11 September 2007

Boo Yah, Windy At the Lake!

It's getting on toward the end of windsurfing season, at least for those of us without wetsuits. Today I got out of work later than I wanted, and Janet had a 6:00 commitment, so I only had about 30 minutes to actually sail. But I figured I'd either have fun or be REALLY DONE by then anyway.

The waves were up high enough that sometimes they'd break right over my head, and as you Madisonians may have noticed, it was indeed just a trifle breezy! (The METAR for 1800 local called it 13 G 26, i.e., gusts to just under 30 MPH.)

I dithered around for a long time. I was arguing with myself by analogy to aviation: "Better to be down here wishing you were up there than the other way around". But a guy onshore -- windsurfer, but had his toddler that day and couldn't sail -- pointed out that the wind would just blow me to a nice landing spot even if I screwed up, and heck, you got to go in over your head to learn, right? Another guy who was sailing told me that a 5.0 sail was definitely all I wanted, and 4.2 would be even better. Heh! Of course, my 5.0 sail is this super high-lift Mylar wonder...

Jeez, I sure hope Guy #1 got a laugh out of the ensuing whoop-te-do. I tried water-starting, floundered around for awhile and never got the end of the mast out of the water. Climbed up and attempted to uphaul, figuring that bad things would happen -- some of those waves had to be pushing three feet. But, recalling my struggles the last time I went out in real wind with my smaller and squirrelier F2 board, I'd had the forethought to stick to the much more forgiving Mistral, so I actually got the sail out of the water and was able to sheet in and go.

And GO! Man, it was something else. That big heavy long board leapt and pranced and smacked off waves like it a rock skipped by God Herself. For about a hundred feet. Then two things happened.

I noticed that, no thanks to me, the boom line had swung up and hooked my harness, but good. Which is what it's designed to do, mind, but I had sorta hoped to have a vote in the process. So I was gonna be a-ridin' that tiger until I could unhook, or it threw me -- none of your sissy "let the sail out" or "drop the sail" nonsense.

And a killer gust chose that moment to come hooting gleefully out of the sky.

Remember when Harry Potter first traveled by Portkey?

It happened immediately: Harry felt as though a hook just behind his navel had been suddenly jerked irresistibly forward. His feet left the ground [...] they were all speeding forward in a howl of wind and color...

-- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

(J.K., a windsurfer? Who knew?)

When the sail went BLAM! it yanked me effortlessly right off my feet. I began to arc right up over the mast, which then snapped around like a demonic 12-foot bullwhip, first cartwheeling me through the air then firing me straight down into the water, a Polaris missile really, really homesick for its good old submarine. I came up under the sail thinking "Hmm, can't breathe yet. Really want to breathe. Anytime would be good, really."

The only other time I actually got sailing, I was going hell-for-leather again, just drawing breath for a good "Woo-HOO!" when I got just a LEETLE bit past the stiction point on my beloved Mion Flood Tide watershoes.

Them's great shoes. They're siped (i.e., little cross-cut slits on the sole) so that they stick on wet surfaces like nobody's business. I've hung my ass WAY out over the water with my legs at a very acute angle to the board, and it's like they're glued to the top.

Except...today. Today I had to go just that fraction lower to counterbalance the sail...and my foot went "Pa-TYEW!" off into the sunset. The rest of me, an undignified "Sploosh". Actually, it wasn't half bad, I did that once in Tevas with one foot on either side of the mast. Luckily I did that after having children, or they never would have been.

At any rate, that about the time I lost my boom head. (For the non-windsurfing crowd, this refers to neither a failure of nerve nor the disappearance of a headache -- the part of the "wishbone" boom that attaches to the mast at the front, or luff, of the sail unexpectedly came loose.) I could've rerigged, perhaps, as the waves broke over me, but a look at my watch convinced me to call this one a day.

Dang. For about 30 seconds there, I'd really had something!