Sunday, November 30, 2008

Go Board on the Ionian Sea

GO-ing For It On The Ionian

The beautiful island of Sicily frequently offers up strong winds. Perfect conditions for great ocean and side shore wave sailing on your favorite wave board and gear. This last Saturday however, the big wind did not materialize but I was desperate to sail never the less. Last year I had purchased a 2002 Starboard Go Friendship for my sons, to teach my friends to windsurf, as well as to have a low wind fun board for me. Not having sailed it much myself I decided to take it out for the afternoon and see how she performed with a long fin, big sail, and light winds. Although it came with a stock 54cm fin I had also purchased a Curtis carbon 62cm fin to better maximize getting my 6’5”, 205 lbs body up and planing. .
Arriving at Lido Azzuro, home of the local Sicilian windsurfing/kiteboarding club “Vikinghi ” I found the winds light and side onshore. Located on the 10km long sandy beach just south of Sicily’s second largest city Catania, on the islands east coast, there were a couple windsurfers and kite boarders out playing. The wind was ENE 8-10 knots and gentle 1-2 foot surf was rolling in.
I quickly rigged my vintage 1997 Neil Pryde 9.3 fully cambered race sail on my old Fiberspar 5000 520cm mast and headed out. The first few minutes were spent just getting used to the feel of a big sail on a big board and a seat harness again since my most recent sessions had been in 4.5-5.5 wave sailing conditions. As luck would have it no sooner had I gone out than the wind dropped down to 5-6 knots. I decided that since it was such a nice sunny and warm day that I would just stay out for a while slowly cruising the beautiful blue waters of the Ionian Sea.
Soon I found myself just sailing slowly out, my mind drifting back thousands of years to the Phoenician, Greek, and Roman galleys that sailed these same waters. I could almost imagine the sails of Ulysses ships coming up over the horizon, or the great Greek fleet on its way to attack the mighty ancient city of Syracuse just to the South.
Soon however, a puff of wind blew up and my thoughts once again returned to March 2003 and windsurfing. I noticed a few small white caps farther out and the big sail started to pull. I watched the blue water up wind getting darker as the wind line approached. Suddenly I was up and planning along with the greatest of ease. The wind had quickly filled in to around 12-14 knots and the GO Board just took off and flew. I couldn’t believe how well it cut up wind with that long Curtis Fin! Seeing a wave approaching I initiated a big carving jibe timing it so the boost from the wave gave the down wind leg of the jibe the added sense of surfing. I was amazed at how well the GO jibed for such a wide board and I could easily keep planing through the whole jibe. Yes it did require a little more foot pressure but nothing difficult. It even planned straight down wind with no effort. The most fun was just blasting by other windsurfers out on smaller boards and sails schlogging along or barely able to plane.
After about an hour of this the swells and waves had started to pick up making some nice 3-4 foot ramps. I spotted a perfectly formed one coming right at me, cut a little up wind to hit it squarely, and jumped. Up went the GO easily clearing the fin, the big flat undersurface catching the air and helping loft it up. Wow, never thought I would be able to jump this board like that especially with such a big sail and fin.
Later the wind picked up to around 14-16 knots but I never felt overpowered on that 9.3 and the speed of the GO was quite impressive. By now the wave break near the beach was 2-3 feet and I was actually able to surf the GO down and backside. I must admit that since the wind was on shore, and with that big fin, I didn’t try any front side riding. I did however; make sure I jibed well before I was in danger of running the big fin aground.
After about three hours of just plain fun the wind dropped away as suddenly as it had came. I went in tired, thirsty, but with a big smile on my face. All in all I was very surprised, and impressed, with the fun I had riding the GO. Certainly it is not a Formula Board or a Hypersonic, and certainly others have already discovered these GO board characteristics, but it was way more fun than I thought it was going to be. Besides, how often does one get to sail the Ionian Sea, let alone with the spirits of the great sailors of ancient times riding along with you. I'll be out there again soon,
GOing for it on the Ionian!

