by Erik Leo
We left Vermont at 5:30 on Friday evening. Two cars, three
drivers, nine boards, twelve masts, eleven booms, fif*** sails, two
bikes, two boogie boards and two fishing poles. We were ready for
anything. Twelve and a half fairly uneventful hours later we skidded
into the lot at Canadian Hole to be greeted by...glass. Glassy smooth
water, broken glass in the phone booth and the bright rising sun
reminding me that I had forgotten my sunglasses.
Oh well, we decided, it'll blow later. It must be time to
fish. We crossed the dunes and performed the ritual "sacrificing of
the fishing tackle in the morning sun." This involves tying your
tackle on with poorly engineered knots (what the hell, we're
windsurfers, not fishermen) and watching in amazed dismay as your
beautiful lures complete the arc of the cast unimpeded by the line
that is supposed to retrieve them (and the fat fish that have bitten
the lure). Our morning is salvaged when a school of dolphins cruises
by, surfacing in synchronized pairs.
We eat, we watch surfers, we try boogie boarding, we eat
again, we visit windsurfing stores, we head for our rental house
(thinking of eating one more time) when we spot a sail. Its a 5.4m
and the guy on it seems to have adequate power, for skate-sailing. It
looks like fun. The guy we are watching turns out to be Brad Doerr
(the best sailing manager of a Dairy Queen you're ever likely to see).
Brad really makes it look easy. He sails backwinded, does 360's, duck
jibes and pirouettes. Like I said, we were ready for anything, so I
rig my 5.5m, drill a hole in my skateboard and we too are
skate-sailing. We aren't as good at it as Brad.
We go to our rental home. It is big and comfortable and has
all the amenities (including a hottub for when our muscles get tired
from all the skate-sailing we are going to do). We eat. We sleep.
We wake up and eat again. We are getting fat. We decide to go
fishing so we will have something to eat for dinner. We buy a third
fishing pole so there won't be any waiting. We buy some more fishing
tackle to replace the stuff that was ritually sacrificed. We take our
four wheel drive truck out to "the point." Judging by the number of
professional looking fishermen out here, we have come to the right
spot. We fish. My new reel breaks. I go back to town to get it
replaced and as I'm returning to the point, I see a sight that makes
my heart leap. There are windsurfers sailing on actual water (the
tears filling my eyes prevent me from observing that they are all
using 7.5m sails and 150 liter boards).
I gather up the other fishermen (we call ourselves that
because one of us caught an actual, legal-sized fish). We make tracks
(literally) for Canadian Hole. We rig our biggest (6.5m, 6.5m and
6.8m, respectively). We attach said rigs to our biggest (Seatrend
9'0" course slalom, Astro Rock and Electric Rock, respectively). We
try to have fun. Speaking for myself, it was only marginally better
than the skate-sailing. My friends do a bit better, having more board
and more sail, respectively. The breeze picks up occasionally.
During the gusts, I do better. We go home, eat and hit the hottub
(slogging sure is hard work). The forecast for the following day
looks promising (20-25 from the North).
We are up with the sun. The wind is howling. This is more
like it. We eat fast and make tracks (figuratively) for the ocean.
It looks gnarly. We check out the sound. We watch a guy on a 5.0m do
a high-speed face-plant as he runs out of water a few hundred yards
from the shore. It looks shallow. We go back to the ocean. We rig
pretty small (4.5m, 4.6m and 4.4m). We attach said rigs to our
smallest (8'6" Wind & Surf, Hip Hop and 8'10" Watson). We all make it
out on the first try. It is wicked exciting. I am over-powered.
Chad (4.6m, Hip Hop) is over-powered too. Chad and I come in to
re-rig. Chad loses his new fin in the shore break. I rig a 4.0m and
Chad rigs a 3.6m to go with his other fin. I can't get back out.
Every time I try, the mighty Atlantic slaps me down and spits me out.
I watch a very experienced surf-sailor break his mast in three places
as he trys to launch next to me. Chad gets back out on his 3.6m and
joins Jeff (still ripping it up on his 4.4m). They look happy. I am
bumming. I give up and go to Canadian Hole with my tail between my
legs. Six hours of 3.5m and 4.0m sailing on the sound restores some
of my sense of self-worth. My ex-friends return from the ocean. They
have broken equipment and big grins.
