The Silly Season

Summer is upon us. There's a lot less wind and more idle time. It's a dangerous and expensive time.

Summer is when you will make you most optimistic purchases: the gear you use once a decade. With light winds are you looking for a 9.5 sail? Are you bringing the old Mistral One Design out from the piles of stuff in the garage and sailing around in light air? Are you studying the latest trends in light air weapons - foils and super wide boards?

Optimistic airplane

Optimism isn't always a good idea.

Maybe you are. Me? This is when I buy that 70 liter wave board. Or the 3.7 that I might use if I'm ever at Hatteras when a tropical storm rolls through (don't laugh, it did happen to me. Once.) My mind starts to fantasize as a way of dealing with my withdrawal from regular shortboard sessions. What would I use in 30-45 mph winds? What board would be best for learning a Spock or Vulcan? This last question is important because I fantasize that someday, I'll learn some shortboard freestyle moves. Truth is that I've been working on duck jibes for 15 years with little progress. I blame my short arms but my reluctance to get wet in winter is certainly a factor.

3.3 in action

Chris Campbell on a 3.3. If history holds, he'll use it again in 2019

Day after day you resist temptation. But, inevitably you snap. Late at night, you spy a good deal, maybe a "Buy It Now" on ebay and, before you realize what happened, out comes the credit card. You delete the confirmation email to hide any evidence of your deed and figure out a way to intercept the UPS guy/gal before they drop off the package at the front door.

Now you have a real problem - where to put your new toy where the significant other won't notice. They are tired of stumbling over sails and masts; tired of smelly neoprene; and really can't understand why you need four boards more than replacing the old dishwasher that won't clean the dishes.

Kiters yap all the time about how their gear is better because it fits into a car. BS. Their real advantage is that they can hide that new 11m kite in the back of a closet until fall. New kiteboard? No problem, stick it under one of the kids' beds. No child goes looking under a bed because of the remote possibility that there really is a monster under there (or, is that just a myth propagated by kiting parents?)

monsters under the bed

Calvin's Dad kited, I think.

Windsurfers have a tougher time. Where do you stash something eight feet long where it doesn't arose suspicion? If it is discovered, how do you explain it? Here are some strategies:

Um, it's for a friend
If congressmen caught in a compromising situation can use this one, why not us?

"The new board? Oh, it's for Joe. He lives in a gated apartment complex and UPS doesn't deliver big packages so he asked if they could deliver it here so nothing could happen to it and I told him that you wouldn't mind and he'll pick it up this weekend, no next weekend because he's got to visit his mother this weekend so I told him it's okay."

Note the long run-on sentence. This is intentional. You want to continue your explanation until you are absolutely sure that the SO has totally lost any interest in what you have to say. You may have to practice holding your breath in a pool to perfect this technique. It also helps to actually have a friend named Joe that they aren't particularly fond of as it helps them not to want to hear any more about it.

Paint it Black (or white)
Not only was it a hit for the Rolling Stones back in the Dark Ages but it remains good advice: Try to buy everything so they match as much as possible. Masts are easy. They almost always are black and annoyingly long. It's very easy to throw in another top and bottom with no one the wiser. And if it comes in another color? paint it black.

Own a couple of white boards? Your next board should be white as well. If it's not white, a can of white spray paint is two bucks and cheap price to save your relationship. Sails are more difficult to match but it doesn't matter. The only important part is that the sail bag color matches. If you have three green bags stacked in the corner of the garage, hiding a fourth behind them is easy. And yes, the fourth will fit easily behind because it's that 3.7 you hope to use, remember?

N + 1
This is a strategy of strength. The important part is to have enough crap, er, gear that adding another bit is completely imperceptible. This is also known as the "Milky Way" strategy. If you looked up at the stars on a clear night, would you ever know if there was a new star up there? No, you wouldn't. If you have enough fins, another one is similarly just a drop in the proverbial bucket.

It's for you, dear
This is a bold strategy. Remember that 3.7? You don't try to hide it. No, you openly declare "it's for you, dear. It'll be easier for you to learn."

Let's ignore the fact that most 3.7s are cut way too flat to work in light air. The crushing truth is that your SO has zero interest in following you down the path of darkness known as windsurfing. They see no appeal in going for a swim in January. They don't want to be beholden to the weather forecast. This gambit depends on you having a sincere enough smile that that they think you mean it. At that point, they will change the subject as fast as possible before they have to awkwardly decline to spend a week in Avon in the off season when there isn't a thing to do.

