Behind the Scenes at the East Coast Windsurfing Festival!
The East Coast Windsurfing Festival in Cape Cod is on a roll: grassroot organizers Nina Schweikardt and Peter Richterich have found the recipe to pack tons of action (racing, freestyle and speed sailing!) into a two-day event, bridge the gap between beginners and top level professionals (Kiri Thode this year!), and send everyone back home with an armload of cool trophies, raffle prizes and an enormous smile on their face. No small feat, and all done in what looks like a no non-sense, super laid-back atmosphere! This year’s edition (Sep. 19-20) was once again a great success, and we caught up with Peter to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes:
US Windsurfing: The ECWF series has a few years under its belt – could you tell us how it all started?
Peter Richterich: This was the 3rd annual ECWF Cape Cod. My wife Nina and I started the Cape Cod event after participating in the ECWF Long Island, which Mike Burns has been organizing since 2008. As far as I understand, Mike started the ECWF Long Island because he missed competing in the King of the Cape, which ended in the early 2000’s.
It’s a big effort to organize an event like this – could you tell us about your team of volunteers?
We get help from our friends Pam Levy, who visits us for two weeks around the event to help out; Jerry Evans, who makes the beautiful trophies for the event; Fast Eddie, who has provided the jet ski for setting buoys and as a rescue vehicle; and several local windsurfers who help out the day of the event. But having a flexible work schedule that allows us to take days off if needed also really helps…
How much support are you getting from your local community?
We are lucky to have a Recreation Department that fully supports windsurfing in Kalmus, so getting a permit is never a problem. A lot of local windsurfers have approached us to voice their support for the event, even if they are not competing, and many have put money where their mouth is. To give just one example: a local windsurfer, Irish Jerry, approached us on the Kalmus parking lot with very kind words and to give us $200 cash for the event, which was extremely motivating!
We also have the good fortune that one of the local windsurfers is connected to Hyline Ferries, which has donated ferry tickets for our participant raffle for several years, and made a big cash contribution this year. Many thanks again, Joanie!
I also want to thank the many other sponsors who have contributed cash or items for the raffles that we have for all participants. Competing is a lot of fun, but having the chance to win small items like T-shirts or big items like a winter wetsuit, a sail, or an ABK camp are also great motivators to compete.
As the years go by, is it easier of harder to pull it off?
Both. Some things get easier with routine, but there are always some surprises that make things challenging.
You’ve attracted some big name freestyle riders to the event over the years. What’s your secret?
At the first ECWF event in Long Island where we participated a few years back, Josh Angulo visited, which really impressed a lot of people. In one race, he had to round the marks twice, and came in 1st and 4th in the same race! He also put up a great show in freestyle, with crowd pleasers like flat water loops and body drags. So we always thought it would be great to have other top-level windsurfers at the event. Since we often have light wind for the event, Caesar Finies was very high on our list. We did a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to pay for the cost of his trip last year, and were able to raise the money we needed thanks to the help of many windsurfers. Many of those who donated and came to the event are friends from ABK Boardsports camps that we did in recent years.
With the help of Myles Borash, we have been able to get in contact with Kiri Thode, the 2013 PWA Freestyle World Champion and current #2 in the PWA freestyle competition. We started another fundraising campaign, and were able to exceed our goals again. Several windsurfing friends contributed $100 each to the campaign, even though they knew they could not attend the event! We are really thankful to all the supporters.
Could you describe a best memory of that event over the years – and an occasion when things didn’t quite go as planned?
There are so many wonderful moments that it’s really hard to pick just one. I’ll simply take the most recent: being able to see one of the top 2 freestylers in the world, Kiri Thode, show his crazy skills at Kalmus, less than 50 feet from the awed onlookers.
One of the not-so-great moments was when I found myself in the Kalmus parking lot late in the evening, trying to figure out how to get the jet ski trailer back home. We had run into some unexpected hitch ball sizing problems in the morning, and the kind soul who had helped out in the morning had forgotten to tell us that he had to leave early. Then, when I bought the hitch parts I needed, things did not fit together because my connected had gotten rusty from years on non-use. But with some help from the friendly guys from Makani Fins (a repeat sponsor of the event), we got it all worked out, and got the trailer back safely.
How can other windsurfing communities around the country emulate what you’ve done? Could you share a few tips, lessons learned, etc.?
It’s great to have these events, which are participation-focused. Of course we play hard and try to win, but the playing is much more important than the winning. I remember one event where a beginner competed in freestyle whose only trick was the sail 360. Every time he did the trick, he got a big round of applause from the onlookers, which in turn produced big smiles. It is fantastic if we can get windsurfers at these levels to join the competition, and also to see their skills grow over the years.
One thing we did for the first time this year was to use software (JavaScore) to score the races. That made things much easier than manual scoring – but make sure that you save your files under new names on a regular basis! We lost everything we had entered due to a bug in the program late in the evening of day 1 of the races, and had to start over. That happened after the little problem with the jet ski I mentioned before, so the stress level got just a bit too high there for a while. But things worked fine the second time around. After the event, we even found a way to use the software for scoring the freestyle heats, where we divide the field into different subgroups for several initial rounds to find the semi-finalists. I’m planning to write about how to do this on my blog The Windsurf Loop in the near future.
When running an event, try to make it as inclusive as possible. Over the years, the repeat attendees discovered that they need a longboard to be competitive in light wind racing. Not everyone has a longboard or wants to use one, so this year, we added a “SUP/shortboard” division where no board over 11 feet length or with a daggerboard was allowed. It also had a 6.5 m sail size limit. This division was a big success, and we will definitely have it again in future ECWF’s.
For any windsurfer who has the opportunity to compete in a similar event nearby (or a few hours away), my tip is: join the fun! You’ll make new friends, have fun, and see some limitations in your windsurfing that you were not aware of. I am really thankful for the ECWF Long Island events; they prompted me to re-discover how much fun longboards can be in light wind, and (together with ABK camps) helped me re-discover my love for light wind freestyle. No more days of waiting for wind on the beach!
I’ll be happy to talk to anyone directly who plans to organize an event, and I am sure Mike Burns will be happy to do the same.
What can we look forward to for the next edition of the ECWF?
We hope to have at least 2 ECWF events in 2016. The one in Cape Cod will again take place on a weekend after Labor Day, probably the second weekend (9/17-9/18/2016, but subject to change). The other one will probably be in the Long Island or New Jersey area. For the Cape Cod event, we hope to have another top level windsurfer, probably a PWA pro, at the event. It would be fantastic to get one of the top women to the event, but we’ll have to see. I am also hoping that we can run several GPS freeraces, which appeal to many windsurfers who’d rather not race around traditional courses. Just strap on a GPS and sail fast for 15, 30, or 60 minutes. Races are in a predefined area, but every racer picks their own course, typically just going back and forth. Whoever covers the most distance in the given time wins. Then you can add extras like bonus for tricks, or a separate ranking for top speed or best jibe during the heats. It will be interesting to see how this race format will evolve!