July 9,  2008
Windsurfers get upside down at Hatteras Loop Fest
With Slideshow

By ANNE C. BOWERS


“Looping - it’s this big, mystical thing of windsurfing,” says Bill Bell of Nags Head.

He did his first loop in April, 2007, which motivated him to put something together to help others get over the hurdle of trying a forward loop.

In layman’s terms, a forward loop is a controlled somersault or catapult. The sailor needs to hit a water ramp to get the board off the water and then rotate the rig forward, hopefully landing back in the same position after completing the rotation.

Bill runs a blog called OBX Beach Life, which is mostly devoted to windsurfing.  At the beginning of 2008, he put up a poll asking readers to list their top windsurfing goal for the year.  Doing a forward loop was the overwhelming winner among the readers.  Bill then decided to organize a looping contest and organize some beginner clinics to help more windsurfers do this fancy trick.

Loop Fest was born, and it ran through the entire month of June. It consisted of three parts.  The first part was a series of clinics to educate riders on how to do a forward loop. The second part was “commit fest,” in which the learning loopers spent time on the water with the instructors and other sailors who could loop. This is when they would actually try to huck a forward.

“Seeing other people loop helps get people over the hurdle of committing to that first attempt,” Bill explains.  “There is a lot of mental fear.”

To sweeten the experience, Bill supplied a Go Pro waterproof video camera that mounted to the tip of the mast and pointed down at the rider so the beginners could see their facial expressions as they attempted their first loop.

The Loop-Off was the third element of the Hatteras Loop Fest, which was a competition of the experienced loopers.  It was initially scheduled for June 22, but the lack of wind pushed it back a week.

Twenty-seven learners and loopers signed up for Loop Fest, according to Bill. George Markopoulos and Ken Kellar achieved their dream of doing a forward loop.
 
 “These were guys who never looped before but always wanted to,” says Bill.

Andy McKinney of Sail World in Avon was a key player in the clinic.  His instruction was an integral part of the event.

Additionally, Avon Sail House and Ocean Air, both in Avon, helped Bill with parts of Loop Fest by providing equipment, meeting places and prizes.

Five local sailors competed in the Loop Off, which was held at Ego Beach, located on the oceanside across from Canadian Hole.  After a month of marginal winds, a Bermuda high generated some decent southwest winds for the contestants.  The sailors rode 5.0 to 5.7 sails, which is on the big side for looping.  There were a relatively large number of onlookers and photographers on the beach to watch.

Because of the small number of entrants, the contest had only one heat that lasted 30 minutes.  The judging was very informal with no real criteria or rules.  There were five categories and the winners were easy to pick.

The overall winner, aka Loop King, was Keith McCulloch of Avon.  He had an outstanding session of tricks and wave riding.  It was his day.

The winner of the most spectacular loop award was Jeff Jones of Buxton.  The amazing element of his performance was that he was riding a slalom board.

Andy McKinney of Avon got the trophy for most loops and event organizer, Bill Bell, got an award for the best crash.

Donny Bowers won the Loop Off master’s trophy, basically because he was the oldest looper in the contest.  At the award party, which was held at Ocean Air in Avon, Bill told the group that Donny was 10 years older than the next oldest contestants and was still out there killing it.

Each winner received a great looking trophy with fantastic graphics done by Lauren Nassetta of Nags Head.  The trophy was shaped like a wave and said “Hatteras Loop Fest - Ready to Rotate?!!  T-shirts were made for all participants.

There was no entry fee and the event was mostly funded through sponsorships.
   
“I shoestring tied this thing together, and I was amazed at how many people came out and supported it.  I put it on my Web site and put out a call for sponsors.  Everyone was amped for the event, maybe because there hasn’t been a windsurfing competition in Hatteras for a long time.”

In addition to the three local windsurfing shops that supported Loop Fest, several national companies jumped on-board:  DaKine, Go Pro Cameras, Quatro, New England Windsurfing Journal, Iwindsurf, ka Sails, and Windsurfdeal.com.  Bill gives a lot a credit for the event’s success to the fact that it was well sponsored.

On the heels of this successful Loop Fest, Bill is already looking forward to organizing more windsurfing contests on Hatteras.  Currently, he is hoping for a wave event in mid- to late-September.  He also plans to do some more polling on his Web site to see what people want in a competition -- maybe a speed or long distance race.   

Future events will most likely have paid registration and be a little more organized, Bill predicts.  He is also researching the possibility of getting some celebrity windsurfing pros to Hatteras for a May competition.

Kudos to Bill Bell for all his hard work and great ideas.

For more information, check out OBX Beach Life, http://obxbeachlife.blogspot.com/


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