Saturday, October 11, 2014

Making the most of small waves on a 10'4" WindSUP

Last weekend we had our first "cold" front of the year in Southwest Florida, which means we had a day of 15-20 knot West winds followed by a day of 5-10 knot North winds and a small but rideable West swell.

On the windy day I used a 5.5 sail and alternated between my 106 liter board and my 83 liter board. It wasn't really windy enough to justify the small board; I just used it because I was excited that I could for the first time in a long time. The song in the video is by Dr. No's Oxperiment.

First Cold Front 10-4-14 from James Douglass on Vimeo.



On the swelly day I used a 6.4 sail and my modified 10'4" Angulo Surfa sailable SUP. The light power from the sail and the light power from the small waves added up to something that was pretty fun to play with. The song in the video is by Pearl Jam.

First Cold Front 10-5-14 v2 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gonna try a SUP race in Bonita Springs

I'm going to test my mettle next Saturday at a local paddleboard race. The race is part of a series hosted by "Calusa Ghost Tours," a local kayak/sup outfitter. The proceeds from the race fee will fund the Bonita Springs Historical Society, which is doing some things that I really like, such as helping raise money to preserve the old-timey Everglades Wonder Gardens zoo/park/art-gallery in my neighborhood.

The race is a 4.5 mile round trip down and back up a section of the black-water Imperial River. It's the same area I usually paddle when the wind and surf are down and I just need to get on the water.

I'll use the Exocet WindSUP 11'8" with a small weed-fin. Even though the WindSUP is heavy, it has good glide and I think it will paddle faster on flat water than my Angulo 10'4". I tried the course last night and finished in 1:08 paddling pretty close to as hard as I could. I would need to be finishing about 20 minutes faster to win the race, based on the previous winners times, but I think I'll at least be able to stay somewhere in the pack. I'm going to make it a personal goal (maybe a long term goal) to bring my time down to 1:00 even. To help me towards that end I'll need to practice my padding technique and improve my cardiovascular fitness and core strength. I'm also trying a technological fix, by shortening my paddle by about 20 cm. (Since I got the paddle it has definitely been too long, but I never bothered to adjust it because I wasn't trying to maximize by paddling speed or anything.) We'll see how it all works out.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mast-Mount Cam WindSUP Session

Last week we had a about a day and half where the Gulf of Mexico actually produced some 10-15 knot onshore wind and 1-2' waves. I made the most of it Thursday with a 6.4 sail on the modified 10'4" Angulo Surfa. The tide was ebbing, so there were some interesting gorge-effect swells blending with the breaking waves in and around the inlet at Wiggins Pass. I filmed the sesh with a mast-mounted GoPro. The song in the video is "Brother Sport" by Animal Collective.

Mast Mount Angulo WindSUP 7-29-14 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summertime Single-Digit Winds in SW Florida

The Gulf of Mexico is vast body of water; 1.6 million km2; more than 6 times larger than all of the Great Lakes combined.

The beaches of Southwest Florida are utterly exposed to the vastness of the Gulf; open to 180 degrees of wind from North to West to South and up to 1600 km of fetch for the buildup of waves.

And yet, during our long, hot summer, the ocean is *literally* as flat as a pond. We're too far south to get the West winds of the temperate zone, and we're facing the wrong way to get the East winds and waves of the tropics. Check out the iwindsurf.com wind forecast for my local beach. Single digits as far as the eye can see.

 photo julywind_zps2090aa47.jpg

But there's always hope! You never know when the afternoon thunderstorms might develop slowly enough for a sticky seabreeze to break that 10 knot threshold for formula windsurfing fun, or when an unusual frontal system or nearby tropical storm might turn the winds onshore and raise some choppy swells. In the meantime, I'm getting a lot of work and reading done.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'm Married - Woo Hoo! + Snorkeling Videos

About three years ago I met Rhonda Mason on a date in downtown Boston. I knew almost instantly that she was the one for me, but it naturally took some time to convince her that I was the one for her. When we were dating, Rhonda helped me find my current marine biology professor job in Florida. After I interviewed and got the job I asked her to marry me and move South. She said yes! We were fiances for two years, then on the 21st of June, 2014 we had a big, wonderful wedding near her hometown in New Hampshire. I am SO HAPPY!



For our honeymoon we decided to do it by car, since we already live in the tropical paradise of Florida, and we could take more water toys with us that way. (Shortly prior to the wedding we had replaced my red rusty minivan with a fresh blue minivan with working AC - luxurious!) The first couple nights we stayed at the Hampton Inn at Manatee Bay, Key Largo. In seagrassy Tarpon Basin behind the hotel is where I shot this snorkeling video. We also snorkeled on the reefs near Key Largo from the charters at Pennekamp State Park.

Keys Tarpon Basin 2014 from James Douglass on Vimeo.



For the second part of the honeymoon we stayed further west at Parmer's Resort on little torch key (see hammock picture).

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We snorkeled near shore at Bahia Honda State Park, on Looe Key Reef via a charter boat, and at Fort Jefferson after riding out to that Historic Fort island on the Yankee Freedom II ferry. This video, mostly shot by Rhonda is a compilation from all our reef snorkeling trips.

Florida Keys Honeymoon Reef Snorkeling 2014 from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ingebritsen's Favorite Board (of all time, by far)

It's the Exocet Kona/Curve 11'5, ridden here by Exocet Boss Patrice Belbeoch...



*****

Two important types of people in the windsurfing world are "team riders" and "gear reps."

Team riders are highly skilled professional windsurfers who travel around to competitions, video and photo shoots, etc. Their "team" is the windsurfing equipment manufacturer that sponsors them with free gear, stipends, etc.

