Fire Readers Against the Grain

Reader’s Respond to Volume 7: Issue 5

Fuel to Fire
Thank heavens for the most recent issue of your mag. The photos were great and I really enjoyed your straight forward coverage of the World Cup event at Gran Canaria. Also, Dan Welch’s piece about sailing around the world was fascinating and humorous.
I was starting to fear that your publication had become nothing more than a self-absorbed attempt at “artsy”, esoteric journalism. All the “touchy-feely” references to “cosmic this” and “spiritual that” was becoming tiresome. And to cap it all off the last issue was consumed with coverage of the TAWR, which seemed an ill-conceived event with a predictable outcome. Sure, an article and a few pictures would be interesting, but three articles and dozens of pictures about an event that never even made it half way to its destination was overkill. And to try to defend this by saying, “Writing about failure is the focus of real events and real people” is pretty weak. While it may be true, if you think most people buy your magazine so they can read about failure (something we all have experienced plenty of in our windsurfing lives), I think you’re mistaken. We read because we want to hear about places like Gran Canaria with great conditions and interesting people; in other words fuel to fire our windsurfing fantasies.
So, back to your most recent issue. Kudos to you for giving the PWA some excellent coverage, especially in the first year that an American is poised to win the overall crown in over ten years. Also, thanks for minimizing the touchy-feely stuff and giving your readers some solid, straight forward coverage of people and events. I hope it continues in your future issues.
Scott Hubbard

Balance is everything. Fuel to fire is right on! We see no failures —only lessons and adventures. It’s an attitude, without which success means little. As to the touchy feely stuff…it might be hard to take it out of a sport that is all about touching the water and feeling the wind. You let us continue to deliver such and we promise we’ll keep fueling your windsurfing fantasies. Thanks for a great letter!

Avid Reader
I have not received the issue that was shipped on Sept. 12 and I’m pretty sure it hasn’t taken this long to get past issues. Please drop another copy in the mail if you can! I’m an avid reader and every day I’m disappointed when I check my mail and it’s not there. I get that other magazine, but it’s no contest; AW is the one I look forward to.
David Cobb

Please Remember Us
Thanks for your prompt attention to sending my missing issue of AW. I received it today. Something that’s been on my mind since I subscribed to your magazine and I keep looking for the issue that addresses the non-heroes and typical sailboarders of the inland lakes.

Please remember us Heartlanders in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana on the flat inland lakes as you consider future issues. We are probably only a small portion of your readers, but we enjoy the sport immensely and could be prospective customers and contributors to your publication. Think about it. I believe there is a large population of us beginner and intermediate longboarders out here on the lakes needing support as we test our skills in frigid waters and shifting winds.
Roger Evans

We continue to try to get to the Heartlands and we hope to be there this coming year.


The only magazine I have chosen to renew is American Windsurfer. Your magazine continues to help me through the doldrums of everyday life. My soon-to-be four year old son thinks it’s pretty cool too!
Now, if you could sneak a few articles in there that would entice the professional moms of the world to embrace the sport, I will support your institution for life! Long Live American Windsurfer!
Mike Raft AKA Michael TayloR

Well Done
I have just discovered your publication and what a relief to find a windsurf magazine with such quality content. Every article is well written, challenging, and breaks from the norm of windsurf magazine copy. I love the fact you have articles about the windsurf industry as a whole. Your heightened perspective on our little world of windsurfing is truly refreshing. WELL DONE.
Mathew Eigham

Against the Grain
I just read the “Forecast” and Letters to the Editor in Vol. 7, Issue 5. I agree with your support of IMCO racing for the Olympics, even though I am not an IMCO racer.

I think it would be foolish for windsurfing to throw away the asset that the IMCO organization has created over all these years. I hope you don’t get criticized to much for “going against the grain” on this issue. I expect you will, however.

One point—I think the Formula wind limit is 8kt, which would amplify everything you said. As for Formula windsurfing, the primary argument in favor of it seems to be that it “better represents” the way windsurfing is practiced most of the time. However, that is really not true. Most windsurfers have more than one board and sail, and if they are really interested in getting out as often as possible, will usually sail an IMCO type board and have one or more shortboards as well. Perhaps the formula class could be enlarged to two boards (IMCO and a shortboard) with no wind limit.

Then sailors would have to pick the best board for the conditions on a given day—just like always. Some might just stick with IMCO all the time, and probably do just fine.

I also saw the reference to your Retro board idea. I hope it works out. I have thought for a while that what the sport really needs is a modern board that retains the good qualities of the older One Design boards (easy to turn and keep moving in really light wind) and the advantages of the newer ones (better stability, lighter weight, better components). I recently sailed an Original Windsurfer (rescued from the trash by a novice sailor) on a day when the wind was well less than 5 mph. It was easier to sail and I had to admit, generally more fun than my four year old modern race longboard. I was surprised.

