kite!All in all I still used the 8m edge the most on both th[...]

2017 Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race- the unwritten rules

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 21:08:00 +0000

Thursday Aug 31 saw the annual Ronstan bridge to bridge race hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club with 39 foiling boards, kites, cats & moths. Its an all out drag race from the mouth of the San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge downwind to Yerba Buena Island at the foot of the Bay bridge. Anything can happen and it usually does.Bring what you've got and run it hard is the motto of the raceThere's no rules except for some unwritten ones if you want to finish this race.Rule #1- get to the starting line.At the last min I switched from the foiling kite to the windsurfer as getting to the starting line was the main priority.  With super sketchy winds at the beach & a 3k flood tide, anything less than a 13m kite wouldn't get you close.I rigged up my Avanti 9.2 rig on the Mikes Lab 89cm wide board with 59cm kashy fin.  That was enough to get me to the bridge with plenty of time to take a few downwind runs across the start line. A few weren't so lucky- a 40' cat flipped just inside the gate and turtled within a minute & several of the foil kites went down in the lighter breeze outside the gate.You cant win the race if you cant get to the starting line!The race started in 10-12 knots and quickly filled in to the low teens as the fleet approached the middle of the bay above Alcatraz. The foiling kites sent it the deepest looking like they might do the whole race in 1 tack. I tried to keep up with the foiling windsurfers but they too were sending it 10 degrees deeper than I could on my xl slalom set up. As the puffs filled in from behind, I was able to catch some but this race would be won a the end.Rule #2- stay out of trouble.2 of the foiling windsurfers just in front of me tried to cross each other on the down wind but that's were it ended as carbon, monofilm and bodies collided. Sometimes it just better to duck than to keep yelling starboard. On the foils, boards are traveling faster and decisions are split second. 2 down more, lets see who else I can catch.On the approach below Alcatraz to the Bay bridge, 2 outbound freighters were splitting the fleet with an extra blue and gold ferry in the mix for additional chop and traffic. 'Stay out of trouble and just keep on the tack that takes you towards the finish line,' I reminded myself. Sure enough I connected a few puffs from behind and was right up there in the mix with Xavier on the foiling windsurfer.Rule #3- get to the finish line.The top kite foilers looked like they were just making it across the finish line but for the rest of us, this was still a race.We sailed through graveyard of downded foil kites 1/4 mile from the finish line as the wind bubbles above Yerba Buena Island leaving most of the kites high and dry. I realized, the only chance is coming in hot from the outside. I gybed back to line myself up for the last move of the game. If I could call it right and catch the final puff, Id go from zero to hero. Chris Radkowski on the F4 foil and windsurfer had the same idea and was coming on strong behind me as the puff carried us down to the finish. Within 10 seconds, Xavier, Chris and I all crossed the finish.  It was a bit anticlimactic slogging across the finish line in 2nd but that still beats not making it across at all.I'm not positive on the number of finishers but nearly 3/4 of the fleet had to be rescued as the light wind and flood tide proved to be too much. The 11 minute barrier still stands as Johnny Heineken, Daniella Moroz and Joey Pasquali took the line honors on the foiling kite boards & 15m+ kites.A huge thanks to Ronstan and the St. Francis Yacht Club for continuing the[...]

Day 2-3 hydrofoil pro tour- all good things in all good time

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 15:58:00 +0000

Its hard to imagine having a no wind day on the SF Bay August, but we got skunked. Day 2 of the Hydrofoil pro tour was a wash out of rain showers, a healthy marine layer but no wind and no races on the score sheet. Racers woke up for day 3 with a bit more optimism as a light teen breeze was filling through the golden gate but more important- an afternoon seabreeze for the long distance race.  3 morning races were held in light conditions with the majority of the fleet on 15-17m kites. The euros still have an advantage in these light conditions as the local fleet doesnt get much time on the water in sub 14k conditions.The sure awesomeness and level of sailing athleticism and talent is truly amazing when watching Saturdays racing. I am still in awe how the foiling fleet has turned maneuvers like tacking into a pirouetted dance of elegance. There's hardly a moment when the top racers arent getting 110% out of their foils and going upwind at 25k and downwind close to 40k.My bromance with the foil kites is growing stronger by the day as I get more time on the water with these efficient  machines. As wonderful as they are flying through the air, it becomes a whole another story when you the kite goes down on the water. Saturday's endeavor only lasted a few brief minutes for me as I was scuttled with the 13m kite. My kite went down like a wet noodle in the sub 10k lulls as I tried to make my way around the course. I got my first foil kite self rescue, having to pack the kite up on the water and then deal with the aftermath of untangling a wet sloppy, twisted  mess back on the beach. It wasn't as bad as I though but the 13m kite was out of commission and I missed the remaining 2 course races of the morning.The fleet got a good 90 min break as the fog lifted and breeze filled in the course. With the windsurfing fleet joining the kiters, the next race would be an all out sprint to Berkeley and back. The SF Bay Challenge has been a tradition in the board fleet for 25+ years with each edition slowly chipping off the elapsed time. This year however, almost 15 min were shaved off the overall time with Nico Parlier finishing in just over 30'.I had other goal- just to make it around the course for the 1st time on a foil board and foil kite.I had done the race at least 15x on the windsurfer, winning a few on the way but this was a different game.I rigged the new 9m ozone hyperlink which had plenty of power for the 25 mile+ tour of the Bay. I got off to a late start but was happily on my way downwind in 15-20k of breeze, happily foiling past Alcatraz before things started to get pretty heady. The swells were such that if you didn't stay on your toes and adjust the ride height of the foil, you would fly right out of the water in the troughs. I had more than a few wipe outs as I had to adjust my riding style to a less deep and aggrieve approach to a omfg survival mode. The downwind haul past Alcatraz gets a bit monotonous but there's always another kite or 2 to keep you focused. I rounded the leeward mark off the Berkeley pier and immediately headed back upwind for the beat back to the finish at the St.FYC.Even with a 9m kite, I thread the fine line of piching and staying on the foil just to survive the 25-30 westerlies coming down the Bay. I though I might find some relief below Alcatraz coming back upwind but immediately got yarded in some squirrely puffs.  I lost my board for a few min as the swell picked it up and blew it a few hundred yards down wind.2 steps backward, 1 step forward.I regrouped and realized there's no easy way out of this but I had to get to the finish line.Sure enough in just over an hour and change, I crossed the finish line and made it around the course for the 1st time on a kite.  Im just 1 of 3 sailors who was done this race on both a windsurfer and a kite.Despite being in the back of the fleet, it's the small victories like this and figuring out the foil kites that keep me on my toes and coming back for more. After almost 30 year[...]

