New Format Finds Full Stoke
Published on June 2nd, 2015
by Erik Simonson
It’s not rocket surgery. Seriously…just take something tried and true, repackage it in a slightly different format, and watch what happens.
So is the case with windsurf racing on the City Front of San Francisco, as a small group of long term windsurf racers presented a new twist to the old course racing formula which was dying a slow death.
Defections among their ranks to kite boarding and foil boarding was taking its toll. The cost and time involved with formula windsurfing gear, and the mountain of gear needing constant updating, was proving prohibitive. With the numbers showing up for the same old same old on decline, it was time for a shot of adrenaline.
And that shot was called slalom racing.
It’s been some time since slalom racing had been incorporated in to the local scene, the most recent having been during the Windsurfing Nationals a half decade ago. The sight then of pros and semi pros blasting along a tight downhill course, stretching from Anita Rock down to the St Francis, had folks lining up along the break wall to gawk.
Memories recall heat after heat, with a pack of six charging the course at breakneck speeds, inches apart, hearts pounding, spray flying, so close you could almost reach out and touch them. The local non-racing recreational sailors postponing their own sailing session just to observe. This was da chit!
But will it work again? Apparently… yes!
For the 2015 season, an injection of recreational sailors into the mix has produced a hit. “We were really amazed at the turnout,” says Steve Bodner, who along with Jean Rathle and Soheil Zahedi. “It started as a grass roots effort to get more people back into windsurfing racing and ended up surprising us all by the amount of enthusiasm generated.”
Part of the Cal Cup Windsurfing Series, there are four such races slated for Saturdays this summer, which will follow on the heels of the Friday night StFYC Twilight Series (slalom). But the Crissy Field Slalom Series is completely grass roots and was prompted via a crowdfunding page which has raised 161% of its original goal in less than two months and attracted a bundle of smaller sponsors to the mix.
“We’ve learned lessons and are building the fleet from the bottom up with a focus on the B fleet and getting more non racers into the fold,” explained Bodner. “Slalom is a quick, easy to understand format.”
The plan was confirmed during the first test on May 30th. In division A, the mostly experienced course racers of years past, pulled in 21 racers. In division B, which caters primarily to the recreational crowd that had avoided the course racing scene, attracted 19 newbies.
“Our emphasis was the B fleet and getting them excited about the concept,” said Bodner. “After seeing the response this past weekend, its mission accomplished.”
Much of the attraction looks to be in the race course.
The Crissy Field Slalom Series is all about the reaching start with 20 some sailors blasting towards the first mark, motocross style, in a balls-out, snot-flying, ear to-ear grinning massive scrum. The format brings out the pure joy of speed, risk, timing and balance for a couple minutes, with five mark roundings and a Hollywood finish. Simple to understand. Amazing to experience.
Another benefit is you run what you brung. That slalom gear in the basement that’s been collecting dust for a decade? Bring it. That 8’6″ ASD custom package with WindWing 1998 full camber sail you picked up at the swap for $100.00? Bring it. It’s an opportunity for many to get back in the game and a chance for those sitting on the fence to jump in with both feet.
“The beauty in this style of racing,” explained PRO Robbie Dean, “is everybody is in the same place at the same time. Even the back of the fleet starts and rounds with the top dogs, and the camaraderie on the water and on the beach is fantastic. This Saturday we had cold beer and a pile of extreme pizzas delivered for the après sailing festivities, and everyone mixing with everyone. Full stoke!”
The Crissy Field Slalom Series continues on Saturdays this summer with races June 27, July 25, and concludes with races August 22. Race one event or race them all and bring the family and friends; there is room for everyone. This being the grass root program that it is, volunteers are also welcome to help where and when they can. Jobs include mark setting, results compiling, set up and tear down.
Photos courtesy of Crissy Field Slalom Series.