This is a good one. Planing freestyle too (shot down at the mangroves at the end of Bonaire's Lac Bay) but his flowstyle lightwind work is once again devastating. Check out the new article about him in Boards.
I just got these photos from the great Jimmy Rivera (documentary of many Long Island windsurfing events, and recurring water friend in Bonaire). All week during our trip we never saw Jimmy shooting on the water when we were sailing, so no pix. Then on Saturday (get in a quick morning session before running to the airport) there he was, so we buzzed him a few time, and were rewarded. Thanks Jimmy! BTW if you've never been to Bonaire, understand that Jimmy is not shooting from a platform or a ladder...he is simply standing in the thigh-deep crystal-clear water. Bonaire is so very very nice and easy!
Here at Peconic Puffin World Headquarters we receive a lot of inquiries about Bonaire. The blog posts are apparently not enough...some folks want specific questions answered. Here are the answers to the usuals:
Best Place to Rent Windsurfing Equipment: Jibe City, because it opens at 8AM. Windsurf Place is just as good, but it opens at 9, and the wind has been up in the morning in Bonaire. (If you've never been, these places are 50 yards apart...both on the water with excellent equipment and service.)
Restaurants We Loved: We don't eat everywhere in a week, but here's our latest news: At Sea is still outstanding, as is Appetite. We tried the tasting menu at Appetite this time (with paired wines)...we were entertained, but I think we'll go with the menu next year. Bistro de Paris gets a downgrade. I hate saying this, but since they moved to a larger location two years ago it's just not as good. The food is fine, but service and charm are down two notches, two years in a row. New spot worth checking out: Ingridients (that's the correct spelling.) On the water at a dive club, we ate great entrees while watching pools of light move on the water from the night divers below. Their appetizer concept is annoying ("bites"...bite sized individual items that we predict will not be there in 2015) but otherwise very pleasing. We'll be going back.
Do I Need To Wear Booties? Every year I say yes, though I haven't stepped on anything that felt (through my booties) like a problem in years. Like a sea urchin, for example. On the other hand why would you want to risk hurting yourself and possibly missing a lot of sailing? Bonaire is almost entirely shallows...you'll be walking on the bottom a lot.
How is the wind? Word there is it's been blowing solid for two years straight. I spent time on six meter sails every day of our week.
Best Windsurfing Instruction: ABK is there (of course.) If you're not going during a clinic week, Caesar (the lightwind freestyle master) is teaching out of Jibe City, while Elvis at Windsurf Place has a number of people who I observed teaching, though I can't say which is better
Flights to Bonaire: All we know is the Newark run on United, but if you haven't heard, it's civilized now. Used to be take off at midnight Saturday, arrive 5AM Sunday and have to wait for your hotel to open (or book an extra night for early arrival) with a very early departure the following Saturday (7AM so get to the airport before dawn, and no windsurfing of course.) No more! Now arrive Sunday afternoon (we got two hours of sailing in on arrival day) and leave Saturday afternoon (we got two hours of sailing in again!)
With Bonaire it's important to get in front of these things. If you arrive without a gear reservation or restaurant reservations, you can actually get shut out (on this trip I planned to rent from Jibe City, for example. I forgot to book it in advance but took for granted that I'd be okay when I arrived. Jibe City was polite and a bit mortified when they told me they could not equip me! Fortunately Windsurf Place still had some slots left. Same for restaurants...the good ones book up more than a week in advance, and they're not all open every day of the week. Best solution for me has always been Ann Phelan, Bonaire travel agent (and windsurfer) who lives there half the year, knows everybody and knows the minutia and latest changes better than anyone. (I have made mistakes by ignoring some of her recommendations!) She doesn't charge you (she charges the vendors) so there's no reason not to use her. Peconic Puffin endorsement.
Other commentary and recommendations welcome (let the Wil's Grill fans let it fly!)
The moment we hit the water in Bonaire, Sally began her jibe program. Okay she sailed 50 yards, got off the board to adjust the boom height, and then began it, but really there was no warm-up at all. Sally was there to jibe, I was there to give her loving uncritical unjudgemental loving warm considerate loving supportive jibing tips (while smiling).
