Tuesday, May 27, 2008

OBX Revisited - Memorial Day weekend

My family and I met our friends, Cary and Julie and their two kids, on Hatteras Island for Memorial Day weekend. Our friends, former neighbors who now live in Phoenix, returned to NC for a week to visit with everyone in our neighborhood and joined us for a taste of the Outer Banks. We stayed a couple of nights in an oceanfront house in Avon, then took the ferry down to Ocracoke Island on Sunday and stayed there one night, then ventured on the long ferry down to Cedar Island and on to Beaufort on Monday, then home.

It was a relaxing weekend for me with no activity since I was still recovering from my hernia surgery. It was tough to sit by and wishing I could be on the water windsurfing or SUP'ing. But I didn't miss much. There was a little bit of sailable wind for a couple of hours each of the first 2 days and the surf was flat. I took advantage of the situation by taking in the sights, spend time with family and friends, and doing a few things I might not have otherwise done.

Our oceanfront house was in south Avon almost at the very end of the beach houses before heading to Canadian Hole. The house had a very cool kitchen backsplash...check it out...

On Friday, I went to SailWorld Hatteras and Hatteras Island Boardsports and saw Andy and Drew. Andy and I were lamenting about our respective ailments (his broken hand and my recent hernia surgery), when Stu walked in and showed off his broken ankle. Andy and Stu can at least claim their injuries were the results of windsurfing to the extreme....definitely not the case for me. I happened to mention that maybe this will be it for everyone since bad things happen in threes. Wrong! That night, one hour after our friends arrived at the house, their son Ian broke his foot on the stairs. Doh! They spent the night until 4:30am in the Nags Head ER. I have to hand it to Ian and his cool parents...they didn't let it ruin the weekend and Ian stayed in great spirits the whole time. He hopped his way around or got rides on his dad's back. Cary got a workout over the weekend carrying Ian around. Great attitudes all around....blame it on the OBX perhaps?

Unfortunately, Ian did miss out on the next day's surfing lesson with his sister and my daughter. The girls had a great time learning from Crew, one of Drew's surfing instructors. Even though it was a little chilly and rainy on Saturday morning, the girls didn't let it ruin their fun. It definitely helped that Drew and his brother Kevin were able to dig out some wetsuits for them to use for the lesson. Thanks guys!

One sour note is the amount of trash I found on the stretch of beach in front of our house in south Avon. This was not where Off Road Vehicles are allowed either. I am convinced that most of the beach going populace are good citizens, care about the beaches, and don't litter. But there will always be the bad apples in the bunch. My three kids and I picked up a small trash bag's worth of garbage, including a condom (unopened in its wrapper and unused by the way). I was quick on my feet and explained to my kids it was a pack of mustard....whew. Anyway, it was a good learning lesson for the kids and we did our good deed for the day. Another side note to this - while watching the girls in their surfing lesson, I saw a plastic bag blow away from a fisherman off the pier into the water. A few minutes later, another fisherman was able to cast his line, catch the bag on the hook, then reel it back in. Nice catch!

Ocracoke did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised there wasn't a long ferry line in Hatteras for the ferry over. I had heard stories of 2 hour ferry lines last year since Ocracoke was rated as the best beach in the US by "Doctor Beach". The high gas prices must have kept people home because we showed up and got right on the ferry with no waiting (the price of gas on the Outer Banks by the way was $4.15....ouch!). Ocracoke Village and the area around "the Creek" (Silver Lake) always makes me feel like I'm in the Caribbean. Sitting there enjoying my fish sandwich and a beer with a view of The Creek made me think this must be what Jimmy Buffett had in mind when he wrote half those songs.

We saw dolphin from both ferries, and from the long ferry to Cedar Island, we watched two different groups of dolphin swim directly to the bow of the ferry then peel off and swim away.

I always love driving through Cedar Island and going through the towns of Sea Level, Atlantic, Davis, and Stacy. These are fascinating fishing villages that are in the middle of some beautiful country that resembles more of the Louisiana bayou lowlands and marshes than anything else in North Carolina. Beaufort was a fitting end to the weekend with brunch on the waterfront boardwalk and a stroll along the boardwalk to watch all the boats coming and going.

About the only other stuff we did was check out the Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Lighthouses, did some shopping, spent some quality time on the beach, and ate some good seafood. It was great to be back on the Outer Banks even if I couldn't get on the water...definitely good for the soul.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You, Me, Drake and the License Plate

I don’t like those vanity license plates...never have. I roll my eyes when I see tags like “LUVNIT”, “MOMZVAN”, or “TUFENUF”. But when my beautiful bride gives me one for my birthday several years ago, how am I supposed to respond? It was a personalized plate that has to do with windsurfing, of course. Picture this in your mind as I said, “thanks honey” with all the enthusiasm I could muster. I was ridiculed by friends. I just played it off...”it’s a birthday gift from my wife” was the perfect truthful excuse. It’s not my fault she gave it to me...I can’t just go and trash it. 

