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Posted by on in Windsurfing

Is windsurfing dangerous?

People windsurfing

I’m often asked about how safe windsurfing is, my answer is always the same, “it’s as safe you make it and as dangerous as you make it”. It’s safe enough for children and wild enough for adrenaline junkies.

When I say “safe”, I don’t mean that you can completely remove all the risks involved, that’s impossible to do with any sport. I simply mean ensuring that you avoid silly mistakes that could endanger you.

Let’s not forget that certain sports carry more risk than others and when you combine things like speed, water, waves, height and equipment the risks become greater. Obviously sports have different levels of danger and windsurfing has a wide range in its own, there are several disciplines and aspects. For example, if you’re windsurfing a big board, on flat water in 10 knots, it might be safer than going out in 40 knots, common sense.

I find that most people think windsurfing is a “dangerous extreme sport”, yes it is but that’s not all it is. The reason for that idea is that most of us watch it on TV and see the extreme side of wavesailing, little do they know it can be quite relaxing and just as chilled as paddling out on a board.

Windsurfing really does have something for everyone.

For those starting out, here are 5 tips that will help increase the safety of your windsurfing experience.

1. Go with friends.

Most of us might be embarrassed to try something knew or fall in front of friends, so we try it alone first and then brag about it later. I’ve seen the consequences too many times from this type of thinking. I can’t tell you how often I’ve observed those who go out on their own while it’s clearly their first time. What happens? They have a hard time getting back to shore and call for help.

That’s why I say have friends, because they are there to help.

Besides, another great reason to have friends is for the perfect opportunity to say… “Why don’t you give it a go”.

2. Check your gear

Do yourself a favour and make sure it’s all working please. Look for stress cracks on your mast, the base and its rubber join. Do a good job of putting it together so that when you go out, you’re not scrambling around your gear in panic when it falls apart.

This is especially true for those who purchase older and cheaper equipment as well as for beginners who purchase new gear rigging up for the first time.

Breakages happen all the time and there are ways to get around that. One nice tip is that if your fin snaps, tie your harness around your back strap and use it for a rudder.

Use the RIGHT stuff as well, I’m not going to hammer you with tons of gear tips and all its technicalities but at least get some sound advice as to what equipment you should be using. Windsurfers are awesome people and I don’t know of any who wouldn’t want to help.

In general, stay away from the professional equipment, don’t get a massive sail or a tiny one and don’t purchase a tiny board either. A wide board will help your stability and the longer thin ones are generally the older models, new is always a good idea if you can afford it.

3. Conditions

If it’s blowing off-shore then don’t even think about going out, if it’s blowing side-off don’t even think about going out! If the wind is at any moment blowing out to sea and off the shore, you will be facing dangerous conditions.

Start out in an onshore direction where the wind is blowing towards the shore or side-on winds which are great conditions for learning. If something goes wrong, then at least you don’t get blown out to sea.

If it’s epic rough and pumping 25 knots plus, then you should probably avoid going out. Of course you need some experience first. Get used to flatter water and lighter winds before going hard, a good start is 8 - 15 knots.

4. Locations

Are there other windsurfers that use that spot? Don’t go windsurfing just anywhere because there could be rocks, shark breeding or other dangerous things under water.
Find out where people windsurf and investigate where the beginner spots are.

5. Watch your intake

I went out sailing just the other day and drank a coffee before heading out, I usually bring a bottle of water with me but this time I forgot and what a stupid thing that was.

I had a few sips from the local tap before heading out, but about half an hour into my sailing I suddenly got very fatigued, I was dehydrated. Luckily water wasn’t far from me and that fixed the problem but it’s a reminder of why we should keep hydrated, oh and have something to eat for god sakes, it will help with the energy levels.

The last thing you want is a surprise episode of profound fatigue, wipe out in deep water and find yourself swimming for your gear. You’ll be surprised at how fast dehydration kicks in when you’re taking in salt-water. I like to have an orange at lunch, oats for breakfast (slow release carbs) and some good protein source foods at lunch. I’m always amazed at how much my performance and energy improves if I have good intake.

There are other highly important tips but I think I should close by saying one final thing, use your gifted brain. If there is anything that seems to clash with your instinct, listen to your gut. Use common sense and don’t be foolish especially if there are others on the water.

Often (not always) when there’s an accident, there’s a fool to blame so don’t be a hero just have decent fun and know your limits.

Peace!

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Posted by on in Windsurfing

Jellyfish stings and allergic reactions

One of the most common wildlife encounters that all surfers have is with Jellyfish. For a lot of us they pose no threat, but for others they’re a real problem.

Obviously it depends on what type of animal it is, some are deadly such as the Box jellyfish and others like the Blue blubber are thought to be harmless.

What if you’re someone who gets localised allergic reactions from those “harmless” stings? Some of us end up with long lasting welts that are itchier than the itchiest thing you’ve experienced, worst of all scratching can sometimes make it spread. These reactions can last up to a month or more if not treated.

I’m one of those who react to almost all jelly stings. The sting itself is not so bad (provided it’s a harmless jelly) and for a moment it burns a little, but the horrible part is from the next day onwards.

