Sunday, February 11, 2007

Icesurfing in Southampton

This weekend I was lucky to try ice sailing, aka ice windsurfing, aka.. icesurfing for the first time. Jon Ford e-mailed Michael and I to meet up on Saturday at Cold Spring Pond in Southampton, NY, promising some of the best ice he'd ever seen. I wasn't sure what to expect, picturing large sit-down ice boats like you'd find at the Lake Ronkonkoma Ice Boat and Yacht Club or the South Bay Scooter Club (some of those boats look beautiful). While I'm sure that would have been fun, I was stoked to see that we'd basically be windsurfing on ice.

The first difference between icesurfing and windsurfing is that ice is stable. Gliding along slick ice requires much less balance and concentration when compared to the rocking and rolling swells of the ocean or Napeague Bay on NE winds. Most of my attention was able to go to the rig -- a light and easy 5.2. With only a 10 mph breeze, we were able to coast through tacks and scream though jibes.

Too much speed on hard ice was, of course, a concern. Generally, I could sense when a fall was coming, and simply placed a foot on the ice and lowered my center of gravity to regain balance, and sometimes even hopped back on. I had a couple slips and none-too-pretty crashes, but no bruises or anything afterwards (helmut always on, regardless). The trick for controlling speed and slowing down, I learned, was to backwind the sail. Following Michael's lead, I was soon backwinding through tacks, and doing helitacks. With the stable ice and small sail, it was inviting to freestyle and experiment.

Unfortunately I managed to break the bolt on the rear truck of Jon's Icesurfing board on my very first run, which put his board out for repairs for at least an hour (sorry Jon!!). I probably should have started with the Go board of the fleet, John's Icesurfer. This broad and stable beauty had no moving parts for me to break, and provided a good platform to build up confidence... and speed. I probably hit at least 30 mph on a couple downwinders.

My favorite of the three was John's custom iceboard, pictured right with C.D. on it (notice his big icesurfing grin). It's basically a skateboard on steel blades, and as long as the blades were sharp, you could carve some pretty good turns. I'm going to try and make one of these for myself even though the next chance for good ice may not be till next winter (unless we get real cold again for a stretch in March). I may have to get a skateboard from Flying Point Surf and Sport (who were cool to offer a spare truck for Jon's board), to hold me over till then.

Sunday was also a beautiful day, and when the breeze picked up in the early afternoon, instead of updating the blog I threw my sailing gear and old ice skates in the van and headed back to Cold Spring Pond. I thought I'd try to some wind skating at the very least. My brother Keith joined me, and in no time the breezes also brought John, Scott and C.D. for another round. Keith and I practiced with John's training kite, which on gusts would pull me along on my skates. I snapped some more action photos and video over the two days, which you'll find on this Flickr Icesurfing Set and YouTube channel. You'll find big icesurfing grins in many of those shots. Many thanks to Jon and John for making those grins possible!

* Icesurfing in Maine
* Icesurfing lunchbreak on Winnecunnet Pond in MA - helmutcam
* Icesurfing Superbowl Sunday on Snipatuit Pond in MA - helmutcam
* Lake Ronkonkoma Icesurfer - mastcam (listen to why it's called the 'shopping cart')

* Flickr Snow and Ice Sailing Group
* An Icesurfer at Lake Ronkonkoma
* Another at Lake Ronkonkoma
* Klicker's modern Icesurfer

Snow and Ice Sailing Resources:
* World Ice and Snow Sailing Association :: Winter Sailing is Cool!
* Windsurfing Magazine Snow/Ice Sailing Links
* Ice Awls

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