Monday, March 30, 2015

Exocet WindSUP 11'8 and Cross 106 session

Saturday March 30th had some pretty good North / Northwest winds with small waves at Wiggins Pass State Park. I rigged a 6.4 sail and started out riding the Exocet WindSUP 11'8". When the wind picked up I switched to a smaller board, the Exocet Cross 106. The other windsurfer is Dr. Alex Owens. The music in the video is by The Qemists.

Cold Front 3-28-15 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SUP Racing, Jesus Lizards

I've really been having fun lately, albeit a masochistic variety of fun, with SUP racing and training. Yesterday I won another of the local Imperial River races put on by CGT Kayaks. A couple of the differences between this race and the last race were:

1) I'm now officially on the CGT "Race Team" so I have a cool blue jersey with the Caloosa tribal design on it. Being on the race team means that we're expected to do some out of town races this year, so I'll be reporting on that later.

2) We started in groups of four this time rather than being released individually, which made for tighter and more strategic competition. It definitely gets choppy with four people side by side all paddling as hard as they can. My fiercest competitor Ben Walker fell off in the cross chop and that helped me out early on. Of course later I fell, too, trying to weave through several German tourist kayakers blocking the upriver turn-around buoy.

After the race we did a Hawaii longboard surfer style photoshoot with some of the race team.

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Also, after the race we got to see a Jesus Lizard that shop owner "Caloosa" John had adopted. These are the famous water-walking lizards that can escape their predators by running so fast across the water that they don't sink in. Like many other tropical reptile species, they have been released into the wild and become a pest in Florida.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Pics of Windsurfing the 14' Fanatic Race SUP

The other day my wife Rhonda graciously came to the beach with me after work to take some pictures of me windsurfing the 14' Fanatic Falcon SUP that I recently converted into a windsurf. I would have gotten some onboard video, too, but I loaned my GoPro to my graduate student a couple months ago and haven't gotten it back yet. Anyway, the pics are below. It was a day with disorganized knee-high waves and 5-10 knot side-offshore winds, fading to 0-5 knots. I used a 6.4 sail.

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When the wind got to too light to get around with the sail I paddled for a bit. Man, trying to surf a race sup is hard. It's really tippy, it takes a long time to turn around, and when you do catch a wave it's hard not to crash. But it's fun.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Empress Game cover art- Deadly beautiful space woman

My wife Rhonda is a writer. Her latest book is called Empress Game. It's the first in a space opera trilogy that will be published by Titan Books. The book will be available in July, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The cover art has just been released and it looks like this.



I think it captures the badass spirit of the protagonist quite well. I'm not an unbiased reviewer, but I've read the book and I think it's awesome; fast-paced action and science-fiction intrigue with an unforgettable heroine. Needless to say I'm extremely proud of Rhonda.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SUP Race Results + Consecutive Days of Wind Awesomeness

While the weather gods have been smiting the Northeastern USA with blizzards, they have been blessing Southwest Florida with great wind and waves.

Friday 23 Jan- Caught the tail end of a warm SSW wind with a 6.4 sail and 106 liter board at Bonita Beach.

Saturday 24 Jan- Big NW wind and waves arrived at Wiggins Pass State Park. I sailed a 4.5 on my 83 liter Starboard Evo, keeping it conservative since I was out of tune after months with no high wind practice. Alex Owens and another windsurfer whose name I can't remember were there on 4.7 and 5.2, respectively.

Sunday 25 Jan- Did the CGT Paddleboard race in the morning. After that I was tired and the wind was light, but I knew the swell was good so I rallied and went to Wiggins to sup beautiful waves on the 10'4" Angulo Surfa. The only thing that was annoying was three @#$%@#$% jet-ski bozos bashing around in the best part of the break the whole time. Unfortunately with just two paddleboarders and no surfers in the water we couldn't really vote them out.

Monday 26 Jan- Big NW winds returned to Wiggins. Sailed late afternoon until sunset with a 4.2 on an 83 liter board. Yeehaw! I probably should have been on my 4.5 for a little more power, but the 4.2 is a newer sail with a much better feel than the 4.5. At some point I'll get rid of the 4.5 and get a quality 4.7 for better spacing- 4.2, 4.7, 5.5

Tuesday 27 Jan- Sailed 5pm until sunset on a 6.4 and 106 liter board in onshore wind and smallish waves. Good times.

