Personal Choices, Poetic Intentions

Readers Respond to Volume 5: Issue 1



Gratitude Expressed
Just a quick note to say THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!

For the first time in my 28 years, I read an article, Origins of Windsurfing, about my father that truly captured his facts, creative spirit and pleasantly eccentric nature. (I also enjoyed how you very accurately portrayed Mom, her role and vantage point.) It is my regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to meet with you when you were in Jacksonville. (Unfortunately, my work takes me away from home more that preferred.) Mom and Dad spoke (and speak) sooo highly of you; it was wonderful to see the kindness you showed to them in the dedication of such an extensive article.

I’ve always been proud of my folks. Dad  has never been a terribly strong businessman, but he’s one of the smartest and most honest people  I know…and that’s better than being street smart.  So, I personally thank you for looking beyond the economic/political issues flying all around the history of windsurfing, and listening to Mom and Dad. They’ve been there for many years (with evidence and proof overflowing), just waiting and hoping for someone caring enough to research and publish the truth. It’s just extra lucky that person happened to be as talented as you! (The pictures of them are perfect – exactly how they really are!) Dad has loved the sport since it’s inception – through all of my life. It is truly emotional for me to see the sport show him some of that caring back. You have many friends in Jacksonville, Florida, and Pennsylvania, too, that you probably don’t even know. Thank you again!
W. Darby Brown
Jacksonville, FL


The Darby Files
Many thanks for running the features on Newman and Naomi. In the absence of a windsurfing museum, this becomes all the more important. The Darby files represent a major part of the history of our sport, yet Newman gets so little recognition. To my knowledge, the last significant article covering Darby was the Nautical Quarterly in 1982.

By now, you realize that this man has been sitting on a gold mine of information.  Yet, this was precariously close to being lost and forgotten.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for following up on this.  Your article was well done.
Chad Lyons
Branford, CT

Newman & Naomi
What a fantastic article! I ended up sending Newman a letter and asked about the video – a keepsake for sure. Please do more on him and his unique inventions – perhaps he can still impact the sport for the better. Can’t wait for my next issue.
Will Vasquez

Sung Praises
Some really great stuff being written in the magazine, especially about the coming of the Aquarian Age.  Windsurfing as a metaphor or a church has changed my life completely. My first time out at Leo last spring, I was in a pod of whales. Another time, a couple miles out at the same beach, I started remembering all the lyrics to several church hymns that I haven’t sung since childhood.  I was out there in the waves, singing at the top of my lungs, not to praise the God of the Bible, but to add to and support the power that held me up out there, and that had sent me the songs of love. You finish a day of sailing like that and your bones don’t stop vibrating goodness for months. I’m  still in awe and wonder about that day, and how it happened. I can’t think of the lyrics even now, but I remember feeling, with an open chest and a heart pumping deep, like it vibrated from the depths of the ocean.

I also think of the burning need that windsurfers have to share this sport with others. Where does that come from? We don’t have any pastors out there yelling at us from the pulpit telling us to look for more converts. We just have our heart saying. “Others must know.”

Sponsored Links

I want to go to Italy and take windsurfing lessons from Annabella Hofmann. I want to study yoga with Mike Gebhardt. And I want to see to it that all pros at all pro events spend hours between races teaching windsurfing on easily sailable gear. I want that lawyer who wrote the last article about how windsurfing changed his life to contact the Darbys and get them some percentage of every board and rig sold. The Darbys aren’t warriors, and they need one. Most of all, I want John Chao to continue exploring his thoughts about the evolution of this sport at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Peace
Brian Thompson
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Naomi & Newman
I just finished reading your article in American Windsurfer and I am very touched. It almost brought me to tears to think you two could have been mistreated so badly by the whole windsurfing community. I am so glad you both have finally been acknowledged. I want to thank you for inventing such a great sport. My life wouldn’t be complete without it. I tried sailboarding in 1978 in Canada and in 1984  met my husband while windsurfing in Hood River, Oregon. We own and operate a sailboarding business, Windance, in the Gorge. It’s  way more than a sport for me and my family, it’s a life style.

It makes total sense to me that you two are the true parents of this great sport. You both seem to have the attitude that suits this free spirited sport. I think all the legal and financial sharks have robbed this sport of some of it’s true spirit. I would love to see you two travel to Hood River, Oregon, to see what you have helped create. This town in the last 13 years had been attracting fun healthy free-spirited individuals that have created a life around sailboarding. I know we can’t turn back the clocks but better late than never. Thanks again,
Lorraine Carlstrom
Windance Hood River, OR
P.S. I would love to try your original sailboard. It looks like fun. How do I order a video tape of the original sailboard?

