With Luderitz wrapped for some of the fastest wind powered beings on the planet, I wanted to reflect on the origins of how windsurfers became faster than a speeding bullet. In my book I charted the history of speedsailing so I won’t rehash the whole of it here, just the seedlings planted (peanuts from Planters no doubt). BITD (Back in the day, for those that think BITD stands for some sort of shot one would need to receive from the speed arenas of today), very few people were focused on speed. It was all about the evolution of gear enabled for riding waves. So when Fred (Haywood), who lived on the same property in Kuau, Maui, as I, started dragging out speed needle after speed needle, all shaped by housemate Jimmy Lewis, I thought of how isolated his efforts were. He talked about some guy named Pascal Maka, and how Jimmy was shaping these boards for him to break the speed record at some place called Weymouth. I thought he had been having one too many Vermouths, but Fred didn’t drink. Nor did he smoke. He just chased women, and was already breaking speed records in that regard.
Fred would lend me one of his boards – he had about 20 scattered about the lawn – and I would try to keep up with him. It was a vain effort.
Fred came back from this Weymouth after breaking the 30 knot barrier, riding high and adorned by the press like some kind of Greek folk hero. The accolades were large and long lived. Then along came this scrawny kid from Breast, or was it Brest? Straight out of Gunsmoke, he had pistols at the hip and came slinging. Yes, it was Brest, he was French, but spoke with an accent which I had lost all track of due to living on Maui where the accents were a blended cacophony. Anyway, I laughed. Fred was King. There was no knocking him off. He had kicked Pascal’s ass and wasn’t that enough of a lesson for the French?
So there I was finally keeping up with Fred on a speedboard at Sprecks, a heavy movie camera atop a helmet strapped to my head long before the word GoPro was coined. And then this kid comes blazing into the picture from behind, throwing smoke from his gun like he was from another planet (scene is in the credits of the movie, Impact Zone). Then the kid went out and broke the 40 knot barrier. It was long ago.
Fast forward to today, and rewind the past few years to this little gunslinger’s challenges. Other gunslingers had swung into town and swooped the record away. Speedsailing had become a thing, and ditches were dug to support it. The kid was greying now, yet continued to battle. Then came a bigger bullet that struck the kid, a cannonball they call C. It tried to put him down more than once and he met each challenge, still marching forward.
This year, he showed up at Luderitz and gave it his all, throwing down remarkable speeds and claiming his place amongst the top ten speedsailors in the world. Against bigger sailors, he strapped himself with lead and wrapped himself in a wingsuit to counter the drag of hurricane force desert winds and with that, in my mind, he was the winner.
Kid Victorious…Erik Beale. Lifetime achievement award.