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.
June was pretty good. Perhaps the best part of June was that it didn't bubbled much, as several of you recently mentioned at the beach. June is often known for warm air and cool lake temps resulting in a bubble, but not much this year. We had some warm air temps, but the water was also warm. We saw 22 sessions on an average windsurfing sail size of 5.3m and board size 96 liters. That's over 5 days per week. The average air temp at the lakeside during those sessions was 68.9 degrees. Just beautiful weather!
About two-thirds of my June sessions were on the foil. Lisa and I have been slowly improving. Our last session of June was on 3 foot rolling waves with the foil in the open Lake. So fun! We scored a couple sweet NE and NW sessions in June, while the remainder of our sessions were predominantly SW.
This foil thing has opened up a whole new world for our windsurfng. With the foil you can go wherever you want because you have such an incredible capability to get upwind and downwind with ease. It's very little effort. You can check out a cove or a bay, and then easily get back to where you started. One day in Rochester I was practicing my upwind technique. When I got out in the open lake the shoreline all looked the same when I turned around. I didn't pay much attention to it until I decided to take a break. I didn't know where the van was parked. I came into the beach and walked to the road. I was about a half mile upwind of the van and I wasn't even trying all that hard to get upwind. It's really pretty cool.
Summer has just begun, so enjoy it!
So, now, after 13 sessions of windsurf foiling (see session #13 video HERE) I am starting to gather further insight into sail size comparisons, technique, and possibilities.
With better technique comes a more realistic sense of possibilites. My pumping technique has improved significantly, which means I don't need to rely on big gusts of wind to get on foil. My 4.7m sail with the foil makes me totally powered up when others guys are on 8.5m sails with regular gear (probably 7.5m sail for me with regular gear at my weight). Two weeks ago it seemed like I needed a 5.3m sail when they were on 8.5m sails, but that is NOT the case anymore. A 4.7m sail is more than enough sail to blast on while other guys are on 8.5m sails. And, when others are on 6.5m sails with regular gear (probably 5.7m sail for me with regular gear at my weight) I can blast on a 3.7m sail with the foil. It's a pretty cool deal! Of course, all of this depends on the foil gear as well. Click here to learn about Our Windsurf Foil Gear and Why.
I am also learning upwind technique better which means I can now go upwind at a much steeper angle than riders on regular windsurfing gear. I have learned to get my heels to the edge of the board and lean the board over to the windward side. At the same time, I move the front hand back to the harness line to open the front of the sail and really power it up, while sheeting in with the back hand. The kit just flies upwind. By riding upwind at a steeper angle I then have more opportunity to play around on waves when going downwind without losing ground. The downwind technique is a different animal though. When going downwind and wave riding you have to take a big step forward with the front foot and move the rear foot across the board a little. Once you do this you have much better control over the board for wave riding and downwind maneuvers.
Well, that's it for today. Have fun on the water!
Everyone keeps saying what a tremendous season it has been so far. I checked that monthly data for May and the data agrees!
The month of May delivered 24 sessions on average sail size of 4.9 meters and average air temperature of 54.1 degrees. The season on the whole has delivered 63 sessions on average sail size 4.6 meters and average air temperature 48.7 degrees. That is simply spectacular!
The month of June is starting off well with wind predicted for both June 1 and 2. Honestly, I can't keep up with all the sessions. Now that we have the foil I could pretty much ride almost every day on a 5.0 meter sail or smaller. I got caught complaining the other day that there was too much wind and I couldn't foil. Lol. I almost had to slap myself. The last couple years have been so windy that I really don't need a foil, but it is just so much fun that I now find myself sometimes going to places where the wind does not blow as hard just so that I can have a better chance to foil. That is certainly a change in perspective for me.
There are a couple sessions of photos from May if you click here, and a couple sessions of videos if you click here. There is also an update of my windsurf foiling progress if you click here. Have fun out there!
Now that Lisa and I have started our journey of windsurf foiling, people have started asking about the gear we have selected and why we selected it. Let me start by saying that we have limited experience foiling and limited experience with our gear thus far. However, there is still much insight that I can give based on our recent experience, research, and intentions. For two years, I watched everybody else on their windsurf foiling journeys before we pulled the trigger. I listened to what they said they did wrong. I watched to see what worked for them. I researched just about everything out there. Finally, we just had to do it!
