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Viewing posts created during January of 2011

Speed Rules!

Vela guest Jacques rips another jibeThings seem different this year but I'm not sure why. We usually have a pretty good mix of beginners, intermediates, cruisers, and speedsters with a spattering of freestylers. This year the mix is tending toward the usual beginners taking introductory 101/102 classes, and speedsters taking the faster gear (Hellcat sails with Starboard iSonics or JP Super Sport boards). Activity on the Blue Highway is heavier than ever before. This year more people are working on increasing their speed and planing through jibes. Drag races are more and more common.

Beginners at Vela

Slalom racingBoth guests and locals are getting in on the action. The regular Sunday racing seems more popular than ever. Last Sunday there were around 30 people taking to the slalom course, followed by long distance racing this week. Maybe people are getting excited for the PWA slalom event coming to town this June?

I hate to admit it but I’ve also become addicted to speed (sailing) this year. Lunch hours and days off have been spent tweaking gear and technique, chasing people, talking through improvement ideas with Mac, and working on faster jibes. One of these days back to freestyle, but for now I’m really having fun. Aruba is a great slalom location! I just hope my freestyle friends will forgive my ‘digression’ to speed! It just makes me realize how diversified Windsurfing is, and that all areas of the sport are fun and challenging.

Radar Tom is a speed addict

Louise working on a sketchOur friends Jacque and Louise from Quebec are back at Vela again this year. Jacque (see very top photo in this post) is one of the faster sailors here (sails iSonics at home) and is amazingly efficient. He has a really smooth technique, has clean jibes, and while a small person is usually on sails one meter smaller than everyone else. Louise does not windsurf but has become a great sketch artist, capturing with great humor all the activity on the beach.

Sketch of Vela Aruba center

Start them earlyAfter the Christmas and New Year holidays, activity has dropped off a little, giving us a chance to catch up on things. On top of the list is building a new Oasis (‘on the water water-cooler’) and going through all the new gear, checking out foot straps, fins, sail tuning etc. We’ve also been discussing holding weekly fun slalom races to help keep out speed hungry guests satisfied and get some new people realizing how fun it can be.

This week’s blog is a little short, so please forgive me. I guess I’ve been too busy sailing to spend as much time on the blog as I should have!  Next week I hope will be longer, but – the wind is still blowing here and it’s hard to argue with Mother Nature.

Posted: January 23, 2011 at 10:54 AM
(2) Comment/s
A great reason to stop whining!

Vela Aruba sloganThis year’s Vela T-shirt has the motto ‘Navigo Ergo Sum’ – Latin (sort of) for ‘I Sail, Therefore I Am’. To various degrees we all love windsurfing. There’s nothing like being out on the water feeling free and enjoying our favorite sport, and many of us identify ourselves with windsurfing. HOWEVER, most of us have those days where…..

We’ve heard it all before – not enough wind, too much wind; too rough, too calm; water’s too cold, wrong gear, too tired, maybe later – blah, blah, blah. I’ve been there myself, probably too many times, but hopefully no more. This week I met windsurfer Barry Honig here at Vela Aruba. Barry is totally blind, but I’ve met very few people who love going windsurfing as much as he does.

Barry and his family usually come to Aruba each August, but I was lucky enough to meet him and his son this past week. Despite being Barry and instructor Macblind from birth, Barry has been windsurfing for around 25 years now.  A typical session lasts 2 to 3 hours. An instructor rigs up two sets of gear, then sails with Barry (or sometimes I think it is the other way around). I’ve seen him out sailing in light and strong winds, calm water to light waves, upwind and down, but always with a smile on his face (unless a motor boat comes flying by too close). One of Barry’s favorite cruises is in early afternoon, heading a couple miles on the Blue Highway to where the snorkeling boats moor. All the captains know him by now as he stops and chats with some of their guests and manages to get one or two(?) rum punches for ‘energy and hydration’ in order to get back home safely.  His current goal is to learn waterstarting, he says, "so that I can sail in bigger waves."

Enjoying ArubaAlways with a funny story, I asked Barry how he learned to windsurf.

"I wanted to learn because it seemed like something I could do as a blind person. I downhill ski as well, and I figured this would be a bit easier, as I wouldn't have to worry about falling off of a cliff or crashing into a tree.

It also seemed like a real challenge, and I like a good challenge.

I initially learned in Puerto Rico, with my friend Chris Cummings— may he rest in peace.

We just got a couple of boards and hung out in the lagoon at the Condado Plaza.  I would try to get up, and then fall and then try again until I could do it. Chris and I had a game we'd play. We count the number of times each of us fell, take the difference, and who ever had more, would have to buy the  guy with the fewest, that number of pina coladas that night.

