Dahab Retrospective 

Chantilly, France

While I was on vacation, the world wide economic slowdown continued to deepen. Returning from vacation was not easy. I don't know what had the most impact - the muscle pains from all of that physical activity that I was able to stave off in Egypt but upon returning came back with a vengeance, the continuing bad economic news, the noticeably shortened daylight period, or continuing to feel not completly satisfied with how things are going at work.

On the last full day of my vacation in Dahab, I woke up tired - not feeling strong. I guess it's to be expected, windsurfing is a physically demanding sport, especially when learning. I didn't end up mastering the water start but I did succeed in proving that I could still get on the board and control the sail, even after seven years.

On the day of my return I was scheduled to leave the hotel at noon. I spent the morning hours enjoying the last hours of warm sunshine and thinking about the trip.

I like the fact that I spent my vacation time working on a goal. The concept of productivity is important to me, even while on vacation (which I know is quite different from other people). Without some kind of goal, or structure, I do get bored easily and I start to feel uneasy.

It was a vacation that revolved, for the most part, around the wind. It's a concept not unfamiliar to me as my vacations to Safaga, Corsica, and Malta were also wind influenced to some extent. Wind, even in this day and age when much of nature is dominated by man, is still something beyond his control. At times it's not there when you want it, at others there's too much of it, and at still other times the situation changes rapidly and brutally between the two extremes. It requires a certain mindset to deal with it. And having an alternative activity to fall back on when the wind is not cooperating is always in order.

I find the combination of snorkeling and windsurfing to be ideal. When the conditions are bad for one, they are generally good for the other. I use one to "hedge" against the other.

In the complete absence of wind, one needs to remain philosophical. When the wind comes in gusts, the ability to anticipate and adjust the sail so one doesn't fly over with it is key. Working with wind is a good lesson in adaptability. A windsurfer needs to adapt to the wind and work with the prevailing conditions.

I still need to work on my water start. I didn't really make it onto the board yet. The water start is difficult because there are so many variables that need to be aligned in order to pull it off and such limited means to control them. There's the direction the board is pointing in, there's the angle you hold the sail at, where you put your first (back) foot on the board, where you position yourself after placing your feet, how you lift the sail, and how strong the wind is. All of the variables need to be in equilibrium for the manoeuver to work!

I'm searching for a way that I can break up the manoeuver into smaller, more manageable parts. For example, as a start, could one just practice laying low in the water and using the sail to keep the nose of the board in the right direction? What did I do right? In shallow water I was able to get the starting position correct which is in itself, not that easy.

My problem seems to come where I position myself after putting my back feet on the board, and how I lift the sail afterwards. I don't pivot my front arm up enough. And I'm not far enough forward when I try lifting the sail. I also get excited and impatient when I begin windsurfing. But often, patience and level headedness are needed to practice and understand the lessons as well as time and endurance. Having crowds of windsurfers around doesn't help either because one is always tempted to compare oneself with them.

Windsurfing is a sport with so many aspects that it's open to many different teaching approaches. I sometimes don't get the feeling that all the people involved in teaching the sport (authors and instructors) agree on which skill or skills need to be mastered in order to move on to the next level. Is there a clear progression defined? Is there a clear method? A really excellent instructor, in my opinion, would be able to cut through some of the anticipation and insecurities I mentioned above and keep the students on the right track, focused and free from distractions.

I think it's also not so easy to learn in such a course. In this case you are mostly learning by observing and trying to imitate what the instructor is showing you. The approach can sometimes lose its structure. Maybe there was a problem with language. Maybe larger, heavier people need more practice and coaching to get the water start to work.

Windsurfing lessons are good when you are on a solo vacation because it provides structure to the vacation. The problem sometimes lies in the fact that it is not scheduled at the same time every day and you only know at which time it's scheduled at 09:00 a.m. the day of the lesson. This makes it difficult to plan other activities. (The divers usually depart at 09:00 for the day). The other activities need to be very flexible time wise to fit the variability in the lesson scheduling which may be due to anticipated wind conditions.

All in all, five days in the water on the board out of seven is enough. Any more and I would be too tired to continue. The weight lifting I did before coming did seem to help. I think I would have been even more tired and less able to recover after each day if I hadn't lifted weights. Mastering the water start will have to wait for another time, but I was able to recall the harnass skills, and get the tack in order on a bigger board. The last day I was recalling how to do the flare gybe. What I noticed at Dahab is that the old are surfing next to the young, the fat next to the thin, the tall next to the short. So there is no excuse to to continue windsurfing as far as age, stature, and weight are concerned.

What I might do differently next time would be to call the surf center in advance to know more about how their course offerings are organized, for example what's included in a beginner / advanced beginner or intermediate course. I also need to focus more on some of the basics like always holding the rig by the mast and recalling the tack and the gybe. At first I was trying to balance the sail on my head in preparation for the beach start which was completely wrong.


(Dahab Coast Line)

My vacation was also a success simply by the fact that I was able to change my routine, if only for a week. Even if I didn't experience any particular epiphany about my work in France there, perhaps still there are comparisons to be made between approaching the wind, and approaching this ever worsening economic slowdown. Like the wind, it's beyond my power to change and the best solution may be just to try to adapt to it. Look out for the gusts and the lulls and try to adjust the sail accordingly.
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