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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Canal Paths

When I decided to move to England there were loads of this that I was expecting and looking forward to about the country and culture. But I have come to love something I did not even realize existed.

When I think of canal's I think of Amsterdam and Holland. I do not think of England. Yet there are loads of them in England. They are wooded affairs which cross all parts of England. They used to be used as "roads" for carrying all manner of goods be slow moving barges pulled by horses or donkeys before engines made their debut. Now they are used as recreational spaces and long canal boats leisurely make their way through locks which the boat operators open and close themselves. The old towpaths that the horses used to plod along are now used by walkers of dog, runners, cyclists, and commuters.

I have come to love them. The paths wind along the canal varying in widths and maintenance level. They offer up a large variety of views from rolling English vista's to peeks into others back gardens. They offer a traffic free place to ride your bike, run or walk enjoying a cool breeze and a shaded path on a sunny day. The wildlife, occasionally if you are quiet enough, share a bit of their world with you as you travel by. Wildflowers and trees vary your view and provide the occasional fruit snack as you pass. I have been riding loads along the River Wey canal path on a regular basis and try and explore other canal pathways as well. They offer up what I like to think of as a secret view of England.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

W4CR challenge completed!

June 21 2013. The wind blowing at just the right speed (15-20 knots) The direction not to shabby, a bit onshore but okay. Location, Hayling Island Seafront. Support crew, husband; photographer, husband! Challenge: to windsurf double the time (4 hours) I normally am on the water and to complete 20 dry tacks (record so far being 3 in an hour).

We arrived at the beach and the conditions looked good. The tide was high and I was being a bit of a chicken so after everything was rigged up I did a bit of "simulator" training with my board (minus the fin) and my rig on a sandy bit of the beach. I think I was really trying to calm myself down a bit.

By 13:30 I hit the water. I had decided ahead of time to split my time up into sessions so that I would have breaks for food and water. Due to the wind being "light" we had decided that I would use Mark's smallest sail (the largest I had ever attempted to  sail) a 5.5; so most of the first hour was me getting used to his sail, the feel, the weight, and its reaction. While I tried to get planing a lot of my runs were wobbly and full of bad body stance. However I did manage to get 10 dry tacks in! Well to be honest I really did 12 but my adjudicator (Mark) decided that two of them didn't count as he was only counting the dry ones that I sailed well into and well out of. ARGH!!So at the end of session 1, one hour under my belt and 10 dry tacks. If I could keep this up I would be laughing.

Second session: Focus on blasting. With a few encouragements and hints from Mark I really focused on getting into and out of the harness quicker, dropping and digging, and stance. What a difference that made. Everything got light and felt very balanced and best of all I was blasting along. Not in the foot straps, but moving at a good pace with everything light. I even practiced taking my hands (one at a time) off the boom. It was such fun. I was also able to sail for longer distances with confidence now that I had this technique better. But my tacks....not so good. They for what ever reason got very wet! By the end of the  second session I had only increased my count of good dry tacks up to 14. Worse...I was feeling exhausted. Lunch and a long break was needed.

Third session: Dark clouds rolled in and I'm not talking figuratively; the thickening clouds matched how I felt, my hands were sore, my arms trembling and small things that I have long mastered seemed like a massive effort. Worse it felt like I was sailing terribly, everything I tried to do felt like it wasn't working. I was discouraged and I wanted to come off the water. But I knew that you all were rooting for me and I knew that if I just kept pushing I would make it. Somehow I dug deep ignored the dark grey clouds, my sore hands, and trembling arms and managed to push my good dry tack count up to 18. Even more surprising was Mark's comments when I came off the water, he said that this session had probably been my best so far, and that I looked like I was moving faster and sailing faster. MIND GAMES...maybe fatigue helps to focus your technique...I don't know. All I know was that I was glad I only had one more session to go.