We actually pulled it off! Sally has been hitting the occasional jibe for a few years now, but she got about 20 last week in Lac Bay, including one stretch with four in a row. Some were prettier than others, but the key was there were lots of jibes. Last year Sally didn't sail away from one until the last day.
While the official mission was to improve Sally's jibes, I too came with a purpose: Learn the carved Upwind 360 in the footstraps. I'd been doing them as part of nonplaning freestyle for a decade, but any time I went for one planing it was complete humiliation. I didn't understand...how hard could it be to carve upwind past "12" and then be in position to spin? I always made it to 11:30 (and then got stuffed.)
Enter ABK's Andy Brandt, who
A: Taught me the nonplaning upwind 360.
B: Is a windsurfing instruction genius.
C: I have done enough ABK clinics with him that he can speak in shorthand to me.
He gave me three key points...sheet out when initiating the carve (counterintuitive to me, but okay), luff the sail while bringing it forward, and get my head over the middle of the board. That will get me through "12", at which point the nonplaning 360 technique comes into play. It worked! My first day I was going 360...and getting slammed at the end. The second day I was waterstarting out of 360's. My first attempt on day three I sailed away dry from my first upwind 360, in front of several people including one of Windsurf Place's instructors, who gave me a big thumbs up. Yes! I hit six dry over the rest of the week, and as many with waterstart exits. Also more slams but whateva...
What else did we learn? Sally declared "I don't like gloves" and didn't wear them on day one. You know how that goes. Gotta love a wife who says "next year bring more duct tape for my hands!" Also she will wear her gloves on the first few days.
I learned to translate Jibe City's windmeter. This was bittersweet, because for years my favorite way to find out what the wind was doing was to ask Brendon Quinn (ABK instructor who is always around.) Brendon doesn't like to be asked about the wind by someone who should be able to figure it out himself, but that's half the fun of asking him. In 2014 Brendon took a stand, refusing to tell me what the sail call was. I asked him once anyway for old times' sake, before ascertaining that the meter works just fine. It reads in knots, but IMHO it's best considered as miles per hour.
There was of course a contingency of Long Island windsurfers there...Jimmy Rivera, Thandi, Jill, George etc. Special shout-out to Thandi, who I had to work like hell to pass on a speed run...just a few years ago I had the privilege of being at an ABK clinic where she showed up as a "never tried windsurfing before" student. Now she burns! Here was a first: I was going through comments submitted to the Puffin when I got one from people I'd never met, who were staying in the bungalow immediately next to us (hello Claudia and David!).
Lots more happened, but this is enough for now. Also I'm hoping to lay my hands on some of Jimmy Rivera's photos and video!
(Top: Lili, Dana and Sally practice one-handed jibe carve initiation. Bottom: My bride's hands at the end of the week.)
Thandi is way cool. Jon Sassone is almost as cool (and a fantastic windsurfer. Thandi sails too, but Jon is crazy good. But cool as Thandi...?) Cooler still (and we're in a heat wave) are the upcoming screenings of Children of the Wind, the movie about the birth of windsurfing in Bonaire (the cradle of 21st century freestyle, and one of the great windsurfing vacation destinations.)
Here are the deets:
There's a screening hosted by Jon on Long Island, Tuesday August 6th at Huntington Arts Centre in Huntington, NY at 7:30 link- http://www.tugg.com/events/4770
Thandi is also hosting a screening in Upstate NY Aug. 08, 2013 West Nyack, NY, 8:00pm at AMC Loews Palisades Center 21 link -http://www.tugg.com/events/4857
While on a windsurfing vacation in Aruba in 1997 I first heard about "the Bonaire kids", a collection of young (and very young) locals one island over who were windsurfing on antiquated gear, many of whom were fantastic windsurfers, and some of whom were astonishingly good tricksters. We now know the names of some of those kids: Kiri. Taty. Tonky. Etc. Review the PWA Freestyle rankings. THOSE Bonaire kids.