Our intentions are specifically geared toward Windsurf Wave Foiling. This is a discipline that is very different from most aspects of windsurf foiling. There are only a handful of riders in the world that are dedicated to Windsurf Wave Foiling. Fortunately for us, the east end of Lake Erie is home to the founders of Windsurf Wave Foiling. We are very, very lucky. The discipline of Windsurf Wave Foiling has a very different stance, technique and approach compared to other windsurf foiling disciplines. The stance is more upright and over the board. It is more about surfing than windsurfing. There are basically 4 categories of windsurf foiling: Windsurf Wave Foiling, Windsurf Freeride Foiling, Windsurf Freestyle Foiling, and Windsurf Race Foiling. You can learn more about the four disciplines here Four Different Windfoiling Types. While Lisa and I are most interested in the wave aspect, the gear we have selected, which is specific to Windsurf Wave Foiling, is also excellent for learning the basics of all windsurf foiling disciplines, and it has been a blast for Windsurf Freeride Foiling thus far. Let's get into specifics more.
The board we are using is a modified SUP foil board called Top Gun (model Iceman) designed and built by local Buffalo board shaper Casey Treichler (https://www.reefwarriorsboards.com/foilboard). It is 7 feet long, 31 inches wide, and 120 liters. You will notice from the two pictures below that there is about a 14 inch tail behind the tuttle box, which is very different from most windsurf foil boards you have likely seen. This tail makes it a wave catching machine and offers more float and volume for uphauling and more float and length for early planing. The sharp edge behind the tuttle box allows quick release of water from the board surface to improve planing. There is also a channel down the middle to help the board track straight when pumping and when getting on plane.
You will also notice that the board is strapless. This makes it very easy for learning because you are not tripping on anything. There are markers on the board that you can easily feel with your feet so you know that you feet are in the correct position. We have only used the board in freeride situations so far, but when we get into waves we are excited to have the freedom of not having foot straps so we can move around on the board to adjust for different conditions. While this board works well in freeride conditions, it is not really about freeride foiling. We are not interested in having our feet locked in one place. We ultimately want to ride waves on days when the wind is 12-20mph without needing to use the sail much. The intention is more of a 'surfing' experience rather than a windsurfing experience. That is what makes this such a different discipline. It's not so much about the wind power as it is the wave power and foil power. Even in the few freeride sessions we have had, I've already found that the foil is more useful than the sail. Even at my early stage of learning, I can move my feet around the board to get in a better position for pumping the foil, and then move my feet again once I'm up on the foil. Your feet are so free. It is very versatile and comfortable
Our foil selection came with the same intentions in mind. In the picture below you will see our GoFoil (https://www.gofoil.com/) which has a 29.5 inch mast and 1922sq. cm. front wing. This setup is designed for early lift, wave riding, and small sails. It is also great for learning, and it is pretty fast, although not as fast as a freeride foil. But, we have no interest in going fast as a dedicated discipline. We want to foil waves in light wind with small sails. So far, the biggest sail I have used is 5.3m in 12mph wind with gusts of 15mph. Once I improve a little more, I expect that 4.7m is the largest sail I will be using. It's that efficient. I was on a 4.2m sail just the other day in about 15mph wind with 18mph gusts, and I felt over-powered. Small sails make everything so maneuverable. Even on my wave board I strive toward small sails because it makes the wave experience that much more maneuverable. You don't have the advantage of a foil on a traditional wave board, so you need power from the sail, but a small sail still equals greater maneuverability.
This foil system has a mast with a wide chord for extra stiffness. Stiffness means efficiency. It has a head fit for a deep tuttle box, and the mast/fuselage is one piece, again for stiffness. The wings attach with one screw each, and the tuttle box has the usual two bolts. It takes a total of four minutes to assemble the foil, get the board out of the van, and attach the foil to the board. I timed it several times. You do NOT need to mess around with 14 bolts of different sizes and waste time with gear assembly. You don't need to figure out which end of the fuselage you want to use for wing placement. You don't need to adjust the pitch of the rear wing. None of that. It's just plug and play!!! And, it's very light.
