Windsurfing, surfing, Maui, The Gorge, and random rants.

Friday, April 30, 2010

First day at Hookipa - WooHoo!

Julia and I have occasionally visited Hookipa after our Kanaha sessions, sitting on the bluff, checking out the action, taking photos, and wondering if or when we would ever sail there. Now it's not as if everyone must sail at Hookipa to be a complete windsurfer. Kanaha is always a great place to sail with the shady grass, showers, nice sandy beach with easy launching, and a variety of reefs to play in.  And the big surf days can be plenty challenging there. We had many huge swells during March and early April where I was more than happy to be at Kanaha. In fact many of the Hookipa regulars were sailing there on those days.

And on the really huge days, there is hardly a better break than the outer reef of upper Kanaha. On those occasions it can peal consistently all the way from Camp 1 down to weird wave, offering some of the only easily accessible down the line sailing.  We also sailed Sprecks when most other places had nothing but chop, and discovered a consistent little jumping wave just up wind in Sugar Cove / Beach. Perfect for practicing those forwards and backs.  So there's plenty of sailing spots on the Maui north shore besides the well photographed Hookipa.

So what's the big deal with Hookipa? Well, now that we are officially - let's admit it - well past the winter or even spring swell season, and we have only the occasional small NW or trade waves to play in, the fact is Hookipa can sometimes make the best of those conditions. I have some photos from this day (coming soon in another post!) that hopefully show that Hookipa can provide some real excitement even on a small 4-6 ft day. And of course there is the fact that Hookipa is, you know, Hookipa - perhaps the most famous windsurfing location of all and no doubt an advanced sailing spot. I will quote directly from the iWindsurf site description for Hookipa...

The launch can be rugged. Almost the entire beach has an old reef papa shelf that makes entry or exit impossible. At the west end there is about 30 feet of beach. The water is waist deep close the beach and there is coral and urchins on the bottom. Going out is fairly easy. Watch the incoming shore break carefully, wait for a lull, run to water and beach start. There can be a current running from right to left right at the shore if water is backing up behind the papa. Allow for this as you beach start. There is often very little wind inside so pump to get past the surf zone fast or you will round up and fall.. If you go down inside and can not waterstart promptly you will we swept towards the coral encrusted, surf swept rocks downwind where you will lose mast, board and skin. The trick is to know when to give up trying to waterstart since this will just blow you onto the rocks. Instead sink your sail and let the sideshore current sweep you towards and then around the rocks. If a clean up set does not catch you and sweep you onto the rocks you will be in better wind or at least drift past rocks as you try to waterstart. Coming back to the beach is more difficult since it is hard to time the shorebreak.. The best bet if your timing is bad and the shorebreak is gnarly is to sail right into the sand, jump off and push with your mast so your board slides up the beach before the next wave breaks over you. Don’t worry…its only a wave fin. 

In summary: not the easiest launch around. You also have some of the most advanced and aggressive wave sailors in the world carving up those waves, so unless you are reasonable confident, aggressive and capable yourself then you probably won't be catching many rides.

Which is why Julia and I waited for a) a small but fun wave day b) a very windy day (I was on a 4.2 - think Gorge conditions) c) mostly past the photo-shoot season (though there was a photographer in the water) d) high-ish tide to make the reef less of an issue e) early afternoon with few sailors out.  Also our friend and excellent sailor (I read many of his how to jibe articles back in the day) Phil McGain was there to offer some encouragement.

In fact Phil gave Julia a big assist. It was very windy/gusty and we rigged a 4.2 for me, 3.7 for Julia.  Julia got to the beach first and was a bit shy about the launch.  She started in, saw a biggish shore break wave coming, then tried to step back.  Of course the wave broke and wanted to pull her in and she ended up struggling with her gear.  As in many similar situations, often you have to be aggressive and just go, but having heard so many stories about the shore break it was easy to be intimidated.  Phil took her gear, put it in the water and said "go now".  And she did!

As for me, I mounted my GoPro camera to document the experience.  I decided to be experimental and attached it to the front starboard boom looking forward.  I was thinking this would show the waves better, and in a few rare cases it sort of did.  But for the most part it captured empty choppy water. Very boring.  Also without the perspective of the board or anything else in the picture, it made both waves and loops look quite small. And besides all that, on my inside jibes I discovered that my back hand crosses over the boom right where the camera was mounted.  I literally grabbed or hit the camera on my first four or five jibes, which also happened to be close to the rocks and in a wind hole while bouncing over the top of waves which were headed for those same rocks.  Not like it was a very gnarly day or anything, but it was interfering enough to help me blow several of my first inside jibes.  I ended up modifying my jibe to go straight for the boom with both hands instead of my usual reach over.  Anyway, I won't be placing the camera there again anytime soon (ever)!

