Begging for Breeze

Summer finally arrived here in Central Oregon but steady breezes are still being elusive. I have yet to be patient enough to wait to get out on the water after 3 PM when the wind is more dependable. By 3:00 I have already had a paddle and enough tries at winging to get my oldish bod pretty darn tired.

Just the same when the gusts arrive and my wing dances along impatiently I know that I am hooked on the Freewing Life (yay Starboard). The snow topped mountain in the background contrasts with the wonderful 88 degree temp in the air! Looking forward to my lesson with Cascade Kiteboarding in Hood River this coming Tuesday.

Leash Up for Safety

When I started SUP about 15 years ago it was a relatively new sport here in Bend and there was a very tight-knit SUP community of friends to paddle with and to learn with. The learning curve was very quick and the fun was huge. Now that I have been the only person with a wingboard winging around early season on local lakes I have missed that camaraderie. Once summer really arrives I’m sure I will find a welcoming group of people. I hear that most are on a foil – so it will be great to watch them fly!

For now, I have been reaching out to the team at Big Winds and to SUP friends who have added the wing to their quiver. Peggy King from Maui has been terrifically helpful. We met years ago at the few Ho’olaulea Maliko Run events I enjoyed and have stayed in touch across the ocean ever since. Peggy is one amazing force of life! The first article we shared was in April 2014: Pailolo Power! I also wrote about her back in July of 2014 – and as usual she had lots of good information to share.

In a recent e-mail I asked her about some winging basics. She offered some insight on leashes. You only need to fall once in the wind to realize what a life saver (literally) the leashes on board and wing are.

Peggy uses an 8-10’straight leash off the back of the board and a waist belt for the coiled wing leash(about 4’long). I had been using the wrist leash that came with my Freewing but wondered if there was a better solution. I still need to paddle back upwind and the wrist leash got in the way of paddling, and also I often found myself sort of tangled. (Beginner Blues).

Being in my 8th decade, I am particularly interested in any refinement that could reduce the chance of wear and tear or injury to joints etc. Peggy shared that she has known many people have hurt their shoulders using the wrist leash. In her experience she had a few close calls in the beginning.

Since I am “in the beginning” and may be for some time, I went to my go-to experts at Big Winds to learn more about leashes that attach to the waist. After looking over their many options, I selected the Armstrong A-Wing Ultimate Waist Leash.

(Cool video for a complete overview) This leash uses a non-chaffing bungee spectra rope, has a comfortable waist strap that won’t release, and there is a quick release just in case you get in trouble. The spectra bungee rope that Armstrong selected for this leash is super strong and won’t break or get stretched out like other wing leashes do.  Also this material does not chafe you when It wraps around your arm or side on transitions. There is also a quick release for safety:

No one wants to get tangled up in your board and wing leash.  The more I learn the more confident I feel.

A Woman Wishes to Fly

A wing and a prayer! The water is still bone-chilling COLD here in Central Oregon and the winds have ranged from 8kn to gusts in the 11-18kn range on the days I’ve been out with my Freewing AIR V2. The prayer – that I don’t fall in too often. I am noy a fan of wetsuits – call me crazy. Right now winging on my 32″ wide 4 in 1 board I have a super stable, agile base and falls have been rare.

That said, I see all the pictures of Freewing flyers on their foil and wonder, “Could I ever do that?”

Maybe so! It sure looks like a wishful flyer’s dream come true. Especially with Starboard’s newest inflatable foil, the Air Foil, which can easily travel with me to warmer waters and steadier breezes. But for now – I am solidly happy zooming along as a happy 73 year old wingboarder.

There have been those incredible moments when the wind, my wing, and the balance between power and speed align! Right now those moments are short-lived. But it’s enough for me to stay hungry for MORE “almost flying” good fun.

Playing at building some skills has been enhanced by watching lots of informative training videos. I am a visual learner and gain (maybe even subconsciously) new insights each time I view them. The Zero to Hero series has been my go-to! And thanks to my hubby and friends who take some pictures and video we can look at my current level and see all the room for improvement.

Yes! A lesson is in my future later this month and I cannot wait. The team at Big Winds is booking up as summer sets the stage for fun in the Columbia Gorge.

