Personal Choices, Poetic Intentions

… strongest pieces of windsurfing journalism I’ve seen in my sixteen years in the sport.

(Go to Volume5: Issue 2)


Mike and Annie
I just got done reading your interview with Mike (Gebhardt) and think his candor combined with Annie (Leibovitz’s) photography make for one of the strongest pieces of windsurfing journalism I’ve seen in my sixteen years in the sport. As you may know, we title our catalogs “Ride It” because we have personally come to know the secret to windsurf happiness—expect nothing, be prepared for anything, have faith and just go out and ride it! Certainly, the strong spirit Mike shares with us, communicates a spiritual connection that hopefully will motivate all of us to be grateful for the experience of the day, whatever the conditions.

If there were a cancer in our sport, it would be the consumptive illusion that more is better and bigger is necessary. I was very pleased to see less of this type of thinking when visiting the Gorge this past summer. Sailors were actually taking the 5M wind given to them without hanging onto the 3.5M wind of yesterday.  A Buddhist monk used the phrase “You can’t stop the wave, but you can learn to ride it,” which we put on the cover of our ‘97 catalog. With two outstanding heroes in our sport like Robby (Naish) and Mike, I’m personally inspired to ride whatever wave comes my way, to appreciate the moment of the day, and to share my gratitude for the gift of the most incredible sport ever created. Hats off to you and all involved in sharing the real “soul” of the windsurfing experience.
Randy Johnson
The House, St. Paul, MN

Kudos to No Rules
My hat is off to you. Each AW issue is better than the last. Brilliant. How do you do it? No other sport publication in the world is as compelling, creative, well designed and cleverly researched. American Windsurfer is THE only thing in the biz of windsurfing that is valid…. I want you to know that AW is the heart and soul of this sport . . . this way of life. Never stop taking risks with AW. Never! Never stop pushing your vision and talent. Do not listen to the morons; listen only to your heart and well-worn harness. Continue to let your magazine speak to those of us who crave taking risks.

We sail to be free. For adventure. For romance. There are no rules on the water. . . just endless new horizons. You have proven to us all with your huge efforts, that this also can be true for a windsurfing magazine. God, don’t stop!
Bill Drake
Boston, MA

Life Changing
Thank you… What a piece on Michael Gebhardt!  The guy, the story, the photos — Very Major!  To find an exquisitely written and photographed article that’s changing my life — to find that in a “surfer-dude” mag — WOW — I’m still reeling.  All I can say is THANK YOU, and kudos for the courage it takes to put spirit into a body sport mag.
Peter Rubens
Portland, OR


New Editor?
Hey now! You must have slept through your wake-up call! Your web page is still on Volume 4, Issue 4 and I just got 5.2 in the mail last week!

Well, at least most of 5.2. It seems the letters got cut off in mid-letter. Also the interview with the Darbys was cut off in mid -interview. And the story about the epic wave contest in Fiji was somewhat epic-like when it was also unexpectedly abbreviated.

I have had some great days on the water  which ended too soon by the wind shutting off, but I don’t normally expect the windsurfing articles to end so abruptly. Are you looking for a new editor?!
Joel Schneider

Newman’s Due
I want to thank you for including us in the US Nationals coverage and giving the kids’ program such a great exposure. Kudos also to Bill Collins for having the vision and determination to make it happen.

I also am absolutely delighted that you have spent the time and made a fantastic pair of articles on Newman Darby. Since 1986 I have certified instructors and I have credited Newman Darby with the invention of the Sailboard, along with(credit is also due)the successful marketing and development from Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake. It always amazed me back in those years that nobody was really interested in setting the record straight. Well, better now than never! I am trying to invite Newman Darby to come and bring one of his sailboards here at the Midwinters.

Thanks for your contribution to the sport. IT IS APPRECIATED.
Tinho Dornellas
Merritt Island, FL

T-Shirts ‘n Stuff
Thank you for the tee shirt I received from you (American Windsurfer). I wear my shirt enthusiastically and with pride. (I had a heck of a time deciding which graphic to go with, but since I am a designer, who better than one of the greatest designers in human history?) Anyway, I glad to hear my first issue is on its way.

I have purchased many windsurfing mags from around the U.S., and the world (literally, due to my heavy work travel requirements), and yours is the one I chose to subscribe to. Why? Well, because it represents with great photos (and form) as well as quality writing, what I consider to be the soul and heart of the windsurf(ers/ing) experience. Whew, get a load of that sentence structure! No wonder I draw for a living.

May the wind rise up to meet you and may you be shredding in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead. This is a slight bastardization of a folksy Irish saying. Ciao.
Chris Lauren

15 Minutes of Fame
I’d like to make a recommendation for an article. I’ve read many articles, in fact every article you write in AW, about various notable people of windsurfing. I read the one about the guy who owns the LA windsurf shop and thought that there is one amongst our midst in New England. All those windsurfers that drive hours to get to the Cape tend to make one final stop before getting to Kalmus Beach: Steve Colby’s Sound Sailboarding. Over the years I have come to purchase all my gear from him, even though I lived in Boston. It’s one of the few shops left, if the only shop in NE, that is 100% windsurfing. Every time you go into the shop he greets you enthusiastically. He never hard sells, is always willing to cut the best deal he can, and is always there to help with repairs.

Awhile back I bought a North boom from a shop in Boston. I had continuous warranty problems with this boom. It broke into pieces at least 4 times. The first couple of times, I brought it back to the original shop. I actually got hassled for a receipt each time and had to purchase some pieces outright. I had spent $2K in the spring at this shop and they treated me as if I’d never been there. I think it was the third break that happened at Kalmus. As I was walking back to my car, Steve noticed that my boom was in 4 or 5 pieces. He took the boom from me and told me he would replace it and handle the warranty with North!! I hadn’t even bought the boom from him!