Chuck Rhodes
Sicily, Italy
10 March 2003

Sicily Windsurfing Stories



Chuck Rhodes

Dec 2002

(Written for Yahoo NW-Windtalk.rec)

Last Saturday I went out with local Sicilian sailor Luca Massimo. Winds were blowing steady around 22-25 knots out of the North so he took me over to the east side of the island of Sicily just north of the city of Catania. This part of the coast is mainly volcanic rock, cliffs, coves, and small bays bordering the Ionian Sea. We decided to sail at the famous Cyclops Rocks. These are jagged vertical lava spires, about 50-75 feet high, that jut up out of the Ionian Sea just off shore from the classic Mediterranean seaside town of Aci Trezza (Ahchee Trayzzaa).
This is the very historic site where according to ancient greek legend, the giant one eyed cyclops (now believed to be Mt. Etna) threw huge rocks down at the ships of Ulysses. Hence the name Cyclops rocks. It was a spectacular clear day as the strong north winds blew out any smoke and haze. You could look up and see incredible detail from sea level all the way up the steep slopes of Mt. Etna towering above everything to the west. Even up at the 10,900'summit level the visual detail was unusually clear. The upper regions of the mountain were covered in wind blown snow except where hotspots kept the snow from sticking. There was a long trail of white/brown smoke pumping out of the upper summit craters being blow downwind for miles out over the Ionian Sea towards Africa by the strong winds.
So there I was out having a grand time sailing on my JP Freestyle. Yes, I was somewhat overpowerd and overboarded for the outside conditions but needed the extra board volume and larger sail to get out through the very light wind at the launch point due to the wind shawdow created by the seafront buildings and the Cyclops Rocks. We had to initially swim our rigs out about 25-30 meters to get to the starting wind line.
After a few runs I was about 3/4 of a mile out and turned to head back in. I was looking up admiring all this fantastic scenery. There ahead of me were the majestic Cyclops rocks and the red tiled roofs of the villas and building of Aci Trezza against the background of Mt. Etna. The beautiful deep and cobalt blue Ionian sea ahead was broken only by brilliant white foaming and breaking seas. I felt very privileged to be out there on such a fantastic windsurfing day enjoying this magnificent view of the island and Etna while sailing the same waters that Ulysses sailed thousands of years before me. It then dawned on me that I was also probably one of few wind surfers anywhere who can say that they have sailed a Volcano under the Volcano. There I was riding my North Volcano 5.8 in the shadow of mighty Mt.Etna.
Overall it was a very memorable sailing day that I will not soon forget. Had a full wetsuit on but no need of booties, gloves, or hoods, and was plenty warm despite the strong cold north wind and looking up at the snows of Etna. This weekend the winds are forecast to be 20-30 knot NNE so perhaps another chance to sail the Ionian awaits.

Ciao e Buon vento (Good Wind)

Chuck Rhodes
Sicily, Italy




Chuck Rhodes

May 2002

(Written for Yahoo Windsurfing.rec)

Thursday, April 11, 2002. Capo Granitola, 15 km east of Mazara del Vallo, SW corner of the beautiful island of Sicily Italy. Local sailors awoke to solid 30 knot + Scirocco (SE) winds blowing perfect side shore at Capo Granitola, or Puzziteddu (poozeetaedue) as the locals call it, world class wave sailing site. Waves were already 4-6' (1.5-2 meters) on the inside and building. Big breaking swells were running full steam down the Strait of Sicily on the outside towards Sardenia and Spain.
By 1100, the first sailors went out as winds increased to 35-40 knots. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, I rigged a 4.2 North Zeta on my Naish 8.5, the smallest board I have. Everyone else was on 4.0's and 75 liter or less wave boards. Once out big, beautiful blue-green swells and waves, well spaced with wind blown glassy smooth water between, made for exhilarating sailing and surfing. Racing out fully powered and up the steep, long ramps, one could not help but get big air off the top. Coming back at high speed, then swerving up backside on the incoming waves, followed by rocket rides down the face and down the line off now logo high and higher swell faces and waves was incredible.
Around noon - 1:00 pm additional sailors were showing up from as far away as Palermo, having heard via the cell phone wind net that Puzziteddu was going nuclear. Wind, waves, and swell continued to build. By 3:00 p.m. wind was 38-40+ on the inside and 40-45 + on the outside. Big 3- 4 meter (12-15) foot swells and breaking seas continued to build farther out as far as the eye could see South towards Tunisia.
By then only 4-5 hard core, brave, and talented high wind wave sailors still were out throwing big high forwards, back loops, etc. and surfing down the line on 8-12 foot waves. There was no such thing as getting out beyond the break as the outside swells were pitching and breaking like surf. The high wind was blowing the tops off the waves and that misty spin drift look of horizontally blown water was becoming more and more dominate.
Finally around 5:00 p.m. the wind started backing off some and the few remaining sailors had had enough. Two masts had been broken, one loose board was blown way down the beach, and excited but exhausted and humbled sailors were left with many stories to tell over Sicilian pasta and wine that night. By the next morning it was back down to 5.8- 6.0 conditions and by noon it was over. As amazing as the conditions were the day before, the wave sailing is even better at Puzziteddu when it blows a good Maestrale (NW)!! Capo Granitola is truly an amazing place. If you are interested in coming to sail this fabulous site, contact Thomaso Corsodoro at: "" or Thomas Corsodoro Surf Sailing Holidays +39 333.3948499 Cell Phone