2017 hydrofoil pro tour day 1 report

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 14:09:00 +0000

 It started off with good intentions as all sailing ambitions do but by the end of the 1st day of the 2017 Hydrofoil Pro Tour kite regatta I was already deflated but definitely not defeated.I achieved at least one goal by getting some numbers on the score sheet in lieu of the usual DNF's  (by default of not finishing within the time limit) but the day was trying to say the least.An unusual August weather pattern has light and variable breeze inside the San Francisco bay in lieu of the normal raging summer seabreeze. This caught most of guard, including myself as I would have to break out the big kites. I upped by game this regatta to include a quiver of all foil kites. I'd flown a few foil kites before but it was time to step up and race the full program.With a variable 10-16k breeze at the 1pm start, I took out the 13m chrono2 foil kite and oh my- what a treat. I can see how all the transitions are so much easier on a foil kite with all that lift. I had my hands full in the puffs and certainly not quite enough in the lulls but managed to find my way around the course without any major catastrophes. In race 1- I just missed the time limit. BummerRace 2 started in 14-16k but soon faded to just 8-10k at the top mark. I got out of dodge quickly by gybing after the top mark and getting back to the wind line. I stayed out of trouble and got around the course, finishing in the back of the pack but within the time limit. Whoo hoo! Getting on the scoreboard is a small step but a major victory for this grom kiteboarder.The afternoon session didnt go exactly as planned as I never made it too far off the beach before the shit hit the fan. With a super sketchy bubble at the beach, most of the fleet struggled to get their kites up and flying without falling out of the sky. Its a sad state of affairs when the foil kites fall out of the sky like limp under cooked noodles but its all part of racing. With the kite twisted, bowtied and sinking like a sea anchor, I decided to save face and swim in. The boiling cauldron of lines and bridles found themselves in a hot sandy mess as I dragged the wet noodle back to the beach. It took a few extra hands and plenty of patience to untangle the mess but did get everything sorted again but alas- not quite enough wind to make it to the starting line for the last race of the day.I spend the next 20 min flying the kite on the beach, learning some finer points of backing the kite down in the window and clearing the sand and moisture from internal cells . It's definitely a more complicated beast but more efficient to say the least. I remind myself that the struggle is all part of the journey and if you can overcome adversity, you make it through to the other side as a stronger individual. At the top of the fleet, its the young euros who are showing their strength in the light breeze. With a fleet of 46 kiters, its split down the middle with 23 locals and 23 visiting racers. After day 1, only Johnny and Joey sit in the top 10 with the rest filled in by the visiting European and South American fleet. Its a 4 day regatta so hopeful we will get a decent sea breeze at some point.Official 2017 HFPT results: here--[...]

San Francisco Slalom Season opener in 2 acts

Mon, 15 May 2017 20:24:00 +0000

Act 1When it rains, it pours and when it blows, it blows the dogs off their chains in San Francisco.Things started off pretty heady for the first St. Francis Yacht Club Friday night slalom race of the season on May 12th as the puffs hit 30 knots & 4-6' breaking swell buried the 2nd downwind slalom mark, set a few hundred feet of Crissy Field.  A dedicated group of wind junkies, half of which were on extra small bump and jump or wave gear, braved the conditions to carry on a tradition that has been going strong since the early days of windsurfing in California.Downwind slalom racing, especially in a big breeze is one of the most spectacular to watch & one of the most exciting disciplines to compete in. At 1 min before the start, its a chaotic symphony of windsurfers jockeying for position as they scream towards the starting line set just off Anita Rock on the San Francisco city front. Like clockwork, the fleet blast across the starting line in an all out sprint towards the 1st gybe mark, hitting speeds of 25 knots and flying across the chop all within a few feet of each. The first to arrive quickly lay down their sails to de-power while carving around the mark. In an instant, they are back on the new gybe going deep across the troughs of breaking swell. A few get knocked down, while the rest hold it together. Its an all out obstacle course as several fleets of inbound ocean racers cross at the exact time the fleet gets ready to round mark 2. Chaos erupts as the yachts broach in a hellish 30 knot+ westerly puff and the mark is buried in the breaking rollers coming in the San Francisco Bay.  A few boards go down, just to save themselves from what would otherwise be an impending death sandwich between the fiberglass hulls. Those that emerge, do so by the skins of their teeth, threading the fine needle of control and all out balls to the wall, hold it together for your life windsurfing.2 more gybes to go and its all over.The fleet rips back towards the east end of Crissy Field where there's a slight relief from the 4k flood tide ripping across the course. Even the racers on 4.5 m wave sails effortlessly carve around the mark in stiff 25 knot breeze and quickly make their way towards the last gybe mark set in an all out furry of wind and waves. Positions change as rapidly as the wind but the top racers are able to maintain control and consistency in their maneuvers around the course. 1 more 'OMFG reach' and the 2-1/2 minute race will be over. If you can avoid stuffing the nose of your board in the breaking swell and round the StFYC Bbuoy- set just in front of the club, the race is over. If not, you'll have to watch the rest of the fleet fly by as you try to muster the energy water start to make it across the finish line in dead fucking last (DFL.)When its all over, everyone heads back upwind for another shot at redemption. You're only as good as your last race and for the rest of the fleet who didn't score a bullet, there's victory to be had or lost once again. 4 more races are run as the breeze settles down to a reasonable 20k and the flood builds and flattens out the course.I have the duty of race committee this evening with 2 other racers as the only way this series works is by volunteering 1 of the 4 race nights towards race management. You get to see how and why the series works by actually taking part and running it. The marks don't set themselves, nor does the start or finish go off without the help of 4-5 person team. A huge thanks to the kite racers who showed up and maned the race deck for finishes. By the time its over, the fleet looks like its returned from a naval battle with broken sails & twisted carbon but there's a slight twinkle in the eyes of these wind junkies- ready to do it all over again tomorrow.Act 218 hours pass and the fleet is back where they stood the day before.  This time, the Crissy Field Slalom Series breaks gr[...]