Another time, my current board was in the shop and the wind was picking up, of course. Mistral was running a free demo of their new race boards. So, I went down to my local Boston shop to grab a board. Well, they wanted a $1,200 deposit. I didn’t have a problem with the concept of a deposit but my credit card was maxed out and didn’t have $1,200 of room. They said they would take cash instead! I offered them a check to hold. They refused. I walked out. This is the same store where I had spent most of my windsurfing dollars.

I called Steve. He said, “Come on down. I’ll set you right up. Don’t worry about the deposit.” All he wanted was for me to stay close to the beach near the end of the day so he could  get other sailors that wanted to try it, onto that board.

On another note, he is always willing to help me set up some of my friends with learning gear for a day. He is one of the few shop owners I’ve seen actually down at the beach standing in knee-deep water, teaching the hidden joys of windsurfing to little kids, wives and just about anybody.  These are just some isolated instances of why I boycotted the Boston shop and have purchased 3 boards and numerous sails and gear from Steve over the years. All my buddies began to do the same. I guess you could say Steve’s store has the local corner store feel, where he actually gets to know his customers and works with them. The other store just loses business. I talked with a bunch of sailors at the beach and they had all gotten frustrated with the Boston store also.

Anyway, I think he is a great example of what a good shop owner can be, and he exemplifies the windsurfing spirit. Just my nomination for Steve’s 15 minutes of fame!! Keep up the good work. It’s only you and Wind Tracks that I read now!
Todd Drake


I just returned from Tobago in one piece. My hands are a bit shattered, but I have found the wind.

The first three days of the sport were truly hell. Not fun, not even interesting. I see now why so many of my hearty friends said ‘f_ck it’ it after a few days. After the fourth day, with a good teacher, a natural athlete just starts to have a little fun. By then, unfortunately, most people quit. I did not. My motivation is not clear. Maybe it was to be with my wife. Maybe it was competition with my wife. Maybe it was just the rum punch and Carib beer. Day four I started to plane and bump on the waves. Sailing has always been something that was thrilling to me. But this was sailing and I was part of the machine. The rush was similar to skiing, but falling is fun.

Even getting sling shot over the sail was kind of fun — a lot more fun than my first failed daffy on Ajax Mountain.  That hurt.

Learning how to tack, water start, beach start and get into the harness each were frustrating for a few days. But incredibly, once you do it and repeat it, it takes very little thought thereafter.

Hooked on this sport is an understatement. I have dreams about it. I am very good in my dreams.

What this sport needs is a way to get people up with no pain the first two or three days. I thought maybe starting on the WindGlider (Mistral), then a slightly narrower board until one gets the feeling of a regular board. Also uphauling kills too many beginners. Starting boards should not have even the option of hitting the water.

Get people up and moving. This sport would explode if it had proper training gear. Days 1 to 5 should not be so difficult. Remember in the 70’s when all of the western ski instructors started folks out on those really short skis? All you needed to do was stand on them until you had the technique. Then they moved you to longer and longer skis.  Tennis camps start kids off with those huge rackets. Even golf has beginner clubs that are very difficult to miss. Build confidence and technique.

In Tobago I saw countless people go out for an hour, leave exhausted and dejected. Some went two and three days and gave up. It takes a great deal of heart, stamina, and time to get going in this sport. I refused to give up. Why? I am still analyzing. Clearly all of my 30 something friends would love to get into windsurfing. Those first few days are keeping the sport small. Such a waste.
Sam Berlow
Vineyard Heaven, MA

Yoga Inspiration
Thank you Mike Gebhardt for your article on YOGA FOR WINDSURFERS in Volume 5 Issue 1. I figured if yoga could improve the conditioning of a world class athlete like Mike then it might even work for an average Joe like me. So I gave it a try.

I felt about as awkward doing the yoga as I felt trying to rig my equipment for the first time. I was having a hard time at first trying to figure out which end was up! The strength and flexibility necessary to perform the various postures was amazing. After attempting the different postures, I realized the photos of Mike were a standard that would require more than just the old college try.

Well, the next step in my yoga experience came through our local Gold’s Gym. After struggling through my idea of a good workout for an over-thirty guy, I saw a group of very attractive members of the female persuasion gathering outside the aerobics room. Being an inquisitive kind of guy, I looked on the aerobics schedule board and saw the next class was YOGA.

So I fell in line, grabbed a mat, pulled off my shoes and socks, as was the custom, and jumped right in. The instructor, Miss Susan Sandlin, started the class with an explanation of pranayama breathing. After warming the body with this deep yoga breathing, she took the class through a series of postures called Sun Salutations. As the class followed each flowing posture, a rhythm emerged that created a positive energy feeling. Although I was still struggling with many of the postures, I left the class with a lightness of mind and body I had not felt in many moons.

My wife Sharon and I have been faithful followers of Miss Sandlin’s yoga classes. The practice of this living life form has helped not only my windsurfing but my everyday quality of life. The yoga postures have improved my flexibility and helped release seemingly chronic pain in my lower back. I even use the deep yoga breathing to create a little extra energy to get me through a long day of work.

Talking with Susan Sandlin, I discovered her desire to try windsurfing. The windsurfing world would benefit greatly by having a yoga guru on the water. I hope she can teach Mother Nature to practice her pranayama breathing a little more often.
Paul, Sharon and Tyler Curlee
Wilmington, NC

The end of this letter was left out from previous issue. Keep those letters and emails coming!