Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sailing blind

Demographics | First look | My Poli-Sci studies at FSU, 40 years ago, introduced me to the topic of demographics. For the most part, this kind of stuff is major boring unless the subject is something you can personally connect with. We all know windsurfing has declined from its heyday but has it leveled off; is it growing again? To answer this, it would be helpful to do a survey of all the assets. Assets? We are the assets: our businesses, organizations, clubs, websites and blogs. Such a survey would help a Windsurfing Czar, in charge of further developing the sport. He/She would know where to send resources to strengthen the under performing areas...Seriously, no one is in charge. We're just like an organic garden flourishing wherever we are, as best we can. Ask the question: Are we growing or are we slowing? Next year or the year after, there might be an answer.

The Community section in the Learners guide defines the following windsurfing entities (or assets) : retailers, professional instructors forums, email groups, associations, clubs blogs, websites all of which are integral parts of our real community. Taking information from the guide to see where we live and what we do is a study in demographics. For me, the Community directory serves a more basic function: helping everyone find everyone else. Let's breakdown some of the U.S.

Florida | California | Gorge | Hatteras | Maui | NY | Texas
  • How many windsurfing business entities15 | 17 | 21 | 6 | 26 | 2 | 5
  • How many non business groups ?   6 | 7 | 5 | 0 | 0 | 4 | 8
  • How many websites/blogs?  6 | 14 6 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 1
  • How many places to rent gear and or get lessons?  10 | 8 | 9 | 4111 | 4
Are there any conclusions?  The most concentrated areas of windsurfing businesses are the Gorge and Maui. Duh. Hatteras, the Mid-Atlantic dream destination is not as robust compared to the aforementioned areas. My state, Florida, hangs pretty well against California, the most populated state in the U.S.. Take a look at the Learners guide and visit some of the windsurfing communities...See how much we love this sport !!

Bloggersville | Google's mega blogging empire has spiced up its page layouts with new templates which turn the traditional blog into a mini website. The Speedsurfing Blog demonstrates the new look. If you're a little intimidated by the responsibility of keeping your blog fresh with new material, then share the writing with your friends like this blog does: Miami Windsurfer - Addiction Support Group (also using a new options). Graham Ezzy has one more year to go at Princeton. He has a new blog: surf-matic waves, culture, aphorisms.

Sailing blind | Xavier Mandico, 42, lost his sight many years ago because of a genetic disease and exposure to high altitude solar radiation. Unafraid of sports, he's relatively new to windsurfing. Hector Garcia with the Surf Center, Arte Vida in Tarifa, Spain said, "I thought, how will I teach and navigate this man? Gradually, I became convinced and confident that this was not a frivolous whim." He worked together with Mandico to develop a program so other blind windsurfers could experience the thrill of speed, wind and salt water. Using a radio in a waterproof bag strapped to his chest, Mandico was able to receive verbal instruction while on the water. Absent the radio, a sighted windsurfer would sail close enough to yell instructions, which does not work as well because of the noise of the wind and waves.

Blind windsurfers must have knowledge of the environment, weather conditions and of course, a good communication system. Teaching is basically the same as with a sighted person. The blind athlete must create in his mind a map of his immediate environment. Trusting your navigator/instructor is vital. Finally, using a  slightly floatier board helps immensely. The only one who has reservations about this endeavor is Maka, Mandico's Detroit trained guide dog, who must be restrained every time his master leaves the beach. Photos

Facebook | Events | Need an internet address to share the details of an upcoming event? Utilize the power of FB to post up all the info. Invite all your non FB friends to view. How to set up an Event

The origins of windsurfing | Alexandria, Minnesota | Al Seltz, 79, remembers the summers of 1960 and '61 when out on the L’Homme Dieu Bay he started doing something just like windsurfers: standing up while you sail. It would be almost a decade before windsurfers would emulate what Seltz had done in Minnesota. He sailed a Sail King, designed by local builder, Lou Whinnery. In order to change direction while standing on the sailing surfboard, he had to hold the main sheet line in his teeth while switching hands on the tiller. Standing while sailing took skill, but the boat design allowed it to heel with no loss of steerage or stability.  “It was simply more fun to sail that way. It was a challenge, but also more of a thrill. There was a sense of speed way beyond what you were really going, and a sensation of being close to your source of power.” Does his new sailing stance for single handed sailboats rise to the level of originator of windsurfing? Probably not. He can certainly claim early pioneer status for his spirit of experimentation. During the last 40 years, windsurfing has been a developmental enterprise whose hallmarks of experimentation, innovation and trial and error will most likely continue for the next 40 years. I'm not sure if Al Seltz ever took up windsurfing, but if he did, he'd surely have fit right in.

Postcript | Seltz, recently wrote for the Echo Press about his research on the early days of windsurfing.

PWA | Sylt, Germany | The 2nd PWA event in the new Age of Live Video Coverage improved on all the bells and whistles we expect from mainstream sports coverage. Color commentator, Ben Proffitt's constant descriptive chatter kept the audience engaged even though the far offshore race course was hard to see. The race course had to follow the wind, and the distance from the camera was disappointing. The GPS Live Tracking needs work. With racers entering the competition area for their next race, it was hard to keep track of who was racing and who was not. Plus, the on screen IDs are too large. The Freestyle coverage also suffered from less than ideal camera distance. Dealing with the lack of wind drove the announcers into interview overdrive which, for the ones I saw, were worthwhile and interesting. In one, Robby Swift said to choose more volume for your quad. The live commentary introduced the Sheep, Poodle and Flying Camel. Do you know who they are?  Having Robby Naish and Kai Lenny at the event to entertain with some no wind SUPing was pretty cool.

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