June 4, 2003

surf blastin’, nose bustin’

On Monday afternoon I had an absolutely killer session out in the Hook. The wind was inconsistent but it was really gusty, so I grabbed a Mistral N. Trance learner board (think of your kitchen table), popped on a 3.3 meter sail and hauled away from shore. It was the fastest and most intense windsurfing I have ever done, and I got the board up on a plane and just kept cutting back and forth through the bay without a pause for respite. My arms and legs screamed as I pulled hard on the sail and drank wind like an Apple River inner-tuber drinks Grain Belt.

Whenever I tried to dial into the harness a gust would come along and throw me down into the sail. After one of these episodes I decided to stay in the water, grab the sail and toy around with body-dragging. With all my weight (my massive, boundless weight) churning through the water the board was able to quickly pick up speed in the gusts. If the wind was a little bit stronger and consistent, there’s no doubt in my mind I would have been able to waterstart. Mind you, the concept of someone waterstarting in the Hook is absolutely kooky.

After getting my fill of body-dragging and drinking River water I hopped back on the board for some more blasting. I knew I had finally come of age in my windsurfing when I became a serious hazard to the people around me who were trying to learn to windsurf. At one point I was careening toward Liz, who shouted “I don’t know how to steer!” I tipped the sail to turn upwind and avoid her, and something crazy happened. The board left the water, the sail spun around, and I got tossed over the handlebars across the airborn board. It was like some crazy, clumsy freestyle move.

Rowena? I’m comin’ for you.

June 2, 2003

definition of terms

I have realized that my life and blog have acquired a number of ‘The’ terms that I find to be descriptive. I have realized, as of late, that other people may not share my causal history with these terms, and may be a bit confused when I refer to something by a proper name without describing it. So, let us establish a list of definitions, starting from the most recent and working backwards.

The Hook: A protected bay on the Columbia River in Hood River, Oregon that is shaped like a hook. This is the place to go in the Gorge if you want to learn how to windsurf. My windsurfing shop has pictures of the Hook on their website. People that work at the Hook eventually suffer from what is called Hook Foot, where one’s toes are stubbed on absolutely everything and are soon rendered a scabbed and bloody mess. Think hamburger. Now leave it in the sun for 800 hours.

The Hatch: Also called the Fish Hatchery. Across the River from Hood River on the Washington side of the Gorge, the Hatch is the place to go and see (or do) some wicked-ass windsurfing. We’re talkin’ high winds and five foot swells, people. We’re talkin’ serious air time. If you’ve ever seen killer jump pics from the Gorge, they were snapped at the Hatch. Somewhere around here they grow fish, too. Who knew.

The River: The Columbia River, which drains down from northern Washingon, for a time is the border between Oregon from Washington, and flows through Portland out into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria.

The River is not to be confused with the river of Hood River or the town of Hood River. The town of Hood River is the town that I’m living in. The river of Hood River is the river that runs through the town that I’m living in. People kayak or fly fish or mountain bike or drown in the river of Hood River. We do not windsurf in the river of Hood River. The river of Hood River drains off from the mountain of Mount Hood, but does not drain off the town of Mount Hood. The town of Mount Hood has a beautiful view of the mountain of Mount Hood but is not actually perched on the slopes of Mount Hood. There are a number of towns that have much better views of Mount Hood and are much closer to Mount Hood, but did not have the audacity to name themselves Mount Hood. One town did, however, have the nerve to call itself Government Camp.

Let’s move on.

The Gorge: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. A section of the United States of America deemed so beautiful that they drew thick green lines around it. The Gorge is a thick gash of rocks, trees and wind that separates Oregon from Washington. We live in the Gorge. We windsurf in the Gorge. We love the Gorge.

The Dragon: The Green Dragon Wagon. My 1995 Mercury Tracer Wagon. This little car drove from Duluth to Zion National Park, Utah. This little car drove from Duluth to Hood River, Oregon. This little car gets 30 miles to the galleon. This little car just rolled over to 133,400 miles. This little car kicks everyone’s ass.