winter sessions

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 22:45:00 +0000

 It took a major commitment to get there and even more just to get suited up everyday at 10,000' but snow kiting in Utah has got to be one of the great winter trips for wind & snow lovers. Like anything worth while, just getting there was an adventure in itself.It began as a caravan from San Francisco with half the crew flying and the other half driving 20+ kites, snowboards and skies to Skyline, Utah. Somewhere east of Winnemucca, Nevada at 3 in the morning, Johnny's car broke down so we packed everything into 1 SUV with 5 sets of wind and snow gear, dog and riders for the remaining voyage east. Sometimes you need to scuttle half the fleet just to get to your destination.After 15 hours in the car, we arrived to beautiful wide open Utah. The setting at Fairview Canyon at mile marker 14 on HWY 31 aka- the Big Drift- is awe inspiring. The 180 degree Utah sky at 10,000' is just sublime. We rigged and had our first afternoon session in the rolling hills, meadows and steep bowls surrounding the launch site. Besides us, there was a handful of snow mobiles that might buzz by then disappear but nothing else but back country for miles around.Snow kiting is just as it sounds. You choose either skies or snowboard and get pulled around on your kite- up, down, around and over what ever terrain you choose. It's an absolute beautiful and pleasantway to explore the back country and get to experience the similarities of paragliding when coming down the mountain on an updraft..I rigged my 13m foil kite, launching with ease and immediately got pulled across the meadow on my snowboardHoly bejesus this is fun!It took me the rest of the day to get comfortable going back and forth and finding the subtitles of the site but I was hooked. My goal  was to get more time with the new foil kite and that's what I got- from relaunching in gullies to down looping up the mountain.Snow kiting has all the benefits of kiting on the water without the consequences of water itself.  I dropped and tangled my kite quite a few times in the 8-12k breeze and easily unhooked and walked up the line and bridle to unsort it all out. Granted- even walking the length of 15m line and untangled your kite in powder is an exercise itself. Transitions are almost effortless without the footwork required on a normal foil or directional board.I got a bit greedy towards the end of the day and kited myself right into a gully and wind shadow dropped my kite in the process.  All the waiting & pulling on my lines would not launch this kite. Then came the pack up and 1/4 mile hike back to the launch in the knee deep powder. One step at at time, I thought to myself as a huge grin spread across my face from my 1st day of snow kitingDay 2 began just where day 1 finished except my legs already felt like rubber chickens from working muscles I never knew I had. We arrived early at the skyline launch as a major weather system was moving through that afternoon.I went for the 13m foil kite again but this time explored an adjacent hill with the wind direction slightly more south than the previous day. Everything was starting to click and I was starting edge on port tack instead of just being dragged on the snowboard, I could now navigate half way up the hillside on the updrafts but crashed on the transition as you needed to turn your board uphill to transition to the new tack. With enough practice and lift from the foil kite, I managed to nail a few uphill turns and even unintentionally get a few downhill glides.OMFG- what a trip.Jumping while kiting is fun but jumping while snow kiting with an updraft takes it to a whole other level. To see what expert level kiters like Johnny, Chip and local rider Patrick could do was simply awe inspiring. They made snow kiting look more like paragliding getting giant soaring glides down the face of the mountain while down looping their way back up for an endless cycle.Downlooping up the mountain [...]