Disputed Intentions
I cannot disagree with apparent documented history, but I can disagree with the intended approach to the sport in the article (Origins of Windsurfing Naomi & Newman Darby). The bottom line is that we would not be sailing on ‘sailboards’ right now, if Darby was the ‘sole’ inventor of the sport.  Windsurfing was used interchangeably with Sailboard as if the word was invented at the same time. It was not. A gentleman that helped advance the sport stopped Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake while they were sailing in Pacific Palisades (I believe) and excitedly came over and called them “Windsurfers”. The man’s name was Burt Salisbury, from Seattle, WA. That was in the early ‘70’s, well after Darby got published in ‘65. So in reality, you cannot refer to Darby’s invention as a windsurfer, since even in the generic sense, the word had not been invented yet. But it was a sailboard.

The main reason the sport took off with Jim & Hoyle’s invention, was because it was a better design. The surf board shape is a much more hydro-dynamic shape than a plank or a board (which is what Darby’s was, even though it worked to a degree).

The Sailing Rig and Universal was far more practical, sturdier and reliable for a greater range of winds, in my opinion (although I have not sailed a Darby Rig). So much so, that we use, even today, the basic design (with refinements) that Jim created, and not the Darby Rig design. Other basic tenants that are still used today but not present on the Darby Sailboard are: the fin, the centerboard and the wishbone shaped booms. All of these ‘inventions’ are what make up not only a modern sailboard, but truly a windsurfer. I’ll leave the rest of the reasons why to others. They are already known to me. Enjoy! Windsurfing since the ‘70’s.
Scott Carter, US-LA2

Our intentions is not to take thunder away from anyone. “We would not be sailing on sailboards right now…” if it wasn’t for Drake and Schweitzer, is a sentiment share by all of us and possibly by Darby as well. However, a well deserved acknowledgement to Darby is necessary. To be accurate, one shouldn’t describe his board as a “plank.” Darby’s board was fashioned after the scow, which at the time, was the fastest hull on the water. You should also note that the windsurfing universal was first put into use by Darby and Jim Drake described himself not as the inventor but as the “re-inventor” of the universal. ED


Encouragement for All
Hooray for your extensive article about Newman Darby and his creations in Volume 5, Issue 1, American Windsurfing! I’ve talked to him and ordered his video.

Do you have any further description or construction details of the balanced leaf-shaped Darby sail tested and described by a lady sailor in the preceding issue? Newman Darby did not, and said it was very difficult to build. Nevertheless, it’s intriguing and I’d like to know more about it.

Hooray too for the last 3 paragraphs of John Chao’s editorial. Too many recreational sailors are discouraged when snooty hot dogs sniff at them and their efforts; too many women are discouraged when macho male sailors sniff at small lady sailors and force large, heavy rigs on them; and too many active, healthy elders are discouraged from even trying sailboarding by the sniffs of the young.

Windsurfing and sailboarding are great fun and excellent exercise for all of those groups.
John McNally

You may contact Annabella Hofmann, the woman who wrote the letter directly at: ABC MAGIC ART  ED

Small Wheelies
In response to Nicholas Renny’s Warranty Woes, with a major board manufacturer, we had the opposite problem with my son’s  board.

Sage was going to the Gorge to teach at Ronda Smith’s for the summer and his board had a variety of dings and gashes from an active season here in Florida. Richie Buehn of Wind and Surf built the board, so of course we had him do the repairs. When it came to pick up the board, I asked Richie what I owed him. His response was simply, “Nothing. I always take care of my own boards.” I reminded him that these were not warranty problems but were the result of rocks, crab pots and unidentified floating objects. When I begged to pay him for his efforts, he just said, “Forget it man.”

OK, let’s do the math. Will Nicholas buy more future boards from the source of Warranty Woes than I will buy from Richie?  Sometimes small companies have an easier time seeing the big picture. So instead of “woes”, we do “wheelies”!
Dan Dawson
Treasure Island, FL

Irresponsible Journalism
Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to Andy Church, Mistral’s National Sales Manager & then forwarded to American Windsurfer. 

I just finished reading the “Warranty Woes” letter from Nicholas Renny published in the latest American Windsurfer. This irresponsible act of journalism is just what the windsurfing industry doesn’t need. What is surprising is that it came from American Windsurfer, a magazine that touts itself as an ambassador to the sport. I believe this could cost Mistral over 100 sales in New England alone. In fact, I lost a deal on the new 295 Explosion last night, because my customer took the letter for the gospel truth.

