At the end of the 2019 season I wrote a blog post called The 2019 WNY Season in Review: Records Broken. I went back to that post and pulled a quote. Here is the quote: "The 2019 season has crushed wind records since I began recording in 2011". Well, those records have once again been crushed. It's almost not believable that 2020 could be so good. We live in WNY, not Maui, not OBX, not the Gorge. 2020 was an incredible year in many, many ways!
As a lot of you know I maintain a log to record all wind sessions when the wind blows at least 15-20mph for at least one hour and with air temps at least 40 degrees. You can learn more about this at WNY Wind Report and Wind Report Accuracy if you are interested. The last few years I also sorted the data to show sessions with air temps over 50 degrees and 60 degrees. By doing this it allows us to compare seasons in a more meaningful way than just relying on our memory of past years. Science continually proves that our memories are quite poor when it comes to comparing records from one year to another. But when we write it down we can use it to learn. For example, we can learn what sail/kite sizes are used most often during certain parts of the year. We can learn if bigger wind comes more with colder or warmer air temps. We can see if we are getting longer sessions during cold days or warm days. We think many of these observations are obvious, but very often the data shows that our "obvious thoughts" are completely wrong because our memory fails us.
We may score a couple more sessions in December, but let's get into the data through the end of November. For 2020 we scored 198 sessions in the WNY area with average windsurfing sail size 4.9m. (Note, this data does NOT include windfoil data, only regular windsurfing) This translates into 5.2 windsurfing sessions per week on a 4.9m sail. Compare this to 2019, which gave us 159 sessions on average sail 5.0m and 4.5 sessions per week. It's simply AMAZING! The chart below summarizes the numbers:
Even if you only ride when it's 60 degrees or warmer there were 117 sessions on average sail size 5.1m. Or if you ride when it's 50 degrees or warmer there were 143 sessions on average sail size 5.0m. Incredible! An interesting point to note is that, although there are fewer sessions on warmer days, sail sizes are not much larger on warmer days. See the charts below:
When I sorted the data even further, I found that there were 30 sessions on 3.1m average sail size, and 90 sessions on 3.7m average sail size. Remember, this does NOT include foiling, only regular windsurfing. Holy moly! Is this the new Hatteras? 90 sessions on average sail size 3.7m for regular windsurfing??? Hard to believe. Many windsurfers don't even get a total of 90 sessions for the entire season on any sail size in a typical year, let alone size 3.7m.
This season I personally sacrificed a lot of bigger-wind windsurfing sessions while in search of lighter wind to learn windsurf wave foiling (WWF). What an awesome adventure!!! If you have been considering WWF or windfoiling, but have not yet made the commitment, do it now! Lisa and I watched others windfoil for 5 years. Thank you to all those people who sorted out all the problems and challenges. The sport is now very streamlined, and your diligence is appreciated! For the rest of you, you don't need to wait any longer. The gear is now fantastic, and the sport is much easier to learn than it was just a couple years back. The biggest sail I use is now 4.7m. That allows me to foil in about 15mph wind, while regular windsurfers are all on 8.5m sails. And when the wind gets to 25mph I can jump on my 85 liter windsurfing board with the same 4.7m sail and have a blast on that. This season I got 65 sessions foiling with average sail size 4.0m. Twenty of those sessions were on average sail size 3.0m. And this was all while actively searching for lighter wind on many days. That's just incredible! Small sails are an everyday thing. They are so maneuverable, so fun, so lightweight! And the wave riding is unreal on the foil. Wave riding is the main reason that Lisa and I got foils, and it is even more fun than we expected. Windsurf wave foiling in 20mph is as much fun as regular windsurfing on waves in 35mph wind. The learning curve can seem intimidating at first, but progress will come much faster than you think. I took a windfoil lesson in Florida last February, and I remember saying to one of the instructors on day one that it felt like I was starting over. He said, "No, you will learn this much faster than when you started windsurfing." He was absolutely right. By the second session it was easy to get on foil, and after 5 sessions I was on foil all the time. Here is a little video footage of what you can expect after 50 sessions:
If you decide to pursue WWF, or any kind of windfoiling, make sure you get the right gear. Large foil wings are one of the keys to having fun right from the beginning and learning quickly. A wide board with adequate volume is important for uphauling and efficiency. And, proper bottom shape is important for easy planing. Use your regular wave sails, but rig them very open. Bag out the sail so that it's right on the boom. Keep your boom a little lower as your knees will be very bent on the waves. Get into it! Do it now! It's THAT much fun! In this video I explain more about WWF:
Regular windsurfing was even more INCREDIBLE than ever this year because the sessions were bigger! This season my average sail size for regular windsurfing was 4.1m. There were so many sessions with wind over 40mph this season while the air was still WARM. No mittens or gloves required. In other years, we didn't get big wind unless the air temp was quite chilly. Amazing waves on 2.9m sails during many windsurfing sessions this year. The stoke was INTENSE! Windsurfing and WWF go so well together. I scored over 100 total sessions this season and have just 2 boards in my entire quiver....an 85 liter freewave board and 120 liter WWF board. I have just six sails total, and one boom. This small quiver allows me to ride in wind from 15mph to 50mph. (You may want to read Smaller Quiver, Greater Wind Range) You just don't need big sails anymore in order to have more FUN than ever before. My advice is to sell your sails bigger than 5.7m, sell your windsurfing boards bigger than 105 liters, and buy the proper foil and foil board with the money you get. You will have much more fun, less gear in your vehicle, and greater wind range. Windsurfing will be full-on adrenaline, and foiling will be much easier on your body than windsurfing for days in between. There is no weight in your hands while on the foil. There is no pull from the sail. And, then, when winds are over 25mph you can windsurf if you desire. As a double bonus, windfoiling really helps to improve your windsurfing skills. Here is a video where I explain it:
Sometimes it seems like WWF is more fun than windsurfing.....UNTIL, I get back on my windsurfing board. There was a memorable day this November. I had not windsurfed in four weeks because WWF was soooooooo freaking amazing! But, that day, the wind was blowing 40mph+, and I just felt the need to windsurf. I went out on Lake Ontario with a 2.9m sail. Windsurfing just blew me away that day. Incredible jibes down perfect waves with not one other person on the water. I nearly cried. WWF has had the same effect many days. Having this much fun with this intensity so frequently is enough to make one almost feel guilty.
I don't know how we could possibly have a year better than 2020! I wouldn't know what to do with a better season as I only have so much physical and emotional energy available to expend. You could ride almost any day you wanted this season. Do your research this winter and GET THE RIGHT FOIL for spring! Contact me if you have any questions. There's a lot to learn about the gear, and it's expensive, so you want to make sure you get it right the first time. Have a great winter!
Eric L. Mihelbergel is an intermediate/advanced windsurfer, kiteboarder, and foiler living in the Great Lakes Region of New York State who enjoys sharing about windsports and fitness.