US national junior windsurfers train in Cocoa Beach

January 10, 2010 | Windsurfing

Team USA Windsurfing

A junior race camp in the warm waters of Florida's Central Coast, at a time when windsurfing gear elsewhere in the country is encased in five inches of ice - brilliant!

For the second year in a row, top junior racers from across the U.S. and Canada headed to the Banana River Resort in Cocoa Beach - just south of NASA's Cape Canaveral - to cure their post-Christmas blues. You know, the letdown that comes with realizing yet again that Santa doesn't windsurf.

National coaches Karen Marriott, Dominique Vallee and Britt Viehman rounded us up for four days of intense physical training and on-the-water practice on Techno 293 and RS:X - the rigs used in international competition.

Every day started with a jog on the beach. I realize this doesn't sound too bad: a jog on the beach, watching the sun rise over the Atlantic, in December, dude, where do I sign up? But it was still cold, 40F or so, and you had to do push ups in the surf if you fell behind.

Well, not really, but there was the threat of doing push ups in the surf if you fell behind, and that threat was enough to make many of us fall behind. Actually, mostly me. You know what, let's talk about sailing!

Over the course of the four days, the wind went like this: WHOOSH - Whoosh - Hush - Zip - BANG! Not very consistent to say the least, but that was perfect for us to learn and test new skills in a variety of conditions.

The first couple of days (whoosh) were brutal because of the cold but the wind, sustained above 15kts, kept us on the water from dawn to dusk. When the wind hushed on day 3 and the temperature broke 60F, we thought 'ah, easy.'

Of course, the coaches had us pumping most of the day and we're not going to be looking at a light air day with the same innocent eyes ever again. On day 4 the wind died completely - zip.

Fortunately, SUP extraordinaire Girard Middleton was on hand to teach us the fundamentals of paddle-boarding and we headed ocean-side to try our luck in the Cocoa surf. I still don't know how you carve or even think about cutting back on that mammoth board. There must be a rudder somewhere.

Many of us knew each other already, but we hadn't been together in some time and the camp was a great opportunity to rekindle the friendships. After all, there's only so much that can be shared on Facebook - at some point, you've got to get together with your friends and have a bonfire!

Magically, two dozens discarded Christmas trees found their way into a pit on the beach on New Year's Eve and burst in flames for everyone's enjoyment. That was quite a show. Looked like the Space Shuttle taking off, if you ask me.

And then came day 5. The forecast looked promising and most of us stayed an extra day to enjoy the conditions.

The fact that there's a 'day 5' in a 4-day race camp should tell you something about our level of enjoyment, but also about the graciousness of the coaches who subjected themselves to an extra dose of pranks and mischief and would most certainly have preferred to celebrate the New Year between adults.

But we all got treated to a great session.

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