Mile Post 16 High Wind Center

June 1, 2010 | Windsurfing

Memorial Weekend has been good around here for wind. It’s been around 6.5 every day and customers are blasting around. I’m really liking our new RRD Fire Ride. It jibes effortlessly and is very forgiving. Just found out the windmill at the old Windmill Point restaurant will be moved to Roanoke Island. Now all the old windsurfers won’t be able to find the windsurf spot down here without the landmark. Kiteboarding is coming soon. Stay tuned.

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Memorial Weekend Kick-Off

May 25, 2009 | Windsurfing

Above is Shawn Byrne at my favorite windsurf location, MP 16 in Nags Head.  This day was two or three weeks ago on a Sunday.  I started out on a 6.5 w/ my Longrider and was having a good time.  Shawn stopped by later after the wind picked up and had started blasting around w/ a 5.0.

Memorial Weekend is when activities start cranking up around here and we had a great day yesterday.  By the way, I counted 21 kiteboarders at one time.  Not sure where they all came from but they were definitely having a good time.  Winds were around 15 kts. out of the SW.

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RRD Longrider

May 2, 2009 | Windsurfing

When people ask me about what kind of windsurfing board to buy for a beginner I can’t help but rave about the RRD (Roberto Ricci Designs) Longrider.  This board does it all.  Is it a knock-off Kona One?  You bet.  But RRD built a slimmed down version which works just as well and without the extra weight to lug around.

It’s got the floatation (180l) for the beginner, a stepped tail for planing, works well as a flat water SUP, and is great for learning how to wave sail.

Back in the early ’90s when windsurfing was still booming there were boards like the Fanatic Cat and the Mistral Equipe.  These were some of the standards for windsurfing enthusiasts.  We could learn on them, slog on them, teach our friends on them, and try to go fast on them.  They weighed a ton and after looking at the pictures in Windsurfing Magazine of professionals flying off the lip in Maui with a shortboard, most of us wanted to graduate to the next level.

But things aren’t always as they appear.  Learning to jibe is hard.  Learning to jibe like the pros is really hard.  Learning to water start is REALLY hard (I swear, I thought I was going to drown on the Currituck Sound back in 1994).  So much so that I conceded to my mediocre athleticism and never ventured to the ocean side where there are no chase boats to come save you unless you’re gone for more than 24 hours at which point I’ve missed dinner and I REALLY hate to miss dinner.

Where does that leave the middle-aged windsurfer?  Coming full-circle and back on the longboard.  I remember talking with the reps from Aerotech/Exocet at the Frisco Woods Windfest three years ago and they had a new Kona One that was just getting out to the public.  As I looked down my nose at this monster of a board I was thinking, “What’s the fun in that?”  But when I hopped on and got back in the footstraps with the nose slapping the waves while I’m planing I immediately remembered those days ten years ago when I finally got that Equipe dialed in and screaming.  And it was fun.

While I was there one of the Aerotech reps gave me a great analogy.  Marty said, “Windsurfing should be like sex.  It shouldn’t hurt, it should be fun, and you should want to do it again.”  Well said and I think enjoying more time on the water should be one of our primary objectives and the longboard allows us to do that.

The thing about the Longrider is that if the wind is marginal I can test it out and try to get on a plane.  If I can’t plane, no big deal.  I’ll just cruise along and not have to work as hard as I would on my short board.  The other thing is that the Longrider has a stepped tail which means that when you jump up on a plane the last 8-10 inches on the tail rises up above the water and shortens the length of the board, thus reducing the wetted surface.

What I like most about the RRD Longrider is that it’s a capable flat water SUP.  When the wind’s not blowing I can ditch the rig, grab a paddle, and get a great workout.  Don’t be mislead.  This board won’t surf a wave very well and because it’s narrower than a true SUP it’s going to be very tippy in ocean chop.  But if you just like to get out on the water stand up paddleboarding is a great option.

Finally, for those of us who have been afraid of venturing in to the ocean the Longrider may be the answer.  YouTube has great video of guys catching ankle slappers in non-planing conditions.  You can putt around in light air and wait for a little swell and practice catching a wave.  If that strokes your stoke let it be known that even the pros can be seen on a longboard carving big waves.  And if the wind dies down you don’t feel like you’re stuck out there for eternity.  You can still float and, worse case scenario, paddle back in.

The longboard:  give it a try.