The story of windsurfing in Bonaire is an amazing tale, and a documentary about it years in the making, entitled Children of the Wind, will soon be screened in New York City on April 21.
Relaxing in our Bonaire bungalow after yet another day of fine sailing, Sally was excited about windsurfing. She has a love/not love relationship with the sport, but right then she was glowing. "It's like going dancing," she said. "You may think you're not sure if you want to dance or not, but once you hit the floor and start dancing, you're having a great time. The water is like the dance floor...once you're out there windsurfing you think "I love this! It's a whole different world."
It didn't hurt that she hit a jibe earlier that day. But yeah who doesn't know exactly what she means? Particularly when you haven't sailed in awhile, or its cold or whatever. Get out there!
(Photo: George Marr was first man on the water for this sunrise sesh.)
Here at the Puffin we get a lot of direct email asking for recommendations regarding Bonaire this and Bonaire that. I'm hoping to refer everyone to one post based on our trip from a week ago, so here are some of my Best Bonaire Recommendations for Windsurfing Vacation (etcetera):
Gear rental: Shout out to Jibe City. I'm not saying Jibe City is better than Windsurf Place, but in the past I have said I thought Windsurf Place had slightly better equipment. No more...JC has stepped up its game! It's purely a coin flip between them now. The beach staff from both are outstanding. btw.
Restaurants: At Sea knocked it out of the park (I had the barracuda, and the amuse bouche were tres amuse.) Appetite is outstanding. Bistro de Paris moved, but it remains excellent. And the restaurant at Sorobon was surprisingly good. Old favorites we did not get to this year include Cappricio, Mona Lisa, and Casablanca.
Help with putting it all together: As always, it's Ann Phelan. Before every trip to Bonaire I get wound up about something and worry, but every trip she's got it all worked out just fine. Folks: she's a windsurfing travel agent who doesn't cost you a penny, and knows exactly what's going on there, week by week. Smartest move you can make...we've been using her for almost ten years now.
Beach Bar: Hang Out. More pirates than the other place, and perfectly situated between the two windsurfing rental centers.
Beer to order at Beach Bars: Polar. Like so many other things Dasher taught me.
Where to get taught things: Hopefully you're in an ABK clinic there with Andy Brandt, Brendon and company, but otherwise work with the mighty Caesar at Jibe City, or Elvis and his team at Windsurf Place. There is no place easier in the world to learn.
Thing to do if you want to take a break from windsurfing: Boy was this a surprise...Sally had to twist my arm to get me to do a guided nature tour of the mangroves (by kayak and snorkeling).
We'd picked up a flyer for one tour outfit, but then someone told us "what you really want to do is go with Tina and Clear Bottom Bonaire (the kayaks have clear bottoms.) It was amazing. The kayak tour was wonderful by itself, and I was almost ready to (I can't believe it) skip the snorkeling at the end. As the kids say, OMG. Simultaneously easy and breathtaking, snorkeling just under the mangroves you find yourself with a gazillion fish, sometimes packing themselves tighter than a fishmarket, other times spreading out (giving the barracuda room...yes there were barracuda, like small stainless steel missles, but they don't bother you.) And when you leave the water at the end, there is blessed rum punch set up under a shady tree. We'll be returning for another paddle/snorkel tour with these guys next year.
There's no such thing as guaranteed wind. Doesn't matter what a meteorologist tells you...all you need to do is ask a group of windsurfers who have flown great distances to get to Sure Wind...the skunk stories come out, or at least long stretches of barely planable conditions. I've had the experience in Aruba, Bonaire, Hatteras, even Maui.
But not last week in Bonaire. For our seventh trip to Lac Bay could sail any time I wanted to. One afternoon I needed a 7.0, one morning I needed a 4.5, but the rest of the time it was all 5.5-6.1. Morning and afternoon sessions. Wind wind wind.
Such conditions have side effects. One positive effect was the daily opportunity to torture ABK instructor Brendon, who could be found every morning by the Jibe City rental center.
"Hi Brendon! What's the sail call?"