It is still too early to give a final verdict on gear as we have just begun this journey. Thus far, the gear has been perfect for learning and for freeride. It's very easy to ride and quick to assemble. And, judging by the high performance riders who are using this exact same set-up, I think it will prove to be the best gear available in the discipline of Windsurf Wave Foiling. Stayed tuned for more good stuff. Enjoy!
Today was session number 6 in the quest to learn how to windsurf foil. Again on 5.3m sail, but this time with a little more wind of maybe 12mph with gusts of 18mph. The wind was a little on/off, but I felt like I made great progress.
The biggest accomplishment today was learning how to steer. Yesterday, I was instructed that steering on the foil is done with the back foot. So, today I tried it. Works GREAT!!! Get the board level, and just a little pressure with the toes or heel of the back foot and you can go wherever you want. I was pretty excited about learning something so simple. A few more sessions and I feel like I'll be able to start banking the board a little bit with the turn. The water is still pretty cold, so I'm trying not to try too many new things and crash. The video below is Session #4 in you missed seeing it.
The next area of accomplishment today was in sustained riding up on foil. During this session I was able to comfortably stay on foil the whole time between tacks. On starboard tack I was able to drop the back hand, but not the front hand. On port tack I was able to drop the front hand but not the back hand. I couldn't figure out how to do it the same both ways, but I'm sure the solution will present itself soon.
Today's session was about an hour or a little less. That's a good amount of time to make progress without getting tired to the point where I pick up bad habits. I remembered an article I wrote a few months ago called Continuing To Improve. I went back and read it again. It reminded me how important it is to deliberately pay attention to your body parts and what they are doing. When I'm more aware of my body parts I improve faster. This is a very fun journey!
If you have read my previous blog post, April, Windy But Chilly, dated April 30 2020, you learned that for the 2020 season I decided to add 2 categories to the wind log. These 2 categories include days that are over 50 degree air temp and days that are over 60 degree air temp. As you may recall, I generally record data for days when air temps are over 40 degrees and the wind blows at least 15-20mph+ for at least one hour. By sorting that data a little further, the additional categories of 50+ and 60+ degree days can be useful to those riders who only ride on warmer days.
Since it is not that difficult to sort the data, I decided to go back and do the same thing for 2019. The results are actually very interesting, and almost surprising. Here are the results:
2019- 40+ degree days: 159 days, with average sail 5.0m, equates to 4.5 days per week
50+ degree days: 136 days, with average sail 5.0m, equates to 3.9 days per week
60+ degree days: 102 days, with average sail 5.2m, equates to 2.9 days per week
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I am surprised to see that sail size is actually not much different in the warmer categories. My hunch was that the category including the colder 40+ degree days would reveal a smaller sail size, but that is not really the case. For the 50+ degree days the sail size is the same as for 40+ degree days. For 60+ degree days the sail size is only slightly larger. Of course, there are fewer number of days at the warmer air temps which is obviously expected.
Maybe you find this helpful and interesting. Have fun on the water!
April has come and gone, but along it's path was a month of very good wind. Air temperatures, however, were not so friendly. The month of March spoiled us a bit with the warm air. A local meteorologist reported that Jan-March of 2020 was the warmest for that 3-month period since 1939. April, well, brrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
In spite of the chilliness there were 24 days of at least 15-20mph+ wind for at least one hour with over 40 degree air temps. The average sail size on those 24 days was 4.5m. That's a pretty good month. That's 5.6 days per week on an average sail of 4.5m with air temps over 40 degrees. Sounds good! But, keep in mind that many of those days were right near the 40 degree mark with no sun. So, it was chilly riding. I passed up many sessions simply because I wimped out on the air temp.