See you at Puzziteddu,

Ciao e buon vento,

Chuck Rhodes Sicily, Italy

Eagle Flight



Chuck Rhodes

14 May 2002

In the late spring of 1985 I went to fly the great Owen's Valley of California. Here the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west, and the White-Inyo’s to the east, form the Owens Valley in between. From the summits of the towering 13-14 thousand foot peaks on both its east and west sides, all the way down to the valley floor averaging around 3000-4000’ above sea level, it is America's deepest valley. Due to this unique geography the Owens can produce some of the strongest thermals and most magnificent and demanding soaring conditions in the United States, if not the entire world. For this reason it has been called the “Mt. Everest of Hang Gliding”!

I had launched my Progressive Air - Pro Star 190 flex wing hang glider around 1030 in the morning at the eastern Sierra take off site known as Horseshoe Meadows. The Horseshoe launch is located on the eastern slope of the Sierras above the southern end of the
Owens Valley. At about 18 miles south of Mt. Whitney as the crow flies, the take off area is on the side of a mountain and faces southeast. It overlooks the southern region of the Owens valley and the Owens Dry Lake bed, well over 4000’ below. During the soaring season hang glider pilots from around the world seeking long, high cross country flights flocked to Horseshoe Meadows. There their dreams of record breaking 100 + mile flights along the high spine of the Sierras and White-Inyo mountains could potentially be realized. Several flights of well over 200 miles had started here and altitude gains to 15-18,000’ were common. Rough mountain air turbulence, strong down drafts, and afternoon high desert winds were also not uncommon adding to the challenge, difficulty, and potential danger of flying the Owens.

Soon after taking off I hooked a good thermal and climbed out rapidly to about 2000’ above launch. Soaring and circling upwards past the top of the high ridge north and behind the launch site, suddenly the entire snow covered range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains sprang into view. The sky that morning was a deep blue contrasted against the brilliant white high mountain snow fields and grey-brown rocky peaks. A few wispy white cumulus clouds were beginning to form high above indicating good soaring conditions. Numerous lakes, some still frozen, dotted the high Sierra alpine valleys below as far north and south as the eye could see. Directly to the North was the lofty 14,495’ peak of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States outside Alaska. Climbing higher in continuing good lift to 13,500 I flew straight toward it over jagged rocky peaks, sheer granite walls and sharp precipitous rock ridges.

Slowing about 5 miles from Whitney to gain more altitude in a small thermal I climbed up to around 14,900' and soared directly on until I was directly over the summit of Whitney. I could see several mountain climbers coming up near the top, now only about 500' feet below me. It was a magnificent view. Wanting to put cross country miles behind me however, I took one last look at Whitney and continued my glide north.