As we all know, warranty is a very delicate and difficult situation. Over the years, Mistral has built a deserved reputation for unparalleled craftsmanship. I am willing to wager that it’s warranty return rates are the lowest in the industry. In fact, the boards are so strong on the deck that it is possible to catapult and crash the boom into the deck with no visible damage, but the bottom buckles. Who’s fault is that?

The point of this letter is not to dispute the warranty claim. The point is that Mistral, its dealers and the industry as a whole must do everything in our power to promote the image of windsurfing. As one of the premier magazines in the industry, American Windsurfer must take extra care in what it prints. Consumers believe everything they read in the magazines, whether they are true or not. If it were my decision to make, I would end my advertising relationship with American Windsurfer.

Lastly, where is Mr. Renny from? I just sold an Explosion 288 to a Mr. Renny from Boston. Are they the same person?
shop name withheld
Seabrook, NH

We’re happy to report that Mistral is a much bigger company than you give credit to. For that matter so is this sport and the many “consumers” who read this magazine. ED.

Personal Choices
“The act of imposing one’s way onto another is a restrictive act that must be carefully scrutinized and guarded against if freedom of choice is to be championed.” (From issue #5.1, Forecast)  Yes, Yes, Yes!

Keep this up and you might just have a lifelong subscriber on your hands.
Sali Snell
St. Thomas, VI

Eli Below being congratulated by Nevin Sayre at the finish line.


A Martha’s Vineyard Day

I am a 32 year old mother of two boys. I was encouraged by a friend/windsurfer to try it. I took lessons in June and I don’t believe I’ve ever been as addicted to anything in my life! I’ve put in many hours thrashing and splashing about – working through those humiliating beginner stages. One of my goals for the end of the summer was to “graduate” from the ponds to the ocean. If I could do that, then the ocean, I am told would hold an entire new world of windsurfing adventures.

Skipper’s meeting at the Sayre’s backyard.

In order for me to have my first sail in the ocean, I needed to have a safe NW on–shore wind and to have my sailing mentors keep a watchful eye out for me. This was the day.

I was at the beach by 7:30 am to ensure I wouldn’t miss it. By 8:30, my mentors were there and unbelievably, (actually very believable, as they have homes here) Nevin Sayre and the Douglas brothers had arrived. By 9:00, it looked like a windsurfing safari—with world class sailors, myself—a novice (and the only girl windsurfer) and every skill level in between, sailing together off the same beach.

I rigged in a flow of adrenaline—I had just watched one of the Douglas brothers go out 100m and fly a loop. This was ‘It’. I was scared.

I made my waterstart and I was off. My scream of exhilaration (or exultation) reminded me that breathing was a good idea.

The beach never felt so good and neither has the wind. I had brought a bottle of my favorite champagne to celebrate, had I succeeded. So after it was over, we were toasting the end of a beautiful day, a great morning  windsurfing, an epic day for myself and the last day of summer, all on top of my ‘82 periwinkle Volvo.
Ali Berlow

Alice Berlow competed in her first race at this years Martha’s Vineyard Challenge. ED.


Cabarete Kids
If anyone out there is planning a trip to Cabarete and wants to aid the public elementary school they can call me to discuss this project.

The school serves 600 students and has no electricity, no plumbing and not one book, crayon or magic marker in the entire facility. My son’s local public school helped collect all kinds of school supplies for us to bring down there with us. I am also on the Board of the Brattleboro Area Jewish Community and through the social action committee, we gathered cash donations as well as supplies. With the $$ we collected, I was able to buy lots of brand new beautiful books in Spanish (including a set of encyclopedias and dictionaries) that we also brought down. Our contributions were very warmly and gratefully received. They are, however, just a drop in the bucket of poverty under which this school tries to educate these kids. If any windsurfer, mountain biker, beach lover, family or whoever, is planning on going to Cabarete and feels so moved, bring with you boxes of crayons, children’s books IN SPANISH, blank notebooks, construction paper, magic markers, scissors, staplers and staples. The supplies can be brought to Tricia at the Iguana Mama bike shop right on Main Street in town. Or see if your windsurf outfitter will give you a discount on your equipment if you make a contribution to the local school! I welcome phone calls, snail mail or e-mail on this topic. Thanks very much!
Judy Greenberg
R.R.3 Box 367 Brattleboro Vt. 05301
(802) 257-9315 email:

Beginner’s Needs
Just read my first issue of American Windsurfer and really enjoyed it. I’m a 44 year old professional who has just discovered windsurfing and loves it. I do most of my board work on an inland lake that catches a lot of wind so it is not the ideal conditions on which to learn. As I said, I am just starting out in this great sport but need assistance in picking out equipment that is suited to me and the conditions I board in. I am presently using an old Hi-Fly CM 500 board with a centerboard and a 6.5m sail. I am a large guy, 6’4” and around 235 lbs. It would be nice to see some articles that would lead a beginner in the right direction as far as equipment is concerned. Thanks for the great magazine. It’s the only good source of info I can find in Michigan on windsurfing.
Steve “Doc” Doctor

Check out issue, #4.5, for information on equipment and lessons. Also if you subscribe you can receive a coupon package worth over $2,000 to help you get in the sport. ED.

