Monthly Archives: March 2012

Maui 2012: SUP Downwinding

Wow! What a great trip to Maui! It had been WAY too long since my last visit to the Garden Isle, with absolutely no legit excuse. With sufficient prompting from friends there who I hadn’t seen in a long time, along with the same from some good business associates whom I had yet to meet, I pulled the trigger and booked a flight.

I was joined by my older daughter, Erin and son in law, Rob, leaving behind my wife to her teaching job and my daughter Jodie to help hold down the fort at Big Winds. We were lucky enough to score a great spot at Camp One, with awesome windsurfing right off our lawn, very cool.

A couple of true highlights were the two big downwinders I enjoyed with my friend Bill Babcock. Bill lives for the Maui downwinders and he was kind enough to let Rob and me join him on a 10 mile run from Malaaea to Makena, on Maui’s South shore. It was fully cranking when we arrived at Malaaea, and unloading Bill’s two Unlimted SIC boards and one trusty 14′ Naish Glide was scary, but uneventful. Erin was a trooper and volunteered to drive down the coast to Makena and hang there till we arrived at the end of the run.

As soon as we launched, we were flying. The wind was a solid 30-40, with gusts hitting near 50. We were able to take almost a dead downwind tack, making the swell riding some of the best I’ve ever experienced. Long, long fast, smooth glides. So much fun!

Coming into a pod of whales in the middle of the bay was super cool. We all sat on our boards for a while, drifting while they rolled and frolicked 50 yards away. After we figured they had moved off, we stood back up and continued the run. Bill was following a little behind and witnessed a whale roll 10′ right behind Rob!

Two hours later, we arrived at Makena Landing, where Erin met us. We were all smiles…a memorable SUP experience in the books.

The following day Bill and I hooked up for my inaugural Maliko to Kahului downwinder. After hearing about this run for several years, I jumped at the opportunity when Bill offered to take me. We launched with a brisk 20 knot NE tradewind and a 5′ swell, pretty modest conditions as far as Malko runs go, but I wasn’t at all disappointed to have it mellow for my first one. Bill had already relayed stories of many runs that sounded pretty sketchy with huge open ocean swells breaking on the outer reefs. Small sounded just fine.

The Maliko run lives up to its reputation for awesome beauty and a good challenge. Even with a pretty mellow sea, the swells were well overhead and the bump on the water made for a serious leg workout. With the wind lightening a bit as we made our way down the coast, I found myself paddling pretty hard the entire run. But the spectacular scenery and the prospect of a rogue wave breaking out a bit beyond our line kept me alert to my surroundings. We arrived at the Canoe Hale at the Kahului Harbor some two hours later, having been in no particular rush to get it over with. With a nice atta boy from Bill, I felt initiated into some good company.

 

There were still a few hours of daylight and plenty of breeze when I got back to Camp One. Just in time for a sweet windsurfing session with Erin, Rob and the Quatro crew that came down from their shop in Haiku to join us. A really great day to wrap up our Maui visit!

2012 Cabrinha: Switchblade vs. Drifter

One of the most common questions I’ve been hearing from Cabrinha kiters is which kite should I choose for 2012, the new Drifter, or the flagship Switchblade?

I have had the fortunate opportunity to fly both of these kites, in almost all sizes, and have some answers to these questions. The new Drifter is a simple, lightweight, 3-strut design which is being marketed as the ultimate surf kite. If you are riding primarily a directional board, there is no doubt in my mind you will be impressed with the Drifter’s slack line drift ability. This is the kite’s ability to stay aloft even when the lines go slack from either depowering, or chasing the kite with speed down the line in both surf and swell. There are some advantages to a simple 3-strut design when talking about turning speed too. The Drifter will not disappoint the kiter who likes to pilot the kite aggressively, and certainly won’t disappoint the kite looper! Available in sizes 5.5m through 11m, the Drifter comes highly recommended by the Big Winds staff. Come demo one from us this summer, and see for yourself what the hype is all about.

