Early F2 board – type X


F2 - X-main fin

If anyone would challenge me to identify an F2 board produced earlier than 2000, I would accept the challenge laughing…Well, things have changed since last weekend.

On the 3rd of September my friend Thanos send me the photo of a board he kindly thought to offer me, having become aware about my interest on vintage F2 boards.

Thanos boardHe said it was a 1983-84 F2 model he was sailing back then and was now standing idle in the garage of his country house in Galatas on the coast of Peloponnese. As our summer house is in Poros island – opposite of Galatas, with a narrow channel of just a few hundred meters separating them, I started arranging the pick-up of the board, which I must confess, triggered my curiosity as it looked unidentifiable.Poros island & Galatas

Last weekend having gone to Poros, on my way back to Athens I stopped and loaded the board and took it home in Athens.

The general condition is good, so after a good washing, I started checking the details.

All decals are long gone , while the only marking is the F2 molded emblem on the mastfoot release/secure lever. It was easy for me to reproduce the standard F2 nose decal of that period and I added a personal touch of a small decal on the face of the dagger-board box, something I did right away.

The board is a made out of thermoplastic ASA which makes it durable but relatively heavy.

It measures 3.22 x .63 m and I weighed it bear, at 16.3kgs.

It has a center dagger-board, and 3 rear fins of the thruster arrangement (one 25cm main & two 8cm on the sides) attached with the US box system.

There are 2 rows of footstraps for the front leg and another 2 for the rear, all of them in fixed positions.

The outline of the tail is of the Squash Double Winger type, very unusual for an F2 as far as I know.

The bottom is of a complex design, starting flat under the nose, gradually becoming V-shaped double concave, releasing most of the concavity through the first row of wings and from there on V turns into U which leads to a lightly convex  tail-end.F2 - XF2 - X2F2 - X3F2 - X4F2 - X5F2 - X6F2 - X7

The board is closer to COMET on the basis of size and centerboard, but does not correspond to ANY of the 1982-1984 boards we have in print, while from then onward ASA construction was dropped in favor of more hi-tech , lighter & stiffer solutions. It is hard to believe this can be a non series production board, as my friend Thanos had acquired it by buying it from the Greek importer…

Although I tried through Facebook, I failed to get a contact respond from these persons involved with F2 of that era:


Peter Brockhaus, founder of F2


Kai Schnellbacher, F2 evolutive tester and world athlete


Kutte Priessner, the testing force of Surf magazine


Late afternoon update – same day of posting

Jurgen Hönscheid , F2 shaper & world athlete during the ’80’s, has responded to my message through his contact of his NorthShore Fuertaventura  company.

Here is our correspondence:

Dear Jurgen,
I would appreciate if you could enlighten me on the identification of a vintage F2 board I have just posted in my blog

I will also take the opportunity to thank you for all the great boards you have shaped while in F2

Best Regards

Dimitris Savidis (zaosan) – Greece

Hi Dimitris, 
Thank you for your mail but I do not remember this board with the double wingers.
Maybe its a prototyp but I am not sure, sorry! As far as I remember I did not work on this design.
Best regards


Thanks Jurgen for your immediate response.
It crossed my mind the possibility of a prototype, but then I would expect to be fabricated with hand laid materials and not ASA. Do I think correctly?



Hi Dimitris,

True, when its ASA it was a production board.
Best regards 




I am afraid his reply leaves hardly any chances of identification

Last hope are my Greek friends, windsurfing importers and athletes – Theo Theodoridis & Philip Adamidis, while help by anyone is welcome. Let’s see…

September  29  update

Both Theo & Philip contacted me, letting me know they were unable to recognize the board.


September  30  update

Kai Schnellbacher, kindly responded to my message and this is what we exchanged:

Kai Schnellbacher
11:58 π.μ. Τρίτη, 30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014
Re: F2 vintage windsurfing board
dear dimitris,

 the board might be a sailboard or a klepper, maybe somebody put the f2 sticker and masttrack on to have an f2 board.
you might contact Klaus Walter for more information
best regards
kai schnellbacher


Hi Kai and thank you for your response.

About the stickers: They are new, I personally recreated them, based on the F2 marking on the mast track pin lever.
It crossed my mind the possibility of an F2 donor mast track on another brand board, but from my so far search, I either find Squash tails with one set of wingers or Swallow tails with 2 sets (like the HiFly in the ad I’m sending you)…
I have already contacted Klaus and we’ll see if he will come up with something.