Naturally, this did not help my chances of selling my race board to this fellow! I don’t know if it was the soft sail, or rounded lower hull, but whatever—try to figure it out and put it into your model. Please don’t sacrifice low wind sailing fun (0-6kt) to improve the performance in planing conditions (there are a million boards now that can do that). Also, make it easy to rig the sail. I have always thought soft sails are the easiest to use in little or no wind (which is what most of us get about 70% of the time). Good luck with your Retro project. If you need someone to test it, send me one.
Randy Falkenberg
Atlanta, GA.

Olympic Ideals
I hope this message reaches as many people as possible because I think the gear issue for Olympic class windsurfing has become clouded with views that neglect the Olympic ideals. I am hoping that this article will broaden people’s perspective on the importance of preserving the Olympic ideals through sport.

My windsurfing background is mostly in shortboarding so I am not biased to the long/shortboard debate. I have spent the last seven years wavesailing and racing in Maui. I love shortboarding, but I made the choice to leave my home in Maui last February to pursue my Olympic dream in windsurfing. It has been a challenging adventure to transfer my skills to the longboard. My life would be a lot easier with Formula windsurfing, but such reasons are only self-interested. I have thought about the issue deeply and recognize that the universal One Design choice is the best choice to realize the Olympic ideals through windsurfing. You are one of the few people I know of in the sport of windsurfing that understands the broader perspective of this issue.
With much Aloha,
Heather Riley

See Ms. Riley’s “Keeping the Spirit Alive “ on page 90.

Hungarian Rapsody
I’m very happy ’cause I can buy the American Windsurfer in several shops in Budapest! Your distribution is great, congratulations!
Last year in San Francisco you told me that there was an article about the 1997 U.S. National Championship competition in American Windsurfer. In this issue is a picture of my girlfriend and I.
Please send me two copies of this issue! This is very important for me…
George Gyˆrgy P·rtos
Hun 16

Old Boom Tip
Hey there, I have always been fascinated by the sport and a long time ago got into it but things change and I got out of it. I only just recently bought again a Windsurfer One (I think). It is a twelve foot long board you know with the old style daggerboard and as far as I can tell it was made around the seventies (mid to late). I have always wanted one of these boards because of the stuff I have seen people do in light to moderate winds as I am of large frame and built to cruise. Anyway there are no stores here to get help from and the books I have seen are good but the one problem I am having is securing the wishbone to the mast with any great success in stability. I am currently using the rolling hitch method but I just cannot get the thing secure enough. Is that my error or is it this kind of boom? I know I could do it a few years ago but mabe I just forgot. Anyway, do you have an article on it or could you please send me some instruction?
Damien Birkett

Tie the boom on the mast flat on the ground. Then stand the mast up. As the boom settles down to a 90 degree position it tightens the rope against the mast. You can figure this out really quickly with making a few minor adjustments.

Guarantee a Copy
I have just managed to get a copy of your magazine in the UK. This is exactly what a windsurfing magazine should be about; a quality product indeed. So how can I guarantee a copy every month? Can I subscribe from the UK? Thanks for your assistance with this matter.
Andy Saunders

Yes you can subscribe at


The controversial Insider interview with Dr. Kurt Svrcula from AW Issue 7.3/4.

The Insider
After reading your interview “The Insider” with Dr. Kurt Svrcula we were, of course, really upset with Mistral. The more we investigated, the more we realized that a big part of Mr. Svrcula’s reproaches are definitely wrong. I want to comment on the most important reproaches in this interview, because that’s to the expense of our reputation:

1. From the boards mentioned in the interview, that were allegedly produced by EFK, as Dr. Kurt Svrcula said, as a special order from Mistral for the surf magazine test, Surf magazine never requested or tested the following products he quoted: Mistral Flow 260, Classic 315, Mistral One Design.

2. From the remaining boards only the Classic 276 and the Explosion 295 came from the production site in Malaysia. The other boards were produced by Fritzmayer in Germany. This, in fact, weakens most of the allegations against us.

3. Surf magazine published an article in issue 6/98, where we compared the weights of sixty test boards with the weights of corresponding products in surf shops (we did it twice) and with the weights manufacturers published in their catalogues. We weighed 180 boards. This was the result of the investigation:
Most of the brands revealed insignificant weight differences of the boards, either up or down on the scale. We assume that these differences are due to tolerance factors during production. The average weight deviation of the Mistral test boards to the figures in their catalogue has been not higher compared to other brands (AHD: -2.52 %; Bic: -1.26 %; JP: -2.3 %; Mistral: -2.12 %; RRD: -2.1 %; Starboard: -4.4 %; Tiga: +2.2 %)

4. Surf magazine has an agreement with every manufacturer, to cut boards in half that attract attention with very little weight. We have the consent to check the construction at any time after the test.