Unfortunately I failed to encounter any thermals and began to slowly lose altitude. About 10 -15 miles farther north I was down to 11,000’ and desperately looking for lift. When you are in this area, and find yourself down to approximately 10,500' with no lift, you have to head east out over the Owens Valley. This is because the only available safe landing areas are way out beyond the western valley floor. Here the valley is full of steep foot hills, sharp treacherous volcanic flows and generally rough terrain. Because of this if I did not find lift very soon I would have no choice but to turn while I still had enough altitude to glide out to a safe landing area on the valley’s east side.

Then just at the last minute I spotted two big Bald Eagles not 300 yards from me and lazily circling up in light lift over against the side of the mountain. I turned left and headed right for them hoping to catch the same thermal lift they were riding. I fully expected the eagles to be scared off and fly away. However, much to my surprise and delight the eagles did not leave. As I entered the thermal and started to circle they instead closed in to about 10 – 15 feet off my wing tips, one eagle on the left and the other on the right. Together the three of us made big lazy circles slowly gaining altitude in the light 200-300 foot per minute up lifting air. The eagles perfectly matched my speed and turn radius while sticking like glue to my wing tips as we soared ever higher. I could see their beautiful white heads, sharp yellow beaks and bright eyes turned and looking intently at me. I was able to clearly see their primary wing tip feathers moving up and down in the airflow vortex off their wing tips while their tail feathers banked from side to side subtlety controlling their flight.

Together we watched the mountain get smaller and craggier as we circled and circled in the thermal climbing ever higher toward its peak. Lift began increasing to over 500 feet per minute at around 12,500’ and each turn took us rapidly closer to the summit, the Eagles still with me all the way. I could not help but think that I was the luckiest guy in the world right then. To soar with these majestic birds in their own element, to feel the same sensation of cold crisp mountain air blowing past your body, hearing only the sound of the wind whistling off your wings, was like a dream. It was as if these graceful but powerful and magnificent soaring creatures of the sky were welcoming me into their world and I was one of them!

As we climbed higher, following the SE side of the mountain face and circling only a couple hundred feet or less from the rocks, I noticed a puffy white cumulous cloud forming about 2000' over the summit. Suddenly we zoomed up past the 13’000’ craggy frozen granite rock that was the mountains summit. We kept on circling and climbing while the mountain dropped away beneath us. Up and up we went 13,500, now 14,000, and still climbing. One man bird and two magnificent American Bald Eagles still stuck to my wing tips. At 15,000 we were right under the cloud and at 15,500 the wispy damp cold fingers of cloud base began to envelop us. I could climb no further without experiencing white out inside the cloud. Suddenly the eagles peeled off and headed south to points unknown in the high Sierra skies. I turned sharply north, yelled “Yeeeee Haaaw” in an incredible expression of excitement as I continued flying on northwards along the eastern spine of the Sierra. I flew straight on course for about 10 more miles maintaining and then slowly beginning to lose altitude.

By then I was still over the eastern slope of the Sierras but just southwest of town of Bishop California. I had only lost about 1000’ since parting formation with my Eagle friends and was down to around 14,500. It was around 12:30 and time to fly over to the White-Inyo Mountains to the East. Once the sun gets high overhead the Owens Valley floor, and then the western slopes of the White-Inyo’s, begin to heat up. This frequently generates strong thermals allowing you to soar across the valley and on northward along the Whites and beyond into the late afternoon.

So I turned east and headed out 10-12 miles crossing over the mighty Owens Valley to the White Inyo Mountain Range just north of Westgart Pass. However, finding no lift but considerable descending air instead as I flew faster over the wide valley floor to maximize my best glide ratio. Still, I continued losing altitude quickly. I was down to around 6500’ when I arrived over the western foot hills of Black Mountain in the Whites. Desperate to find another thermal and to avoid a subsequent pre-mature end to my flight by having to land there, I finally hooked a small, bumpy, but workable thermal back up to 11,000. Continuing on farther North I found additional strong tight and bumpy thermals but they were all petering out around 11 to 12 thousand. Luckily as I flew north and the White-Inyo range got higher I finally caught a good one taking me back up over 14,000’. Then passing just west of the spectacular 14,252’ summit of White Mountain Peak, third highest in California, I could now see the north end of the White-Inyo range stretching far out into the Nevada high desert.