Blue blubber jellyfish sting

After this one I’ve had enough, because it’s starting to degrade my windsurfing experience. This particular sting happened in Queensland, Brisbane. I was windsurfing at a sport called Sandgate and while standing in the water a Blue blubber brushed past my leg, I discovered they were all around me. Luckily it was only one that got me, which is still enough to keep me out the water.

For anyone with a similar problem, I find that a steroid cream works best. It’s a prescription cream so you’ll need to go to a doctor, but so far it’s the only thing that works for me. Also make sure you don’t touch your skin after it’s applied, the scratching prevents the reaction from going away. It usually takes a few days of using it until the rash disappears, without it the rash seems to go on forever.

Steroid cream for stings

3 days after using steroid cream
This is 3 days after using the cream

Personally I think that it’s a result of an overactive immune system as it’s not due to one particular Jellyfish, I’ve had the same immune reaction from different types of jellies. I have also tried anti-histamines and to be honest, they’re nowhere near as effective as using the above mentioned cream.

Trust me I’ve tried hot water, vinegar, bite creams, tablets and a lot more, this stuff works. The only problem is that long term repeated use could result in skin conditions (it’s a steroid), so first prize is obviously prevention. I’m also not sure if the body builds a resistance to steroid creams over time.

I know vinegar is a popular immediate treatment and in my case it doesn’t seem to help the post reaction, but perhaps it might reduce it to some degree. The same goes for hot water, interestingly hot water is supposed to be effective for Blue bottles, not vinegar.

Most people think that a jelly sting happens at that instant. Not really, while the majority of the sting occurs at the encounter, it still gradually gets worse as the leftover nematocysts fire away one at a time. A nematocyst (stinging cell) houses a tiny harpoon that penetrates your skin when fired and it pumps the venom into you. These stinging cells are what come off the Jellyfish’s tentacles. Should you get stung avoid rubbing the area to prevent triggering those remaining nematocysts.

You might think I’m weird, but I personally found a pair of leggings to be useful. They’re almost like stockings but are actually those thin black tights that girls wear. They’re cheap and I’ve tested them against the jellies, works great. Obviously you’ll need a long sleeved rash vest as well. I haven’t used leggings long enough to tell if they’ll get stretched. Another problem might be that the stinging cells (nematocysts) could get trapped in the material on the outside, which might end up on your skin at some later stage. I haven’t experienced that yet and it seems the jelly bits didn’t stick to mine, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. In this pic I’ve got them over my suit, but you should probably wear them under so they don’t slip off.

Nicholas spaggiari windsurfer

Probably the best bet is to use a stinger suit made for this kind of protection. They’ll cover your whole body and are easy to put on unlike a winter-wetty. They’re thin so you won’t find it as hot as a wetsuit which means its fine for summer or any other season. You can get one like this from most dive shops. Far north Queenslanders use them for swimming when the Box jellies are around, so they’ll get the job done for sure.

Stinger suit for jellyfish

If you only get mild reactions then you probably don’t want to go as far as a stinger suit, but perhaps you don’t like the idea of having a little itch. In that case, another trick that I found, which I know for sure makes a difference, is to use a lot of thick sun screen. It seems to reduce the sting and I think that’s simply because of the extra layer which stops some of the cells penetrating your skin. Obviously the water takes it off over time, but if you don’t have massive reactions and don’t have any other options then this fix is at least something you can try.

If anyone else has preventative ideas that are easy and cheap to implement, please comment.

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Posted by on in Windsurfing

The 5 fastest windsurfers on Earth

 

#5 Patrik Diethelm - Switzerland - 50.62 knots (500 m)

Sail number: SUI 20
Weight: 92 kg
Height: 183 cm
Age: 41

Patrik achieved his fastest speeds at the Luderitz Speed Canal in Namibia. His speed records are quite something with a current average speed of 51.45 knots. Over the 500 m run he clocked in at 50.62 knots. His fastest speed of all peaked at 53.53 knots and his fastest run over 100 meters is currently 53.17 knots.

Patrik recored 52.21 knots over 250 meters.

 

#4 Bjorn Dunkerbeck - Switzerland - 51.17 knots (500 m)

Sail number: SUI 11
Weight: 102 kg
Height: 191 cm
Age: 44

Bjorn established his personal bests at the Luderitz Speed Canal in Namibia. He still remains one of the top windsurfers of our time and is currently the 4th fastest windsurfer alive. Bjorn has an average speed of 51.38 knots. Over the 500 m run his best was 51.17 knots putting him in the 4th position. He nailed an impressive 53.14 knots over 100 meters and his all-time fastest speed peaked to 53.37 knots. His 250 meter run is also worth a mention, 52.43 which goes to show the consistency of this mans abilities.

Not far behind number 3.

 

#3 Jurjen van der Noord - Netherlands - 51.29 knots (500 m)

Sail number: NED 55
Weight: 95 kg
Height: 195 cm
Age: 33

Set again in Luderitz at the Speed Canal, Namibia, Jurjen placed his authority in the top 5 fastest sailors to date blasting out 51.29 nots over 500 meters. His average speed is 51.39 knots overall. For 100 meters he remained over the 53 mark comfortably at 53.23 knots. Hi all time fastest speed peaked to 53.47 knots just a touch below Patrik's insane 53.53 knots.

