Here it is dear readers, the last post from Amber about her Defi 2016 adventure.
by Amber, aka Defi Diva
The rain kept up throughout the night while the winds continued to build. It had been a challenge to remount the boards on our van’s roof when we finally checked out of our beach house the following day. If the gear had not been taped, noodled, and bubbled Chris and I would have braved the waters for no doubt and epic (and probably mast breaking) session! Argh! Confounded again, it was maddening. As Chris drove the way back to Barcelona, he once again had to white knuckle the steering wheel to keep the car on the road. Only this time it was blowing from the sea, the opposite direction from our drive down.
sorry dear readers to have left you in the lurch…. welcome back! (ed.)
I have found in my life that the path I have been given to follow is lined with amazing people. And when the way is challenging, all I have to do is look up and someone special will be standing by my side to lend a hand, a shoulder, or a word. That again became readily apparent this DEFI.
Els and I were sitting at the picnic table taking in the scene when one of the announcers began speaking to the audience in French. It went on for a bit and Els’s eyes grew wide. “What is he saying?” “Just wait you will find out”, she replied. All of a sudden he was calling my name and asking for me to come up front. Confused and embarrassed as to what was happening, I went dutifully to the stage. After he asked me a few questions about myself for the audience, he then told everyone about my board situation. I briefly explained what happened and then he announced that Francisco Goya had graciously offered me the use of one of his racing boards for the event. Wow!!!! So cool!!!! What an amazing and kind thing to do! It turns out that Bart and Chris had mentioned my crushed board to Goya during their fan encounter with him (see Relax and Chill – Part 2). So with the usual windsurfer’s generosity Goya made sure that if the situation arose (and the wind came up) I would not be without a board. And while I never had the opportunity to take him up on his offer, I will forever be a huge Goya fan.
by Amber, aka Defi Diva (have you been practicing – saying it just right – every time you open a new blog post…. d’FEE dee-VAH! )
The next day we again took our time getting up and moving. Bart had recommended that I bring my smashed board to L’Oc Surf shop to see what they thought about the damage. “Maybe it can be repaired?”, he offered. “And if not, then at least we will know for sure.” So Bart, Els, and I headed over just after breakfast with the board. As Els waited with our precariously parked car, Bart and I slipped through the back side of the venue with the board. When I pulled the board out of its bag again, my stomach turned. I loved that board. I had just bought it a new 33″ Hatteras Weed fin for it, and the combination with my Aerotech Phantom made me forget every other love I’ve ever had. The fin floated the board, and I had remarked to Keith McCulloch, the fin designer, that it was like surfing on “hot buttah!” (said in some sort of Jersey/New York accent). The fin disappeared beneath the board, and that had made the Futura float like a magic carpet.
Every windsurfer we passed cringed with horror when they mentally registered the damage. Some even stopping to touch it along the way with a whistle and head shake. When the owner of the L’oc Surf came out to see what could be done. He too stopped wide eyed in his tracks. While much discussion went on between him and Bart in French, I did catch two important words; Impossible, Finis. We then retuned home with the board to stash it away. Bart decided he would take it back with him to Belgium. Maybe someone would like to give it a Steve Austin makeover, or better yet perhaps repurpose it as a object d’ Art coffee table?
Els and Bart were there to greet us with big smiles and hearty hugs. Our little beach house was only a couple of blocks away from the little bungalows where we had first met three years earlier, when I had come for my first DEFI adventure. They had already checked in and picked up the keys to the house earlier that day. So when we walked in there on the little coffee tables were three piles of gifts waiting for us. Two piles were labeled ‘Chris’ and ‘Amber’ while the third was labeled ‘Chops’. Both of us dove into our piles, sifting through the finest Belgian Chocolate, windsurfing stickers and other awesome swag, just like kids in a toy store.
Chops’ pile on the other hand contained a variety of dog biscuits, as well as some much needed dental treats.