A few years ago not long after getting that license plate, while walking out of a restaurant after a customer lunch meeting, I noticed a torn off piece of paper under my wiper blades. It said “Do you windsurf? Email me at xxxxxx, Jim Drake”. I’m fairly knowledgeable about windsurfing, so I knew who Jim Drake was. But it couldn’t possibly be him. For those of you reading this who don’t know who Jim Drake is, he is widely considered to be the “father of windsurfing”. He invented windsurfing (with Hoyle Schweitzer) in 1967.*** What a lot of people don’t know is that Jim has another claim to fame. He’s also a real “rocket scientist”. He was the first man to design an aircraft on a computer. One of his designs (with lots of help he says) was the X-15 rocket plane, which still to this day holds the world speed record for a manned aircraft. He also did the first designs for what became the B-70 and the cruise missile. And now, on top of all that, he can also claim to be a part of the new world speed sailing record of 49.09 knots recently set by Frenchman windsurfer Antoine Albeau, since he was on a Starboard speed board. But this had to be a joke. I live in North Carolina. Doesn’t Jim Drake live in California or Hawaii? 

Whoever it was must have seen my personalized windsurfing license plate. Someone had to be playing a joke on me. I bit however and sent an email to that address. I said something to the effect of “If you’re not the real Jim Drake, stop being cruel and leave me alone. But if you are the real Jim Drake, by all means...please reply.” I got a response. He claimed to be the real Jim Drake. We corresponded a couple of times via email until I was satisfied it was no joke and we finally decided to meet for lunch, at the same restaurant I found the note. Turns out Jim and his wife had friends who lived in the area and had convinced them to move there from California. 

Imagine if you were a basketball fanatic and you met James Naismith. I couldn’t believe this was happening. We hit it off as Jim was very easy to talk to. We talked about many things including those years back when he designed and tested the first board, how far windsurfing had come, Formula boards and racing, the future of the sport, etc. It was a real treat to be sitting across from the man who basically was responsible for my wind addiction. 

We had lunch again after that and had more great conversation. Jim even joined our local windsurfing club at the time and helped promote our annual “Learn to Sail” day event with the local TV news. I have since moved to another town in North Carolina but I've seen Jim a couple of times the last few years in the Outer Banks. We got to meet a couple of his sons (between he and his second wife, they have eight children and sixteen grandchildren), got a sneak peek at the new Starboard Serenity and Gemeni boards last year, and joined Jim at a talk he gave at one of the local windsurfing shops. 

If it had not been for that very personalized license plate that I was agonizing over, I would never have met the father of windsurfing himself. So thank you Kris for the wonderful gift that kept on giving and...thank you Jim for bringing us the best sport in the world. My life has been truly enriched by windsurfing and I know I speak for many people when I say we’re all very grateful.

(From left to right): Mark Pace, Rob Cornwell, Jim Drake, Todd Morris, and Mac Barnhardt - last year at SailWorld Hatteras 

Notes on Jim Drake and origins of windsurfing - Its been over 40 years since that first creation and Jim is still innovating. He designs for Starboard windsurfing company, does a great deal of fin design, and still consults with the Pentagon. His most recent board design is the Serenity. More on Jim here. 

***There is some debate as to who actually invented windsurfing first. While it can be said that Newman Darby (and an Englishman Peter Chilvers) designed and invented the sailboard before Jim, Jim is the guy who actually invented “modern” windsurfing by making it workable and much more efficient. Here is an old interview with Jim about this and how it all happened. More on Newman Darby here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Corncake Inlet, Fort Fisher, NC

Some of the local crew got in some wavesailing yesterday in Fort Fisher, NC near Corncake Inlet. Here are some links to great pictures taken by Alan White and Donald Obst:

Alan's IBSSC web site pictures

Donald's pictures:
Alan again
Don Wrenn
Alain Ciclett
Lou Cerbone

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Nice SUP video

Here is a great depiction of why Stand Up Paddle (SUP) surfing is so appealing when the wind isn't blowing. Great video (from the south side of Maui) and great music...you can just feel the positive vibes watching this. I got this from Stand Up Paddle Zone web site -

Stand Up Paddle Surfing on Maui's South Shore from standupzone dotcom on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

....and they put poor Humpty Dumpty back together again

The lake has been good the past few days with good southwest wind in the 10-20 mph range. Some folks got it on Friday and more of us made it out on Saturday at Ramsey Creek/Lake Norman, including myself and 8 other windsurfers, plus 3 kiters. Sailed my new Aerotech Cuben Fiber Free Speed 8.0....very light and a lot of pull. Everyone else was out on everything from 5.8 to 9.5. The water is getting warm now as well and folks were out in everything from shorts only to shorty wetsuits.

This was my last session for a while as I seem to be falling apart. I go under the knife for hernia surgery this week. I've apparently had it for a while and it became very apparent while windsurfing in the Outer Banks a couple of weeks ago....tenderness and a big bump in my groin. The doc says I'll be out of commission for 6 weeks...hopefully he's being conversative...we'll see. Of course, this means there will be lots of wind in the next few weeks.

No pictures from yesterday (too busy sailing!) but here's another couple of pictures from our Hatteras Island adventure. These are stills of Rob I captured from the noggin-cam footage.