DS on F2 Ride 277 - copyright DWell, I sailed my vintage equipment without any photos documentation (the photo above was taken 2 years ago by my friend S.Theodoropoulos), but one thing I can assure you about, is that I enjoyed every minute,  and I was very happy to realize that I’m not the only one playing around with depreciated material that often put to shame boards that just rolled out of the production line!

I cannot find a better example than our Italian friend Paolo, sailing fast for many hours., while no other boards could be seen planing.  Only kitesurfs could sail under these conditions, but Paolo was travelling at speed from New Golden beach – up to Messada & down to Dryonissi and back.Trevisiol XL Red - Paolo & kites onlyHis board for those not-so-strong-wind-days, is a red Ezio Trevisiol custom board , built in the late ’90s, close to 160 liters, 298 x 71cm, of honeycomb/carbon construction.Trevisiol XL Red - 2.98 x71 ~160lTrevisiol XL Red -   14 cm highI promised next year I will bring along the T1 eXperience 165, in order to sail together, as we did in the past when we were testing the T1 for the first time.

For more wind, Paolo rides a smaller freeride white Trevisiol, 278 x 54 cm/~110 liters – pity Ezio no longer makes windsurfing boards…Paolo on Trevisiol 2,78x54 ~110 l

And there were some more proud owners appreciating vintage charms, like Haris and his 1994 F2 XenonHaris & his F2 Xenon New Golden beach

The guy with the 4 battens Gaastra wave/slalom sail of 1992, with 1 external camber! I have the same sail in 4.4 size – a gift from the retired quiver of my pal Loukis.Gaastra 1992 external camber - copyright D.SavidisGaastra 4 batten-external camber sail

Unfortunately, not all nice boards en-up in a good way. Here are some, decorating the Golden beach in Paros

copyright D.Savidis

copyright D.Savidis

copyright D.Savidis

copyright D.Savidis

Some uses of the old boards may appear more imaginative, but only defective boards should be doomed not to sail again.

Here is an F2 wave board, standing-by as a life-guard board at a station in Skopelos island.life guard Skopelos-F2 board wave 254

And here are the showers of  Moraitis Sports Center in Schinias, close to Athens

copyright D.Savidis

copyright D.Savidis

Leaving Paros, I loaded on more board. I acquired from John Xefteris a retired OES-Australia custom wave weapon of Evi Tsape, the most accomplished Greek lady windsurfer in the PWA .

copyright D.Savidis

copyright D.Savidis

OES - EviTsape (GR-2) special - bottom

I’m sure some of you feel jealous. but it now proudly completes my windsurfing stand.DS windsurfing boards August 2014

 To be continued

I regularly check the classified used boards for sale, and in June I spotted an F2 Ride 274 (mod.2000). It was located less than a 10 minute ride from my place, the seller was a guy I meet often down the beach of Shinias, the board in good condition supplied with both the original swept back 30 Concrete Wave fin, plus a more powerful upright 36 Ciessevi fin, so I handed over 200 euros and took it home. Such board sell for 150 euros, but mine had also the original foot straps OK, plus a historic Drops board bag, which although hardly presentable, it would serve to safely transport the recently renovated F2 Thommen Slalom Small down to Paros.

I know I don’t really need that board, but it will be a favorite among my windsurfing progressing friends and you should know by now, I have a soft spot for F2 boards of the Thommen era.F2 Ride 274 mod. 2000F2 Rde 274 finsF2 Ride Range 2000

In the meantime, I sold the T1 FreeX 130 bamboo Thommen board to a nice heavy guy who usually sails in Golden beach-Paros, so now I’m left with 2 boards of this line, the RS 59 and the eXperience 165, that I have already reviewed in the past.T1 mk4 RS 59-FreeX 130-eXperience 165sale photo of T1 FreeX 130


This year we arrived in New Golden Beach a little earlier, with good wind to sail all 4 boards I brought along, 2 F2 classics – the Wave 254 & the Thommen Slalom Small and 2 modern, the Exocet Cross IV 84 pro & the RRD Firemove 100.

The big news this year, is that in addition to the long established Paros Surf Club Station (Taboo/Gaastra) that belongs to Philoxenia hotel, and run by Kostas,Paros Surf Club @ N.G Paros Surf Club manager - Kostas 2010 - RRDa new sports center affiliated to Aqua  Marina resort has opened: The  Goya Center Paros, run by the renowned windsurfing athlete & experienced trainer John Xefteris.Goya windsurfing center ParosGoya windsurfing center Paros - stationJohn Xefteris @ Goya Center ParosEfinha StreetDancer

The good news, is that now we have more friends running their businesses in N.G. beach, greater choice of equipment offered & more rescue boats.