The place was packed. Cars, people, and windsurfing gear fueled a buzz that quickly enveloped us both. As Chris navigated through the storm of wet-suited people, families, dogs and walking sails we caught glimpses of the water. The beach was blanketed in hundreds of sails and boards and there were equally that many out running their laps in the stiff off shore winds. As we watched masts slam down in the water with varying frequencies and locations, it became immediately obvious that the Tramontain was out toying with the racers like a cat with a newly caught mouse.
Chris and I then spent the next two hours navigating our way back into Baggage Claim and the Air France claims counter. Unlike most airports, the baggage claim area was back behind closed doors in the international arrival zone. At first a rather indignant information agent told us that we were too late and we should have made that claim back when we had collected our luggage from the belt. Luckily I was with Chris not only because he was able to translate and speak Spanish, but also because I probably would have strangled her. “Who the freak unpacks their luggage in the claims area to see if anything is broken???!!!!” I said in utter exasperation. “Come on. She is just being difficult. Let’s go upstairs and see if we can talk to an Air France agent directly”, he said gritting his teeth.
We did eventually talk with a ticket agent and she explained how to get back into the claims area where we would need to file a claim. So dragging the broken equipment (because the boom had also been severely warped in what ever event that had brought on my board’s demise) we eventually made our way back and found the correct office.
In Barcelona, the airlines don’t have a direct office to handle these sorts of claims. They all go through a third party that simply takes down the information and then submits it to the appropriate airlines. When we took out the board to show our agent the damage, the wide eyes and whistles from the other agents near by as the curious gawked in fascination, made my heart sink once again. Chris put a brotherly arm around me, “Don’t worry, honest, we’ll figure this out.”
Later that afternoon we finally checked into our hotel, the AC Hotel Gava Mar. The hotel was located right on the beach over looking the ocean, and off in the afternoon sun we saw windsurfers and kiters racing back and forth. As tempted as we were to go out and join them the reality of being awake for the last 36 hours really started to set in. So instead we opted for hot showers, a nice meal, and our beds.
“Holy crap! I can’t believe how long it took me to pack those boards!” I said in exasperation to Chris. He laughed, “Yeah it took me the better part of four hours yesterday. I kept having to run to the store for more noodles and tape. And then of course, I could only reliably use one side of my body for lifting and moving.” Things were looking up though. No locusts, or nuclear events stymied our trip to the airport, and Lou had successfully deposited us and our gear at Dulles International right in front of the Air France ticketing area. We engaged a couple of porters to help us with our boards and gear, and then Chris took his car to economy parking while our boards sat in front of the ticket agents attracting a myriad of attention from both the traveling public as well as the Air France staff. At the advice of Christine, we had prepaid for our excess luggage, with both Chris and I having to each shell out close to $1,100 round trip just to ship our two boards and sails. Sigh! It is hard to be an unsponsored Diva…
For those of you that don’t read or partake in Astrology, I will offer that there is this one little pesky astronomical aspect that haunts us a few times a year. It is called Mercury Retrograde. And if you were to watch and track the stars in the sky it would look like the little red planet of Mercury reverses direction from its normal path to transit in the opposite direction. It continues this “backward” course in the sky for a little over a month before it reverses direction to travel again along it’s normal path. Of course there is a logical explanation for this perceived reversal of course and it has to do with the Earth’s position as it orbits around the sun in relationship to Mercury’s orbit. But without getting into all the geometric details lets just say that ancient Astrologers identified that when this happened communication and travel just seemed to not quiet go according to plan. And as luck would have it, this spring’s Mercury Retrograde goes smack dab right over the DEFI from 28 April – 22 May. But plan as one might to take extra care and caution during these periods, suffice to say sometimes all you can do is just hang on and ride. Kind of like sailing in the northwest winds during an east coast winter.