More of a Kite Than a Sail

I am a water fanatic – in it, on it, around it. If there is a way to move, soar, glide, surf or adventure on the water I am on happy kid! My daughter excels in many sports but around water she is happy simply relaxing on and around the ocean and lakes. Just the same, when she came to SUP while I kept on my wing learning journey she spotted a key flaw in my attempts!

I was using the wing more as a sail – as in windsurfing. But the wing flies best when overhead, more like a kite. This very basic video shows the position.

Kristy and I arrived at a lake (no, I won’t reveal its location) in a drizzly rain with a gusty, cold wind then dead calm frosty air. We almost called it a day. But since we had all our boards and gear we decided, “what the heck, let’s go.” It was a great decision. It’s such a truism, “You don’t know until you go.” Intermittently the sun came out and the gusty wind came in waves – dead calm then 2-3 minutes of breeze.

The lake was small, just a few acres of water and sheltered in a pocket among forest and mountains. The pattern was to wing the breeze when it came then wait around for the next minutes of wind. I had a ton of fun working to refine my tacks and jibes in a most forgiving situation.

Fluky Winds – Size Matters!

Being a newbie at any sport is always daunting – and taking lessons is the best way to improve. But I live in Central Oregon about 3 hours from my nearest lesson site (Big Winds in Hood River) so I am depending on online videos to get me started.

All was going well over the past few sessions when the winds were (frustratingly) light. I could experience, practice tacks and gybes, stay balanced and get from here to there fairly easily. I have been using the smaller of my two wings, the 4m Freewing AIR V2.

Earlier this week I drove on to Suttle Lake after looking at my “wind app.” I didn’t expect much because the prediction was for average winds of 6.5 mph. I arrived to find a glassy lake. In my mind it was going to be a SUP day rather than a wing day.

Things changed quickly as they tend to do on the water). After about 45 minutes of calm paddling the breeze began to nip at my heels. Excitedly I paddled back to the car. It was time to inflate the wing and have some flying fun.

In the few minutes it took to get ready and back on the water the wind had gotten even more brisk. WOW! Was I excited. Tacking out from shore I was thrilled at the acceleration and steady speed. After a tack and then a gybe I started to really concentrate on heading back upwind as the wind was coming directly from the point I needed to return to.

In the image below – my return point is in the upper right. While my tacks were not getting me closer to the shore – I was totally stoked at how fast I was going. I hadn’t gotten my feet into the foot straps and it was all I could do to stay planted on my board. It was impossible not to be stoked by the bow wave zooming along ahead of me. The wing soared and played overhead – seemingly with a mind f its own. Yes! I totally need some lessons – but the ride was over-the-top fun!!

I powered and un-powered the wing to the best of my abilities, all the while thinking, “How strong is this wind anyway?”

I later learned that it had been 10-15+. That’s not much for a seasoned wing-er, but it was a lot for me!!!!! This old lady needs to consider getting a smaller sail. I wonder if a 3m Freewing is in my future? I think it should be – at least until I train and learn A LOT more.

Wind, Water, Waves – and Customer Care

Wind, water, waves – and the companies that make or sell the goods that get us out there. This is a story about a hat!

I write a lot about about Starboard founded in 1994 by Svein Rasmussen. Why not when this is their vision (and they walk the talk globally): Bringing innovation, quality and inspiration to the world of wind and water. Together with riders and partners around the world, Starboard and Tiki strive to be the best in the world and FOR the world. (You can be part of this by joining the Tiki Challenge or by earning yourself some Blue Tiki – a social token currency

I am so stoked with my 4 in 1 wingboard and my Freewing AIR V2 that I am constantly watching Starboard videos to learn more, and reading articles about the adventures of the Freewing Dream team. It’s always fun to feel part of your favorite brand “team,” right? That feeling got me started looking for a a Freewing hat. Well, gear was not so easy to come by (and I hear that might be changing) but right then I was having a challenge locating a hat.

