It's Spring! Good bye winter torpor and storms that never came;
welcome back frigid coastal upwell and golden hills burning in the
cloudless sun. This is the time for all windsurfers in the northern
hemisphere to get rid of the cobwebs of hybernation, and I am here to
help. With my customary generosity (but wait til someone starts
paying me) I will give you longboarders, transition-boarders,
snowboarders, skateboarders etc. an excellent and stimulating glimpse
into the most sublime form of shortboarding: wave sailing. So hold on
tight to your chair as the cold white water grabs you and pulls you
under in its thunderous spin cycle: save your breath and read on.
The parking lot was almost full. A small lawn at its side was covered
by a clutter of partly rigged windsurfing equipment, and sailors with
grass-stained pants. Klaus was not there yet. We normally drive
together, but he was trying to spend more time with a bunch of
relatives (former girlfriend, mother, two little daughters). `Let's
all go to Point Reyes!' he had proposed. `Yah, yah!' they had all
said. Trick! Point Reyes, as the name suggests, is by the sea; and
we knew from a reliable source that a particular section of it would
I claimed a patch of grass and dumped all the stuff there, then walked
to the beach. The wind was side-offshore. The water was flat but for
small ripples, and gentle shore break that rolled in almost
geometrical perfection. Cool. I scanned for sails and found a couple
straight ahead. I let my eyes follow the wide arc of the beach, and
saw more far upwind, circling like vultures around that magical spot,
that wondrous and worthwhile destination: Tuba.
Yessir: we were here to sail Tuba. We were here to climb the heavenly
stairways of windsurfdom and reach that tubiform peak of delight,
whereupon we would indulge in heavy doses of joyful wave-romping.
(Nothing like a bit of motivation to convince yourself to turn into a
cold-***ed amphibian, and brave the chance of getting stranded on a
barely floating slab of foam in offshore winds; or that of staining
your pants with grass). And, just as important, we were here to meet
our reliable source, a Famous Local whom we had met through modern
communication devices, but never face to face. I joined a small group
of sailors on the beach, still in their mammalian clothes. I didn't
know them, but I can recognize windsurfers by subtle signs---for
instance, they were all staring towards the sea. They were arguing on
a familiar topic: sail sizes. `There is this guy out on a five-three,
and he is only one-forty' someone said.
`Yes, that's Bob. I say it's not worth it.'
`I brought my six-seven, I am going to rig that.'
`I only have a five-seven wave-slalom. No good.' Gosh, this guy was
smaller than me. I returned to the parking lot and saw Klaus's
lichen-green van, full of relatives. Klaus was out and getting ready.
`Klaus, I am going to rig my six-two' I told him.
He was not pleased. `You need your carbon mast with that! Do you want
to go in the waves with your carbon mast?' He was not pleased also
because I am faster than him with my six-two.
`I'll take it easy in the waves' I lied. I don't have a large choice
of styles in the waves, only two in fact: Stay-Away-From-Them style
and Survival style. I have more success with the first.
After rigging I went to the car and got the wetsuit, really a drysuit
for the last four months. Now I have to report an interesting and
unexpected fact: neoprene shrinks as it ages. It is well known that
putting a wetsuit on, and taking it off, are the most physically
demanding parts of windsurfing: but only heavy shrinkage could explain
the extreme difficulty I was experiencing. Klaus was kind of laughing
as he saw me struggle, and made some comment I could not understand
because the collar was stuck around my ears. When I was all zippered
in, I noticed another sign of age on the wetsuit: a horizontal crease
exactly at the height of my belly button. That's obviously from
*** in the closet---it must be. I still can't explain the two
smaller creases above and below that.
One drawback of Tuba---and I had been warned---is that the parking lot
is not exactly on the beach; and the trail that connects them is
barely wide enough for a sail. Klaus has more experience with these
situations. He put board and rig on his head and walked off. I was
reluctant to attempt the same maneuver, as it's not good for my ego.
I just carried them at waist level, but kept getting stuck on the
brushes. Three-quarters of the way through I was dead tired and had
to enlist the help of a most kind park visitor, a muscular guy with
sunglasses and a big tatoo on his shoulder. On the beach we laid our
plans. Klaus proposed: `OK: we go out and back in a couple of times
to check the conditions, then we sail upwind to Tuba.'
`Excellent plan' I admitted.
`Where is our reliable source of information?'
`According to the people in the parking lot, he has been sailing Tuba
for the last three hours, on a five-three. Maybe we'll meet him
`OK! Let's go!' Klaus said, and dashed into the Pacific.
`Eeeeh-hya!' CRASH! I can't tell you how much I hate the puny
shorebreak. It always knows how to humiliate me. `This way! Turn
around this way, there you go, just a little more' it tells me.
`You sucker, I don't want to turn that way, dammit, let the board go!'