Over 250 m Jurjen's speed recorded 52.48 knots.

This brings us to the two fastest windsurfers fighting over first place.

 

#2 Anders Bringdal - Sweden - 51.54 knots (500 m)

Sail number: SWE 10
Weight: 103 kg
Height: 193 cm
Age: 46
Rides for: Mistral, Gasoil, Neil Pryde, AL 360, Da kine

Anders set his records at the Luderitz Speed Canal in the country of Namibia. His current average speed is 51.40 knots and over 500 meters he clocked 51.54 knots putting him in second place. His 250 m run recorded 51.92 knots, Anders also holds the fastest speed in windsurfing over 100 m at an incredible 53.4 knots.

Anders is the first person to break into the 50 knot mark over 500 m on a windsurfer which many hail as a proud moment in windsurfing history. His all-time fastest speed is 53.59 knots.

Interestingly these speeds were attained in a wind range of around 35 - 40 knots.

 

#1 Antoine Albeau - France - 52.05 knots (500 m)

Sail number: F 192
Weight: 99 kg
Height: 186
Age: 41
Rides for: RRD / Neilpryde / Quiksilver / Ford Autovital / Sosh Orange / Ile de Re / Group Rhinos / Garmin

The fastest windsurfer for 500 m is Antoine Albeau with a speed just over the 52 mark at 52.05 knots which set a new world speed record in November 2012. His record speed over 250 m is 53.14 knots and over 100 m is 53.95 knots. His peak speed which is his current fastest speed of all is a crazy 54.16 knots making this possibly the fastest speed on a windsurfer to date. He says "Happy with the 54.16knots / 100.3 km/h on the display!!!".

Antoine's average speed is over 52 knots, at 52.13 knots which also makes him the fastest windsurfer in terms of average speed. His speeds were set at the Luderitz Speed Canal.

 

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Posted by on in Windsurfing

Top 5 annoyances of a windsurfer

Here are 5 annoying things which almost every windsurfer can relate to. If you're not a victim of the following 5 then you'll know someone who is. They're those things we don't talk about but do them anyway and most bizarrely, accept them all as completely normal. Although, when we're out of our "windsurfer mode" they are totally crazy.

For example, imagine doing #4 before going into a coffee shop.

#5 You leave your wet underpants on the back seat

How many times have you left your wet shorts / underpants in your car or in one of your containers? How bad did it smell when you discovered it was still wet a week later? Even worse, what response did the person have who had to wash them?

Hard questions, but surely what takes the cake is the fact that no-one washed them, so you just wear them again. What the heck, they're wet anyway plus the salt will kill any bacteria and a nasty rash won't hurt as much as missing out.

#4 You get naked behind your car door

Okay before we raise our arms and shout "WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?", it might look creepy to a sweet old lady, that by the way hasn't the faintest idea as to what windsurfing is, who happens to spot a pair of white butt cheeks or, god-forbid, uncooked beef and potatoes.

Most of us try to be decent about it so we do in fact use our car door for cover. But what about when the wind is blowing and you're a little desperate? Stuff it, the side walk it is.

#3 When last did you wash your wetsuit?

You can't say you own a suit until you've urinated in it. Secondly, there's nothing better than warm water down your legs on those cold days. It's also just way too impractical to do it any other way.

So what's annoying about this? The annoying part is several months later when your suit reeks like a public toilet. Of course some of us do wash our wetsuits when we can, we give them a good rinse and then bobs your uncle they're clean. But for some reason as time goes by it gets stinkier and stinkier.

Once in a while we're a victim of the old shart, but fortunately that doesn't seem to be common practice.

#2 Waves finger and shouts one more

Sometimes we invite friends or family along to enjoy a day out. Little do they know it has nothing to do with a get together and everything to do with the sailing you selfish bastard. When they arrive everybody is sitting in their cars because the sand hurts them too much.

So what happens next? They want to go home and they want to go home now. This is where the old finger trick works like a charm, we call out "one more" whenever we jibe and the runs get longer and longer.

It often goes something like this. "5 minutes, 1 minute, 1 more, 1 more, 1 more, last one, final one and I swear this is the last go". Usually gets you about 45 minutes extra sailing time. Annoying for those waiting, yes.

#1 Sulk factor

Probably the most annoying thing we do of all is sulk. It usually happens over the weekend following #2, your friends and family have learnt from experience, so they make alternative plans the second time around and expect you to join.

So you find yourself chatting about Jill and her ex while the wind is obviously punching 30 knots, putting it mildly the day is a bitch so you flop the meat around half-heartedly because you offered to help BBQ.

The closest thing to foamy water is a beer so you open a few and get tanked. It takes a while but eventually you're laughing and strangely every time you laugh everyone else seems to stop.

Not only are you annoyed with the whole situation, they all seem to be annoyed about it too which is why this takes number 1.

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Posted by on in Windsurfing

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