Now let’s talk about the Switchblade, our number one selling Cabrinha kite over the past couple of years here at Big Winds. The Switchblade has passed the test of time, with the 2012 still shining as a wakestyle / free-ride kite. Up on the leading edge bridle, Cabrinha has added the option for tuning the kite between these two disciplines. The wakestyle setting really allows the kite to sit back a bit in the window for better unhooked performance, whereas the free-ride setting offers the ultimate depower and range. The Switchblade’s bow shape has a reliable and predictable feel to it either when riding in gusty conditions or jumping (and boy does it jump!). The 5-strut canopy not only offers wonderful lift when jumping, but also sets you down softly. We have found the smaller sizes to offer tremendous range in the gusty conditions, and the bigger kites to have a very satisfactory low-end to it. If you haven’t flown a Switchblade, come demo one from us here at Big Winds this summer!

Available at Big Winds: Drifter | Switchblade

–TJ

2012 Naish Chopper

Every now and then it comes along, a true game changer. The real deal. Very different from all before it. Rob and I have been sailing it for the past three days.

The Naish Chopper. I hadn’t even heard of it till we went to the Naish loft to pick up gear.

It’s a sail. It comes in four sizes: small, medium, large and extra large. All four sizes rig on a 370. A really refreshing concept in simplicity: it’s windy, I’ll rig my small sail; it’s pretty windy, I’ll rig my medium sail; it’s kinda light, I’ll rig my large sail.

Simplify windsurfing gear. Everyone’s been asking for that for years. But does it work? Yes, it does. The Chopper is arguably the most impressive sail Rob and I have ever tested. I spent all yesterday afternoon on the Small (it was windy), while Rob was on the medium. The first day at Kanaha was pretty light, so Rob sailed the Large. Two days ago he sailed at Kaua in mast high+ with raging conditions on a Small Chopper and said he never even thought about his gear, it was so totally dialed.

Yesterday while I was on the Chopper S, Neil (my new friend from the UK who sails here frequently and is ten pounds heavier than me) was on a 2012 Session 3.7. It was windy. We launched at the same time. After a few reaches, he came in and took a bunch more out haul as the wind had spiked up a notch. I was just loving life on the S. We zoomed around for quite a while, then the wind backed off and Neil took a break. I was still loving life. The Chopper didn’t seem to care that the wind was pulsing, it just stayed perfectly calm. The sail was blowing my mind by now. So solid, so stable, so light in my hands. No tugging or yanking. Awesome.

I finally came in and gave my setup to Neil. He absolutely couldn’t believe it. I had to wave him in after a while so I could go back out. He was having WAY too much fun. He’s going to buy a quiver to take back to the UK.

The Naish Chopper is simply amazing. I look forward to spending a lot more time on it.

–Steve

Coming soon to Big Winds!

2012 Quatro Tempo Twin 76

This is one amazing board! Erin was the first of the three of us to sail it on our opening day at Kanaha in really rough, onshore conditions with a sizable swell running. She earned the enduro award for staying out for a sold two hour session. She loved the board. The way it turned, planed, it’s overall feel.

Erin, Rob, Francisco & Lalo Goya, Keith Taboul with a pile of sweet new gear to test!

The next day, I got on it in windy conditions at Camp One. It pretty well blew my mind right off the bat. It seemed I could do no wrong. I’ve not had much love for twin fins in the past, they seemed too squirrelly, with not many redeeming feature sat least in the Gorge conditions I normally sail in. The Tempo, however, proved to be an entirely different animal and it was flat awesome: grippy yet loose, fast, quick and the turns were really, really nice.

 

I give the 2012 Tempo 76 rave reviews and my highest recommendation for anyone looking for a high performance ride.

–Steve

Coming soon to Big Winds!

2012 North Whip

Location: Roosevelt, WA
Date: 3/3/12
Time: 2-4:30pm
Wind: 33-47mph!
Kite: Cabrinha Drifter 7m
Board: 2012 North Whip 5’6″

I love the Eastern Gorge! Roosevelt/Arlington during the spring months are two of my favorite places to session as the average temperatures are much warmer out in the desert. What a great opportunity for putting the new 2012 North Whip to the test. First impression, the moment I picked up the board was, wow, this thing is light (7 lbs. w/ fin-set and footstraps!).

The footstraps are easy to adjust, even around my thick 6/5/4 boots. The Whip 5’6″ feels like a great size for boosting air and slashing swell, and just as was the 2011, super loose and skate-y. When the gusts would punch, the Whip can still lock down and grip, but once you lighten up your back foot, you can really allow the tail to slide, especially on the smooth swell faces on the Arlington side. Time to pick up a 5.5m Drifter for these nuclear Eastern Gorge days!

Available at Big Winds.