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Spring Windsurfing and Windfest

April 11, 2009 | Windsurfing

Rented out the Waverunners for the first time yesterday hoping the spring breakers would come out.  Unfortunately, didn’t rent as many as I’d hoped for.  I did, however, see a bunch of windsurfers enjoying the 15-18 knot winds.  I tried getting some video footage using my GoPro while riding a Waverunner.  Got some close shots but the chop bounced me around pretty good.  

The last couple of weeks have seen good spring windsurfing conditions.  It seems like every time it warms up the wind picks up, which is a combination I like.  Everyone was out yesterday w/ a full suit and no booties and it was fine. 

I’m heading down to Windfest on Thursday which is located at the Frisco Woods Campground.  It goes until Saturday and is a great time to socialize w/ other windsurfers.  If you’re new to the sport and you want to learn about the new gear or try out some of the equipment it’s a great opportunity to get a lot of information at one place and time.

I’ll be a vendor there with some of my long boards for windsurfing and stand-up paddleboarding.  I’m also going to bring a Hobie or two.  Feel free to stop by and try something out.

Until next time, get on the water.

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What’s wrong with windsurfing?

January 11, 2009 | Windsurfing

For the individual windsurfer, nothing.  For the people in the industry, plenty.

As I sit around during the winter I’m left daydreaming of warm, sunny days on the water.  That’s when I browse the windsurfing blog sites to see what’s going on.  What I find is a small group of highly passionate people who have great stories and live to get on the water, even in the winter time.

As a business owner who offers windsurfing rentals and lessons I’m torn between the sport that drew me to the Outer Banks and profit margins.  In turn, I fight a battle of Catch-22.  The opposing problem being; to get more customers I need to make a greater commitment, to make a greater commitment I need more customers.  With such a small population actively pursuing the sport I’m forced to proceed cautiously.

Here are a few ideas I’ve picked up over the last few years.  Some have already been well documented, others you may find to be new.

First, the promotion and portrayal of windsurfing as an extreme sport.  This isn’t new as it has been documented often.  In summary, the industry keeps pushing people to believe they’re capable of big wave, big air windsurfing with no regard to the average joe with mediocre athletic ability and a middle class budget.  A lot of people feel this was the beginning of the fall for windsurfing as a recreational sport and the industry has tried extremely hard to back pedal and re-address the novice and intermediate windsurfer.

Second, and what I’ve noticed personally, is the demographics.  Windsurfing is a great individual sport requiring some extra money.  Here’s the reality.  To learn windsurfing it’s best if you’re young enough that you don’t kill yourself during the learning phase.  Let’s say you’re in your early 20’s and fresh out of college.  Not many college grads living near the water have a few thousand dollars to invest in windsurfing.

Let’s say you’ve had a job for a few years and you want to try a new sport.  Chances are you’re married by now and have a few kids.  Well, guess what, the bride either wants to be on the water too or she doesn’t find entertaining the kids on the beach while watching daddy play being true family time.  Needless to say windsurfing is not the ideal family activity.

The type of customer I see most of is the older man who has been sailing on and off for the last 20+ years.  (Apparently, I’m beginning to fall in to this demographic.)  He probably had some kids, his equipment is a little old, and he’s mad that his mast foot is obsolete.  He’s not in to ripping around because of his bad back but he still wants the thrill of planing.

The other customer I’m beginning to see more of and the industry can benefit from is the young boomer who had to put windsurfing on the back burner while the kids were learning to walk but now wants to get the young teenagers to give it a try.  If we’re lucky the young teenager won’t be cynical and will have fun on dad’s dime.  Meanwhile, Dad, happy to be back on the water with his home-grown windsurfing buddies is happy to finance juniors new hobby.

Finally, it seems a lot of sports go through what I call “Sport du jour”.  (Please forgive my lack of French.)  At one time everyone was buying a Hobie Cat, then windsurfing came along, now it’s kiteboarding.  (Is SUP next?)  They’re all cool sports but the industry that gets put on the back burner has been forced to learn how to adjust for a smaller population.  Windsurfing seems to be at that point where only the truly passionate people are pursuing it.

By the way, having watched the industry closely the last few years and attending trade shows it’s interesting to see that surfing seems to be still going strong.  It’s very affordable and it’s created a huge lifestyle/apparel culture.  Forget the fact that it’s very geographic.

To use a popular saying (that I’m not very favorable of), it is what it is.  Or, better put, we’ve set our bed, now we have to sleep in it.  There’s nothing wrong with windsurfing, it’s just not an easy way to make a living.  Fortunately, we still have many passionate people out there who participate regularly.  My New Year’s resolution is to try and get out there with them.

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