As the most popular and most consistent (in the summer) windsurfing location on Long Island (not to mention the venue for the East Coast Windsurfing Festival) Joe's Beach at Hecksher is a spot you ought to know. Perhaps nobody is more familiar with Joe's Beach these days than Mike Burns, who in response to a request by editors at The Peconic Puffin wrote a two part feature on forecasting the winds of Hecksher, as well as on how to interpret iWindsurf's meters for the venue. Here we present Part One: Forecasting Hecksher for windsurfing, by the 2008 King of the East, Mike Burns:
Ah Heckscher and all the factors that attribute to those amazing thermals. If you bear with me, you'll very rarely get skunked going to Heckscher. Luckily we now have 2 meters that are pretty good for getting an idea of what's going on there. Let's start off with how to forecast Heckscher. I'm not talking about looking at Iwindsurf and waiting for them to say there will be wind, I'm talking about an accurate forecast for Heckscher. Iwindsurf is sketchy to get a good forecast from at Heckscher because depending on who is forecasting, they either realize the thermals kick butt and up the numbers accordingly or others are very conservative and miss the forecast by 10 mph consistently. Matt Corey is the best forecaster for Heckscher.
For S and SW winds check NOAA's forecast. If it's going to be a cloudy day, just go by the numbers they post. If they say 10-15 SW and it's going to be cloudy it'll be 10 to 15. If NOAA says 10 - 15 and it's going to be sunny, you're getting at least 20! So if it's sunny, you can tack another 5-15 onto whatever the highest # NOAA is saying from extra thermals kicking in. I've also seen it hit a steady 30 more than once from a 10 - 15 knot forecast from NOAA from pure thermals. The only thing you have to watch out for is lifting. This will happen if there is too much of a temperature difference between the water and the air. The dense cold air close to the cold water prevents the wind form mixing down. This is what happened at the East Coast Windsurfing Festival last year when the air temps were in the mid 90's. If it was 10 degrees cooler, we would have had 25 knots both days.
Another good direction for Heckscher is something from the East. E, ESE, and ENE work very well. If you have time, whatever the forecast says, an Easterly will almost always be sailable at Heckscher. If they are forecasting good wind, you'll get good wind. If they're not forecasting good wind, you'll most likely still get good wind sometime during the day so watch the meters or set up camp at the beach for the day.
Southeast. An ugly word for Heckscher. When it's there it's great sailing, but in over 15 years sailing Heckscher I've only sailed 4 or 5 good SE days. Even if the forecast is for 35 knots from the SE, it might not fil l in to the point where you can even sail. It's definitely not worth taking a day off to sail Heckscher if the forecast is from the SE. I don't know why it never fills in from this direction, but it's almost hopeless unless we're dealing with a passing hurricane.
Westerlies are good but usually gusty as with anywhere else when you sail a westerly. Check the NOAA forecast for a pretty accurate prediction of a westerly at Heckscher.
NE, N, and NW, and you're better off going somewhere else although you can sail NW and NE. Just be prepared for a bit of a shlog back to the beach on the inside.
(In Part Two, Mike explains how to read the iWindsurf meters at Hecksher so you know what the sailing conditions are right now. In the meantime if you need to find out where Hecksher or any of fifty other windsurfing spots on Long Island are, check out The Long Island Windsurfing Map.)