2015 by the numbers

Mon, 21 Dec 2015 23:30:00 +0000

2015 was an another unbelievable year on the water with 164 sessions logged in 3 different counties- averaging 1 session every 2.2 days.  This year for the first time, I kited more than I windsurfed with 104 kiting sessions and 60 windsurfing.It was my 3rd full year of kiting and almost 30th year of windsurfing.   I spent the majority of the year learning how to ride the kite foil board with 67 sessions logged. It's the first year in almost 25 years, that I didn't buy any new windsurfing equipment; however- kiteboards, foils and  more kites were added to the quiver.  My love for both sports still runs deep but I really got the foil bug this year. The most sessions come when the thermals turn on. This year, they dialed up in March and kept strong till October where I averaged almost 17 sessions a month during the windy season. I spent an equal amount of time in 2015 racing windsurfers as I did kite boards with 26 racing days on the water in 3 different local series- The StFYC Thursday Night Kite boarding series; The St.FYC Friday Night Slalom Series and the Crissy Field Slalom Series. The best results came with the inaugural Friday Night Slalom Series with a 1st place overall and 2nd place in the Crissy Field Slalom Series. Notwithstanding, the most difficult and hard work came in the Thursday Night Kite boarding Series where I went from not even being able to foil, to learning how to get around the course, to finally ending up 2nd in the B fleet.This season, the number of DNF's surely outweighed the bullets but I wouldn't have done it any other way. The balance at the front of the fleet worked itself out with the races at the back of the fleet.I missed a few key like the SF Classic and the Bridge to Bridge race but got plenty of time on the water this season. I made the most progress in the events that I struggled most with. In the Kite Foil Gold Cup in San Francisco, I was way over my head but put myself into conditions I would have otherwise backed away from. There's something about competition, that brings out the best in oneself if you keep trying and don't give up. The progress wasn't instantaneous like I would have liked it to be but rather a slow learning curve.I increased my kite boarding time almost 200% in 2015 going from 34 sessions in 2014 to 104 sessions in 2015.   Mastering a new discipline has been way harder than I ever imagined. After 12 months on the foil, I can now foil in most conditions and even make most of my non foiling gybes. Its a long way from the first few foiling sessions where making it back to the beach was considered a big success. Even with that said, I've got long way to go before I become competitive in the kite foil fleet. I've yet to even attempt a tack on the foil board or even make one on the directional board but those are challenges to overcome in 2016. Before I even venture into the foil kites, I want to be able to master the foiling tack and gybe. Needless to say- its going to a long road ahead...But there lies the fun!Here's a look at the season's data put into some graphic visualizations. For the record, I kept track of my sessions via twitter logging in what gear I used and complying the data at the end of the season. This allows me to see how much I use a particular board or kite and where my time were spent. The biggest surprise came with how much I still used the XL slalom set up of the ML 89 and 10m avanti rig- almost 20 times over the course of the year for high wind course racing, light wind slalom racing and swell riding under the Golden Gate.  Its the most versatile of anything in my quiver with a range of 10-24k. The kite foil board was the most used board in the 6 board quiver with 67 sessions logged for the season. The most used kite was the 10m Ozone Edge nearly doubling any other kite in my quiver with 45 sessions recorded. The most fun I had all s[...]

Adventures outside the gate

Wed, 16 Dec 2015 20:18:00 +0000

Mother nature can be a cruel mistress- almost 2 weeks without wind- and the last month with only 5 days on the water after slowly closing in on 150+ sessions this season.The thermals which had been running strong for the last 7 months shut down without a whimper at the end of October.I tried but the northerly November AM winds were all too brief. By 1 PM it's all ready fizzled.Never procrastinate a clearing breeze, I constantly reminded myself this fallBut the southerly storm winds were hardly any consolidation.I watched one day- as the winds at Crissy went from 12-25k with an approaching front and veered from the north to east and then all the the way back around to the south- leaving a handful of kiters stranded offshore when it eventually died.All the wiser- I waited and waited.Eventfully the swell arrived in a big way but it was still too marginal to get out.I finally broke out the big gear again and got up to the gate for 2 days of unsurpassed winter swell riding on Thursday December 10th and Big Friday where the wind and swell combined for the biggest rides of the season.It was the biggest swell I had seen since the winter of 2012. The conditions are rare- only happening a few times a year at most. Big stacks of raw powerful sets stacked up neatly and perfectly timed for an afternoon ebb.I'm one of just a handful of sailors lucky enough to enjoy it. There's about 10 of us - SF locals who are wind junkies- watching the forecast everyday for a chance to get out again and score the next session.  More so, I'm  just lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time with the right gear,You'd hardly think a 89cm board and 10.0 would make a good wave riding kit but you do what you have to to get to the wave.Leaving from Crissy Field it was 10-12k but with the ebb- you're at the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge in one quick tack. The 10m avanti rig is very powerful and gets going in 10k and with a 60cm fin. Combined with the custom 89cm mikes lab board- it exceeds in just about any condition from light wind slalom racing to high wind course racing and most importantly- pacific sleigh rides!The first tack out the gate is terrifying with the huge mountains of swell surging in the gate and a strong ebb pulling you out. I still wasn't sure it would even work and Id be able to get back downwind in the marginal breeze and big ebb.  I took a few practice runs downwind just to know it was still possible and got my first taste of the big swell as it lined up near the Lime Point lighthouse and carried me down to Yellow Bluff at the base of the Marin headlands. I eventually worked my way over to the south tower where the red nun was was barely visible with a river of current bending it sideways in the incoming swell. I shot the eddy to the west of the tower and eventually slipped into the standing wave where for an instant- I was stuck in a perpetual motion machine- gliding back and forth down the face of the swell to the south of the tower as the ebb pulled me backwards. It's a surreal feeling as if trying to walk against a moving sidewalk. The rug is literally being pulled out from under you as you race down the face of a 10'-15' standing wave.Eventually you get spit out and have to head up for some speed- catching the next set and carrying it towards Fort Point.Every few minutes a really big 20'+ set would manage to break through- clearing out the whole line of surfers tucked in to the corner as the wave wrapped around the point.I knew because it was breaking clear outside leaving me to drop in on 10' of whitewater. I got rick-rolled once and became separated from my gear but the ebb was strong enough and get me out of dangers way but quickly before I knew it, I was 1/2 mile out the gate.This is where the ebb really surges. If its 5k inside the gate- it's got to be 8-10k here- raging like a river.  I caught[...]

Putting it all together...

