Core Boardsports Introduction to Wavesailing with Nick Moloney at Inverloch 23rd February
For those who don’t know him, Nick Moloney is a very well-known and well-respected international adventurer of the seas. You only have to type his name into a web search engine to find out the extent of his exploits.
I first met Nick on the phone when I bought a second-hand sail from Core Boardsports via Seabreeze. We chatted for around half an hour, about all sorts of things windsurfing, and it was clear that here was a man generous with his time. He demonstrated that again when he took the trouble to drive his van and equipment four hours to Inverloch from his home in Torquay to give the Club a talk on one of his passions – wave sailing.
Over around three hours in the hot sun, Nick took us through all aspects of wave sailing – equipment, technique, safety, to talking about some of the best places to wave surf around Victoria.
First he covered boards, their evolution (single fins, twins, quads), board shapes, volumes, rocker styles, and fin shapes and sizes. Foot straps need to be loose for wave sailing, and set fairly wide from front to back for extra stability. It was interesting to hear that Nick is an advocate of minimal gear – he believes that you can cover just about any conditions with just one board (about 94L if I recall correctly). The same goes for sails, as he only usually makes use of three sails: 4.5, 4.7 and 5.0. When he travels, he takes a single mast – a 370 RDM with an extra-long mast extension and a mast-tip extender. This effectively provides a mast length of 370 to 430 in a small package – great idea. One thing to remember – replace your mast base tendon at least every two years. Waist harnesses are the ones to use for wave sailing – leave the seat harnesses for speed sailing.
Next came technique. Wave sailing is not about speed, and in fact he said you spend a lot of time just beating upwind off the plane just getting out. The real enjoyment comes with riding the wave, when the wind sometimes drops out of the sail and you are effectively surfing. It was good to hear that good gybing and tacking technique is not essential for wave sailing – but very good water-starting skills are very necessary. You need to be able to get up on the board quickly between breaks and sometimes in very light winds. He talked about getting out through the surf, and how this presents great opportunities to demonstrate some jumping. Some time was spent on technique for getting height, while keeping control and landing correctly (i.e., not nose-first!). I never thought I would voluntarily abandon my equipment while sailing, but I guess wave sailing is a bit different. He was clear that when a jump goes wrong, never let yourself fall on the equipment – let it go, but make sure there is no-one downwind first – and it can travel a long way.
Finally we covered some of the great spots on the Great Ocean Road for wave sailing. Somewhat counter-intuitive, we heard that Point Danger is one of the safest places to start. (Sounds like an opportunity for a bit of an IWC road trip…)
Then there was the usual IWC barbeque for lunch, and the informal yarn. Following this, Nick regaled us with his story of him making the first solo, unassisted windsurfer crossing of the Bass Strait in 1998. This was really worth listening to.
He spent some time using a friend’s borrowed board physically preparing him for the journey, and he said he was not a particularly good windsurfer at the time (“I couldn’t gybe”). More importantly, it was the mental preparation he concentrated on – he knew that this would be the thing that would make or break him. He left Flinders in Victoria for Stanley in Tasmania on his borrowed Mistral One Design, having told only a handful of friends, as well as the Navy. He was alone for the journey, apart from the regular checks by the naval vessel that otherwise stood off, out of sight. I personally can’t imagine being out in the middle of the rough Bass Strait as night is falling. At one point the continual pounding from the sea severely bruised his abdomen and stomach, leading to frequent vomiting. Close to exhaustion, morning came and with it a sea mist as his GPS told him he was nearing his destination – but visibility was close to zero, and doubts started to set in that he had missed his target (“missed Tasmania!”). This is where the mental preparation came in – calming himself, reminding himself that he had run through the GPS settings many times, and yes, he would be OK. At one point he nearly ran straight into a massive rock, and only saw the crashing waves at the last moment.
Around 22 hours after leaving Flinders, he arrived at his destination, at the point of total exhaustion and with blood covering his face and shoulders. The strain of the journey had caused a severe nose bleed and created a mess (as one welcoming observer commented something like “gees… look at the mess he’s in!”).
What Nick didn’t mention, and that I found out later, was that 16 days later he was sailing the same stretch of water, racing towards Hobart on the super-maxi Wild Thing. You can’t keep a good man down.
On behalf of the Club, I’d like to thank Nick for his generosity in taking the time away from his family and making the effort come to Inverloch for us. I also heard that he had car trouble on the way back, which meant a night in a hotel, and that he didn’t get back until mid-Sunday. That makes us doubly grateful!