|Tatiana Howard 2005|
What I did last summer ...
"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next." - Gilda Radner
Whoa, I hold on tight as the jet rumbles along the runway to a stop. I take a big inhale hold it, exhale as I try to calm my excited stomach. For some reason I feel just as many butterflies as I come to the end of my summer journey as when I first departed 2 1/2 months ago. With a summer full of great experiences and lessons learned, not only about windsurfing but about people, places, cultures and life, I am more excited than ever knowing where my passion has taken me and where it still will lead me. As each new country and location I visited was exciting and beautiful; I think Maui will always be the best.
It all started last May, while I was working at the DaKine factory. My supervisor asked me what I was doing this summer. Always wanting to travel to different windsurfing places, and placing in the top 10 at the PWA Hawaii Pro, I mentioned that the PWA World Tour in Europe would be a great opportunity. Since I had a very limited budget, I didn't give it much serious consideration. My supervisor looked and me and asked, "Well, what can we do to make it happen? Think about it and let me know." That night, I woke up with a great little idea that became bigger and bigger the more I thought. In a matter of a week, my Raffle Bash came into action. Thanks to DaKine and other local businesses as well as all my friends and family, my windsurfing adventure was getting its' legs. After my dream grew its legs, I kind of just hopped on and went for the ride. Even though I didn't have everything planned out perfectly, I guess I had a lot of faith, and let any nervous worries blow away in the wind. The only thing I hoped for was to see a familiar face waiting for me at the Lisbon airport, half way around the world.
Destination 1: Guincho, Portugal. Even though they cancelled the Women divisions, I wanted to go and check out the windsurf scene. In Guincho, there were some days when there were side shore winds: winds and waves somewhat similar to Maui, but everyday usually brought up different conditions. It could change from perfect side shore, to strong onshore then to no wind at all, perfectly glassy. A long sandy beach, with good windsurfing at one end and surfing on the other made it a very versatile and fun beach to be at. Tati's Travel Tip: Try to get your bags delayed on the next flight. When it happened to me, I thought it was lemons being thrown at me; but it turned out to be sweet lemonade. My two DaKine World Traveller Board Bags, full of equipment, were dropped off right on my doorstep. Not having to move a muscle, everything was right where it was supposed to be.
Destination 2: Pozo, Gran Canary. Now this place was unbelievable! It was so different than anything I have ever seen in my whole life. No similarity whatsoever to my home break. It was really something to see all the best sailors in the world going for it! I have never seen people go so big. I guess it is the combination of the strong winds, chops, and talent that just make you in awe when you watch. They made it look so easy. It was my first time sailing in port tac because on Maui's north shore, its starboard and that's all I have ever sailed. I saw the others and was so anxious to get out there and give it a try. I rigged up my 3.0 Naish Session sail and was on my 61 Naish Wave board. It was definitely a very windy day. ( I know this, because I have never rigged a 3.0 sail in my life!). People told me before I left that its a little tricky and hard to get used to at the beginning, but when I saw every one else ripping, I thought, "Oh, I can handle that. That doesn't look too tricky". So I headed out and I could barely get myself and my rig into the water with the 40+ knot wind blowing me back and my feet sliding in between the rocks. A one step forward two steps back kind of a thing. Once in the water, I was off like a rocket holding on for dear life. I was flying through the water. I was a little out of control for a while trying to get a feel for it.
I couldn't believe it. It was the strangest feeling. I was falling on my jibes and I never fall on my jibes at home. It was like I was learning from the start again. When I came in and starting talking to people and telling them how I felt. They said that they felt the same way too when they first came to this place. Whew! What a relief I had. I thought something was wrong with me. I kept on sailing and day by day it became better and better. After a couple of days I started to really enjoy the port tac and could see how you could get used to the conditions here. I started doing forwards, vulcans and other wave and jump maneuvers. My favourite part was learning how to sail the waves back side. Tati's Tips for travelling to Pozo: If you're a first timer out in Pozo feeling a little overwhelmed by the conditions, remember that life has two rules; 1. Never quit! 2. Always remember rule number one.
Destination 3: Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain. Just getting used to the strong winds in Pozo, I was looking forward to taking on the next windy Canary Island, Lanzarote. It turns out that they were nothing alike. Lanzarote was light winds, flat water and had a sandy shore. It was a nice contrast after being blown away by the winds in Pozo. There, the PWA held the first Women Super Cross event. All of us women were really excited about participating in this. It was a blast. The course consisted of 3 sausages to jump, buoys to duck-jibe around and straight always for forward loops and racing. It was such good practice to repeat the course over and over; each time completing the course a little better and a little faster. There was no wave event here but the freestyle event was taken to the next level. Even though I am mainly focused on the wave discipline, I participated in the freestyle too. I tried some forwards, vulcans, upwind 360s, duckjibes, body drags, sail tricks and anything else I could think of. Most of the time I was sailing on a 5.3 Naish Boxer sail and a 91 liter board.
Tati's Tips for travelling to Lanzarote: Helmets can be a good idea to bring not only if you participate in Super Cross but there are a lot of beginners sailing around. Don't forget a surfboard because there is a sick surf spot just 45 minutes to the north called La Famara.
Destination 4: Fuerteventura, Spain. After my time in Lanzarote the plan was to head on home to Maui. But seeing a great opportunity in front me, my plans had to change. I was invited to go to a professional training camp in Fuerteventura that Daida and Iballa Moreno, and Karin Jaggi had been working just for girls. I called and made some changes because I just knew I couldn't miss this event. I thought since I was already this far from home, what could a few more days be. Before I knew it I was on a ferry with the rest of the girls on tour and headed for Fuerteventura. This event was put on by Roxy, VW, Mistral, North Sails, F2 and Fanatic. Going to the camp turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole trip. Before, I didn't know many of the other girls on the tour but this got us all together and we all had so much fun. Everyone of us were given a Fuertewind Training Camp Book which we would could take notes in, read about eating healthy, keeping in shape and other useful articles. Each morning we would get together for a meeting at the hotel and Daida, Iballa and Karin would cover different topics of Media Communication, tell us the plans for the day, and gave out prizes for "the most" something from the day before.
I lucked out and won a beautiful pink bikini for being "the most Smiley"! After the meeting in the morning we would get into the VW vans and head out for a long day of windsurfing. Some days we went to the south, other days we would head up north. The south was flat and strong winds, good for freestyle conditions. The north was lighter winds on starboard tac with waves. I was really excited to go to the north because I hadn't sailed a starboard tac since leaving Maui. Each day we would be divided into three groups. One group for photos, one for video and one for training. Each hour we would rotate so each of us got a little of everything by the end of the day. Each day we learned something new and had so many fun memories. You would think there would be a lot of cat fights going on with so many girls but the only thing related to cats was all the cat naps we would take on the car ride back after windsurfing all day. Tati's Tips for travelling to Fuerteventura: If you go to the girls camp be prepared to have a sore stomach and tired cheeks from laughing so much. Never fight a gut feeling embrace it and go with it because you never know what will happen.
Well, no world title this year, but I still feel like a champion. I got myself to Europe, did my best, was the youngest and only U.S./Hawaii girl competitor in Europe for Wave and Super Cross, finished in the top 13 in the Women Wave Division, learned so many more tricks and can already feel a huge difference in my sailing ability back here on Maui. I feel like I have visited more countries than I actually have because I met so many people from around the world. Each person brings their own way of life and culture with them.
That's about it for my 2005 summer adventure. I look
forward for the next and will be sure to keep you posted. Much Aloha to all my
friends, family and sponsors!
photos & text: Tatiana Howard © windgirls 2005