Example of a team rider, Venezuelan Jose "Gollito" Estredo, for Fanatic Boards and North Sails.  photo GollitoSum_zps6cdfce3d.jpg

Gear representatives (reps) are usually amateur aficionados who get discounts from the windsurfing gear manufacturer they represent, in exchange for helping show-and-tell and sell the gear.

Example of a gear rep, John Ingebritsen for Exocet Boards and Aerotech Sails.
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Among the average Joes and Janes of windsurfing, there's a slight suspicion of gear reps. We figure the reps are likely to present a positively biased view of the gear they represent, and a negatively biased view of other manufacturers' gear.

One of the more recognizable reps in US windsurfing scene (i.e. in the iwindsurf.com forums) is John Ingebritsen (pictured above) from Florida. Ingebritsen reps for Exocet boards (based in France and run by Patrice Belbeoch) and Aerotech sails (based in Daytona Beach, Florida and run by Steve Gottlieb). John is outspoken and opinionated about windsurfing gear and styles, but his biases don't always fall in line with Exocet and Aerotech's offerings. He loves some of their stuff, but complains about their other stuff no less harshly than he would a competitor's gear. Likewise, if there's something from another brand that he likes, he won't shoot it down. While I don't always have the same gear preferences as John, I definitely trust him to say what he really thinks.

One thing he says is that the Exocet Kona 11'5 carbon was the best light-wind waveboard ever- fast in both planing and non-planing mode, light and stiff, able to catch small mushy waves but also able to shred big heavy waves, etc.

Ingebritsen doing a backside aerial on the 11'5 carbon.
Photobucket

Ingebritsen wasn't as excited about the successor to the 11'5; Exocet's 10'2 WindSUP, which he says was too SUP oriented to work well for wavesailing in light, onshore winds. (Although some other riders seem to really like the feel of the 10'2; particularly those who sail in stronger sideshore or side-off winds.)

Anyway, Ingebritsen recently begged Exocet to make some more Kona 11'5 carbon editions. They said they'll do it, but only if they get 15 orders. Ingebritsen himself has ordered 3 (a "lifetime supply," he says), so that leaves 12 more. I'm not going to get once since I have a new minivan and college loans to pay off, and I already have two step-tailed longboard waveboards that work fine. But you should think about it. There's a discussion thread on the board on iwindsurf: http://www.iwindsurf.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=28509 To put your name on the order list, contact Steve Gottlieb, sailaero@aol.com.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 2014 Caloosahatchee Seagrass Fieldwork Slideshow

NOTE: This is a very sciencey post, which is also presented on my pure-science blog, http://drdouglass.blogspot.com/ I haven't quite figured out yet what kind of posts I'll put just on my science blog, just on this jimbo blog, or on both blogs. I guess it depends on how interested my windsurfing followers are in science, which will be indicated by their comments or the lack thereof.

Since 2013 I've been working under a contract with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to monitor Submersed Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) in the Caloosahatchee Estuary. "SAV" includes seagrasses, which live in saltwater, but it also includes freshwater plants that resemble seagrasses. There are two main reasons to monitor SAV:

1. SAV provides valuable "ecosystem services" such as creating food and habitat for animals (and fishing opportunities for humans), improving water clarity, removing excessive nutrients and carbon dioxide, and reducing erosion.

2. SAV is extremely sensitive to water quality, so changes in the amount of SAV can indicate pollution or other problems in the water environment that need to be addressed.

The Caloosahatchee Estuary has historically supported healthy beds of SAV both in the saltwater part where it joins the Gulf of Mexico and in the fresher part around the city of Fort Myers and upriver. Different species of SAV are typically found in the different parts of the estuary; seagrasses near the Gulf of Mexico, and freshwater "tapegrass" in the more inland part of the estuary. Man-made changes in pollution and salinity levels may affect SAV differently in the different parts of the estuary, so we monitor SAV at seven different spots along the length of the estuary.

The red writing on this map shows the seven sites where we monitor the abundance and health of SAV. The yellow writing shows where water quality (salinity, temperature, pollution, etc.) is measured. Collecting all this data allows us to relate changes in SAV to changes in water quality.
CRE SAV Study Sites photo CRESAVstudysites_zps455c6864.jpg

SAV has declined recently in some parts of the Caloosahatchee Estuary, with the worst declines being in the fresh and brackish parts where there's virtually no tapegrass anymore. Unstable salinity levels and murky, polluted water, which are both related to human activities in the land areas that drain into the estuary, are largely to blame.

Keeping track of SAV health over such a large area is a big job, especially with the rigorous monitoring and bookkeeping methods required to meet the high standards of the SFWMD. For example, at each of the seven monitoring sites we survey, we assess seagrass characteristics at 30 random points sprinkled over an area the size of a football field. Each point has its own designated Latitude and Longitude coordinates, and we use waterproof GPS units to find the points. This year we are also entering data directly into specialized "Trimble" GPS units, which seemed like a lot of trouble at first but is OK now that I've reallocated some money from the SFWMD to hire extra helpers. With me plus a paid research technician, plus two paid graduate students, plus a small army of unpaid undergraduate interns, we now have this fieldwork on LOCK. We got our May SAV (Submersed Aquatic Vegetation) monitoring for the SFWMD done with speed and style, and even had the time to take pictures while were out there (See slideshow below).

The SAV in the lower Caloosahatchee Estuary looked thick and healthy in May relative to its sparse abundance earlier in the year. However, the epiphytic algae growing on it was quite thick in places- possibly indicating excessive nutrient inputs from humans or a deficiency of algae-eating animals. In the upper Caloosahatchee Estuary the submerged aquatic vegetation remained very sparse.