Opinion » Alta States

Alta states: A blast from Whistler’s past

Where have all the windsurfers gone?



I spent a lot of time on my board this summer. Caught a lot of wind; logged a lot of miles. And it helped. There's nothing I love more than flying over the water on the most minimalist of self-propelled sailing machines - shagging the breeze and chasing the gulls and surfing the currents.

Know what I mean? Windsurfing was my best friend this summer. The pal who encouraged me to turn my conscious brain off and concentrate more on my senses: the magic/elastic feel of wind-borne lift; the insistent, hypnotic buzz of a fast-planing hull; the punch of adrenaline as you suddenly surge across the aquasphere like a flat stone skipping across a pond; the ineffable exuberance of finally dropping your earth-bound chains and becoming free at last. Seriously sensual stuff, no question. And it allowed me to forget - if only for those brief moments - all the crap that impatiently awaited my attention on dry land.

I was a low-flying Daedalus. I was Sisyphus unleashed. I was the Ancient Mariner on a space-age rig. Okay, so I'm getting carried away a little. I was myself again. And that too is a victory. For windsurfing and I have been friends for a long, long time. I mean, I've been a wind-slut (and I say this with the best of intentions) for over three decades now. Started back in the days of the Windsurfer One-Design, when booms were made of teak and only poseurs used harnesses. It was a time of long hair and new horizons; of naked moonlight sails and on-water magical mystery parties. It was a time when seeing another windsurfer on somebody's car rack was cause for serious celebration...

Still, I know what you're thinking: "Yeah whatever. Just another old guy stuck on a sunset sport," you say, rolling your eyes yet again. "Should have graduated to golf years ago and left the adrenaline stuff to us..."

But don't be fooled. The stuff I'm talking about isn't anything like your father's old gear gathering mould in the back of the garage. Light and powerful and structurally bombproof, the 21 st century windsurfer is a thing of beauty. From light air to big winds, from mast-high surf to flatwater raging, today's designs can smear a smile across a sailor's face in just about any wind condition.

And it makes me wonder. What ever happened to windsurfing at Whistler? With its mountain lakes and summer thermals, its population of hardcore jocks and big-time sport junkies, the Whistler Valley is an ideal location for the new sailing paradigm. Heck, with today's monster sails and high-volume boards, you could be flying across Alta Lake at full-tilt boogie on just about any sunny day between May and October. In fact, the gear is so good now that you can actually sail faster than the wind. Don't ask me how - it's got to do with maximizing your apparent wind and minimizing your drag - but it's possible. I do it every day. And it's very, very addictive...