“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Archive for April, 2005

A Lil’ Pinot and some spring snowboarding to soothe the soul

Posted by direwolff on April 30, 2005

“When I was [41], it was a very good [day]…” – borrowed from Frank Sinatra’s famous song who’s name escapes me.

My Lil’ Pinot has been feeling a bit under the weather since before we left for Tahoe yesterday. While I didn’t want to put her through the 3.5 hr drive to Tahoe if she wasn’t feeling well, her desire to be a trooper was stronger than any argument I could muster on how we could always go up there some other time.

Well, this morning she woke still feeling a bit stuffy, but being even more psycho than me when it comes to getting on the slopes, she wouldn’t hear of anything other than how long ’til we got to the top of Squaw Valley. She used the “it’s your birthday and we need to have fun” as the driving argument for all of this, almost without realizing that for me, it was the pleasure of spending this time with her that really was driving my enthusiasm.

It was interesting that in wanting to contemplate my present, I couldn’t do it in the absense of our present. In other words, thoughts about just me felt inappropriate, out of place so-to-speak. It was like her presence and my desire to dwell in our moment meant more to me than any self-actualization I might have wanted to delve into. Last year on my birthday, I made it all about me by going off to camp alone for my annual contemplation, but this year better things were in store.

They frequently say that finding your soulmate is about that moment when life is less about you, and more about us, and that feeling is a comfortable one. Well, even with my sick Lil’ Pinot, who was dealing with a bad case of the sniffles and constantly worried about whether or not I was having a good time, this time together felt as good as doing a kite loop with a backside 360. The us moment was comfortable and enjoyable. Thoughts of my 41st, of my “unachievements”, of what I want to do in the future, of my deep contemplations, all seemed unimportant. It was this time, on a beautiful mountain with soft snow all around us, with the sun peaking out here and there…it was this time that was the fun, that was the magic.

I knew coming out to the mountains with Lil’ Pinot was going to soothe my spirit. Snowboarding in enjoyable conditions, almost as much as kitesurfing, has a tendency to do that for me. The exhilaration of the ride just brings a sudden rush of real-time living, fully engaging me in the moment of the activity. When getting a chance to do that with someone you care deeply about, who can rip even when she’s feeling sick, the feeling goes beyond words…and for that I am fortunate.


Posted in Feelings | Leave a Comment »

Weekend at Squaw…

Posted by direwolff on April 29, 2005

After a totally lackluster snowboard season (for me that is), tonight I’m off to Squaw Creek to spend the weekend with my girlfriend Lil’ Pinot for some fun in the snow and to celebrate my special day. Getting a year older has this contemplative effect on me, that while I used to look forward to it, now just wears on me. It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of doubts, and questions, and feelings, that I feel a need to come to terms with. Like there’s no more running, it’s like this “you’re at another mile marker and you gotta deal with these things now” type of feeling.

Plenty of questions, not enough answers. Am I where I wanted to be at this point of my life? Am I being accountable for my actions? Have I been respectful of others and myself? Where I haven’t, did I do the best I could to deal with these situations? Does it feel like I’m being disciplined and responsible in my commitments? Am I living the life I want to live? Like I said, lots of questions…

Fortunately, I’m spending the weekend with Lil’ Pinot which will help to keep me from overwhelming myself with sorrow, as I move through the phases of self exploration. In contrast to my frequent negative outlooks, Lil’ Pinot does the exact opposite, as she views everything with a positive light, and always looks for the best in people. Probably why I feel in her a counter balance, more of a soulmate aspect to our relationship than with any one else I’ve ever dated…oh yeah, and she’s a hell of a skier and cyclist too.

Hopefully, the perfect spring conditions (given that it snowed some yesterday and more is expected on Sunday, but don’t let the picture above fool you, it sure ain’t gonna be like that) will help inspire me into this new year. It’s also nice to be among the trees and the mountains as it’s not likely that I’ll spend another weekend from now ’til the end of October not being in or on water rather than snow. So one more shot at the mountains should be fun to get some clean air in my lungs and in my soul.

Between Lil’ Pinot and the Sierras, this weekend of self-exploration could actually be fun and inspiring, so as the Nike commercial tells it, it’s time to…just do it!

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World’s First Upwind Kitesurfing Race, St Francis Yacht Club

Posted by direwolff on April 22, 2005

From the Race Organizers:

Subject: World’s First Upwind Kitesurfing Race St Francis Yacht Club

April 21, 2005

San Francisco

The St Francis Yacht Club hosted the world’s first
upwind Kitesurfing race this afternoon.

