Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Five reasons why Windsurfing is better than Cycling

Before I say anything let me preface my words with an appropriate disclaimer. I am no elitist. I don't have a house on Cape Cod, a 45 foot yacht or even a single German sports car. This is unfortunate, but the upside of all this deprivation is a clear understanding of the difficulties of the middle class. I understand what it's like to be unable to afford a 36 cm deep tuttle freeride fin, and have to ride overfinned, or to have to choose between a shiny new sail and eating anything other than dried noodles for a month. I understand these things.

Therefore it's important to me to point out that windsurfing is almost as accessible as cycling, and I don't want to hear any complaining about how it's not affordable and possibly even difficult to learn. That's why god invented credit cards.

I do have to point out that someone asked me as I was rigging how much my gear cost. 'What, the entire setup?'
'Oh, about two thousand dollars.'

This casually interested bystander reeled backward as if I had doused them with cold water. I shrugged and continued rigging. You can't even get a nice sportbike for two grand. It was a glorious fall day, and the wind was gusting (violently) out of the southwest. I had neither time nor interest in foolish trivialities involving human currency and it's exchange.

I slogged out to the wind line. There's usually clear air somewhere in Lake Washington, and it took about 15 minutes to find it. Then it was an hour of over-powered blasting over sharp, bluish chop. The water was cold, but not cold enough to numb bare feet, and the sun made a 3mm wetsuit almost uncomfortably warm. It was then that I realized that there are at least five reasons why windsurfing will always be better than cycling.

1) No cars. Well, obviously. Yes, there are jetskis and the occasional barge or ocean liner, but it's generally easy enough to move out of their way. They don't mow you down at high speed as their pilots yap on a bluetooth headset while trying to fit their venti frappuccino into the far right cupholder.

2) You're flying. Yes, you are still in contact with a liquid surface. However, anyone who's experienced hydroplaning in a car understands exactly how frictionless planing on a sheet of water can feel. Except in this case it's exhilarating instead of terrifying, and doesn't generally lead to injury, death or huge insurance settlements. The other part of the equation is the sail. A modern sail is an airfoil, capable of fantastic amounts of lift. The majority of your weight hangs from the sail through a seat harness. Yes, technically, bikes are capable of flight. However, this usually has dire consequences. See hydroplaning, car.

3) You don't have to wear a helmet. Ok, yes, I know some people who sail in horrendous spine-snapping bump and jump conditions wear helmets, but they aren't cool, so ignore them. You don't have to wear a life jacket, in fact, it's dangerous to do so. Much like helmets.

4) Crashes don't hurt/Speed without terror. Yes, you can catapult into the sail and bruise your ribs. This generally happens only a couple of times, and doesn't even come close to the damage you'll incur as you turf it descending that really slippery bit of singletrack out by the Towers of Power. Or, god forbid, at speed on a road bike. Slamming into the surface of the water at 20 knots as your sail overpowers in a gust is terrifying, and you're certain you've broken a $500 mast, but after you swim out from under the sail and shake the water from your ears you realize that the only thing broken is your sucky sail handling skills. You can indeed go very fast on a bike, and I have. Tempering the adrenaline rush from watching the scenery whiz past you is the understanding of what would happen when you get doored or the front tire flats and parts company with your rim. When I'm locked in the straps and the waves are flitting beneath my feet in a blur of foam, there's no fear - just a clean, unblemished rush. I'm more at home on the water than I could ever be on pavement.

5) You get to use your upper body. I've seen the uber-developed Serious Cyclists as they spin a fantastic cadence through the Seattle suburbs, passing traffic as if it's standing still, their massive quads intimidating even from a distance. You can tell how serious a cyclist is by how underdeveloped their upper body is. If all they appear to have is a massive rib cage to house their oversized lungs, and their upper limbs are wasted to vestigial brake-operating and steering appendages, watch out. Windsurfing, on the other hand, is the best full body workout ever. No exceptions. Ever.

Coming up soon: why biking rules, and windsurfing sucks. Stay tuned.


alex said...

One problem I have with "cycling" is that I'm not sure where it begins for me. When do "commuting," "going to the store," "avoiding high gas prices," and "saving the world" fall away, leaving only cycling for pleasure? It seems your windsurfing is purely recreational, and therefore more easily identified as "fun." Like snowboarding to me, there are almost no other functions it serves besides "fun" (whatever that is)...

Lake Washington was very polluted 50 years ago...so polluted that swimming was banned. Trip on that.

deprogram said...

Lake Erie would often have untreated sewage flow into it after a heavy rain. If the fecal coliform count reached a certain number, swimming was 'advised against'. They wouldn't actually write you a ticket for going in the water, which was good because storms bring wind, and wind means we're sailing, shit in the water or not.

I don't even want to think about Erie 50 years ago. This is the very tail of American industrial ascendancy that we're talking about. The Cuyahoga actually caught on fire, for christ's sake.

You make a very good point about riding. Cycling can easily cross over into utility territory, but I wouldn't compare that part of it to windsurfing.

Rode Soos Creek today and it was just perfect. Dry, cold, and colorful. Purely recreational - junk miles, baby.

Daniel said...

This is certainly an interesting debate, but I'm not sure that anything is better than windsurfing in the thrill department. In my experience, riding a bike isn't even in the ballpark. The comment though that it is only for pleasure is a legitimate one though. For any thinking person, there will arise a hang up there at some point, if only because it can be so all-consuming. After awhile you're like, alright...what am I really doing here?