David Weiss on the cover of Greenwich Time. (enlarge)


Front Page Promoter
Just doing my part to promote the excellent sport of Windsurfing.
David Weiss
Greenwich, CT

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 was 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 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 the inquisitive kind of guy I am 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 takes 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 have 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 have 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

Compelling Components
Some friends and I were standing around at The Hatchery, taking a break from some hellacious swell sessions. It was a particularly beautiful Saturday, sunny, warm, very windy, and there were lots of “looky-loos” out and about. You know, those non-sailor type folks with the South Dakota license plates who stop their cars right in the middle of the road to the parking lot to gaze on the windsurfers… with their windows rolled up….air conditioning on…..while it’s blowin’ 4.0! And you’ve just gotten off work and driven all the way from wherever with major wind anxiety…..and there’s one last,miraculous parking space left just in front of them!

Anyway, as we were standing around, a couple of nice young women on summer vacation (obviously not sailors themselves) approached us and asked, “It must take a lot of upper body strength to do that, right?”

Seizing this wonderful opportunity, my buddies reply, “Oh yeah, lot’s of strength.” (What are they going to say? “No, we’re all really a bunch of pencil necked geeks standing around wishing we could do that too?”) To which the fine young ladies inquired further, “…..and lots of balance….and coordination too, right?” “Oh yeah, lots of that too!” My buddies answered.

Well, while the roosters were puffing up their feathers, and the hens were cooing, I got to thinking about what those flatwater women might think if we described to them a few of the other things it takes to be a windsurfer. After all, other than being able to sail well, there are other abilities, skills, and virtues one must possess in order to be ready and able when and where it’s “happening.” Whether you’re a pro, surf-bum, or week-end wind warrior, you’ve got to, in some way ,”live the life” if you want to sail often.

What kinds of things, you ask? Well let’s think about this. What about the ability to sleep in your car? Whether you have a van, station wagon, sedan, sports car, pick-up, compact, convertible, or a semi, sooner or later, you’re gonna have to learn to sleep in it. You’re gonna have to go on safari, and, rather than sleeping out in the cold, or on the rocks, in the rain, the wind, in the parking lot, or with the rattlesnakes, you’re gonna have to sleep in your car! Extra points are awarded for sleeping in your boardbag….in your car!

I still love hearing the story my friend Dale tells of the time he spotted Robby Nash falling out of a windowless white van with dented fenders at the Hood River Event Site (when they still had the Pro-Am) He had no shirt on, and major “bed-head”. He then set up a couple of plastic palm trees in the parking lot, brewed up a pot on his Coleman and exclaimed, “ Gee….this would be a pretty nice place if it weren’t so darn windy.”

And what about the skill it takes to tear off a piece of duct tape in the howling wind without having it stick back onto itself before you can apply it upon whatever broken gizmo you’re suffering with? You see someone do that and you know they’re a “real” windsurfer! Ha! I understand Cort Larned has added a technique for this into his clinics.

And then there’s communication skills. You know, the ability to think quick on your feet. Like when your girlfriend (or boyfriend, wife, husband, etc) asks you, “Why does your wetsuit smell so funny?”, (maybe not so funny.) You could reply, “Oh, that water is really polluted”, or “Oh, that smell. That’s not me….that’s uuuhhhh… dog.”

And there’s always the answer to, “Why where you late?” or, “Why didn’t you make it to my parents 150th wedding anniversary party?” “Oh, uuuhhh….well…..the wind blew my watch off?”

And then there’s organizational skills. How you gonna get all that stuff in/onto your car? And the financial skills. How you you gonna pay for all that stuff you gotta get in/onto your car?

And then there’s the virtue of patience. Windsurfers are sooo patient. You can always hear them expressing their patience on gusty days when the wind blows from 5 to 30 mph in 100 feet. Or, when their mast base breaks 150 miles from the nearest shop and it’s blowin’ 3.5!

These are just a few of the skills, abilities and virtues other than pure physical superiority, co-ordination and balance it takes to be a windsurfer. Can you think of any others? Love to hear ‘em from you!
Mike Stroud
Portland, OR

Get this guy to stop writing letters and start writing articles. ED.