13 entrants (12 men and a woman) approached the start line at
approximately 5:45PM for the world’s first Kitesurfing
race with an upwind start. The course was once around,
and included a windward and leeward mark with an upwind finish.
Race developers John Gomes and Chip Wasson were very
pleased with the turnout, stating “a good time was had by all.”

The St Francis Yacht Club will have Kite surfing events all summer
every other Thursday.

Photos by Chris Ray


“A good time was had by all” indeed!!! It was crazy but fun. With the flood tide coming in strong at around 3 knots, we all needed big kites and even that wasn’t helping us making any headway on rounding buoys on upwind tacks. Having said that, it was a blast and every one really made the most of the adventure trying to avoid crashing into each other during the preparation to the start, and then again on mismatched tacks. The start was actually pretty funny because it appeared like only a couple of people figured it out and the rest of us just followed the pack. I don’t think any one actually crossed the finish line because it was in an area with little to no wind which made the upwind tack to cross the line nearly impossible.

The organizers did a fantastic job getting every one prepped before the race, providing detailed rules explanations and creating a positive environment for all of us to really enjoy the event.

“Laying out the gear”

“Racing at its finest…(that’s me on the black kite, with the red and white stripes)”

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | 1 Comment »

SoHo Doo-Wap Street Musicians

Posted by direwolff on April 17, 2005

What a great day it was in New York City today. There was a certain energy that reminds me of why I love this place so. No matter how long I'm away from here, with every return, it reminds me of why its hard not to continue to consider this place home.

The sun shining warm, people out and about, art merchants in the streets selling their wares. Street musicians crowding the sidewalks to expose the crowd to their doo-wap music. Perfect harmonies, with the quality that you could only hope to normally find at a local club. Yet here they were on the street sharing their gift with all who passed. Smiles across their faces, the occasional dollar being dropped in the box in front of them, but a party atmosphere gelled around their sound. Really well suited to wonderful sun and warm temperatures of the day.

There's even something about the people in New York. It's a true melting pot like few others. People of all races, of all mixed combinations, of all social classes, all sharing the sidewalk and visiting the same shops and at times interacting, all unassuming. No sense of prejudice, no sense of open negativity seemed to cross the eyes and expressions of the people. The occasional double-take on a passerby who made themselves part of the exhibition of the neighborhood by their dress. But even this, was reviewed and investigated by people's eyes in an open, interested, curious, and wondering way. At times it drew a chuckle, but more one of jealousy that that person had thought of the outfit first, rather than of disgust or of superiority.

One noticeable trend is that more and more women are wearing glow-in-the-dark type colors for sneakers and sandals. Nothing unique about the shoes except their screaming colors, lime green or reddish pink, all mixed with the normal and non-descript jeans or slacks. A strange look for sure, but one that you can tell will eventually overtake the country and be this summer's trend much like those lil' flat bed slippers that caught the nation's women by storm last summer.

Well, after walking nearly 3 miles this afternoon, I can say it brought the life of New York rushing back into me, and makes me feel alive in a comparable way to kitesurfing. Not so much athletically, but more in the sense of feeling very alive through the experience. Feeling a sense of truly living in the present.

With that said, I'm back out to complete another 2 miles before arriving home to a nice home cooked dinner with my mother. New York has its priveleges :-)

Posted in Just Fun | Leave a Comment »

Acknowledging Others – Week 1

Posted by direwolff on April 13, 2005

Andy SackI've never been satisfied with myself or my achievements, and blogging has been no exception to this lack of self fulfillment. I'm working at not being so hard on myself for everything I do, but no matter how good I get at anything, as soon as I see someone else doing it better, a shadow comes over me and I feel unaccomplished. During the time I've stayed away from blogging, part of this was spent reading books on writing. All in hopes of improving my skills in that domain, but like anything it requires practice and it's important to keep at it. So I continue my attempts. I've also been reading on how to be more forgiving of myself, hopefully translating this into an ability to gain more empathy for others. Not sure what's been harder, learning to write again, learning to be more forgiving of myself and others, or learning to throw backside 360 kiteloops while kitesurfing in the SF Bay. Suffice it to say, they all have their challenges.

Tonight I decided to catch up on some blog reading of people that I enjoy keeping up with, mostly because I know them and can relate to their comments in a more familiar way. While doing so, a particular posting struck a chord of truth with me and given another of my shortcomings (not acknowledging others enough, related to the empathy problem), I decided to follow his lead. The blogger I'm referring to is Andy Sack, the founder and CEO of Judy's Book, a start-up based in Seattle, WA focused on enabling people to share their recommendations on service providers. Andy is a veteran entrepreneur, having founded Firefly which was acquired by Microsoft (some time after Andy had left), then founding abuzz which was acquired by the New York Times.

