Editor’s Note: 4.3

Windsurfing an F-16

Jud Bartlett

STOP TO THINK about how many covers of other windsurfing publications you can remember vividly and you might realize how over the years they really have all started to look the same.

The cover is the front door of an issue, designed to invite you  in for a closer look and leave you with a graphical impression. When Publisher, John Chao first suggested the idea of putting an F-16 on the cover of this issue, the immediate impression that I got was that he might be a little touched. Sure, the shot of the jets would give the reader a reason to pick  the issue off the shelf, if for no other reason than to satisfy a curiosity, but how the heck were we going to establish a relationship between fighter jets and our American Windsurfer banner on the cover?

When I listened to the audio tape of the flight recording, it started to become clear. While I waited through all  the squawking of the “Zero-niners”, “Roger that’s”, and “OoooKay’s” of the take-off sequence, I browsed a few contact sheets and held a few slides of the flight up to the same window whose light I usually reserved for viewing windsurfing shots. The images stimulated a mental excursion into the cockpit of the jet and soon I was up there flying too. But it wasn’t until the part of the flight where Captain Allan Gabel  flew over a lake to inspect the sailing conditions at one of his favorite spots that “Windsurfing an F-16” happened for me.


The excitement in Gabels’ voice as he described the typical wind patterns on the lake and how perfect the speed sailing is behind the point of land off to the left when the wind is…well, “just like it is now”, alerted me that he too might be on a mental excursion of his own.

Ironic that Gabel, while maneuvering the world’s most powerful fighter jet in a tight arc at 600 knots and 13,000 feet in the air, was daydreaming of windsurfing in a straight line across smooth water at only 30 knots!

For Gabel, the view out the hatch of the F-16 was his equivalent of my vicarious trip alongside in the cockpit. In essence, he was doing the same thing as I was doing except that he had a  perspective that you don’t see in a magazine everyday. For that reason, a photo of Gabel seemed like it would be appropriate to appear on the cover of American Windsurfer.

When the idea had been just an idea, I  never expected that I would actually see a jet on the cover, let alone three. I’ll bet it’s not something that you predicted either. Nonetheless, it’s the unexpected that keeps our perspective on windsurfing fresh. It allows us to take you to the places that you can’t reach on your local lake, river, bay, or coast, and to meet people you might not otherwise meet. More importantly, the unpredictable distinguishes this issue from the last and tomorrow’s issue from one three years ago.

We are proud of our ability to offer fresh and engaging material, even if your initial reaction to its relevancy is questionable. We hope that not knowing what to expect creates something for you to look forward to. Personally, I can’t wait to see what we discover for the next issue…

— Jud Bartlett

Associate Editor

by Jud Bartlett

Bartlett is the Associate Editor of American WIndsurfer Magazine