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In The Weeds

This is not about paper airplanes. It's about my second great hobby, windsurfing.

Sometimes great big rationalizations creep up on you. Rationalizing is knowing something you’re doing is probably wrong, but you make up “logical” reasons or “rationales” for continuing to do the thing; mainly because you like doing that thing.

Guys with speed boats know they pollute the air and water, but they work hard and deserve some play time; so, you know, what one person does can’t kill the planet right? Guys with giant sailboats, that get built with climate changing VOCs and plastics, figure they’re not as polluting as those speed boat guys. They deserve a little fun, and really, what can one person do to a whole planet? And there are guys like me, who windsurf. Yes, my rig and board are made from carbon fiber, plastics, and VOCs, and the energy shipping all of that from Asia is probably bad for the planet, but --- you can fill in the rest.

Yesterday, I was at my favorite windsurfing spot. For the first time ever, there was a kind of algae or seaweed that constantly tangled in my board’s fin. It made the board slide sideways because the laminar flow was disrupted and cavitation resulted. If you’ve never experienced the feel, imagine you’re going about 25-30mph (ski boat speed) in a straight line. The pressure of your back foot pressing against the board (and therefore your fin) keeps you planing and smiling. Suddenly, the fin breaks off the bottom of the board and you’re sliding sideways at break neck speed—at least that’s what if feels like. The fin is still there, but the water flow is chaotic. That’s cavitation.

Where did this new plant growth come from? It’s a kind of stuff I’ve not seen in more than 30 years on this same water. What is it? What caused it? Who do I call to make it stop? There’s a good bet that climate change played a roll. The shallow waters where I windsurf heat up more easily than the rest of the bay. So, hotter days and longer summers have a magnified effect on water temperatures in the shallows. We had an eel grass infestation a few years back, which seemed seasonal. Harsh winters seemed to blow it all out of there.

I don’t know whether this new problem will be seasonal or permanent. It has choked out the eel grass. Most of the small fish I used to routinely see are gone. No bat rays. No crabs. No schools of minnows. Just green goo on top of the mud bottom. I haven’t seen a harbor seal all year. One or two will usually venture into the shallows at high tide over the course of the season. No ospreys are circling my end of the bay. What’s it mean?

I did the thing most people do that are rationalizing their habits. I started solving my problem, and ignoring the larger issues. I googled weed fins when I got home. They slip through and release all manner of algae and seaweed more easily than traditionally shaped fins. They are carbon fiber and resin. They are not healthy for the planet.

I ordered a weed fin. I don’t know if it will work. I feel like I’ve committed treason; broken my moral pact with the planet. I’m working on rationalizing this, but there’s not much of a way to justify it. Yes, it’s better than burning gasoline to have fun. Yeah, I’ve got a solar array on my roof. It’s true that I bought an electric car. I recycle. But I’m stuck in the weeds on this decision, whether or not the fin actually works.


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