The not so good news, is that the space is limited, parking is less easy, more people are both on the beach & sailing…

This July, there were fewer windy days, while there were some days of S & SW wind, rather unusual for this time of the year. Still, the windy days of meltemi wind, created a great terrain.

NGB Paros July 2014 - big wavesVergos wave riding NGBDuring my stay, I spotted 2 broken Taboo fins and I wonder if there was a production butch of inferior construction…broken Taboo finbroken Taboo fin -2

Talking about questionable material quality, I have to protest for the Dakine gloves I bought in Paros. These gloves started coming apart just the 4th day of use!Dakine glove 2014 RDakine glove 2014 L

It is a pity, because the 2011 Dakine gloves I had were very good – unfortunately I lost them. The Gull gloves I had last year, were also up to the job – again I managed to lose them…

Dakine sailing gloves 2011 – GOOD

Dakine sailing gloves 2011 - GOOD

Now I just received a pair of MacWet gloves which look promising. I will report in due time.MacWet watersports glovesThere were no friends photographers around this year, so it was thanks to Arnaud Dechamps, who in between shooting  the equipment on test for Planchemag, took 2 photos of me on the Exocet, where you can see the incomparable clarity of the water we are blessed to sail on!

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 To be continued

Τώρα ξέρω γιατί έχει αεράκι σήμερα.
Είναι για να ταξιδέψει καλά με τα πανιά του ο φίλος μας.
Καλό σου ταξίδι και σ’ευχαριστούμε για την φιλία σου και τις συγκινήσεις που μας έδωσες. Ώρα σου καλή.

Agora eu sei porque ventoso hoje.
É bom viajar com velas nosso amigo.

Tenha uma boa viagem e obrigado por sua amizade e emoções que você ofereceu. Boa viagem.

Fernando De Noronha Race- Brazil

           Leonidas Renos Zerboulis ∞

Όταν έγραψα για το Γκρέγκο, το ξύλινο αγωνιστικό γουίντσερφ της Division II και άρχισα ανεπιτυχώς ν’αναζητώ στοιχεία για τον Έλληνα της Βραζιλίας που το δημιούργησε, δεν ξέρω πώς, ξέχασα να ρωτήσω τον αδελφό μου – μεγάλη παράλειψη!

Γιατί?, διότι απλούστατα αγαπάει το σπορ, ήταν αθλητής της Division II και σαν ειδικός συνεργάτης του ΤΑΧΥΔΡΟΜΟΥ – του μεγαλύτερου περιοδικού ποικίλης ύλης της εποχής, ΕΙΧΕ ΓΡΑΨΕΙ 3σέλιδο άρθρο για το γουιντσέρφινγκ, όπου ΠΑΡΟΥΣΙΑΖΕ ΜΕ ΛΟΓΙΑ & ΕΙΚΟΝΕΣ τον δημιουργό ΛΕΩΝΙΔΑ ΖΕΡΜΠΟΥΛΗ και ΤΑ ΣΚΑΦΗ ΤΟΥ “GREGO”…Grego-Zerboulis  photo by M

Grego-Zerboulis by M 

Όμως αυτό το έμαθα αργότερα. Στο μεταξύ, μετά από τυχαία σχετική αναζήτηση στο διαδίκτυο, ο Λεωνίδας κατέληξε στο μπλόγκ μου και επικοινώνησε μαζί μου.

Του ζήτησα υλικό και μου έστειλε διάφορες φωτογραφίες, μεταξύ των οποίων και ΤΟ ΑΡΘΡΟ ΤΟΥ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΥ ΜΟΥ. Φαντάζεστε πόσο χαζός ένοιωσα!

΄Ετσι με μεγάλη χαρά σας μεταφέρω μερικά απ’όσα ενδιαφέροντα μου είπε:

Γεννήθηκα στην Αθήνα το 1941, αλλά ζω στη Βραζιλία εδώ και 61 χρόνια.