I complain. But it's sneaky, it keeps nudging until the wind is on
the wrong side, and I fall under the sail in ankle-deep water; then a
small breaker gently fills the sail with tons of water, and I get
demoted, in the buddhist sense, from amphibian to a very
self-conscious sand-digging mollusk. Of course, serious windsurfers
are used to this kinds of minor setbacks. Soon I was up and out and
shredding the friendly seas. The wind was good and we started
pointing up in long reaches, one mile out, one mile in. Going out was
bumpy and blinding (I keep forgetting to buy darkened contact lenses);
going in smooth and scenic. In less than one hour we had reached
The wind was straight offshore, with occasional holes, and the water
smooth. The break was far from the beach, on a system of sand bars
near the mouth of a lagoon. It looked like a soft break. Instead of
approaching it directly from behind, as in sideshore conditions, we
could sail almost parallel to it, making it far easier to catch. Then
if we sailed just a bit to the side, where the sand bar ended, we
could go back out without facing incoming breakers. It was promising.
I went for it and almost caught one wave. I went out. I started in
again and this time I knew I had it. YES YES YES by golly this time I
had it! The wave steepened gently and there I was, with my tail
solidly planted in its side, and the nose proudly stuck up in the air.
How could I have foreseen that discontinuity in the sand bar?
Suddenly the wave became vertical, and I fell in. It was only a small
wash, nothing to get worried about. But the waves kept coming and I
never had enough time to get into waterstart position. When this
happens near the shore, eventually you get dumped on the beach, the
gear is thrown on you, and you can resume from there. Here it wasn't
clear I was going anywhere. The surf was pushing me in, but not
effectively; the wind, and maybe the currents too, were pushing me
out. I got washed about ten times until a small pause in the breakers
gave me enough time to waterstart. As I got up I heard
flap-flap-flap, looked up, great, I have broken the mast.
But it wasn't broken, it was only bent at the aluminum joint. What's
the point of using a carbon mast if the joint is aluminum? I cursed
XXX for this despicable design choice. (Attention please: in a future
edition I will change XXX to the real brand name, unless they send me
a free replacement, got that, Powerex?) I could still sail, but how
long before the joint failed completely? I moved out of the impact
zone and sat on the board, pondering. Klaus was busy shredding up and
down. I waved but he didn't see me. I made up my mind and headed for
the most direct landing spot. The mast held. I was safe, but it was
going to be a long walk.
Luckily there were a few visitors around. A couple, curious about
this strange marine creature who had just beached itself, stopped by
and timidly asked questions. I promptly boosted my European charm to
its shiniest level of performance, and engaged them in stimulating
dialogue while I unrigged. In the meanwhile Klaus arrived and almost
ruined everything by covering me with insults for leaving while he was
having so much fun. `I broke the mast' I blurted. All right, say it
now, go ahead, say it, I am ready.
`What, you didn't! You did! I TOLD YOU SO!'
`It was just bad luck, Klaus.' I sent him away and returned to the
couple. By the time I was done unrigging I had their complete
admiration and friendship. `Can we help you carry all this?'
`Oh, thank you, thank you.' I hadn't even asked. Of course it's just
in my nature to be friendly. I trust nobody dare even think that I am
in the least bit cynical about it.
Back at the parking lot, after we put our stuff away and shed our
neoprene skins, Klaus went looking for his family, and I went looking
for our reliable source. Most people were busy unrigging, and I
didn't want to disturb them. This one guy was standing aside, a
bottle of beer in his hand. He wore a jeans jacket with a sheepskin
interior, and he was a Timothy Dalton lookalike (whatever you say,
Roger Moore had more style). `Hi, do you know Bob?' I asked him.
`I am Bob.'
`Oh! Well, I am Luigi, look, I just bent my mast!' Confound me, what
a dweeb! Well I was caught by surprise and this guy was a Reliable
Source and a Famous Local and a Timothy Dalton Replicant, so a little
awe was not out of line. `Want a beer?' he asked.
`A beer... sure, I'd love one.' He went to his van---a huge van, the
largest surfmobile I have ever seen, not including the laundry truck
at Coyote with five sails always rigged inside. He brought me a tasty
beer, a tide chart, and a map of the break at Tubamancha (that is,
Tuba). He apologized for having invited so many people, and explained
that usually it was much less crowded. He took a look at my mast and
said a few words of circumstance. We chatted a bit. He introduced me
to the Inverness Fire Chief. It was one of those rare moments when I
feel that I have entered the true heart of America. I would have
stayed longer, but Klaus arrived with the van and we had dinner plans.
We left. I followed the van with my car. The road climbed a hill
that overlooked the entire bay, and the back side of cliffs in the
distance. The sun was setting, and when the bottom of its orange
circle hit the cliffs I pulled over to watch. The trail of a jet
divided the sky in two cloudless halves. The light was soft, the air
still and clear. I wished time would stop, but the sun was quickly
sliding behind the cliffs. I needed a soundtrack. I pushed Bach's
St. John's Passion in the car stereo and the scene was perfect: only
the credits were missing.
I tried to make it the best possible ending because it was, in some
way, an ending, although there can never be a real ending. Klaus was
getting ready to leave the Bay Area. He moved to Santa Barbara a few
days later. I am sure we'll windsurf together again, but not that
often. We had a good time: we were two unlikely friends.