Sunday, November 30, 2008

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

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