Danielle (who I've been getting lessons from, and whose team I was originally supposed to be on) and her partner Phil came down at this point to cheer me on a bit. They did a great job at distracting me from my pain and encouraging me to keep pushing as after all what's one more hour? So back to the water I headed. I felt like this session was my best yet. Unfortunately, in an effort to warm up my support crew wandered off and so missed what I felt were my best runs of the day. I even managed a tiny accidental jump off a bit of chop that surprised me and I fell off giggling with the fun of it. I was back to having fun. Yes my body felt slightly broken but I felt like things that I have been told, shown and coached were coming together. I can hardly wait for my next session if I can manage to lift my arms again. Best of all I managed to add the final 2 good tacks to reach a total of 20 (just don't ask how many I had to do to get that 20) and spent a total of 4 hours and 17 mins on the water. Challenge complete.

Thank you to all who donated, to those who are going to donate, to those who sent me kind words of encouragement. Thanks especially to Mark who sat on a cold, often cloudy beach for over 5 hours cheering me on.

To those of you who wish to donate please go to my Just Giving webpage and click on Donate. The website is international and will accept donations in multiple currencies (after clicking on Donate just change the currency to your desired currency from the drop down window). It is completely safe and secure. Thank you.

Enjoy the short video below of one of my "runs"...the guys who go past in the background will hopefully be how I look soon, but this is MUCH better than I did look a year ago...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hard but right choice

Well.....Yesterday was my big event and I didn't even get wet. It was blowing a gale! Literally, gusts up to a force 7 which is classed as gale force winds. So in talking with Mark, and windsurfing friends I decided that for my safety and longevity I would postpone my challenge for a day when the winds were not creating conditions that were WAY above my skill level. Now those of you that know me should know that I am not above going out in challenging conditions, but when friends of mine who are miles ahead of my skill level where talking about "overpowered", "survival", and even called their challenge off early due to safety concerns (GetWindsurfing) I felt like I made the right decision, even if it did make me a little sad.

I still will complete my challenge, but I spent yesterday encouraging and supporting my two personal windsurfing, female hero's! In a male dominated sport us girls have to stick together, and these two were out there with the guys, showing true bravery. Danielle of Get Windsurfing was so inspiring to watch! A petite female, she was showing most of the guys out there how it really should be done, technique over muscles won every time. In the full on conditions, yesterday she was making "survival" look easy and SO much fun. The other girl is a friend of mine and she is several steps a head of me in skill level. She is my hero as not only did she go out but she took the smallest board she has ever sailed on a borrowed 3.3 and she did awesome! I was so jealous of the fun and the fight that she was having. I have no doubt that today she will be sore, but content and happy with her amazing efforts of yesterday. Go girl power!

I am now chomping at the bit and am doing my wind dance in our conservatory trying to convince the wind to come back, but maybe not quite so strong. I am itching to complete my challenge, have some more lessons, and crack getting in the straps and harness. Next year I will be out there on the water.

Check out the 35 knots of Slalom Madness video which of the conditions near where I was to sail...know you can see why I didn't go out! The pros were struggling! Enjoy

Link to Video

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hayling Island, Seafront June 15, 2013

Gulp! I have done it. I have gone and signed up for my first ever windsurfing event to raise money for Cancer research. For those of you who don't know about this event it is a Sunrise to Sunset Watersports event. The goal for the REALLY good windsurfers (and other watersports persons) is to be out on the water for 16 hours. Most people do this in a team so allow for food and bathroom breaks. I am not yet good enough to be on a team but I wanted to take part in this event so I have joined the group of personal goal individuals. So while I won't be out there for the entire day I will be really pushing myself. Normally a 2 hour session leaves me ragged and not being able to lift my arms, especially if it is blowing! So I am going to do double that....4 hours on the water trying to spend most of that time on my kit, rather than falling in the water. The bigger goal is to complete 20 dry tacks, my personal best so far being 3 in an hour. SO I am definitely going to have my work cut out for me!

So please show your support for me and click my Just Giving webpage to donate. Enjoy the photos below of my excellent windsurfing skills to give you a bit of an idea of how big this challenge is going to be for me.
I am in the water...

Why my arms get tired

Hoping I don't fall off...


Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall

Look out I'm coming through

Wobble tack

The Haling Island Seafront...where the event will be. Fingers crossed it is this sunny with a bit more wind.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Vasiliki, Greece

Vasiliki Bay, Island of Lefkada, Greece

Last minute decision making saw us booking a holiday with Ocean Elements to stay in their Surf Hotel for 7 days. So by Sunday afternoon I had another stamp in my passport and we was enjoying the beautiful view of Vasiliki bay. The plan was to take advantage of all the different toys that Ocean Elements includes in the holiday package from windsurfing to SUPing, kayaking to dingy sailing, as well as mountain biking. The holiday started off really well with a bike ride to take in beautiful views and explore the village as there was not really enough wind to bother with windsurfing or sailing.

Vasiliki Harbour
Vassiliki Bay
Day one was a highly usual wind day which made any wind activities incrementally difficult. The staff who had seen Vasiliki through more than one season told us that they had never before seen the wind do what we dubbed Vasiliki allshore! For those of you unfamiliar with wind let me explain: When sailing or windsurfing you need to know what direction the wind is blowing so that you can plan the direction that you are going to sail in to maximize the speed and ease at which you travel. So you may hear windsurfer talk of a "cross shore wind" which mean that the wind is blowing parallel to the shoreline which means the optimal windsurfing line is perpendicular to the shore which means you can easily and reliably get back to the same starting position. Vasiliki all shore meant that the wind was blowing in all directions at the same time, how? We have no idea BUT it meant that it made for some very confusing visuals. At one point I was sailing on the same tack (side of board and leading hand/foot) as two other people but we were all going in completely different directions. Normally Mark would be able to blame this phenomena on the lack of my ability, but this time all windsurfers were having the same issue! Everyone came off the water slightly confused and frustrated.

The second and third days were much better as the conditions were planing conditions. Yes I am now starting to plane!! So much fun! I don't quite have it cracked and I still fall in LOTS and turning still involves more swimming than windsurfing but I am getting so much better. I have graduated from the wobbles of last summer, the wave sailing in Brazil and am now beginning to plane and learn light wind freestyle! I went to all my lessons I am now considered a intermediate planing windsurfer which means that I am working on planing getting in the harness and foot-straps which will mean I can go fast! I am still trying to conquer a dry fast tack, but have also started to learn how to do a non-planing carve gybe as well as generally increase my skills overall. My instructors (Hannah and Emily) for the week were amazing and I feel like I learned SO much. I can't wait to go out again here in England even though it will be chilly in comparison. The second half of the week was not very windy at all so the had us practicing lots of light wind skills which is something I never really did before. It really slows everything down so that you can concentrate on what you are doing and the implications of that action. One of the other members in my group had a blast working our tails off at trying heli-tacks, back winding the sail, sail 360's, body 360's (my record was 8), and upwind 360's. Mark took video of me and I also created a new move a reverse 3 point turn. How I do it I have no clue! hehe it looks ridiculous. We also laughed our heads off to the point that we had other guest on the beach stopping and watching us. 
Trying to plane/blast
Light wind freestyle

Due to the light wind conditions and the fact that on Tuesday Mark hurt his leg and could not really take part in the I did a few things on my own. I went for a kayak trip to a secret beach which was such fun. One the way there I saw a school of sardines jumping for their lives. And on arriving to the beach we scared a bunch of naturalist's taking advantage of the secluded spot and hazy UV rays hehe! I have never before see naturalist be shy - not only did the cover up but the hid in the rocks and they were all at least 50 years old...maybe it was their first go at it? 

I also went for a bike ride that took us through the olive groves and through the back part of the village to another secret beach, only this time there were no naturalists.

The other adventure was a SUPing trip. There was no wind so I took out a windSUP (Stand Up Paddle baord with the slot for a windsurf sail) out to goof off on. I tried a bit of freestyle but only succeeded in looking like I didn't know what I was doing and got a bit wet. Then Hannah who was in the safety boat boat told me that there were dolphins out in the bay. So I went for about an hour paddle to try and find them. I did manage to see them but they were a way off, the crested through the water and then disappeared  So a tiny glimpse but I still loved every moment of the paddle. Being on the water is just were I love to be.

So although our last minute holiday wasn't everything we had hoped it would be. We still had a good enough time that we both want to return, but this time try and not get hurt so that I can learn to sail! Who knows maybe again later this year??? Time will tell.