New England Windsurfing Journal
Dec. 1999 - Jan. 2000

You Want White Caps ? - All the jumpable peaks are not in the ocean.


Snowfering the Australian Mountains

By Charles Chepregi

It all started in June 1999 with e-mail from a production company in Sydney, Australia. "Charles, would you be interested in doing a commercial with your Snowfer on the snowy mountains of Australia in September?" All expenses will be paid plus getting paid. I thought, "Would I be interested? I can't wait to do it." Getting paid for having fun sounded good to me.
The flight from Toronto was booked for Sept. 13. After 20 hours of flying in the dark and going through 14 hours of time difference, I was tired but excited to arrive. Going through the routine custom check, I started looking for my contact person. He wasn't difficult to spot - a limousine driver holding up a Snowfer sign. The 85 degree temperature felt really good, but I couldn't help but wonder where I was going to snow sail here.
Being driven around the city in a luxury limousine. I noticed a nice clean city with unique architecture, palm trees and beautiful landscape. There were signs everywhere that the city was preparing for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Inside my hotel room, a welcome card and a schedule was waiting for me. I had time for a quick shower. Then Peter, the production runner for the company, picked me up and took me to the studio. After a quick introduction to the crew, I tried on the wardrobe, then went to the rigging area where they do all the necessary preparation for the commercial shoot. Here I met Philippe and Aaron, two local Australian windsurfers hired to snowsail with me. After double checking our equipment, they loaded it onto a trailer for the five-hour drive south to Cooma. I was hoping to see some Kangaroos on the way down but unfortunately the ony one I saw used to be a Kangaroo until
it was run over by a car.
When we reached The Charlotte Pass Resort, I was nervous. I didn't think I would be able to sail anywhere here. There were so many rocks with no open area or flat surfaces. After checking in and unloading the trailer, we settled in the chalet's main bar and had a nice, cold beer. It was a real treat. Outside the window, the ski lifts where still working and some committed snowboarders were trying to maneuver around the rocks with what little snow was left. I listened to the weather forecast and was assured that anything could happen in this place. The good news was a strong front was approaching very fast and could dump some snow if the temperature was cold enough. Unfortunately the temperature was way into the plus side. Later the front arrived, dumping heavy rain in a way I haven't seen very often. The little snow we had turned into slush and faded away fast. I was tired and
disappointed so I went to bed early.
The next day at sunrise I opened the curtains, looked out the window and could not believe what I saw. It was like Christmas overnight. The temperature had dropped and the rain turned into six inches of snow covering the mountain. I went on a skidoo ride to find suitable areas for sailing.
We rigged quickly. Philippe said that he hadn't windsurfed for more than a year and had not done any jumps on the water yet. Aaron was a committed wave sailor, doing loops with confidence. Before I had any chance to say something, they took off with smiles on their faces that showed that they were completely sold on snow sailing. With less than an hour's practice, we built some ramps for jumping and did surprisingly big air. Philipped, who had never jumped before, was right up there with us. Later he admitted that he had jumped on a snowboard but never on a windsurfer.
From this point everything went better than we expected. The next day we found an amazing spot, a very large area surrounded by mountain peaks. Clean wind with lots of snow. In some areas, it was blown over ten feet deep. We were all having fun but we were always competing. Who can go steeper up the mountains, jump higher or go faster? Philippe said that he would come to Canada and beat me in the Snowfer race.
I have learned a lot from sailing on a mountain. It is a lot more exciting than on a flat surface. Basically you get half of the speed from gravity and the other half from the wind, which means smaller sails and more control. When you are airborne, the height is much greater because you go up while the mountains go down away from you. You could sail back uphill, too. Foot steering in deep snow was very responsive. Maneuvering around the rocks, the ones you can see, was no problem. Making high-speed jibes in the deep snow is still a challenge. The board would turn fast,
but staying on it was something else.
Our days became routine, except when Antonio, the director and producer, arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny day but no wind. HIs disappointment showed on his face. He had a big stake in this project. The following day was the most exciting. Sunny, windy, with the temperature hovering around zero. that afternoon, the production crew arrived to catch us in our best performances. Everyone was so excited they started shooting the commercial that day, instead of the following day as scheduled.
After four days of filming, we were all tired but satisfied. I got a sample of what's it like to be in the movie business. I really enjoyed working with all of the production crew and I can't wait to see the results. We put the Snowfers through hell, jumping, running over rocks and crashing. After two weeks of abuse, the six boards I brought with me suffered only a few minor scratches and chips. All the blades were flattened out completely by the rocks, but on the mountain, it made no difference at all.
I don't think we will ever take away the hills from the skiers and snowboarders. But there are many mountains where a suitable sailing location can be found for Snowfering. Philippe and Aaron are good examples of how easy it is to adapt to the Snowfer and have confidence on it. Even on the fIrst day they were able to challenge someone with a lot more experience. One thing we all agreed on is that if you can sail the Snowfer on the rocky mountains of Australia then you can sail it anywhere.
After I had done what I came to do, I packed up and flew back to Sydney where I had two days of sightseeing and shopping. I bought some souvenirs: a unique instrument called a didjeridoo for my son, and an Australian outfit with a hat, which I wore on the way back home. When I arrived at Toronto airport, my wife didn't recognize me.

WB01343_1.gif (599 bytes)Home | BackWB01345_.gif (599 bytes)