I deserve it
We mention this strategy only to warn you that it's a disaster in the making. You were off windsurfing all spring while your SO did work around the house or shuttled the kids. And now, you have the temerity to insist that you deserve a new piece of kit? Yeah, good luck with that.

the Titanic

You deserve a ticket on ths ship. Bring a life vest, though.

Stay safe and put the credit card away. It's a long time until September.


This is something I've been struggling to write for a week - the passing of Stephan Els. I'm still stuck on the denial stage of grief and probably will be for a while. I still have his emails where we talked about some boards that he wanted to look at when he got back from South Africa - where he was when he died. In my mind, I'm still awaiting his return.

I was in Cocoa Beach last Monday. I'd driven down to pick up some gear that friends had down there and hoped I could bring back to Atlanta and sell. One board, in particular, I thought would be great for Stephan and a big part of my motivation to drive eight hours down there. I picked up the gear in the morning and spent all afternoon at Kelly Park windsurfing. There'd been a couple of kitefoilers and a windsurf foil down there so after packing up and seeing that I'd missed Chris Voith's call, I was excited to call back and tell him what I'd seen and learned (Chris is learning to windsurf foil). I rang Chris up and babbled for five minutes about "foil this" and "foil that". Then Chris paused and asked if I'd seen the web site that day. "Was it down? Did it get hacked?"

Chris began, "It's about Stephan Els."

When you get to a certain age, you can almost tell beforehand what is coming. I don't know why or how but it's a sense. Chris began to tell me and I rushed out, "and he's okay, right?" to dispel my fears but the news was very certain and undeniably tragic. After I hung up with Chris, I sat in my van, with the board that I hoped Stephan would like, and looked out at the water through watery eyes.

I'd met Stephan a few years ago at our Fall Classic when he first began to get back into windsurfing. He'd windsurfed as a teen growing up in S.A. and, now, here in the U.S, with family and job commitments, he was no longer able to pursue his other passion of paragliding so he began to dabble again in windsurfing. He was immediately one of those people whose company you enjoy.

It's those same commitments that encouraged him to make the best use of his time on the water. He'd go out when it was cold or barely enough wind because he couldn't be choosy about his time on the water. Like me, he ended up with a good bit of light wind equipment - wide boards and big sails - so we'd be on the water together when many of our windsurfing friends didn't even show up or were onshore waiting for stronger winds. Yet, quite often, these sessions turned out as memorable as any. Sometimes it was because on a chill winter day, we'd play with the big sail boats in the channel on Lake Lanier, or have an unexpected summer session with a warm breeze.

He was also my "partner in crime". Several times, we decided to take advantage of the upwind/downwind capability of our gear and go visit another part of the lake. We'd go from Tidwell up to Van Pugh or from Sunrise Cove to Van Pugh. It was great fun even when, more than a few times, the wind died and getting home was a chore. It was still a laugh and the feeling the day was well spent.

But, really the reason I enjoyed windsurfing with him so much wasn't just that he didn't mind rigging a big sail but his easy-going attitude and friendliness. It was fun to sail with him whether it was windy or not. It was just good to be in his company. I looked forward to his calls or texts on those days when the wind looked even the least bit promising: "Are you going?"

I always made the effort to ask him about his family when we were talking (usually while rigging). He was very devoted to his wife and sons. As much as he loved windsurfing - they came first. And, it's their loss that I'm the saddest about.

In reading what others have written about him, he touched others - friends, colleagues - in much the same way. And, in those comments, I was reminded that windsurfing was only just part of what he was and no matter how much time we shared, I wished that I'd shared more.

(Other club members comments on his passing)

Memorial site for updates and to share your photos and stories of Steph with Jocelyn and the boys. In lieu of flowers/gifts, his family asks you to give to the boy’s education fund.

Memorial service will be at 2pm, April 22nd at Dunwoody Baptist Church.
1445 Mt Vernon Rd, Dunwoody, GA 30338

Photos: Barrett Walker

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Winter and Spring Photos

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Windsurfers at Van Pugh

Through the efforts of Barrett Walker, Chris Voith and William Fragakis, we have some photos from the winter season and this past Saturday now up on the Foto Gallery.

Winter Spring 2016

April 2 2016