I decided to contact Big Winds (online everywhere and brick and mortar in Hood River) – home for everything windsurf, SUP, kite, wing and foil. Using the CONTACT form online I inquired about obtaining Freewing branded hat. Like always, I got a response that same day. They didn’t have such a thing in stock but they would check around. I had mentally given up on the hat when a few days later I got another email.

Now I am, by far, probably their smallest customer. In spite of that, Bruce had made the effort to search out a leftover Freewing hat that had been left at the shop by a Starboard rep. Just yesterday it arrived at my house! Can you say “customer for life?” Absolutely. Because a retailer that goes above and beyond for each and every customer does that for a reason. The team at Big Winds is ultra passionate about their water sports – and it translates to every team member at the shop and online.

Get to know Big Winds – on their blog and on Facebook! Feel a part of the team.

Wind is Wonderful

There has always been something magical about paddling my SUP on a glassy lake or river. But ever since I got my Freewing AIR V2 I have been obsessed with my Windy App. If wind is promised in the afternoon I add my paddle to the gear and plan on spending the pre-wind hours having a nice paddle. All the while I’m waiting for those ripples on the water. In Central Oregon the prime time seems to be right about 3 PM. The good news is that even when we are still having 35-45 degree nights, by then the temp has popped up to a balmy 55-70 degrees (at least for next week). Out here it could turn back to winter and even snow through June.

My friend, Dennis, has been sharing some insights on where the local “wingers” go and I have heard they are a friendly bunch. Before arriving in their midst my plan is to get some skills under my belt. So last week when Ed and I headed out to Haystack Reservoir I was determined to get my first water time in spite of the VERY light breeze predicted. And man, was it ever light – and fluky.

The good news – My Starboard 4 in 1 wingboard is perfect for me and I had savored a few amazing moments of feeling the “soar” of the wing. And of course. After about an hour on the water we packed up to head home. The moment we turned on the car – the wind freshened! LOL next time we will wait for it.

There was still plenty for me to learn even off the water. Last week our springtime transitioned into what we call “third winter.” It didn’t snow in late May but it was COLD!!! Fortunately, Starboard has produced a wonderful series of instructional videos with more than enough content to prepare me for my next adventure on the water.

Of course my favorite series is “Zero to Hero” with Starboard Dream Team rider, Zane Schweitzer, aka Zaniac. He has a great way of breaking things down. In fact, he has me convinced that one day this “Elder Wingboarder” could even foil!

Zero to Hero (1-10)

Wind and Wing – Day One

Isn’t it always the way? On these spring days when it’s warm enough for a paddle the wind is blowing like stink – and usually in the face as I travel upstream in the Deschutes River. With a string of windy days locally I planned to take my first “on the ground” practice session in a wide grassy area near the river. How did I prep for that practice? It was very easy because Starboard has created a wide repertoire of how-to videos for both wing boarding and wing foiling. Since my wing boarding experience will begin with the 4 in 1 inflatable (what a versatile board) I made sure I checked out the board as well.

Since I have the 2019 Starboard Inflatable 12’6″ x 30″ Touring Deluxe SUP Windsurfer that can be used for both SUP and windsurfing I had some questions about how the mast foot attaches to the mast track in the Wingboard 4 in 1. The two setups were different.

I was fortunate to contact John Rainnie (North American Sales Manager) with my question. John immediately contacted some members of the Starboard Team and he forwarded the prompt answer from Raul Delgado. The images ABOVE clearly show that for the Wingboard 4 in 1  inflatable, you mount the mast base into the mast box by screwing it in directly without the threaded nut. The images show the inflatable board configuration.

Starboard was founded in 1994 by Svein Rasmussen. It all came from the vision of bringing innovation, quality and inspiration to the world of wind and water. Together with riders and partners around the world, Starboard and Tiki strive to be the best in the world and FOR the world. Unboxing my board for the first time, spreading my Freewing AIR V2 out in my living room, I felt pride in having products from a company with such an unwavering commitment to the Ocean and the environment. Even the bags the board and the wings came in were constructed from recycled plastic bottles.

Back to the learning! In the 5 part Wing Basics video series, Starboard’s instructor, Sam Ross, takes you from zero to hero, starting from the beach to gliding on the water. With tried and tested teaching methods and techniques coupled together with clear visuals from Starboard’s on-water team, the learning experience becomes rewarding, simple, and fun.

