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

1 comment:

I Fly Hi said...

Chuck Rhodes,

I think you are the same Chuck that taught me how to fly hang gliders back in '75 or '76. You had just gone in partnership with this young (well we were all young then) kid in Tempe Arizona. I did your ground class, went to the hill, bought a blue Pacific Gull hang glider from you and was totally hooked.

I have been windsurfing for about 14 years now and am one of 2 Master Instructor Trainers in the U.S. for US Sailing. I also teach Kiteboarding and Sailing, but have had the itch to get back into flying so am getting geared up to do so.

Would love to catch up. My page is

JaK Wilberscheid