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Windsurfing When The Walk Is Far (6min 49sec)
This season I decided to add 2 additional categories to the wind log. There is now a category for sessions with at least 50 degree air temp, and a category for sessions with at least 60 degree air temp. I thought this would be useful data for those riders who only sail on warmer days. It's not that much extra work to sort the data. So, here it is so far: The total sessions for 2020 with 40 degree air or warmer and at least 15-20mph wind for at least one hour is 39 sessions and average sail size 4.4m. Sessions with 50 degree air or warmer is 8 sessions with average sail size 4.0m. Stay tuned for sessions over 60 degrees. It is interesting to note that in the warmer category there was a resulting smaller sail size. My hunch was that it would be the other way around. The warmer category is a much smaller sample size, so maybe I will go back to the 2019 data and sort it by air temp. I don't think there are many conclusions to draw from that data, but it's nice to know that there have been 8 sessions in 2020 that were warm so far.
On a side note, we got our foil and board, and I was able to get one session on it so far. Just AWESOME! As you may recall, I tried 2 sessions of foiling in Florida for my first time this past February. Here is that blog post My First Impressions of Windsurf Foiling. I've been waiting for a warm enough day here at home to try foiling when I do NOT need to wear thick mittens. That day finally came earlier this week. IT WAS AWESOME!!! The board popped right up on foil in 12mph wind and gusts of about 15mph with a 5.3m sail. It just rips once you're on foil. I had several beginner challenges, but got some good rides too. Improvement over an hour was very noticeable. Hopefully we will have it on the waves in the open lake soon. The gear is as follows: GoFoil Maliko200 wing (1922sq. cm.) with 29.5inch mast, and Top Gun Iceman board which is 120 liters, 7feet long, 31 inches wide and designed for windsurf wave foiling. Can't wait to get the next session. It is equally as exciting to foil in 12mph wind as any good day of regular windsurfing! I"m HOOKED!!!!
Usually we are lucky to score just a couple sessions in the month of March here in WNY. Lake Erie is often frozen, and air temps are typically not friendly in March. But 2020 has been a different story.
While most of us have been occupied with more serious issues this month, the wind and warmth has prevailed this March like no other year that I have witnessed. Although I have not personally gotten a ton of water time, I have still recorded the data. It's fun to think about even when we don't get out on the water every day.
As many of you know, I record sessions only when air temps are 40 degrees or more AND wind magnitude is at least 15-20mph for at least one hour. And, of course, the water must be ice free. In March of 2020 there were 14 sessions that met this criteria, with an average windsurfing sail size of 4.3 meters. Average air temp during those sessions was 46 degree while each session individually was at least 40 degrees. And, on Tuesday, March 31, the temperature of Lake Erie was 41 degrees which equals the warmest temperature ever recorded on that date.
Not bad for March. The 2019 season was the best overall season I have ever recorded even though Lake Erie was frozen through most of April that season. I can only imagine how good the 2020 season will be if it continues on the path it has started, especially since we have the bonus months of March and April compared to not having those months in 2019. Let's look forward to getting outside and enjoying the fresh air.
Today I stopped by 3 local beaches to see what the conditions were like. Unfortunately, I was not able to windsurf due to the ice, but here is an update for you.
Gallagher Beach - There is ice in the half of the box closest to shore, so there is no way to enter the water. Maybe in another week.
Woodlawn Beach - Nearly all of the shoreline has hills of ice about 10 feet high and shore ice about 20 yards out. At the extreme south end the ice hills are very small and there is no shore ice, however, it is not safe to enter the water because if you get downwinded you would not be able to exit the water. Probably a couple weeks before this spot will be accessible. I was surprised to see logs up by the railroad tracks where we park. This must be from the Halloween storm last fall. Here are a few pictures. The Tiki Bar is not looking so good...lol.
Hamburg Beach - It is possible to kite here, but it would be very difficult to windsurf. There is an ice barrier about 3-4 feet high along the shore. With a kite you could navigate the ice barrier to enter/exit the water, but it would be difficult to carry windsurfing gear over the barrier. Another week should make it more accessible. There was a kite out there today, and I heard there were a few out there yesterday.
Niagara River, Fix Road - I got an update from Mark while he was at Fix Road. I don't ride in the river, but if you do like to ride there it is looking good.
Bennett Beach and Lake Erie Beach - Another report from Jim says that Bennett Beach is not rideable, but Lake Erie Beach is rideable.
I did not drive to Canada. Maybe tomorrow.
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.