The first few times I asked he'd make a recommendation. About the fourth time he responded:
Brendon: "How long have you been windsurfing?"
Me: "Twenty one years."
Brendon: "So what do YOU think the sail call is?"
Me: "Come on, Brendon...you're sitting watching everyone sail, you know the idiosycracies of Lac Bay, you have the Keen Eye! What should I take?"
And invariably he'd make a recommendation (an excellent recommendation, btw). This was so much fun that I continued to ask him for sail advice daily, even when I knew exactly what the wind was doing. He'll take his vengence on me later this year at an ABK clinic, I've no doubt.
The one downside to all the wind was the lack of the Caesar Flowstyle show. Just about anybody who has been to Bonaire has had the pleasure of watching Caesar Finies do the seemingly impossible with a dancing rig in a light breeze, right in front of Jibe City (where he works).
On the off chance that you've never seen him do his thing, here's a video I shot in 2007:
(Photo: Brendon at the beach bar, wondering where he has to go to get away from me. Hey Brendon...you think a 5.5 will work?)
Such was what could be heard in the air at Lac Bay in
Bonaire, and not because we were staying at a former nudist colony, where
everyone saw your ___ if you stayed there. No, the Did You Sees were all about friends enjoying
ideal conditions and pushing their windsurfing limits. Sailing with our friends Lily,
Wilson, Dana, and Andy, the women were closest to new frontiers.
There was Dana, in pursuit of planing duck jibes, exploding
in her attempts (more on Dana in a subsequent post).
There was Lily, who on her last day hit a jibe so near
picture perfect that she declared the session over. “Now I can go home on a positive note! Otherwise if I try another and fail
I’ll be thinking about what I did wrong the entire flight back to New York.”
There was my lovely wife Sally (Jibe Sally Jibe), who, armed
with some tips from Andy Brandt, was getting closer and closer but still
finding a Bonairian jibe elusive on this trip. An inches-away-from-successful attempt late in the week
caused her to ask if we could count it as a jibe. It was a moment of weakness. “Take one more run, then we’ll go in,” I suggested.
She did. And
she hit her jibe. Jibe Sally
I saw Thandi (Long Island ABK regular) who just started
windsurfing a couple years ago, on a speeding beam reach clear on the other
side of Lac Bay, by the mangroves.
I thought “I’ve got to step up my game! The women are kicking ass!”
That’s because they’re tougher.
Did I say I’d write more about Dana in a subsequent
post? The heck with that. I was giving Dana some duck jibe
tips, most of which sounded like “you don’t need to carve like a bat out of
hell!” (how many people need to slow down?) when during a particular attempt
the attending spectacular crash left her hanging out in the water for a
bit. I jibed and came back
to smiling Dana, thinking she was just taking a moment to enjoy it all.
“I hit my side pretty hard,” she said, smiling. Her eyes said “I think I
just broke a rib” but the smile stayed.
So we hung out in the water for five minutes, until she felt
up for trying to sail back to the launch, which she did. That night over dinner she
was still feeling a bit dinged, though talk of sailing the next day took
After her return to New York we got the news. Dana’s got a great smile, but the eyes
had it: Two broken ribs.
“I hope they heal fast. I want to go skiing in four weeks!”
For myself I had a few Did You See My’s. Hit a good (for me) backwind
jibe, and then heard a shout from Andy Brandt! Hit another one that was fairly good, seen by several
of the New York contingent on hand. And I went for a duck jibe at full speed in
which I somehow stuck the clew straight down into the sand, the subsequent
explosion from which cleaned my clock, my plow, and everything in between. This my bride Sally saw.
So the next time I tell her I exploded, she won’t think I’m
(Top: Dana with the smile, tearing it up before le crash. Bottom: Sally anticipating her jibe.)
Sally and I will be going to Bonaire in the not too distant future, to windsurf with some friends. Amongst those friends will be Lily and Dana, Napeague shredettes whose wetsuits Sally has long admired. A couple years ago Sally told the Peconic Puffin "if I had the sleeveless shorty that Lily and Dana have, I would sail faster and with more control, and my jibes would improve." Thus began a two-year search for a particular Excel wetsuit in a particular size. Of course the thing was no longer made, but on the search went.