In a recent posting he talks about "acknowledgements", and specifically acknowledging others. This gave me the warm and fuzzies. I have found it so easy to downplay other people's accomplishments or to point out their weaknesses, and only recently realizing the direct relationship this has to my own self loathing. Hell, when you're good at putting yourself down, it gets pretty easy to see the worse in every one else too.

Well tonight I start dedicating at least one blog posting per week (even if it's my only posting for the week) to acknowledging people in a meaningful way. Since Andy's posting was so inspiring, I'll start with him.

Andy and I do not know each other very well, and while we've met a few times and ran into each other at a few conferences, have never really spent much quality time. We first met during my days at First Virtual Holdings Inc. (FVHI) in San Diego, the first payment systems company on the Internet in 1994. Andy had already left Firefly and had started abuzz, which had developed a collaborative filtering platform. Because one of the angels in FVHI was somewhat affiliated with Andy, we had been in discussions about our companies entering into some relationship that would enable FVHI to leverage the abuzz technology. While no business was ever transacted as a result of these discussions, I found Andy to be very articulate and smart about the space. More importantly to me at the time, was the enthusiasm and drive that he conveyed and appeared to be carried by.

Being that we were both east coasters, I also suspect that his communication style was very comforting to me, as it generally is with other east coasters, especially when getting together out west. He seemed confident, and generally interested in the discussions and information he was sharing with us during the half-day meetings we ended up having. His style was also very engaging and humble.

While I kept up with abuzz's progress in the trade rags, I didn't see Andy again for several years, until after I had already moved on to becoming VP of Biz Dev at Impulse! Buy Network. Like abuzz, Impulse! had Softbank VC as one of its early stage investors. It was at the annual Softbank Technology Ventures Conference in '97 or '98 that I ran into Andy after abuzz had been acquired by the New York Times. I was happy to see him because here was this smart guy and "I knew him when…" :-) He was an entrepreneur with lots of promise who had embarked on an auspicious venture and had reached an important liquidity event after having started with nothing. He was living my dream.

Needless to say, when I saw him he was all smiles, and for good reason. He had beaten the odds. Sure, many people will say that it was easy to get funded and exit prior to the bubble, but the fact remains that there were many more failed start-ups than there were successful ones. It took perseverance and a genuinely good idea and product to make it through the morass of bad ideas. Today, abuzz is still a technology within the N.Y. Times and they are beginning to leverage it in several applications. In my recent conversations with them, they speak very fondly of Andy. Andy had done good.

Most recently, I ran into Andy at the Kelsey Group's Interactive Local Media 2004 Conference in Jersey City near NYC in the first week of November. He was on a panel with Mark Pincus, one of Tribe Networks' founders. It was good to catch up with Andy in person as I had only recently discovered his blog and had been keeping up with his travails with his new start-up and finding out that he had moved to Seattle and was getting to like it, (though not initially).

As always, when we had a chance to spend some time chatting, he was very honest and forthcoming about the challenges he was facing and his feelings on where the space was heading. All this while confessing that he knew that there was still lots to figure out. This was a true reflection of his humility and intense focus on figuring out the business. Andy blogs pretty frequently, even if it's a couple of lines to tell us about his day, but it's always refreshing to read because these insights have helped me realize that we all go through regular days with regular challenges and feelings that we are not so unique afterall. He also provides insights into some of his thoughts on running his early stage company, and that's been very useful as well. Reading his posts has helped me think about my own challenges.

Anyway, all I can say here tonight is that it's been great keeping up with Andy and participating in his life vicariously. He's a good egg and I thank him for sharing with the rest of us.

Posted in Entrepreneurship | Leave a Comment »

St. Francis Yacht Club Thursday Night Kiting

Posted by direwolff on April 8, 2005

A good time was had by all at last night’s (4/7/05) SFYC kitesurfing event. Organized by local wind junkies John Gomes and Jim Kiriakis, the weekly event should provide lots of excitement. Fortunately, some great shots were captured by good friend and amateur photographer Byron Cleary which can be seen at the following web site:

If you’ve had a hankering for the sport but never really had a chance to get an upclose view of its possibilities, come out to San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club at Crissy Field on a Thursday some time this summer and expose yourself to the madness. Local kitesurfing pioneers Chip Wasson, Steve Gibson, and Greg Boyington are likely to be among the crew stylin’ for the fans. Big air crazies like Jono Buys (pictured above) and Geoff Headington are also sure to inspire a few ooohs and ahhhs. For those kiters interested in finding out more about this, contact race organizer John Gomes at

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | Leave a Comment »