So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, when on the afternoon of the 28th, after I got back from a very gusty session on the Avon sound, I found an email from Chris in my inbox…
Before we present the 2nd installment, please practice saying Defi Diva with your best faux French accent…………
After a week of working intimately with her Montreal Air France connection, Paolo, Christine had us and our gear once again sorted out. It turned out that the aircraft scheduled for the second leg of our flight did not have enough space to transport both sets of windsurfing gear at the same time. So Chris and I were rebooked on separate flights between Paris and Barcelona. Luckily there are several flights so there was only to be a short 2 hours delay between us, and really, what is a mere two hours when traveling with friends to DEFI? We were back on track.
I had learned a few lessons from my last foray into the winds of the Tramontain, and from the moment I bought my airplane tickets the previous fall I began thinking about what I would need to do to get my body and mind ready for what lay ahead. So the first thing I did was to book a week at Avon N.C. the week before we left for France. I wouldn’t be able to go with the BABA crowd this spring, because their week would over lap the week of the race but I was lucky enough to get Island Thunder, a pet friendly house with plenty of space to share. It would once again give me a full week on the water to “break gear and put holes in my boards” ahead of time so I wouldn’t need to bother with that once I got to France. Oh, and of course it gave me ample time to practice those pesky things called jibes, which I would need to be able to do at least three times during each race…
In addition to just getting some sailing time under my belt, I needed to work on core, balance, and of course cardio. Luckily, we were graced with a mild winter and my sailing season went longer than in previous years. But still, winter did eventually come, and my gear was packed and stowed for the couple of months of numbing temperatures. So it was during those quiet dark months, that desperation set in and I realized that I needed to take drastic measures. I have been working with an awesome trainer for a few years now, Jessica, and in fact she was instrumental in helping to get me at least functional after my shoulder surgery for the last DEFI. So this time she was able to focus her efforts on my core and balance strength. But the cardio, was up to me…and I could not be motivated to run in 20 degree temperatures… I’ve done it in the past, but this time my body (or rather my mind and spirit) said, “Pound sand, I’m not doing it! It is too freakin cold and I hate cold!” Sigh…so I bit the bullet and went on Craig’s List and found some one selling their copy of Insanity.
“I’m SO sorry! I don’t know what happened? Everything was fine last fall when I booked everything! But listen, don’t freak out, I’ve been working with Paolo in Montreal and he is working a solution.” A solution was necessary to fix the issue that Air France had some how decided to reject Chris Wattengel’s and my windsurfing gear on the second half of our journey. A journey that I had started on last summer.
It was early last June, when I popped on to the DEFI website to read up on the race and indulge my YouTube addiction of watching cute puppies and windsurfing videos. After three hours of trance-like assimilation into the ether, I found myself on bookings.com looking up the rates for the little bungalow I stayed at during my first DEFI sojourn. I selected 5-8 May 2016, curious to see what it would be listed for during this year’s race. The answer came quickly enough…”Sold Out”. “What!??” Ack! Sold out already?? Crap!” it was then by some completely visceral, reactionary response that I pulled out my rainy day credit card and committed myself and future retirement funds to going again… After hemming and hawing, and clicking on a myriad of different locale properties I finally settled on a little beach house which was a little over 400 euros for the week. By the time I had clicked “buy” and put in all my personal information, including height, weight, and eye color, that I looked up at the clock to see that it was almost 2:00 am in the morning. As I crawled into bed letting the reality of what I had just started to sink in that I realized the depth of my compulsions. Some people stay up late and spend their money on trinkets from the QVC channel at those late hours of the night, but in my case it is the DEFI channel and it usually costs thousands of dollars…
Somehow, somewhere after that, I had convinced Chris that he needed to join me on the frigid waters of the Mediterranean and ride the insane winds of the Tramontain. And luckily for me, he thought that it was a great idea! So after that, I called on my dear Belgian friends, Bart and Els, to join us as the little beach house had plenty of room. And of course, I was very eager to see them again and perhaps join up with some of my Belgian Slalom team mates that had so graciously adopted me into their little circle during my first race.