Tue, 25 Aug 2015 18:38:00 +0000

It all came together this past weekend with 2 days of slalom racing at the top of my game.I managed to win 3 bullets in the Friday Night Series, win the night, tie the series and win the tiebreaker for 1st. Saturday's light wind slalom had more of the same as I was able to get 2 bullets, secure 2nd for the day and lock in 2nd place for the series. Part of any racing is being prepared- from picking the right equipment, to just getting to the starting line in time. Secondly- if you've got any advantage- you've got to use it. Another big part of racing is know your competition. I did an scoring analysis last week with different scenarios going into the last race and knew before hand where I had to finish in order to move up. Friday- big boards and sails were the call so I had my ML89cm wide board with a kashy 59cm fin and avanti m-2 10.0 membrane sail.  The set up is perfect as it allows a huge range in the lighter spots- staying up on a plane through the lulls and coming out of the gybes with a platform you can quickly pump up onto a plane. if needed. It's smaller than a normal formula board with better control but bigger than most slalom boards with more low end. I always have the ml 70cm board and avanti 7.7 ready to go when the wind comes up but alas. not today.Al and I were on the biggest gear and had a huge advantage over the rest of the fleet who were trying to get around the course with medium sized slalom gear in marginal winds. The bigger gear may be a bit slower in the reaches once you've got some wind  but you've always got to have power coming out of the turns in a slalom races to get any advantage.  I finished with a 1,1,1,2,2 to take the night, tie the series and win the tiebreaker while Xavier did his mandatory RC for the series.(Huge thanks to Yves Rathle for the artistic trophies)Saturdays sketchy conditions continued with a variable 12-18k and mid afternoon flood tide. That may sound enough for a 100 l board and 7.7 but the course was set near shore with patchy holes,   The 10.0 and 89cm board were still the right call as Al, CRAD and myself, all on big gear, walked away from most of the fleet. Xavier quickly realized this after not even having made the 1st start in the flood tide on medium slalom gear and made the switch to bigger gear and finally his formula board.  I was doing what I need to do and that was put a few positions between myself and Jason in order to move up in the overall series but CRAD and Al were sailing very well- keeping themselves in front of a me a few races as I got hosed off the starting line in the 20 board fleet in the  middle races of the day. After almost 2 hours- we only had 5 races in for the A fleet and 3 for the B fleet. I knew things were close between Al Crad and I so I had to take the next bullet to order to secure things. I nailed the start and led around the course with Xavier trailing and Jason back in 4th. Going into the last race, I  had another perfect start at the pin in the light conditions jumping out in front and leading at the 1st mark and getting a great jump at the rounding  but it was so off course that the I didn't even see the 2nd mark. I let 4 boards slip in there but knew a 5th would be my throw out for the day and it didn't really matter. The results were super tight from 2nd-4th with Al with 17 points, CRAD with 16 and myself with 15. I just made it as Jason was back in 5th so I had him on points for the overall- moving up into 2nd place behind Xavier for the series.  Xavier sailed a perfect series carrying a 1,1,1 as his season series scores and was awarded the M9 Memorial trophy with Bill Weirs kids presenting in to him.A fleet podium: 1st Xavier. 2nd Steve & 3rd JasonB fleet winners: David, Matt and JohnOverall- a huge success for slalom this year with almost[...]

A closer look...

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 05:04:00 +0000

It's the last of the slalom series this week with both Friday night racing at the StFYC & the Crissy Field Slalom Series on Saturday. Both series have a throw-out so its the best 3 out of 4 scores but a lot can change going into the last race of the series.A closer look at the season scores is often warranted knowing in advance what it will take to move up a position or how much cushion you have between the racer behind you. This is often the case going into the last day of a multi-day regatta or series. Risk or reward. How big are the odds? What are the payoffs?Friday Night Slalom SeriesMay Slalom ResultsJune Slalom ResultsJuly Slalom ResultsI did RC the 1st week so Ive got everything to gain going into the last race with a 1,2.Xavier's fate is sealed with 4 points and  the best I can do is tie on points if I win the final race while Xavier does his mandatory RC.  The tie breaker goes to the racer with the better individual throw-out. (Xavier carries a 7th from July so its so its to my advantage to make every start in addition to winning the night if I want to win the series.) Still tied? Then it comes down to who has the best individual scores (yet tbd). Still tied? Then it comes down to who won the last race. (which in this case would be me.)Jean sits in 3rd with 7 points just in front of Soheil with 9 with both already having done their RC. CRAD who carries 10 points will do his RC and cant finish worse than 3rd in the series unless Jean finishes 3rd or better or Soheil in 1st. In order for Jean to get 2nd- he would need to beat me by 5 points. Soheil needs to put 3 positions between himself and Jean if he wants to get on the podium.Crissy Field Slalom SeriesMay CFSS ResultsJune CFSS ResultsJuly CFSS ResultsGoing into the last race- Xavier has 5 points and no chance to lose (even if he doesn't sail and uses his throw-out.) Jason carries 8 points into the final race and myself 14. However once the throw-out comes into play, I need to put 1 position between myself and Jason to move into 2nd and not finish worse than 3rd. Only a 1st or 2nd in Saturdays race will move me up. If I only beat Jason by 1 position, we remain tied and tiebreaker goes to Jason with the better throw-out. The strategy calls for bigger risk moves to reap the reward!Jean carries 15 points into the last race and Soheil with 18. Jean has secured 4th place but needs to beat me by 2 positions if he wants to move into 3rd. Soheil has no chance to move up from 5th unless he can put 3 positions between himself and Jean.But then again- anything can happen.Minimize the risk and maximize the[...]