I really started to learn how to sail much better out in Cutchogue and South Hampton, Long Island, NY at a windsurfing school. The instructors were actually pretty willing to teach me.

I made the most progress in my ability at Vela, when I started coming about 12 years ago. The guys were all great and very willing to work with me. My kids and I have developed great friendships with all the instructors down there."

Next time we’re down at the beach and procrastinating or complaining that things aren’t perfect, let’s all realize how great we have it! Be inspired by Barry’s success and enthusiasm for the sport and get out on the water and just have fun.  Let’s sum it up with a few thoughts from Barry.

"There are fewer things I like to do more than windsurf.  It is the one time in my life where I can operate a vehicle and feel totally free moving around.  Once we are out on the blue highway, I generally sail without one of the instructors even talking to me.  They just whistle a song or I sing.  It is an incredibly liberating and peaceful feeling.

I would highly recommend to any person with a visual disability that they learn the sport.  It is great exercise, very liberating, and lots of fun.  The people who are involved in the sport are terrific and happy to help."

Note from Radar Tom – It’s not as important that we’re really good or have the latest gear, but it is important to go out and enjoy ourselves, having fun windsurfing!

Posted: January 12, 2011 at 10:52 AM
(4) Comment/s
Happy New GEAR!

The container with 104 new JP and Starboard boards has arrived at customs in Aruba, but this is like waiting on Christmas morning for mom and dad to give the OK to open gifts. The Christmas/New Years week seems like a full holiday for customs (and most of the island) so we will have to wait for our boards to get cleared and delivered.

The big surprise was two days later our container of goodies actually arrived at Vela. I thought rigging the sails was a lot of work, after the first day only around 20 boards were setup. Amazing how long it takes to unload the container, log boards/serial numbers, install vent plugs, foot straps, fins, and glue on the rental-mandatory nose protectors etc. Good thing we have helping the guests, lessons, and keeping watch on the windsurfers to offer diversions (not to mention a few after work beers)!

After 3 days we’ve finally completed setting all the boards up, and the new gear looks great. Feedback from our guests of all levels has been real positive. We have new JP Funsters and Starboard Starts for beginners.  JP X-cite Rides and Starboard Futuras fit the bill for intermediates/blasters – great for learning planing, footstraps, harness, jibes and all around fun sailing. For our speedsters we have new JP Super Sports and the always fast Starboard iSonics (90 through 127). Those working on aerial freestyle can choose from our Starboard Flares, and those who like to play in the waves or just love fast and  ‘turny’ boards can have fun on our new Starboard Kodes. We even got a new Young Guy for our up-and-coming superstars.

Speaking of waves, Vela Aruba is known more as a learning, cruising, and speed location, but this year we have had many days of good wave sailing. Guests and instructors have been often seen heading just a little north toward the shipwreck and having some great wave sessions. Greg, one of our guests from Canada spent much of his time working on Spocks and Flakas, but was really psyched today after another great wave session!

Head instructor Mac is getting ready to defend his division slalom victory in Aruba’s annual High Winds competition. In the container were his two new carbon iSonics that look super fast. He’s already been seen out tuning up his new gear. Come to Aruba and work with Mac if you want to learn to be really fast! Stay tuned, there is rumor of the PWA returning to Aruba this year, I’ll snoop around here and see what I can find out. We’re all excited to again showcase the great slalom and freestyle conditions here. 2011 dates are not set, but check out for last year’s event details.

It was Dec 27th that fireworks started, unbelievably peaked at midnight Jan 1, and (it’s now Jan 4) can still be heard going off. Local stands popped up all over the island, and the pops, crackles, and bangs are in the air. It was reported (but not confirmed) that 8 full containers of fireworks were brought into Aruba, up from last year. Midnight New Years was unbelievably spectacular, we went outside and everywhere you looked fireworks filled the air, going full bore for several hours. The next day there were empty crates everywhere and many of the streets were covered with red fireworks casings.

We’ve been really busy over the holidays with guests of all skills and from many countries. It’s great to see so many of our guests coming back to Aruba and Vela and we’ve been meeting many new friends. Lessons and rentals have been strong and everyone seems to be having a great time here. The winds have been up and down, with a little rain but in general great sailing with warm weather and plenty of sunshine. While some of us are always complaining about the wind, waves, gear etc, next week I’ve got a story to make us all realize (as the ABK motto goes) -  Every Day of Sailing Is a Great Day of Sailing!

Posted: January 6, 2011 at 09:47 AM
(2) Comment/s

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