Nancy Blain, 46, years in wind … OMG… 19!!
So Nancy how did you get drawn into this life in the wind? Do you remember your first exposure to it?
I don’t remember where I first saw windsurfing, but definitely knew it was something I’d try. The summer of ‘87 I was living in Duluth and some friends of mine from Mpls had a Superlight, a canvas sail and a wobbly boom. We’d go to Nokomis with a cooler of beer and take turns sailing all day. I fell a million times, got a million bruises, and loved every minute of it! I bought used gear: a Mistral Bermuda and canvas sail with one half-batten (oooh!) & then later a Mistral 6.0 (fully battened!) that I sailed in all wind strengths for a couple of years. Some vivid memories are driving home after sailing all day & wishing I could hook in to the steering wheel with a harness because my arms were too tired to drive, tying the old booms on about 5 times before I got them tight enough, and wondering what I was doing wrong when I couldn’t manage my 6.0 on 35 mph days! As soon as I started working in Mpls, I bought $2000 worth of gear on a credit card….Sea Trend 9’5, Mistral Pandera & 6.5, Gaastra 5.7 and 5.0 with cams. I guess I was hooked!
I remember that equipment. It was a bit like taming the beast. What was the community of sailors like then? You mentioned Nokomis, did you get to any other lakes?
I sailed Calhoun and Waconia mostly, but found the friendliest sailors at Nokomis and Harriet. Then I met the WBL crew at the 1992 Mille Lacs Crossing. They were so welcoming, helpful, and social. They gave me lots of tips that really helped me advance my skills, and we’d go out all the time after great days in the wind together. The old Waconia crew used to like to rig their tiniest gear but they’d spend so much time schlogging and sinking. In contrast, the WBL sailors rigged big, sailed fast, and had way more fun!! Ahem…one in particular was especially friendly!!
I’m assuming you mean Steve. What’s it like sharing your passion with your partner/husband?
It’s AWESOME to share this passion with Steve! Actually, it may be sort of a requirement for us. We rarely have to exchange the opportunity to kite or sail for let’s say, attending a craft fair with a girlfriend (I still can’t believe Steve did that!!) or helping a boyfriend move to a new place. Our lives can now freely revolve or evolve around the wind: friends and family, time off, spending money, retirement planning, even the home we live in all are shaped by the wind. The down side is we know some really nice people that don’t play in wind…they want to plan stuff and we can’t commit!
Yes, it does take a special non wind addicted significant other and good friends to understand and tolerate us. You’re kiting more and more lately. What’s the learning process been like for you? Any words of wisdom for someone thinking of giving it a try?
My plan was to sit back, let Steve figure kiting out first and let him pay all the hard dues, let the manufacturers advance their safety features, and then I would waltz in and take advantage! I tried with Cs but the relaunching in light winds wore me out, so I decided to wait longer. Then I saw Steve’s kiting be transformed after he got his first bow. Suddenly he was staying out on the water (and above it!) having a gas instead of walking home from the other side of the lake! I took it up on our next trip to SPI which was last November. My advice to beginners is: save yourself much time and frustration by going where you can touch the bottom, getting lessons, and using a big floaty beginner board. Get a friend to learn with you so you can help each other and have twice the fun! I’ll also loan out my mottos to live by: “The sky’s the limit!” (a GREAT motto for kiters!) and “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood!”
I like those mottos. What is it do you think that makes us crazy when the wind blows? Is the itch the same whether or not we’re heading to the lake to kite or windsurf?
I think the craziness is the lure of the “epic day”. That day usually has steady wind, is shared with cool people, and you are on top of the world! It could be that you got back to the beach where you started for the first time, or your first planing jibe, or your highest jumps. It could be that you rode for hours without falling off the plane, made it across Mille Lacs, had a perfect race, or saw an electric blue sky over the waves turn into an amazing sunset. It’s that “one with the universe” feeling. Your mind, body, and nature all seem to be responding in harmony with each other. For me, that itch to get out is the same with kiting as with windsurfing. I’m more OK now with missing a day than I used to be. I’ve realized I may be miserable but it hasn’t killed me yet! I’m better at staying in the moment if I’m stuck at work or something until I get to the lake and see the caps. Then, WOOHOO!
Why do you think that you’re more OK when you can’t get out and it’s windy?
I don’t know…maybe age? Could it be wisdom?! I’ve had so many days over the years when I wasn’t able to get out and the exasperation/frustration just wears me out. Maybe I don’t have the energy for that anymore, or maybe I’m just more able to be in the moment and not fret about what I can’t control. Randy shared a valuable little phrase with me: “It is what it is.” This helps me be grateful for whatever is happening at present, and also has the power to turn ordinary days into epic days!
Any favorite experiences/memories you want to share from your years in the wind?
Where do I start?! I have so many phenomenal memories. The Crossing I met Steve at and the one I stopped in to help a sailor in trouble. Getting married on a windy evening at WBL while friends sailed. Racing for about 12 years…one especially perfect race at Garrison where I railed upwind like a hot knife through butter & smoked the jibe marks…Fleet 8, Mo Wind Walleye Wagattas, Steve’s WBL clinics, Worthington, & earning some hardware @ the Nationals. The feel of railing my Equipe, planing out of jibes after many years of practice, reaching longboards for miles and miles at SPI, the first day staying upwind on a kite. I’ve met so many great people and extraordinary friendships formed that have enriched my life. So much fun together with all the great days, weekends away, vacations, and especially all those races!! Not to mention windless days (they never make plans, either!) like the really hot one where a bunch of us went to Stillwater, hopped some Jose Cuervo bus, and went to a water park for the day! I’m so grateful for my friends, old and new, that I get to share all this with!
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