Back to the basics

Wed, 12 Aug 2015 19:47:00 +0000

After having bite off way more than I could chew- I decided it would be prudent to get back to the basics. I hired Gebi to do some coaching after the Kite Foil Gold Cup and learned more from a few hours on the beach than I have all season on my own. The opportunity was priceless in terms of making a few breakthroughs that should help my kite foiling progression in the upcoming months.The 1st lessons were all about kite handling- or moreso how to fly the kite efficiently by using your weight on the center lines vs sheeting the bar in for power. Its amazing how much power you can get from the kite by keeping the center lines loaded.Next up- downlooping. I'd never really put this into my quiver of tricks until it was too late. Most times on the foil board, you will need to downloop the kite to keep the speed through the gybe and not drop off a foil. Even in light wind, on a directional board you can downloop the kite to keep it moving vs falling out of the sky. I learned a great trick about reaching under the bar with your back hand and pulling the lines to start the loop vs using your bar to start the turn. You can control the pivot and power by how hard you pull the line and the weight on the center lines.  The advantage is you come out of the turn- not having to spin your bar.After that- regular looping seemed pretty easy- even spinning the bar to get the lines untwisted- No big deal!We worked on stalling the kite and relaunching from every position to get comfortable once the kite goes in the water. From hot launching to rocking the kite onto its back- it all begins with a fluid pumping motion using both lines or even the center line to guide the kite back up into the air.I'd gotten unhooked once or twice before on the water and freaked out- ending my session as the kite looped and crashed. Now becoming unhooked from the kite is still alarming but I know what to do- just grab the center line at the chicken loop to control the power and hook back in. Grabbing the bar- just adds more power to the kite when you are unhooked. Next order of business was tacking. After having grown up sailing boats from the time I was 7 or 8, tacking was one of the simplest things you could do- just push the tiller over, duck below the boom and carry on to the other side. I had begun to try some tacks on the kite course board last season but the foil came and quickly set me back in terms of learning everything over again.We essentially broke the tack down into a few steps to get from one tack, float through the eye of the wind, and carry on to the other side. Simple enough!This maneuver- as simple as it sounds is very tricky to learn as ducking under the lines and into the wind is not an intuitive thing to do.Step 1 begins by sheeting out and building up some speed with the board before you carve the board into the wind. The front hand comes off the bar to unweight it and steer the kite up and across the window. But then goes back on to bar to float through the turn. You push the board with your back foot essentially pivoting it around a point under your body.Step 2  turns your body through the eye of the wind facing forward while the board turns through the wind below. Your feet and toes essentially steer the board and guide it across the window as you try to apply minimal downward force taking your body weight up with kite and keeping the bar unsheeted up at your head level.Step 3 keeps the new front hand pulled down on the bar to dive the kite and create power coming out of the turn so as to  resist the momentum to fall into windward by creating a balance with the kite power.  If the kite doesn't have enough power coming out of the turn, you can go right into a downloop with the kite- gaining more power and time to get things going againStep 4 - spin [...]

Getting around the course

Mon, 03 Aug 2015 06:22:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">The 2nd half of the Kite Foil Gold Cup was all about making progress overcoming obstacles.While there's still many dues to pay- the hard work paid off and I finally got around the course for the first time.  A small victory but Ill take it.I made some huge gains off the wind in the lighter races going deep with the kite low in the window and really sending it. A breakthrough moment as I now know its possible to now get downwind more efficiently. Still there were some spectacular crashes on the foil- both upwind and down- but particularly on starboard tack. The right side of my body is bruised battered and botched.Day 3 started with a fizzle. The 1st 5 minutes out in a butter smooth flood tide and 14k of breeze, my 10.0 kite broke a center line. I hustled back to the beach and made the switch to the 7.0 as the breeze was building but the cleat on my 2nd bar was slipping giving the kite full power at any moment. Somehow I managed in the spastic and gusty conditions off crissy field and even ended up on the score sheet as finishing not 1 but 2 races. Most likely- I was lapped finishing my 1st race as the fleet finished their 2nd race but it was my first time just to get around the course.  By the last race- things got ugly as the wind built to 20-25k and the 7.0 became more than a handful. I called it quits as the downwind falls were becoming more and more painful.Watching the gold fleet races from the wall was spectacular. The fleet has evolved with everyone on foil kites and the newest foil technology.  The gold fleet sailors all had gps trackers making it possible to watch the race live in the St.FYC grill room. The tracks for each race can be viewed and races replayed here. French sailors Maxime Nocher & Nico Parlier stayed on top of the leader board just in front of locals- Johnny Heineken and Joey Pasquali. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">The last day had a full flood tide and mid teens to starts the day. The gusts were starting to roll in and we had 2 back to back races so I headed out with the 7.0 kite again - a bit underpowered but all entirely doable. Just getting down to the course was more feasible with a smaller kite as I wasn't constantly overpowered and could concentrate on sending it deep and keeping the kite moving.Upwind, the kite foils effortlessly. Its almost not even the same sport as off the breeze.I got off the line just behind the pack as to avoid and any tangles and kept out of trouble- except for the dozen or so random face plants on starboard tack that seemed to slow my pace down.Small stumbles but just remember to get back on the horse.Enjoy the full days racing via Jamie Donaldson: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">I was even starting to make some transitions as the non foiling gybes are becoming a bit more stable and although not on purpose- tired my 1st foiling gybe.  The bottom quickly gave out as my speed stalled and I went right into a big face plant. I managed to get around the course twice in 3 races before the wind picked up to just about nuclear. Another small victory but feel I gained much from sailing the regatta from kite handling, foiling and time on the water.There's a great collection of videos from Robbie Dean at the IKA facebookpageFull results Huge thanks to the St.FYC for the excellent regatta and their armada of volunteersPhotos via[...]

