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USA 4 Windsurfing Campaign - How I almost got run over by a train

by Steve Bodner on 7 Dec 2011
USA 4 Windsurfing Campaign Steve Bodner www.stevebodner.com
USA 4 Windsurfing Campaign update from USA National Windsurfing Champion Steve Bodner:

How I almost got ran over by a train while windsurfing.


I scoped the beach out the weekend before meeting Zaijeck to pick up my new slalom board. The launch looked sketchy. The hike down, the gate, the train track.

I wrote it off.

Honestly, I had more on my mind - with the excitement of a brand new lightweight slalom board!

But the next weekend came and the SF Bay was still plagued by NE winds.

Crissy would be amok with kook kiters from Third Ave all looking for on onshore wind.

Granted, Wednesday and Thursday were epic in terms of sailing in some solid breeze again. I saw some gust above 30 and was well powered on my slalom 6.3 and 85l board.

I knew I should have gone early when on Saturday at 10 am it was a solid 20-25k but dying. I thought, maybe just maybe I'd get an early session in.


The lesson I continue to learn - in the off season - the early bird gets the worm.

If its blowing at 10am on a Saturday morning - go for it.

The thermals will not be there to back you up come mid afternoon after a few hours of procrastination.

From March through October this strategy works oh so well.

You can procrastinate (I mean get other work done) and get to the beach by five and still get a solid session in.

I decided to wait and meet some buddies to sail up at Pinole shores - which has been reliable on a NE breeze. After all- we had a score to settle.

Kiters vs windsurfers. The battle never ends.

I made the trek to the north bay against my better judgement- leaving a good wind at Crissy for an unknown wind 45 min away and breaking the cardinal rule of windsurfing: Never leave wind for wind!

Upon arrival I checked out the scene.


The wind was dying. 20k+ on the outside but a shlog to get there.

I hedged my bets and made the trek in with four kiters to Zaijeck beach.

The sign at the trail head should have been the first warning but went right on by.

A 10 minute hike in down an access trail, down a dirt trail, through a locked gate. across the railroad tracks, back up the hill and finally down the bluff to the beach.

At least I had my flip flops!

My gear fit nicely in a board bag that I carried over my shoulder.

It’s all about the journey I thought to myself.

I got there and immediately knew I made the wrong choice with my 7.8 rig.

I should have packed the 9.5!

It was low tide and the beach was super clean extending out a few more feet from my previous visit.


What I wasn't accounting for was the walk out in the mud till I could get to thigh deep water and keep my 39 cm fin from hitting the bottom.

The shlog out to the wind line was like a graph of diminishing returns.

The further I got from shore, the further the wind line receded.

The kiters on their race boards and 11m kites were whizzing past me and I could hardly break onto a plane in 8-10k.

If there was any way to covert me to kiting, this was probably it.

I got going a few times only to have the wind die even more. I decided to pack it up and head back before losing any further ground as the wind switched more east. I knew I would be downwind of the launch but there was no real good exit from water.

The low tide exposed some nasty rip rap with exposed rebar, razor sharp shells and oh, I forgot the 10 min minute walk up to the beach in the calf deep mud - sinking with every step

All I could think of was climbing out of a power deep day at Tahoe but this was no powder- just mud and I had no epic runs, Just a shlog.

With the gear above my head I began my exit from the water's edge up the rocks.

The balancing attempt was not working.

I disconnected the rig from the board and made my was up and down the rocks two more times.

It looked to be about a 1/4 mike walk back along the train tracks.

I tidied up rig into a manageable package rolling up my mast in the sail and tying it into the boom with the up haul and outhaul.

The extension fit nicely in the boom head and the harness around the short end of the boom.

Did I mention my feet were already cut up from the climb up and down the rocks.

Now the only way back was along train tracks.

If you've ever walked along the train tracks you know those rocks aren’t the smooth polished ones you find at the ocean.

No - they are jagged crushed rock that bruise the soles of your feet with every step.

There had to be a better way.

I looked around - a path of thorny bushes and poison oak to the right or the train tracks.

I opted for the latter and was actually enjoying the trek getting a nice soft massage on my feet with every step on the wooden planks of the rail track.

That was until I head the train whistle from behind and looked back to see an Amtrak train coming around the bend at full speed.


My first reaction was to drop the gear and jump out of the way.

A split second went by and I imagined my new board, carbon mast and boom all getting run over by the train.

I hobbled down the bank with about 10 seconds to spare - rig and board balancing between my arms.

The rush of wind in front of the train nearly knocked me over.

I could see the conductors face looking down at my nearly two stories above on the double decker train wondering who in the world is walking on the train tracks in a wetsuit carrying what looks like a surf board and a rolled up sail.

Then again, This was Pinole. Stranger things have happened.

I made the rest of the walk back avoiding two more trains as the whipped by but by this time I figured out the system.

The tracks start to vibrate and make a high pitched noise about 20-30 seconds before the train arrives so I had plenty of time to jump to the side and wait for the trains to pass before continuing on.

Still some strange looks on those train conductors' faces

Zaijeck met me about 3/4 of the way back and helped me carry my board back while I handled the rig.

We laughed and decided maybe this wasn't the best launch on a dying breeze.

As I waited for the rest of our group to derig and drink an few beers on the deserted beach, I thought - it probably could have gone a whole lot worse.


Cut up and bruised feet sure beat a pile of carbon and Styrofoam splinters along the edge of the train tracks.

I’ll check that beach off the list of places I’ve sailed but probably won’t be making the trek back anytime soon. Steve Bodner blog

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