Mike Zajicek’s spirit soared on the cover, but our mail room floor sank with the weight of letters about our interview with Annabella Hofmann entitled “The Sailing Game.” Sigi Hofmann was a former world champion windsurfer. At the age of 43 Hofmann changed Sigi into Annabella and began a six year struggle as a social and windsurfing outcast. Her story of survival within the indignities of our social norm was the source of heavy commentary to American Windsurfer.
Hoping Sales Soar
I just saw my first copy of your magazine and I had to write and say congratulations. I am delighted to see that at least someone had the vision to change the whole concept of windsurfing magazines from the kind of stereotype they all seem to have become.
It’s a fresh, original and amazingly creative approach, and I love it! Well done, I hope the sales soar. I got a copy at the Mistral Worlds’ in South Africa and this issue was particularly poignant for me, as it was the one with your Sigi Hofmann feature. I knew Sigi many, many, years ago when I was snapping pix on the then WSMA and WBA world tours, and it certainly came as a real surprise to see and read about Annabella now. It was a lovely feature, beautifully constructed.
Incidentally, we will be covering all the main PWA events for television, and setting up the international distribution in conjunction with SSM and the PWA Committee, so I am sure our paths will cross at some stage this year. ‘95 has been quite a year with the changes that took place, but I have to say it’s a delight to be involved with the sport and the world tour once again.
E. Sussex, England
Follow your Instincts
Congratulations on your reporting of the Nationals in Hood River, really enjoyed it, especially the photos. Good job! Also, I knew Sigi Hofmann way back in the Kailua World Pan Am Games (late 70’s early 80’s). I give him (now her) a lot of credit, it takes courage to follow your instincts especially if they are against the grain and especially in the world we live in today where racism, conservatism and judgement exist. (Although it is getting better.) A lot of people could learn a lot from her. Being yourself, and knowing who you are, no matter what you are, this is very freeing. Congratulations Annabella.
Hood River, OR
Story with Teeth
As co-editors of the only women’s windsurfing newsletter that I know of, we are constantly facing questions about “differences”. Those questions are always difficult, particularly given the homogenous nature of participants in the sport of windsurfing. Your interview with Annabella Hofmann was inspiring from both a journalistic and humanistic point of view. I was moved by Annabella’s courage, integrity, and resistance. I was inspired by your willingness to give us a story with some teeth. We’ve put you both on our subscriber list in solidarity with your visions.
Co-Editor “Shreddin’ Bettys”
San Rafael, CA
I received my free copy of American Windsurfer due to my joining the USWA–it was going to be automatic subscription. However, after climbing into bed with my glass of wine eager to enjoy your magazine, I was disgusted with the 20 pages you devoted to the transsexual, transvestite or whatever it was. Obviously you are committed to failure. If I want that garbage it is on the talk shows every day. What looked like a classy magazine based on it’s cover, turned into a disgusting turn-off! No Thanks!!
No address given
Sport of the Senses
Hello from windsurfing Hades. I was sitting here “jonesing” for wind and reading back issues of AW. Y’all’s format is eye-popping! AW is the BIG screen of windsurfing. I even enjoy the ads. To say thanks, here’s a subscription.
Hatteras is eighteen hours east of here. Corpus is only thirteen hours southwest. The Gulf is about ten hours due south (all times are approximate, assuming a moderately high rate of speed that doesn’t acquire speeding tickets.). When your season is ending, ours is starting. September to early May for plannable winds around fronts. We are seeking that mystical lake where the trees grow sideways.
For me sailing is a sport of the senses. The sounds of a board slapping across the chop, whistling tunes from the wind on the booms. The feel of a lively board dancing to soft pressures, non-skid, slick monofilm. The cleansing smell of the wind on water, odors of land and neoprene. Sights seen from a board that last only moments. And teasing a rig onto a plane, borrowing from the elements. When it’s good, oh wow. When it’s not good, remember the oh wow.
Steady wind and kind seas,
Once again kudos are in order for a great year of promoting and reporting the sport we love and it’s lifestyle.
We weekend warriors live vicariously through many of the characters in your magazine who have dedicated their lives to enjoying the sport. A large number of us make the trek every Friday night from April to October four hours from Seattle to the Gorge. Eight hours spent in the car for two days of pure nirvana. Keeps the soul motivated to do “the responsible thing” for the remainder of the week. Thanks for opening the eyes to other pursuits of equally addicted souls in other climes.
Superlight Super Idea
In your last issue, an advertisement caught my attention. The announcement that Mistral was producing a new Superlight brought back memories of when windsurfing was new to me, fourteen years ago.
Since then I have turned into a highwind-sail-as-fast-as-you-can junkie. Then one day this past summer I did something that I haven’t done in ten years—sail a longboard with my girlfriend who is a novice windsurfer.
The boards that we used, which will go unnamed, were slow and piggish in the water. In searching the market for a board that was easy to sail, yet fast and agile, we were disappointed. To think that with all the new technology in windsurfing, the best board for us would be the board I learned on so many years ago shows that a classic design can never be outdated.
This spring instead of getting a new slalom board, I’ll go back to the adventure of sailing with friends- on a Superlight II.
After reading the interview with Annabella Hofmann, (Issue 3. 4) I felt it necessary to write and respond to the absolute courage and dignity of this wonderful person.
The problem with this sport is that our prejudices and racist views go out on the water with us; the issue here should not be sexual orientation, gender, or preference; the issue is just the wind and the waves. I have read a lot of articles in each issue of AW, and it seems to me that if these windsurfers with so much spirituality and heightened consciousness still blackball individuals involved in this sport due to their gender identity, then they really aren’t so spiritually “lifted” as they appear to be.