2015 SF Kite Foil Gold Cup- Day1 and 2: paying my dues

Sat, 01 Aug 2015 14:17:00 +0000

By the start of the first race, I had already mathematically eliminated myself from qualifying into the final gold fleet. A rather disastrous start if there ever was one one but this race was was not for the winning, not even for the taking. This race was just about showing up, getting to the starting line and putting myself through the paces.I'm in a league way over my head but I've got nothing to lose.Day 1 at the Kite Foil Gold Cup in San Francisco actually began several months ago at the last Gold Cup event in La Ventana Mexico. That was the start of my kite foiling experience. Its been a rough road since then with almost 4 months & 30 days of learning foiling on the kite board. The experience has been very rewarding but very challenging, In all honesty I though Id be getting it by now but this is one tough nut to crack, Don't get me wrong- kite foiling in general is unbelievable fun- flying above the water with everything silent but when you add the racing element to it- you put yourself to the ultimate test. There will always be racers better than you and there lies the fun- how to catch up!With 72 registered foilers, this is the biggest foil event in the US. Kite foilers from around the world have joined the local fleet for the 2nd stop in the Kite Foil Gold Cup- a series run by local PRO Robbie Dean, only its 2nd year but gaining a huge momentum with 3 stops in La Ventana Mexico, San Francisco, Ca and Townsville, Australia later this year.Day 1 starts with lighter breeze but the shit hits the fan soon enough with the local sea breeze flooding through the golden gate mid afternoon, I take out my 10m Ozone edge and make it to the start of the first race for the yellow fleet in 12-16k of breeze. I start conservatively just behind the fleet as to avoid any tangles and stay out of trouble but just like that the fleet is off. I sail off to the far side of the course and just miss the windward mark on my approach and have to double tack. As I make it around, I struggle in the lighter winds at the top of the course and before I know it the fleet is back at the windward mark lapping me in the process. Downwind is still a struggle. My angles are just a bit deeper than a beam reach when it gets windy but improving as I learn to get the kite down and back in the window. I finally round the leeward gate but there's no time to make it back upwind and to the finish so I just stick around for the next start. Race 2- I cross the line with in 30s of the start just behind the fleet and make it upwind in good shape. Downwind is a complete disaster again taking up 80% of my time on the water, I complete the course but the next fleet has taken the course already and Ive been timed out- another DNF. I recompose myself on the beach mentally tackling the next challenge as the wind is now up to 20k+, my limit on the foil where things potentially get broken. I rig the 7m kite and head out like a hot mess exploding in epic fashion just trying to get downwind to the start. I never make it as the RC is banging off races in record time.  I sit out and watch my fleets final 2 races with the peanut gallery from the beach- trying to ease the pain with a cold beer.Lessons of the day- you gotta make it to the starting line if you even want to even play the game.The drone footage has been unbelievable. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">And of course- if you want to watch Thursday's full racing- sit back and enjoy the full show via Jamie Donaldson: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Day 2 was poised to be golden with lighter wind forecast. I was in the blue fle[...]

3 day bender on the city front

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 05:25:00 +0000

Thursday - July 23rd: beer can kite racing in 'fukitsnukin' conditions.'25-30k is not helping my kite foiling campaign one bit, but I make do with what I can and head out on the surfboard & 7m kite to get more comfortable in the big breeze. I survive the night but don't get anywhere close to getting around the course. Its blowing the dogs off their chains. Foiling in anything over 20 knots still comes with unexpected results at best and bodily or equipment injury at the worst.   Do no harm is my mantra.I've gotten about a dozen or so sessions in 25k+ conditions & direction board this season and am getting more comfortable kiting in strong winds. Like most things, it's time on the water that gives the most opportunity for improvement but I really got back the basics this week with some kite lessons from Gebi on the beach. It's amazing what a few hours of learning better kite control on the beach can do for your riding.I'm down looping now through my light wind gybes and pulling more from the center lines to power the kite.Soon it will be time to face my demons downwind on the foil but for now it's building the basics up on the surfboard in the big breeze. I got 2 hours on the water perfecting some new skills and building up my confidence. I got in to watch the last race of the night in the StFYC BlueRush Thursday Night Series as the fleet was on their 6-7m foil kites and foil board in 25-30k making it look all too easy. The international foiling fleet is arriving slowly with the top dogs already here for next weeks Foil Gold Cup  In all good time, I slowly remind myself.Friday July 24th: St.FYC Slalom windsurf racing.This was the 3rd Friday night slalom race of the season with another evening of big breeze in the city front course. I'm stoked just to have gotten to the starting line this week as my board was in 2 pieces at the last slalom event in June. Local board builder extraordinaire Mike Zaijeck was able to work his magic and reconstruct everything back together again. While she won't be winning any beauty contest, she's still fast as hell and just 1/2 pound heavier. #inmikewetrustThe high wind course was set with 5 gybes from Anita rock to a finish off the St.FYC race deck.The key to slalom racing is getting a good start and coming out of the 1st mark in good position with speed. If you can stay out of trouble the rest of the 2 min race, it's all good. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">Race 1: I sailed conservatively knowing the fleet would make mistakes and I could capitalize on them. I may not be the fastest in the pack but making your gybes and not swimming around the marks goes along way to getting to the finish line in as little time as possible.Al, CRad & Soheil all led pack on the 1st race but eventually they all went down and I was able to pick up a position at every rounding and grabbing the 1st bullet if the night.Race 2 saw CRad  in good position again as he kept the lead to the 3rd gybe mark where he took a wide gybe and I was able to sneak inside with a tighter rounding.Always be ready to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.By race 3 Xavier had shown up and was in full control with better board speed and nailing his starts. I had to up my game if I wanted to win. I rounded every mark just behind him for the next 2 races and never got any opportunity to even get my foot in the door.Race 5-the breeze was still up to 18-22k and I was well powered in the 7.7 avanti m-2 rig & 42cm z fin. The fleet was early for the start and Xavier took the bait going over early. I seized the opportunity and led around the course getting the last bullet [...]

