A good weekend for us Bellinghamsters. Temps in the mid-50's, a rocking southerly (the graph shows what happened at the north end of the bay, which doesn't get the benefit of the venturi generated by the SE pushing by the Chuckanuts), very low tide (meaning you could walk out to the windline, so no need for the usual swim/slog), and all that conveniently timed for a Sunday morning. It just doesn't get much better than that.
While participants in the first ever Bellingham Marathon were probably cursing the breeze, there was a contingent of 8-10 sailors off Post Pt., enjoying the playground Mother Nature provided with solid winds and big rolling (and, at times and in some places, surprisingly smooth) swell.
After years of rationalizing repeated beatings (here and here are some accounts of the not-so-painful ones; there were others which I simply refused to document...) received on slalom gear in these conditions, I finally took the hint and got myself a small freeride board. At 80 liters, it's a bit smaller than I would have wanted (slogging is still painful), but the price was right. The single rear strap, curvy wave fin, inset/forward strap positions, and detuned rails made for a very different sailing sensation. Just sailing along, it's pretty much effortless; you're just not going very fast. You can ride swells, and getting air is a lot less scary than on slalom kit.
The sailing style is the big difference. On fast gear, safety lies in holding the hammer down. If you back off, or god forbid sheet out, you start tailwalking and end up in a yardsale. Of course, that strategy is limited by waterstate, as the resulting warp speed will at some point lead you up and off a stray piece of chop - and the crater resulting from that tends to be pretty spectacular. The freeride stuff, on the other hand, allows you to back off when things get out of hand. The wipeouts come when you do try to push it - and find that the fin just can't handle it, so you're spinning out as your going at Mach speed through a trough. Different kind of sailing, for sure. Hopefully, we'll have lots of winter storms this season to help me get reacquainted with that ;)
The kiters at the north end of the bay were apparently passing the single 3m kite around the group to share. Of course, most of their usual crowd were down at Post Pt. windsurfing on 3.7's to 4.7's. I was on a 5.0 Retro, which was perfect at the beginning, and kept handling the building winds really well with a bit more downhaul.
As the front came closer, the clouds moved in and it started to rain - hard. That was right around the time most of the marathoners were gritting their teeth through the last miles of the race. Kudos to them for sticking it out; I certainly preferred being on the water in that weather.