I began with Lesson 1: Mastering Wing Basics on the Beach. First I watched the video several times at home and learned all the parts of my Freewing AIR V2. Yesterday afternoon I headed to the river and the perfect place to start practicing. The area was clean – there were no rocks or other things that could harm the Freewing. I had the 4M sail and was ready to GO! Sadly, there was little to no wind. Still, it was fun to inflate the wing, remind myself of all the parts, and to loft it in the gentle breeze. I plan to head back for more tomorrow – the wind is promised to be better!

Springtime at the Hood River Inn

For the past decade, our “home away from home” in Hood River has always been the Hood River Inn, a special gem situated along the wide and mighty Columbia River. Although we have stayed there in almost every season, this visit was the first time we arrived just as spring was bursting into full bloom.

Lush and Verdant

Even as we arrived and were simply walking to our hotel wing, the richness of the vegetation greeted us. We hurried to get settled and took a walk along the paved waterfront walkway to savor the flowers – colors and scents – along the way. We got back to our room to dress for dinner (Yum in the Riverside waterfront dining room) just in time to catch a view of the sunset from our deck. Over our days here we walked everywhere. On the route from Hood River Inn to the waterfront shops and access to the beach where watersport action abounds there are endless things to view in about a mile. And while the weather was overcast and even rainy at times, that combination simply added to the magic.

The osprey pictured above was perched at the very top of a tall evergreen right outside the window of the Riverside dining room. What was cool to notice was how excited diners were to observe the osprey soaring down to catch a fish then gobble it up on a favorite rock. When he arrived back on the tree of course people wanted to snap a photo. The ambiance in the Riverside is fine dining at its best. People respected this as they quietly made their way to the windows for a picture. But the wonder and awe that we felt being able to observe this cool creature was prevalent.

The Bonus –

An awesome warm outdoor pool and hot tub invited us to relax after all that walking. Yes, there is also an indoor hot tub and sauna, but there is something wonderful about being immersed while eye-level with the Columbia river rushing by. Pristine is a word that comes to mind at Hood River Inn – the rooms, the grounds and the pools. Top quality all the way!

The Columbia Gorge IS BIG WINDS

Yes, the weather phenomenon that is the Columbia Gorge is a natural generator of the wind that propels the sports we love. Ever since I first stepped foot in the Hood River wind sport hub – Big Winds – I knew I had found a wellspring of SUP,-Kite and Wing culture. Those first years were made wonderful as I returned to Hood River each year for the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge and got to know founder Steve Gates better every year. Our hearts were broken when Steve Gates passed in 2019 after a most courageous battle with cancer. No one who participated in the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge event missed the passion, heart and energy Steve poured into that – and into everything he did.

Race Board – WOW!

I had to take a look at the newest, sleek SUP race boards at Big Winds before focusing on some learning about the sport I am just starting – wing boarding.

Just this past week was my first time back in Big Winds since the 2019 paddle challenge.. I was in the market for a wing and a wing board. After much insight from TJ Guiliza, I was so very excited to choose my equipment. (Do yourself a favor and check out TJ’s tips and lessons here online.)

Big Winds – Big Help

Once I was in the shop and saw all the options available for wings and foils I was full of questions. Fortunately, Alejandro and Sam were there to take the time and patiently give me a wealth of tips. They listened carefully to my current (age 73) goals and abilities, experience and potential. While there were many options for foil boards, we decided that for my first season at least, the Starboard 4 in 1 10’4″ inflatable board was a great choice. They showed me many wing options – I settled on the Starboard Freewing V2 in both the 4m and the 5 m

When I was talking with Sam and Alejandro, I think what really made up my mind was when they explained the “stability and control” I could have. There is no way I would take their word for it. Instead, I am making plans for regular trips back to Big Winds for a series of lessons. Between The Hook and the watersports center down by the river there will be lots of options for me to learn and build skills.

LESSONS? Yes Please! Who knows? Before the summer is out I may have had some wing foil lessons. Both private and semi private lessons are available – I can’t wait!