Keeping pace with the Joneses

Mon, 08 Jun 2015 03:38:00 +0000

The SF Bay Challenge: take the biggest windward leeward course you can fit on the San Francisco Bay and the 2 fastest board sailing classes, add lots of wind & tide and what you get is no less than a spectacular weekend of racing from the city front down to the Berkeley pier and back.The foil board kite surfers we're going to dominate. No question. That is if they could keep themselves out of trouble.  As for me getting down to Berkeley and back on a foil board. Simply not possible at this point. I'm lucky to make the leeward mark on the foil Kite board but not an endurance race like the Challenge yet.I rigged avanti 10 & ml89 + 64 Kashy fin for the breeze and flood tide.Good start with speed 1/2 way down the line. I tacked and rounded closely in 3rd behind Xavier on 9 & Tom in 9.3. The bigger sail was beginning to pay dividends at the top of the course. I even extended the lead past Alcatraz & got going very deep and fast. Ml 89 cm mini formula board has a great range but 10 was becoming all too much in the middle of the course in the steep chop and gust approaching 30k. At the leeward mark, Soheil, Eric and Jean had all made their move as I was in survival mode.Eric who split tacks and stuck to the north side of Alcatraz challenged Tom and Xavier as they closed in at the finish. At the end it was the foil kites who dominated in just under an hour and the windsurfers in at 1:25 as Stefaans took the line honors with Erika just behind- both on foil boards and foil kites.In hindsight I'm thinking a 9.3 may be the better high wind formula rig and light air slalom sail that makes the perfect 1 sail quiver for the 89cm board. This year it was all about keeping up with the kite foil fleet but I managed to pretty much forget out the windsurfing fleet. Most upgraded to the gaastra sail which has great range and speed + the JP or *167 is standard fare. There's 4 or 5 guys who can win a race in our fleet out of 7. No room for error or lack of keeping up with the Joneses.Back up wind I was taking a beating. Port tack was straight into 3-4' breaking sets on the Berkeley shoals.  Meanwhile, Johnny Heinekin took himself out from the lead by wrapping his kite in the mast head of an approaching J105 fleet on the Berkeley circle He managed to climb the mast and dislodge his kite from the rigging but was out of the race. Great effort!I stuck to the city front which was the wrong side as there was no relief from the flood. It took 3 long tacks to get through the city front gap at Alcatraz. On top of that the SW gust were spastic and unreliable as well as swarms of commercial traffic. Sunday saw the return of the breeze. I was spent - both figuratively and literally. After 2 course races in the city front the 10.0 was still too much with the gusts approaching 25k+. The top 3 fleet leaders all had 9.3 or 9.0s. Even Jean on the 7.7 and fw board was keeping pace. The 1st race I extended a big lead at the leeward mark but gave it all up upwind as the only the only real way to keep pace with a fw board upwind is by playing the uphaul with your front hand even in the gusts. Easier said than done. It was a race to the corners with long upwind legs and my angle was getting taken advantage of. I had to watch the remaining 2 races from shore as I was cashed out. Totally spent and not dialed into the conditions.  After 3 races, Johnny reappeared at the top of the foil fleet-Interesting enough with the new mikes lab foil with the kick back cant proving once again the Joneses are always evolving at a faster pace than the non Joneses. Huge thanks to the St. Francis YC, their volunteers and the competitors who made it through the[...]

Just when when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

Mon, 01 Jun 2015 18:14:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">If you would have told me- there would be 35+ windsurfers racing on the SF city front in 2015 I would have laughed at you and told you to get a to kite and join the foiling revolution.While the San Francisco Bay windsurfing scene provided the roots for the latest kite & foil board racing, whats old is new again. 3 new slalom series are making their debut in SF this summer- proving windsurfing - a sport nearly 50 years old is still alive and well and constantly reinventing itself. This time around, we've learned lessons and are building the fleet from the bottom up with a focus on the B fleet and getting more non racers into the fold.  Slalom is a quick, easy to understand format with broad reach starts, 3-4 gybe marks and a reaching finish 4 minutes later. Its probably the most exciting windsurfing discipline around- as the fleet comes charging into the 1st mark lit out of their minds, laying down carving gybes. Its a concept even the non racer can understand.  If you can gybe a windsurfer and get back upwind, you can race. No specialized equipment needed for the B fleet but the A fleet is totally open.It started as a grass roots effort to get more people back into windsurfing racing and ended up surprising us all by the amount of enthusiasm generated. The Crissy Field Slalom Series began as a pipe dream with no RC boat, marks, anchors or even an PRO but with some modern ideas it all worked out. The idea to crowd fund the series came about with no sponsors and none of us wanting to go into debt to make the idea work if competitors bailed at the last minute with no wind. We reached out to the community-asking for small donations and gave racers a discount if they pre registered for the series. Soon enough we had 35 sailors signed up, paid & raised 150% of our goal. The basics were covered to run the series. 4 races are planned, once a month on Saturday afternoons at Crissy Field. With as many sailors registered for the B fleet as the A expect fleet, it was already a success. The 2nd series is more a less a spin off from our existing Friday Night Course Racing at the St. Francis Yacht Club. In lieu of course racing, we're trying slalom races for 4 of the nights. Even before the 1st race, we had more people signed up for the slalom racing, than the regular course racing. The StFYC has been monumental in developing and fostering the sport of windsurfing from the beginning with the Friday Night Windsurfing series, the SF Classic (run since the late 70')  and Bridge to Bridge race, just to name a few.   The 2 series share the same course- utilizing a series of set permanent and set marks from Anita Rock down to the A & B buoys off the StFYC. The 3rd series is the Rio Vista Grand Slam to be held on July 9-12th on Sherman Island in the delta. Its bound to be a great windy event with slalom, freestyle and speed disciplines.For the lowdown on the 1st weekend of racing- keep reading....Week 1-Organizing 2 events is way more work than I ever imagined. I'm lucky to have Jean and Soheil teamed up for the Crissy Field Slalom Series. Its been 2 months of organizing, fundraising, and developing a plan for the series to start from scratch. A huge shout out to all the sponsors making the series happen as well as the volunteers conning together at the last minute. Robbie Dean was hired to be the PRO and he provided the boat, marks, set the course. We got volunteers as beach masters and scorers at the StFYC race deck. Everything was falling into place and I was able to focus on the racing.I was r[...]