Windsurfing is like skating on motor oil

April 05, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

"Windsurfing is very easy, captain," smiled the tall Jamaican with the wraparound shades, "but it is also very hard."

I thought about that statement for a while.

"I see."

"You do?"

"Yes. In other words, windsurfing is like making a hollandaise sauce."

It was his turn to look baffled.


Hey, if you want to play games, I can play games. Although I wasn't sure this windsurfing gig was one in which I wished to engage.


I could always hold my own in the top-tier sports: baseball, football, basketball, tennis. And I could survive the lower tier sports: volleyball, billiards, horseshoes, fishing.

But for some reason, I reek at all the middle-tier sports: golf, skiing and all the other "get the hang of it" sports. Windsurfing was shaping up to be one of those "it's easy once you get the hang of it" atrocities.

I never get the hang of it. I blame the equipment. Any sport that requires more than $100 in equipment spells failure for me.

Of course, no one had put a gun to my head and forced me to take a flier on windsurfing. Actually, that's not completely true. The Fodors in High Heels had booked this trip, since it was her turn. We alternate, since she likes beaches and I like glaciers. So she locked us into this "luxury," "all-inclusive" Caribbean resort where there are more servants than guests.

They do everything for you, which she loves, but makes a country boy like me terribly uncomfortable. And she was getting irritated because I kept sneaking off to help the gardeners weed the hibiscus.

And all the people were so nice, I hated to see them go to any extra trouble for me. We met a wonderful woman named Marsha, who refused to laugh at me, even after I was on my sixth pastry. She had a daily commute that made Smithsburg to Rockville seem like a trip to the mailbox, so I felt as if I ought to be serving her instead of the other way around.

The guys on the snorkeling boat were good, too, and paid no mind when Andrea - who, frankly, has seen way too many shark movies - kept yelling "FIN!" at every reef outcropping and wayward piece of driftwood.

But it was Everton who had the greatest chore, trying to teach me how to stand on a 2-by-6-foot sheet of fiberglass attached to a sail the size of South Carolina in the middle of a gale-force wind.

I tried and tried, but it kept falling over. The board would flip, the sail would be wrenched out of my grip and I would go tumbling. But I am a determined man, and eventually I was able to pull the sail into position, hold onto the boom and lean keenly back into the wind.

"That's very good mon," said Everton. "Now let's try it on the water."

So I dragged the evil contraption off the beach where we had been practicing, and into the surf, as Everton recited the do's and dont's: "Just remember one thing. If you stand too far to the right you will fall. It you stand too far to the left you will fall. If you lean too far forward you will fall. If you lean too far back you will fall. If you move your lower body you will fall..."

"Um hm. Is there any scenario you can outline for me that doesn't involve my going tukus over teakettle into the drink?"

"Oh yeah. No problems. Just remember to do everything right."

I don't quite know how to describe the experience. If you've ever tried to roller skate in 3 inches of motor oil - and I can only assume that you have - then you get the idea. I did get the sail up once, just in time for a gust of wind to catch it and whip me face first into a row of beached catamarans. If you think I exaggerate, Andrea took 172 pictures on our vacation, 168 of which show me splashing down like a 1960s cosmonaut.

Not being a person to allow contempt of court on the part of a recreational device, I was back at it the next morning and managed to do a little better. In fact, I was right on the brink of having fun, thanks to the endlessly patient Everton.

Not so much though, that I have not already started to plan the Great Revenge Vacation of 2006. I hope Andrea likes Finland.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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