5. How little insight the so-called “insider” Svrcula had into the organization of the surf test is revealed in his statement that five to six world cup riders test boards that have nothing in common with the boards an ordinary windsurfer can buy in a shop. Let me tell you first: We have seven testers in our test team and only one participates “without any sponsors” in freestyle world cups. And secondly we make spot checks that all the test boards have the same shape as the products in the shop display.

6. Mr. Svrcula mocks our testers performing duck jibes and helicopter jibes on these boards. Let me tell you that we have a special test routine and the boards will be tested according to what they have been developed for. During seven weeks we tested performance and maneuverability of the products. And in addition the testers perform freestyle moves on freestyle boards. That’s what they are made for, aren’t they?

I would like to make some general statements on the test: SURF magazine carries out the most extended test and “in our opinion” the most independent and the most objective test worldwide. It is known as a fact, that American Windsurfer asks the manufacturers to pay freight expenses for this test on their own. The freight expenses for our test in South Africa come to DM 40,000,00. Together with the expenses for the team and logistics our costs rise to DM 120,000,00 (and that’s only talking about the test in South Africa). Of course, we pay these expenses. I would like to invite you to the next test of SURF magazine, to give you an idea of our professionality, accuracy, and effort we put to run a test.
Josh Welz
(chief editor) Surf Magazine


Issue 9, Sept. 2000, pg. 7
TITLE:Lies about Mistral: Accusations against the number one manufacturer.
SUBTITLE/ INTRO: The main accusation from the US windsurfing magazine is political. It alleges that the factory sent special edition boards to the SURF magazine tests. The main witness is Dr. Kurt Svrcula, a former director of the Malaysian company where Mistral produced sandwich boards. Mistral vehemently denies his accusations.
BODY: Mistral thinks that American Windsurfer’s interview with Dr. Kurt Svrcula is in revenge against North Sports North America. In the story, Dr. Kurt Svrcula claims he could buy the Mistral group, but the former management of Mistral (Florian Brunner and Christian Ewert) say the following: Kurt Svrcula’s knowledge of events was not sufficient for him to know about the things he commented on; he was actually fired from his job as director because he was not good enough to oversee board production in Malaysia, and Mistral Sports Group subsequently closed production. In addition, Dr. Kurt Svrcula is persona non grata in Germany due to a 300,000 mark debt.

John Chao has an ongoing dispute with Mistral Sports Group. He organizes a yearly test event, for a lot of money, which is more like an exclusive vacation for his readers. In return, all they do is sail around on the latest equipment from the windsurfing companies. Brunner says this magazine produces a really questionable test. The magazine makes money from this test and should pay the shipping costs for the equipment.

What Dr. Kurt Svrcula says is questionable. No specially-made boards were produced for the German SURF magazine. Brunner says that at no time were any board specs changed between test and production. In fact, there is an agreement between SURF and the industry that if a board feels unusually light they are permitted to cut it in half to check the construction. This agreement ensures that no company adds carbon layers to lighten and strengthen their boards, Brunner adds.

NOTES ON TRANSLATION: Several times during the translation it is unclear who is saying what, whether it’s SURF magazine or Brunner, therefore I’m hesitant to use quotation marks. Also, in the second paragraph of the body of the text it’s not clear whether John Chao makes a lot of money or charges a lot of money for the tests, nor is it clear who is making that accusation. SURF magazine also included a chart with this story from their own ’98 test showing that board weights differ from manufacturers’ specs, regardless of the manufacturer. —MT.

AMERICAN WINDSURFER REPLY TO SURF: We have the highest regards for the German surf magazine and agree that when it comes to equipment test, you guys have the highest professional standards of any publication in the world.
But after reading the article you printed in your magazine, we are amazed that Surf magazine would take a position that lawyers call “character assassination” of not only Dr. Kurt but also of our publisher/editor. We can understand if AW published an interview where we contributed to the attack of Mistral by adding comments that indicated that the magazine did not support Mistral, then you would have NEWS and a base for your article. But rather than stating the facts which you did in your letter to us, in your article, you attacked us personally. Magazines are allowed to print what people choose to say. Printing what they say in an interview, does not mean that the magazine agrees or sides with the subject.

In the case of your counter article, it is unfortunate that you chose to cross the line of reporting and became a pawn in a premeditated attack on the characters involved rather than the facts. This is a line of diverting blame which is a form of defense used by the guilty.