I continued on and out over the end of the range but by then the thermals were weakening, I was cold, tired, and somewhat hypoxic from prolonged high altitude flying and knew it was time to come down. Finally after flying over 6 ½ hours I landed in Nevada 103 miles to the north of the Horseshoe Meadows take off. My driver, whom had followed and maintained radio contact with me during the flight, was waiting there at the landing zone. Upon landing, unhooking from the glider, and squirming out of my harness, he presented me with several well earned and ice cold congratulatory beers.

Although physically exhausted, dusty, but warming back up quickly now that I was down in the desert heat, I found my thoughts quickly racing back up into the cold crisp high altitude air. I could only think, “What an incredible flight! Soaring for miles and miles above the high snow covered peaks and up to the wispy base of the white clouds. No engine except the sun’s energy and warm rising air to power me through the skies. Seeing the world far below for hundreds of miles in all directions. Flying wing tip to wing tip with Bald Eagles! Hang gliding had made this possible. What a sport! What an experience!! I am alive, my life renewed and rewarded beyond all expectation.

Now looking back to that wonderful day I was thrilled, yet totally humbled, to have been one of the lucky few among human kind to have truly soared with eagles! Those few fleeting moments we had shared in the skies high over the Sierra would forever live on in my mind and soul. I knew then beyond all doubt the special honor they had bestowed upon me. They let me soar beyond the human experience into their realm and within the true spirit of the Eagle. Even now, many years later, that spirit remains with me. Whenever I spot an Eagle, or another of the great soaring birds flying high overhead, I am one with them. For there I have been and forever there I shall remain.

Windsurfing Mast Kevlar Wrap Protection

For the last 10 years I have been applying a wrap of light weight Kevlar bi-directional cloth to my carbon windsurfing masts to protect them for wear and abrasion where the boom attaches to the mast. I have found this to be a very effective method to prevent mast damage over time. It is also interesting to note that the famous American windsurfing wave mast maker “POWEREX” has also been using a Kevlar wrap around the boom area of their RDM wave masts for the last few years to give them added protection from boom to mast wear.
I am now also going to experiment with doing the same thing in the area where my race sail cambers mate with the mast and cause wear from the constant back and forth rotation over time on the masts.

The materials you need for this are:

1. Lightweight (1.7 – 2.5 ounce/square yard) bi-directional weave Kevlar cloth

2.5 Ounce/Sq.yd bi-directional Kevlar cloth

2. Kevlar cutting scissors or shears

Kevlar Cutting Scissors

3. Quality 2 part Epoxy resin and hardener system
4. Roll of 2-3” wide “Peel Ply” Dacron cloth (

Peel Ply

5. 60, 100,120 -150 grit dry sand paper
6. 220 grit wet/dry sand paper
7. Black enamel spray paint
8. Epoxy mixing cups, protective latex gloves, safety glasses,
9. Acetone for cleaning up wet epoxy resin and mix spills etc.
10. Plastic “Squeeges” and small disposable paint brushes

Plastic squeegees and disposable epoxy brush

11. Light weight epoxy filler. I use West System Microlight 410. See: or

12. Epoxy scraper

The process to apply the Kevlar is as follows:

Identify the high and low boom attachment points on your mast and determine distance between the two. Then add about 4” (10cm) to the overall measurement. This is to allow some of the Kevlar wrap to extend a little about and below the boom attachment area on the mast. I typically cover about a 16”(40.5cm) section of my mast.

Measure the circumference of the mast by wrapping a piece of paper around it in the area where the Kevlar wrap will be applied. Allow for about a ½” (1.5cm) overlap.

Lay out Kevlar wrap on clean paper or cloth to prevent dirt or other contaminants to touch it. (Keep in clean). Using a felt tipped pen and ruler, mark out a section of the cloth (Length x width) based on your measurements. Then using your Kevlar scissors*, cut the cloth carefully. Once cut handle carefully and don’t stretch the cloth out of shape. Set is aside for later use. (Note: Kevlar is very tough and will quickly dull a pair of regular scissors)

Using plastic tape wrap tape around mast about 1 cm above and below the upper and lower measurement marks you will use to determine where the Kevlar cloth will be applied on the mast. Then wrap newspaper around the mast for about 40 cm above and below the tape. Use more tape to keep the newspaper on and seal the edges of the paper. This is to prevent accidentally getting wet epoxy etc. on the mast in places you don’t want it.