Yesterday Sally came home from work sporting a huge grin. It had been Found. Not only that, but when she tried it on, She Liked How She Looked. (She looked smokin, btw.)
It was a Great Day.
Now I'm wondering what will happen in Bonaire. I'm hoping Dana and Lily will be wearing their Excels and they all sail happily together. I wouldn't mind if they've got newer harnesses (Sally could use a new one, but when I've proposed this there's been no interest; apparently harnesses don't rate as an accessory.) What would be a disaster is if D&L are wearing identical NEW wetsuits, wetsuits that my darling wife liked better than her brand new one. That would be a frickin' nightmare.
I myself will be sporting a lycra that I bought in the '90s.
The flowstyle genius Caesar Finies was not putting on his daily magic shows last week in Bonaire. When I asked around I heard he’d hurt himself recently and so was on the mend. Our loss, but okay. Then on Friday while hanging out in the Hang Out bar, I heard someone loudly ask “WHAT IS THAT? WHAT IS HE DOING”. I turned and saw Caesar back on the water, just 25 feet away, and he’d lost nothing during his break.
I’ve seen him a dozen times before, and while it was still jaw-droppingly amazing, it was almost as much fun to stand next to someone who had never seen Caesar ever:
“Look at that!”
“He’s dancing with the sail!”
“What is that?”
“How does the sail know where to go?”
“I’ve never seen anything like that!”
“Oh my god, look!”
“What? What? Oh!”
“This is unbelievable! They’re dancing!”
It was great fun. And good to have Caesar back!
(The video above is not from last Friday...I shot it a few years ago, but if you’re not familiar with Caesar it will give you the general idea. He's actually much better now! And hey...if you like this, please like us on Facebook.)
I am back, baby. After being unable to windsurf since October I managed four 2-hour sessions in Lac Bay: The previously reported 7.3 day, an 8.0 day (I haven’t sailed a rig that big in ten years), a 6.6, and then overpowered on a 5.9. I couldn’t pull off anything tricky (strictly jibes, duck jibes and tacks) and my recovering arm hurt quite a bit afterwards, but 8 hours in a week beats two minutes over the last several months. I am back, baby!
Lac Bay is wonderful. Truly the easiest place in the world to windsurf. Thigh deep 95 degree water, steady onshore breezes, the occasional amazing blue or yellow or green fish that swims by in crystal clear water. Very nice indeed. For three dimensional sailing you must do what Georges Pav and Marr did: tack and tack and tack until you finally get to the reef that separates Lac Bay from the Caribbean, then sail through the channel into the waves. Mr. Pav reported an excellent session out there!
Back on the flat water Sally (Jibe Sally Jibe) continued to close in on her first planing jibe (in one attempt she was still planing as the sail flipped...a perfect catch would have taken the gold ring but alas) and also is starting to take shortboard tacking seriously.
We met some brand new members of the tribe (Liz and Alex)...Alex is seriously addicted. He took his first windsurfing lesson, and then promptly went out and sailed for four hours, coming in only when I promised him he’d be crippled for the rest of the week if he didn’t take a break. After an hour of conversation we realized that Liz and Alex live around the corner from us in New York City...literally on the same block! We also met sailors from Toronto, Boston, and Lala Land.
Who we didn’t see were Bonaire’s three freestyle superstars: Kiri, Taty and Tonky (currently #2, #4 and #6 in the world) were not on the bay last week. George Pav reports "I sailed with Kiri 3 or 4 times...he waited for the stronger wind at the end of the week. I heard that Taty and Tonky left last week to train in higher winds in Fuerteventura."
There is of course a fourth dazzler on the water in Bonaire...I’ll tell a story about Caesar tomorrow.
(Top: The Bonaire wind cam last Friday. Bottom: Alex, Liz, Lili, the editor, and Sally make medicinal use of caipirinhas after some quality time on the water.)