Back in early 2004, I invented the SUP downwinders.
I know it sounds quite arrogant (don't I always sound arrogant?), but if you did a downwinder before that, let me know and I won't claim it anymore...
One day I'll write an article to describe how it happened and what kind of routine I came up with in order to be able to do downwinders without needing a ride back. I did that all summer and that led me to win the first official downwind paddling race with an SUP division.
After a while I got over them and moved on to something else, but lately I've been doing a hell lot of them: 5 in the last 5 days!
It's a great therapy for my healing foot and it's way more fun than those boring exercises that the physical therapist gave me. The rougher the water is, the more I engage all those little muscles in the feet that need to be awaken after such a long sleep.
Not having a downwind board (my Kazuma 9.3x27.5 is not exactly the best board for it), I went to the lifeguards at Kanaha, to which last year I donated my historical 12.6 Timpone, and asked them if I could have it back for a couple of months.
It weighs a ton and it's clearly not the fastest board, but it's 26 inches wide (or should I say narrow) and the balance on it is extremely challenging. Great! The more challenging, the better for my foot.
My plan is to do a downwinder a day (ok, maybe 5 a week is more realistic) for the next month or so and eventually enter the Naish race on July 18th... I stand no chances because in the meantime specialized race boards have proliferated, but the whole north shore will probably do the race and it would be fun to just hang out with friends.
It's not always easy to find someone to organize a downwinder with (you need a ride back) and even though there's now a shuttle service for canoe and SUP downwinders ($10 per ride), I found a cheaper and more often available way... the Maui bus! One dollah!
Here's my routine.
Every morning I drop my board on the beach at Kuau. It's a very safe neighborhood and no one would steal it (also because of its weight and age).
Then I go home (100 yards from the beach) and load my bicycle on my car. I drive to work in Kahului and work my 4 hours shift (when I say life is too short work 8 hours a day, I mean it!) from 10 to 2.
When I'm done, I drive to Kanaha, park the car, and with the bike I go to the airport and catch the bus at 2.40. The only risk is that there's already two bikes on the bus rack. In that case, I have two options: go back to the beach and hang out 1.5 hours waiting for the next bus or pedal my way against the wind to Kuau. Good luck with that on my bike!
When I get to Kuau, I drop the bike at home, walk to the beach and start my downwinder there. Getting in the water with a 35 pounds board in the strong wind on the slippery rocks is by far the toughest part of it, but it's a old board and I almost slide it on the rocks...
Once in the water, the magic starts.
Now, let me state this very clear. Even though I know plenty people that absolutely love downwinders more than any other sport activity and even though I enjoy them a lot too (otherwise there would be no such post), one good wave ridden on a regular surfboard is for me source of more fun then an hour of paddling downwind.
You do catch glides when downwinding, but you pretty much go straight, don't do any turns, don't hit any lips.
It's a completely different game, in which your goal is to try to catch as many windwaves as possible and stay with them as long as possible.
What I like about the downwinders is that from the moment I start to the moment I arrive, my focus is entirely dedicated to keeping the front of the board barely out of the water and adjusting the speed trying not to poke the next wind wave in front.
It's as close as I can get to meditation. Absolutely no time to think about anything else. Once in a while I have to look more forward to see if I'm going in the right direction or if I'm approaching an outside reef that is breaking (there's a couple of them on the way and I try to stay away from them), but most of the time I watching and analyzing the water between the front of the board and 10 feet ahead of it.
That's what my universe is reduce to during downwinders and I found it extremely refreshing not to let the mind wonder over any of the artificially created thoughts that I would otherwise be thinking (how's the NBA game going to be tonight, I need groceries for dinner, what kind of camera lens should I buy, when is my foot going to be 100% normal again, etc...).
Downwinders are not spectacular. Nonetheless, my friend Bill did an excellent job in documenting one, but watching it and doing it are two really different things.
Anyway, here's his remarkable effort.
As the title clearly suggests, the cranking wind lately has made for some of the best runs ever.
Here's yesterday's wind graph from iWindsurf.com.
And here's some unofficial new records.
A source of excellent tips and an overall very enjoyable site is Dave Kalama's blog.
A couple of windsurfing related links.
New issue of Windsurfer International.
Two high jump contests: the first one at the same time of the Pistol River wave bash, the second later in the Gorge.