The reasons that we windsurf are all different; however, we all share the experience of the waves and the wind and nowhere “out there” in the oceans, lakes or rivers on which we express ourselves should there be the issue of sexuality, gender, or sexual orientation. It certainly is a pity when someone as talented and intelligent as Annabella Hofmann is boycotted to the point of being forced to close a windsurfing school…does her gender identity change the way windsurfing is taught? I DON’T THINK SO!!!
This sport needs as many enthusiastic teachers and innovators as it can get, and it also needs an attitude adjustment on some of these male -oriented shop-owners and guy sailors whose only thoughts are narrow–minded and neanderthal.
Brava, Annabella, for having the courage to be the person you are. And shame on you all that can’t see beyond your own personal issues, fears, and cruel ridiculing of others. It’s time that the windsurfing industry takes a look and sees itself for what it has become. It needs to try to promote a more positive image, and to right the wrongs it has incurred–namely, making an issue of gender and sexual orientation when the issue really is how we can all spend more time on the water, and support not only the love of the sport, but the love of the sport for EVERYONE.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Message from Macedonia
First off I’d like to just say howdy from Europe. I love your mag! (I know you hear that all the time, but I figure you can’t have too many compliments!) I’m a US Army Pilot, flying a Blackhawk helicopter in support of Operation Able Sentry, Macedonia. I fly the Macedonian/Serbian border almost daily to monitor the situation that you are well aware of if you watch the news. We hope our presence here in Macedonia will be enough to deter a border crossing from any hostiles. I was expecting to finish my stay here in Macedonia in a couple of months. But with all the craziness in the region, and our heightened involvement, I don’t know when I will get back to my home. I live in Southern Germany and enjoy the opportunity to travel and windsurf Europe. I have surfed the Gorge, Maui, and the east coast from Canada to the Florida Keys and am now blessed with the ability to serve my country and experience windsurfing in Europe.
I ask only this of your subscribers, or even only of the person screening this letter, that no matter whether you think America should be involved or not, pray for the soldiers who are doing their best, ultimately for their God and country. I have faith that I will be back windsurfing Lake Garda by the Spring.
Chief Warrant Officer
United States Army
Thanks for having the creative force (& guts) to do something different and interesting. U.S. Windsurfers need a 2nd Nat’l publication, especially if it is targeted to intelligent (mature?) readers—Keep it up!
Pilot Knob, NY
Planche a Voile Popularity
I started writing this letter after Vol. 3 Issue 3 while riding the Eurostar train from Paris to London and revisited it after reading the latest issue.
I just moved from Rochester, NY, USA to Paris, France for two years and have noticed, in just two months, that windsurfing thrives here as compared to the US. It’s not subtle either. Windsurfing or “planche a voile” is part of the everyday culture. When you read a french language book, windsurfing is among the sports introduced along with skiing, volleyball, etc. Every park(“base de loisirs”) has a sign for windsurfing access. Pictures of windsurfers are much more prevalent. Many of the larger parks have equipment rentals and lessons readily available. When you mention windsurfing (oops, planch a voile) to someone, many French people have tried it or at least know someone that has. This environment is really what the sport should have evolved into instead of the equipment wars that exist now.
Probably the most interesting aspect is that many people still use longboards quite a bit. I went to a nearby lake to Paris and on a windless day (by US standards) there were easily 40 windsurfers out there on the full historical range of equipment and all having fun! Truly amazing. I’m sure there were a few whiners, but not like the US. Thus, the concept for a story is to understand how and why the sport is so different here and maybe propose a plan to revitalize it based on a European model. Sounds too obvious, doesn’t it?
OK, now some background on me. You or some of your colleagues may even recognize my name. I started windsurfing in 1975 or so on a Windsurfer in Southern New Jersey on Long Beach Island. In 1979 I moved to Rochester to work for Eastman Kodak. One or two years later I helped start the Rochester Sailboard Club with about a dozen friends and two orders of chicken wings plus beer. Longboards were everywhere, racing was done for fun and socialization. Over the years the club grew to over 250 members! I helped establish the racing section of the club and ran the local races with other club members for 6 years. At the peak we had over 50 people at each event with 5 events a year. Ranking systems, computer aided scoring, season awards, etc. It was quite a great feeling.
Somewhere around the peak, a large number of shortboards appeared and one could see the gradual erosion of racing and the club itself over the years. People would prefer to spend money on the equipment that was popularized by the magazines. Each year one would talk about their latest board, sail, fin, etc. At one point I was spending close to $4000/year just to keep somewhat current. Regatta attendance dwindled and the club attempted to make another focus point for it’s members. We tried slalom racing but the finicky winds in our area made it impossible. A few “learn-to-windsurf” days were held which helped expose new people to the sport but that didn’t seem to stabilize the club. Social events were organized but if the wind was up or better somewhere else, the event would be lightly attended. This past year, it was quickly becoming evident that the club was dying. No interest, no time, no common need. At the same time that Beth and I moved to Paris, the current officers painfully decided to announce the demise of the club. When it happened I was quite sad especially after thinking about all the great fun we had over the years.
After some reflection, I think there are a myriad of factors that contributed to this event, some of which include:
- The “spur of the moment” nature of shortboarding that inhibits windsurfers from becoming organized.
- If it’s windy, the “I need to be shortboarding feeling”, especially in an unpredictable wind area like Rochester.
- Most importantly, the lack of a windsurfing infrastructure in the US that would expose the complete age range and makes it easy to start and enjoy the sport in ANY wind condition.
I think that Europe (or at least France) is different and may serve as the model that can be used to grow the sport in the US. The first phase of an effort would be an analysis and article with recommendations. The next phase would be the hard one of course–implementation.
Anyway, I’d be glad to discuss this concept. Keep up the good work!
Keep the great letters coming! ED