The Lake: Lake Superior. The biggest damn lake in the whole wide world. I lived on its shores for four years. I swam in it in January. I windsurfed in it in October. I fell in love in its autumn forests. I had my heart broken in its winter storms. I got a concussion in its mountains.

Funny story about that concussion, too. In the mail today I got a letter forwarded from my UMD address from two years ago. It was from the hospital in Ironwood, Michigan. I popped it open and inside was a check for $32.50. Apparently I had overpayed for the excellent service I enjoyed in their emergency room.

The Cities: The Twin Cities Metro Area. My youthful stomping grounds, which have since choked with traffic and beltways that encircle the city like the projected damage map for an atom bomb.

The Youth Hostel: My house in Hopkins, Minnesota, where I grew up. I don’t live there anymore, so now my parents take in stray college kids who need a place to live in the Cities. One of my friends lives there and studies graphic design at a community college. Another friend lives there and works at an internship in graphic design.

I won’t be surprised to return home and find the basement converted into a digital studio, with thin-eyed photographers and bleak beatniks and web programmers and monkey butlers scurrying around. There will be so many rip-roarin’ computers crammed into that space that they’ll need to liquid cool the air we breathe. The entire basement will be one huge case mod, with plexi-glass windows backlit by LEDs, and circular chrome bars caging in plastic fans.

I hope this list clears things up a bit.

June 1, 2003

rowena 1 – dane 0

Another week of work under my belt. I’ve got Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off, a weekend during which I have no idea what I’ll do. In assessing my current finances (or lack thereof) I realize things could get real bad real fast. Oh well. Unlike the Columbia River, debt can’t kill me.

Yesterday the whole gang went sailing out at Rowena after work. I rigged my silly quiver of gear, a Sailworks 4.4 meter Revolution from ’96, a 430 cm Fiberspar Tidalwave from the same era and my Mistral Classic 285. Windsurfing has a strange eliteness to it that I haven’t yet figured out. Maybe it’s because all my co-workers work at a retail shop and hence are complete boardheads, but it seems unacceptable to be seen in the Gorge on bad gear. Windsurfing is a very expensive sport, so it’s ironic that some choose to call themselves windsurfing bums, when gaining entry to the sport requires a situation far, far from bummage. Maybe the elitism stems simply from the fact that the Gorge is a hardcore place for high-wind sailing, and bad gear (or poorly tuned good gear) can lead to trouble in a hurry.

Before I headed out into the waters at Rowena I was warned a number of times about the swift current. Itching to get out and experience the Big River I mostly ignored these warnings, uphauled my board and soon found myself sailing into the middle of the Columbia. I flipped myself over the handlebars once, but got right back on the board, uphauled my sail and stormed onward. It was windy, fast and exciting.

I got caught in the swells and fell off my board, and soon realized I wouldn’t be able to uphaul my way back to shore. This, my friends, is why they recommend you have a firm grasp of waterstarting before venturing out into the Gorge. Gross incompetence doesn’t fly well, and is the quickest way to find yourself swept downriver. Which was right where I was headed. I started paddling back to shore, but saw already that I was quite a ways downriver from my launch site. To get back to land I had to swim a couple hundred yards across the wind with my rig, and I kept swallowing water whenever I was dunked by a large swell. It was one of the scariest experiences I’ve had in quite some time.

Luckily, Nelson swung by and gave me a crash course in body-dragging and waterstarting. I was pretty freaked out by then, convinced I was going to tire out or drown or cramp up or freeze to death or swallow so much river water I would mutate into some sort of horrible fish creature. My mind took a few minutes to creep back from the edge, but eventually I was able to use the wind and limp my way back to shore without so much beating. When I reached someone’s front yard Kyle picked me up in his van and gave me a ride back to the launch site. I unknotted my muscles, dismantled my rig and called it a day.

Today I spent a little bit of time on the water working on getting dialed into the harness, and getting comfortable with being strapped into the sail. With any sorta luck, this weekend I’ll find myself working on waterstarts on the River-side of the Hook. Rowena and I now have a score to settle, and damned if I’m gonna give her the upper hand in the next session.