I want to say a little more about the CGT paddle race because it actually went really well for me. There was a big turnout, with 30 people racing and a good bunch of spectators and supporters. I got second place overall, finishing in 0:45:00.

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The race committee ran the show in a "time trial" format, releasing one paddler at a time and keeping track of both start and finish times to calculate time elapsed. It was fun passing the paddlers who had started ahead of me, especially a few athletic-looking dudes on raceboards who had seemed intimidatingly fast at the starting line.

The winner and fastest racer by far was a 63 year old triathlete named Rand Perkins, who I figured averaged 5.83 mph to my 5.47 mph. We never passed each other going the same direction, but from what I saw he seemed to have an extremely rapid "cadence," meaning he was doing many strokes per minute but the length of each stroke was fairly short. I'm not sure if that's a technique than can work for anyone, or if you need to have triathlete level quickness and cardiovascular fitness, but I'll give it a try. Of course I also checked out Rand's board and asked him about it after the race. He said it's 23" wide, which is a definite speed advantage IF you can manage not to tip it over. To make it more stable the standing area is deeply recessed like in a canoe, with some vent holes in the side to let out any water that splashes in. Rand had custom-dug even deeper holes right under his feet to maximize the low-center-of-gravity effect. As cool as that looked, I'm inclined to stick with my current board and try to make some gains with more fitness and technique development.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Practicing for a race, weighing in on Butt Buoys

It has been a long time since the last CGT paddleboard race I did, which was in September. There was another in October but I missed it because I was out of town. Anyway, the races are starting up again on Sunday. I think they're going to be a different kind of experience this go-around, for a couple of reasons:

1. The race course is actually different. It's still on the Imperial River, and it's still 4.5 miles. However, instead of going way downriver then back up to Riverside Park, we'll go upriver, turn, go downriver, turn, and then come back to the start. That should make for more variety of scenery, more time under the shade of the trees, and more strategically challenging curves and turns. Hopefully CGT won't use "butt buoys" again to mark the turns and finish lines. Don't get me wrong- I like butts. Butts are a beautiful and useful part of the body. But in my opinion butt-shaped plastic buoys wearing bikini bottoms are in the same a-little-bit-funny-but-quite-a-bit-offensive category as the plastic testicles that people hang from their truck trailer hitches. It's not worth alienating any prospective sup race participants over something like that.

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2. I'm going to use a different board. Since September I've actually tried out two different 14' racing SUPs and settled on a Fanatic Falcon 27.25" wide model. It's not the absolute fastest flat-water SUP out there, and it may actually be a little slower than the 404 Zeedonk Pintail that I traded back to CGT, but it's definitely faster than the 11'8" Exocet WindSUP that I used in the summer races. My best average speed over 4.5 miles on the WindSUP is 4.96 mph, whereas it's 5.58 mph on the Falcon.

3. I've been practicing pretty hard and getting in better shape. I've gained about 0.6 mph from practicing, which is about equal to what I gained from getting the new board. My times have kind of plateaued recently, but I still think there's room for improvement in my technique and conditioning that could help me go faster. The folks who raced last year have been practicing even harder than me, but I'm cautiously optimistic that between my fancy board and training I'll be close to keeping up.

Below are some pictures my dad took of the current SUP setup in action:

This is the little creek near my house where I walk the board to launch it and paddle to the Imperial River.
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This is the bridge that was the starting line for the course last summer.
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This is me looking cool.
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This is paddling pretty hard.
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Curse of the In-Laws

My family loves my wife's family, and I think the feelings are mutual. But we seem to have picked up a curse. Now every time a member of one family visits the other, a terrible medical crisis must occur. It started last winter when my parents arrived in Florida just as Rhonda and were hospitalized with mega flu. Then when Rhonda's sister and brother-in-law visited, bro-in-law had to go to the ER with creepy chest pains (which turned out to be nothing, thank goodness). I kept the tradition up by arriving at my New England in-laws' this winter with a bad cold that segued into an abominable vomiting thing that forced me to delay my flight home. The worst came last week when my parents drove down to Florida from North Carolina. This time is wasn't Rhonda and I who got sick, but my mom. Her appendix burst on the first night here and we had to rush her to the hospital in dire condition. Fortunately, Dr. Brockman at North Collier Hospital diagnosed it and operated pretty quickly, probably saving her life. Still, I'm sure it was a bummer for my mom to be laid up uncomfortably for days in the hospital when she would have been swimming under the palm trees.

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Let's hope this is the last of it.