But I did have a success, realizing one of my Hookipa dreams.  On my first reach out, on the first wave I encountered, I threw a forward.  It was very windy and I over rotated a bit and ended up in the water.  But still! I really wanted to do that.  So the video below is very short, but does provide (I hope) a tiny bit of an idea of what sailing Hookipa is like on a very windy, small wave day. Woo-hoo!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kanaha video

We had a great day of sailing last Thursday at Kanaha and I had a GoPro mounted to my boom to capture some of the fun. I was on a 4.7 so the wind was in that nice 25ish range, and there were decent waves to go with it. Occasionally the outer reef would break, though you really can't see that from the video. The GoPro has a wide angle lens, which does a great job of capturing the most action, but definitely diminishes the visual appearance of the waves. Many of the waves you can see in the video are actually overhead, though they look about half that.

Also this is from a standard def GoPro. After seeing Sean's video, I realized how much better resolution the HD model provides, despite the compression that Vimeo (or YouTube) apply to the video after the upload. I haven't had this GoPro more than 6 months and it's already obsolete! Such is life in the hi-tech lane.

As you can see from the action, I threw a lot of forward loops. It's really my only wave sailing "trick" and still a bit new to me, so like a new toy I play with it often. In fact I was very happy to land one on my initial reach over weird wave. Turns out that weird wave is great for looping in the right conditions since you can sail downwind to hit it and it forms very consistently. It has to be a decent size though (3-5 ft is best) and try to hit the last one in a set so if you crash you won't spend the next 15 minutes trying to get out of the triangle.

As for looping in general, after sailing for 15+ years (at age 50) I finally decided to give them a real try about two summers ago, and as everyone who does them always says, they're really not that hard. Really! I was thinking about a post just on my experiences with learning to forward, but for now, just the video. Hope you find it mildly interesting. Cheers!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slogging to over powered - it's all good cause we got waves

This past weekend the wind was light and on-shore. This was caused by an abnormal gale low NE of Maui. But this unwanted guest was given a firm boot as our friendly sub tropical high has taken over the preferred location NE of us. Actually it might have been a bit to firm. Yeah, now we have a bit too much wind - more on that in a sec. Anyway you can see the exciting sequence of weather events below.

So the wind went from total 5.3 slogging on Saturday, to somewhat slogish on Sunday, to nicely powered 4.7 on Monday, and on to OMG-WTF 4.2 conditions the past two days. Yes, here in Maui lots of wind isn't necessarily a good thing - unlike the Gorge where we (I) pray for 4.0 (or 3.7) conditions. Which we get quite often during Gorge summers BTW.

So here's a look at how the wind progressed over the last few days.

I was on a 5.3 totally slogging from 2-4. Wind avg. 16,14-20 @3pm = slog!

5.3 mostly slogging 1-2 then the wind picked up slightly and was planing. Wind 19,16-23 @3pm = good!

4.7 fully powered 1-4. Wind 25,20-28 @3pm = 4.7 right on

4.2 fully powered 1-3, then overpowered. Wind 33,25-38 = 4.2 too much!

And we had some nice waves on Tuesday from an "edge pass" swell. If you look at the Friday map above you can see a storm that's far away north of the Aleutians that generated this. An edge pass means the swell was not aimed directly at us so we're just getting some angular spreading. Not the real deal. Initially they thought this might generate 8-12 ft waves, and there might have been a few of those, but for the most part it was smaller. Such is life with an edge pass swell. Plus we had those nuking winds to contend which sometimes made it hard to even see the waves through all the spray and chop. Yeah, yeah, we have big problems here on Maui :).

However on Thursday we're supposed to get a much cleaner swell. You can see the system on Sunday that generated this. The storm is closer, bigger and there's a much longer fetch, with some of those lines pointed more or less at HI. So we're expecting bigger, nicer waves today. Woo-hoo! As for the wind, hopefully not as crazy as the last few days, but you never know. Still forecasting "fresh-strong" trades.

I had a chance to sneak up to Hookipa on Wednesday and took some more windsurfing porn shots for you. We had off and on rain showers (and rainbows) with up and down gusty conditions in the late afternoon (Kanaha was mostly sunny and very windy earlier in the day). The pros are still here and the photo shoots are still going on. I'm amazed at how much action can be packed into a little time and space. I took all these shots in about an hour, between 3:30 and 4:30. As you can see, still a bit crowded at Hoo. But lots going on. Enjoy!

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