That night we host a celebrity. Dana Miller comes to share
our pizza and sell Jeff a skinny mast (to replace the one that Neptune
ate). We admire his scrapbook. We admire his skate-sailing. We
admire his van. This guy is pretty cool. He sails about 150 days a
year. He loops. He has an actual photo of himself about a million
miles up in the air. The only thing he wasn't up on was the 'net. He
had, however, met Luigi in person. That's what happens when you spend
time on the actual highway.
Tuesday is a fishing (and eating) day.
Wednesday starts auspiciously (a building Southwesterly
breeze). We drive up to Emily's and rig big. We spend the morning
racing back and forth (I am definitely fastest when we're all powered)
and bashing our shins with our masts as we attempt to learn duck jibes
(I am definitely the least coordinated, regardless of windspeed).
Around midday, just as the wind should be building to its forecast
maximum, the wind dies. We derig dejectedlyy. Its just as well that
we had to stop, since I'd left the beans cooking in our house. We
drive back to Avon, feeling somewhat cheated. As we proceed
southward, I notice signs of wind. We forget about the beans (there
are other people in the house who should be showing up any time and
they are bound to notice and fix any problems with the beans).
Speaking of beans, we step on the gas and pass through Avon, straight
for the Hole (eeech). It is a magical gift from the wind gods. We
get three hours of fully wound 5.5m sailing to erase the midday blues.
The beans make a wonderful dinner.
Thursday (our last day) starts suspiciously. It is blowing
hard from the West (not the forecast direction). We buzz down to the
Hole and egg on a new member of our household as he rigs a 5.0m. By
the time he is rigged its only blowing 10mph. We go shopping.
Standing in the parking lot at Windsurfing Hatteras, we watch the
front pass over us. The wind shifts to the North and increases
(putting it mildly). It gets dark and ominous looking (again, putting
it mildly). We make a decision. Jeff wants to sail the ocean with
his skinny mast and some more famous sailors than us. Chad and I want
to go out to "the reef" on the sound side, for wave conditions (minus
the shore break). We go to "the powerhouse," just North of Avon (site
of the infamous offshore face-plant). There is a mild-mannered guy
sitting there sanding his fin. He has rigged a 5.7m and is waiting
for things to pick up a bit. He confesses that he is a speed sailor
named Mike Siefert. I have heard of him. We try to take this into
account and rig accordingly (5.0m and 5.2m). We are tragically over
powered. We come back in (this involves 200 yards of walking the
boards over the face-plant patch). We rig 4.0m's. This is the call.
We get out to the reef (15 minutes on a screaming starboard reach).
The surf is up! We play with reckless (not wreckless) abandon. It is
a starboard jump with portside down-the-line. I get big (for me) air.
I make bottom turns, bash the lip and jump over the backside of
breaking sections...hog heaven. The wind picks up. We rip back in,
get a quick drink to stave off dehydration, and go back for more.
Eventually, we run out of time. We still have to pack up and drive
700 miles (what a full day!).
We manage to leave Avon by 5:30pm. The ride to Kitty Hawk is
epic (side-on winds 30-40mph, drifting sand in the road and low
visibility due to excessive salt spray). The rest of the drive is
less eventful, although Chad manages to***up our schedule by being
unable to sleep when its his turn. I have just consumed a large Coke
and a medium coffee, so I know I won't be sleeping until we're
somewhere in New Jersey. Jeff takes Chad's turn at sleeping and we
muddle through. Eventually, we get back to Vermont. We redistribute
our gear and I race home to see the kids before they get on the school
bus. I make it easily, because they don't have to get on the bus
until Monday (Friday being Veteran's day, they are excused from
My kids are happy to see me. My wife is another story. She
is mad that I left and mad that I have returned (go figure). In all
fairness, she is a midwife and the timing of this trip has been
exceedingly bad from her point of view. Two of her clients had babies
while I was away (a 8lb-13oz female and a 9lb-2oz female). Everyone
is okay, but its hard for Kathy to figure out what to do with our kids
while she is helping other women have their kids. Like I said, its