Take 120 grit sandpaper and lightly sand the entire surface of the mast all around where the Kevlar wrap will be applied. Only sand enough to just rough up the surface. Don’t cut into the carbon fibers themselves. The purpose of this process is to create more surface area for the epoxy resin to bond to the surface of the mast.

After sanding brush off all sanding dust and then use a damp cloth to wipe off remaining sanding dust. Finally use cloth dampened with acetone to wipe off the area again. This will get rid of any skin oil, or other substances that may inhibit getting a good bond between the epoxy resin and the mast.

Support the mast up on blocks so that you can rotate it around and easily reach underneath it as you apply the Kevlar wrap.

Using small pieces of tape, tape the long edge of the Kevlar cloth to the mast area you are going to cover.

Mix your epoxy resin and hardner according to instructions. Then using your small brush begin painting on a thin layer of epoxy onto the Kevlar cloth. As it saturates the cloth use your squeegee to spread it out evenly and ensure it is pressed down and has completely wetted out the cloth.

Continue this process as you rotate the mast around wetting out the Kevlar wrap more and more until you are almost at the edge that has been taped. Then carefully remove the tape holding the edge of the cloth and continue wetting out the Kevlar wrap. Let the edges overlap and again use your squeegee to smooth out the overlap.

Once you are finished applying the epoxy resin to the cloth and have smoothed and straightened it all out the best you can then you are ready for peel ply.

Using your plastic tape, apply a wrap of tape around each end of the Kevlar wrap. You only want the tape to overlap the Kevlar by about .75 -1cm max. This is to ensure that the edge threads of the Kevlar cloth will be epoxied down flat against the mast and will reduce the need to add more filler and sanding later.

Cut lengths of “peel ply” 10 cm’s or so longer than the Kevlar wrap. Lay one along the wrap and use your squeegee to wet it out with the epoxy resin mix already applied to the Kevlar. Also use your brush to apply a little more epoxy to the outside of the peel ply in areas where there is not enough resin underneath to fully wet it out. You may need three lengths of peel ply to cover the entire circumference of the mast.

Wait 24 hours for the epoxy to fully harden. Pull the “peel ply” off. The peel ply will smooth out and help evenly fill the weave of the Kevlar cloth resulting in less filling and sanding later.
Pull or cut off tape and newspaper.

Now use an epoxy scraper to carefully scrape down any hardened epoxy bubbles. Ridges, bumps etc. Use caution not to scrape into the Kevlar cloth.
Wipe dust and wipe again with acetone. Reapply newspaper and tape about 1 cm higher and lower than before.

Mix epoxy resin and hardener according to instructions. Add lightweight epoxy filler and stir mix until it is a smooth, tooth paste consistency type mix. Use squeegee to spread the paste all over the Kevlar wrap area. Ensure all low areas and weave of cloth are filled. Smooth off as best as possible and remove excess to avoid more sanding that you need to do.

Filler applied and hardened. Ready for sanding
Let harden 24 hours. Then starting with 60 grit sand paper and sanding block, sand down thick high areas. Use caution not to sand too deeply or into Kevlar. After this, use 100 grit, then 120 or 150 grit to continue to sand down most of the filler all around the wrap. Again, use caution not to sand into the Kevlar cloth.

Try to sand the top and bottom sections so that you “taper” the filler from the edge of the Kevlar wrap down to the mast carbon surface. Note: You cannot sand Kevlar so be careful. If you see a “fuzzy” texture appear you have sanded into the Kevlar.

Once satisfied with above sanding and smoothing. Wipe off all dust and again wipe with acetone. Let dry thoroughly then use your black spray paint to cover entire surface area of the wrap.
Once dry use 220 wet sandpaper with water, to lightly sand again the painted area. This will additionally smooth out remaining rough or high spots. After drying repaint additional time.

Once paint has thoroughly dried and hardened, go sailing and enjoy the knowledge that your mast is now protected from boom wear for many years to come.