The end of July signifies the halfway point of our typical 8 month season here in WNY. This year, however, we got a bonus start to the season with March being so warm. That early start helped give us some jaw dropping numbers when we look at how much wind we have had so far. There have been 109 sessions on average windsurfing sail size of 4.9m since the beginning of the season. I didn't know that was even possible here in WNY. That's 5.5 days per week on a 4.9m sail. The lakes never froze which was a nice contributor to the early start. I have the starting date of the season as March 8 with air temp of 44 degrees at the beach during the session on that day. As a reminder, for purposes of these records, a session is only counted when winds are at least 15-20mph for at least one hour and air temp is at least 40 degrees. Remember, it doesn't need to be windy everywhere to get a great session. It only needs to blow at one beach. And it doesn't need to blow all day. We just need an hour to get a great session.
This year I also sorted the data to show the number of sessions over 50 degrees and 60 degrees. For sessions over 50 degrees we have had 69 sessions on average sail size 5.1m, and for sessions over 60 degrees we have had 55 sessions on average sail size 5.3m. Other interesting data points include 45 sessions on average sail size 3.7m. The top 30 sessions have an average sail size of 3.4m. That's a lot of wind!!! And we are only half way through the season.
The above numbers are for regular windsurfing only. Windsurf foiling, however, has changed the wind-chasing game for Lisa and me. The biggest change is that we do not have to drive as far. We can get more sessions closer to home with our range of small sail sizes because we don't need as much wind with the foil to have just as much, or more, FUN. We have found regular windsurfing to be one of the greatest pleasures in our life, but windsurf foiling has added an entirely new level of enjoyment and excitement. I can't even explain it!!! The feeling of floating on air while riding waves is incredible. The feeling of a 2.7m sail in your hands while carving back and forth above the water is surreal. I have completed 31 sessions on the foil, since I started learning, with average sail size 4.2m. To put that in perspective, that is average wind speed of 15.4mph and average gusts of 19.6mph. And this is with regular wave sails at my beginner level. Foil specific sails and improved skill would allow even smaller sail sizes to be used. The following page is dedicated to illustrating the learning process that an average intermediate windsurfer might expect when learning to foil (Windsurf Foiling Progress).
It has been a different season with the Canadian border closed. Windsurfers and kiteboarders who would normally spend the summer in Canada are limited to the U.S.A. There have been more riders at beaches here, but it's been really great to spend time with these folks. We had a couple of short wind droughts in May, June and July, but we have more than made up for it with the total number of sessions this season and the magnitude of wind. I'm excited to see what autumn has in store!
Today I completed session number 20 on my windsurf foil journey with a major break-thru for me. When Lisa and I set out on this adventure we were specifically interested in learning to ride waves in the open lake during the warm summer months when winds are often 15-20mph WSW. That magnitude is not quite enough for our regular windsurfing gear, but it seemed perfect for windsurf wave foiling.
Well, today, not only did I get to ride my foil on the open lake in 15-20mph, but I got some fantastic wave rides. I finally learned how to ride down the wave, let go of the sail with the back hand, and just flag the sail out. It's like surfing! My legs were so tired at the end of the session and my arms were fine. Kind of the opposite of regular windsurfing when my arms are tired and legs are fine. It's like a dream come true. 85 degrees, blue water, 15-20mph wind, and wave riding.
I still cannot jibe while up on the foil, but it shouldn't be too long before I figure it out now that I can ride down the wave with the sail flagged. At least I hope it won't be long. We'll see how it goes. Just keep in mind that an average windsurfer can get from zero to wave riding in 20 sessions. About 2 months. Stick with it, and keep pushing yourself. If I can do it, you can do it.
Eric L. Mihelbergel is an intermediate level windsurfer and kiteboarder living in the Great Lakes Region of New York State who enjoys writing about windsports and fitness.