From what I read in the your article, it looks like SURF magazine is in bed with Mistral and rather than printing what Mistral had to say, the magazine added comments that were not direct quotes. This unfortunately personalizes your involvement with AW and Dr. Kurt and does victimize the credibility of your great magazine.

For the record, AW does not make money on their equipment test. Our practice of inviting paying testers to be in the test is in line with the other tests conducted in the U.S. to help pay the bills. Unlike the other magazines’ tests, we spend more money to provide live virtual test on our website ( and a video that is provided FREE to our readers. This video is also being distributed to other magazines around the world. No other tests do this. So this “disguised” equipment test does indeed hide our effort to make it worthwhile for companies like Mistral. This extra effort and cost are not required of us. But we do it as a service to our readers.

Also for the record, if you read what Dr. Kurt said, he said that X, Y, Z boards were built and shipped to the test. He did not refer to which boards eventually got tested. There are many issues that have to do with Dr. Kurt which he will take up with you. For now, we would challenge you to printing this reply, as we will print your letter to us. We also challenge you to print the full interview of Dr. Kurt. We will provide you this FREE of charge and let your readers decide for themselves what the real truth may be. We believe the interview was a positive step for the future of the sport. —John Chao

In response to your story in SURF magazine, Issue 9, Sept. 2000, which sought to discredit U.S. equipment tests, I would like to inform you of the following: This year I was personally responsible for the design, execution, and completion of the 2001 American Windsurfer Equipment Test held in October in Maui. In order to achieve accurate results we split the test into two parts. We did have some paying guest testers, who provided useful comments for manufacturers to hear. However, the primary test was conducted at the highest professional level. A team of five pro sailors, including two women who added invaluable information and results, came together for three weeks of intensive equipment evaluation. The precise and professional implementation of this year’s AW test is shown in the results, which for the first time ever have been made immediately available online. Such a test has never before been conducted for the U.S. windsurfing market.
Andy Gurtner
Swiss Swell, Hood River

For those who missed the “Insider” in Issue 7.3/4 you can read for the entire interview online at:

Mast & Sail=P+
I admire your goals of making a more informative equipment test. As an ardent windsurfer for fifteen years I’d like to tell you about my number one bugaboo with equipment: sail-mast compatibility. Basically I have found that if a sail is performing well (or as designed I guess you could say) I can forget about it and totally enjoy the sailing. I have been fortunate enough to have had lots of these experiences over the years, in all kinds of winds and in everything from small chop to head high waves. I have come to know what “good” feels like and the best way I can describe it for a sail is when the center of effort is pulling from down low (I’m not getting pulled off my feet in the gusts) and the center of effort is not shifting around. This said, at least half the time when I buy a new sail, it does not satisfy my “good” criteria when rigged on the correct mast.
Let me assure you that I do not reach my conclusions via snap judgements, but rather over many sailing sessions, over the whole reasonable wind range for the sail, and over every possible tuning permutation that makes sense for a given condition. Now let me say that to reach an unfavorable conclusion after this “trial period” is sad and frustrating. I have learned by trial and error, and through spending way too much money, that it is pretty much always the mast to sail compatiblity that is to blame, for any sail newer than 1996 or so anyway. Especially disconcerting is when the new sail is purchased along with the exact brand/spec mast that the sail manufacturer recommends. Not far behind in frustration is when a mast a few years old is said by the windsurfing dealer to be perfect for the new sail, and its specs are what the sailmaker calls for, but in reality doesn’t work very well. I feel that there is something going on with mast bends, and sometimes stiffness too, that is not widely known but is having a severe effect on compatibility with sails. Year to year changes in masts, not indicated in the specs, are seemingly occurring. Variations in the same brand and year seem to occur too. Whether the reasons lie in poor quality control, or in sly fudging of specs to serve unpublished secret criteria I can only say that I’ve heard rumors that allude to both of these things going on. I have bent some masts myself according to the MCS test method and have been shocked at the variations in bend curve and stiffness that I have measured.

When a sail and mast is not working well together it is very expensive to try to correct, and each iteration takes great effort to prove it satisfactory or not. It’s getting to the point of “why bother”. Maybe this is the curse of reaching the high performance skill level in a sport; it’s hard to settle for “ok but not great” when you’ve tasted great. My sense is that it would be business savvy for better standardization and quality control at the mast manufacturer’s end. Right now customers and dealers are bearing the brunt of the costs of dissatisfaction. Today’s standards merely create the illusion of a meaningful standard and are causing high performance oriented customers like myself to think twice before buying again.
Vincent Andersen
West Warwick, RI