Μένω στο Κάμπο Φρίο, ένα μέρος με δύσκολες συνθήκες ιστιοπλοΐας και πολύ καλό για καταδύσεις. Από το 1963 μέχρι το 1967, ήμουν επαγγελματίας δύτης, δουλεύοντας σε λιμάνια και υδροηλεκτρικά φράγματα. Κέρδιζα καλά λεφτά όταν έπιανα αστακούς, ενώ με την ψαρόβαρκά μου, ψάρευα σκυλόψαρα με παραγάδι και γαρίδες με τράτα. Ήταν καλή εποχή – όλη την εβδομάδα δουλειά στη θάλασσα και τα Σαββατοκύριακα ιστιοπλοΐα.

 Δεν έχω πάρει πτυχίο ναυπηγού, παρακολούθησα μόνο το πρώτο έτος. Μελέτησα και εξασκήθηκα πολύ εκτός σχολής. Εργάστηκα στο εθνικό πανεπιστήμιο του Ρίο σαν τεχνικός ναυπήγησης και παρέδιδα πρακτικά μαθήματα κατασκευής.

Είχα δικό μου ναυπηγείο, όπου κατασκεύασα 11 σκάφη και 285 ξύλινες ιστιοσανίδες. Όταν ολοκλήρωσα το χτίσιμο του δικού μου ξύλινου ιστιοπλοϊκού, σταμάτησα την παραγωγή και σαλπάρισα μ’αυτό για την Ελλάδα το ‘90 & το ‘91.

Δούλεψα για 2 χρόνια στου Βερνίκου και στη συνέχεια ξεκίνησα να επιστρέψω στη Βραζιλία, σταματώντας ενδιαμέσως στην Πάλμα της Μαγιόρκας, όπου κατά τη διάρκεια του 1992, δίδαξα πλοήγηση και κατασκευή μικρών σκαφών, ενώ παράλληλα απασχολήθηκα ως κυβερνήτης σ’ένα 86άρι ιστιοπλοϊκό.

Επιστρέφοντας στη Βραζιλία, εργάστηκα για καιρό σαν κυβερνήτης σ’ένα 80άρι ιστιοπλοϊκό κάνοντας ταξίδια στη Βραζιλία, την Ευρώπη και την Αμερική.

Άλλαξα τις δραστηριότητές μου για να βρίσκομαι κοντά στον γιό μου. Έτσι τώρα, δουλεύω σαν σύμβουλος ναυπήγησης και ανακαίνισης σκαφών.

Τον ερχόμενο χρόνο, σκοπεύω να κατασκευάσω σε περιορισμένον αριθμό ξύλινα SUP. Είναι μια τεχνική που συνεχώς ανανεώνεται με τη χρήση σύγχρονων υλικών και ξύλου, και με ενδιαφέρει πολύ. Αυτόν τον καιρό δοκιμάζω τους νέους συνδυασμούς υλικών, όπως ανθρακονήματα, ξύλο & divinicell.Leo Zerboulis 2013 - evaluating new construction methods in his workshop




Σχετικά τώρα με τις νέες σχεδιαστικές τάσεις και τα υλικά, πιστεύω για παράδειγμα πως οι αναδιπλούμενες σανίδες είναι και βαρύτερες και σίγουρα θα παρουσιάσουν προβλήματα με τη χρήση. Λόγω κατασκευής είναι αναπόφευκτο.

Βέβαια επειδή στη μεταφορά τους είναι πολύ πρακτικές, υπάρχουν ενδιαφερόμενοι. Αντίστοιχα και με τις φουσκωτές. Είναι αδύνατον μια τέτοια γάστρα να συναγωνιστεί τις επιδόσεις μιας συμβατικής.

Η κατασκευή σανίδων με εξεζητημένα υλικά όπως το honeycomb, είναι πολύ δαπανηρή.  Προσφέρει κορυφαία σχέση βάρους/αντοχής, αλλά μοιραία περιορίζεται σε ειδικές κατασκευές πολύ μικρής  παραγωγής. Αντιθέτως, το ξύλο μειώνει το κόστος κατά πολύ. Έτσι ο συνδυασμός ξύλου και άλλων υλικών είναι η ιδανική επιλογή αυτή τη στιγμή.

Ακόμα δεν έχουν αξιοποιηθεί πλήρως οι δυνατότητες του ξύλου. Χρησιμοποιείτο περισσότερο για τον αισθητικό εντυπωσιασμό και λιγότερο για τα εξαιρετικά δομικά χαρακτηριστικά του. Υπάρχει δυσκολία στην υλοποίηση των σύγχρονων περίπλοκων σχεδίων γάστρας, αλλά υπάρχουν λύσεις και θέλω να δοκιμάσω μερικές ιδέες.

Δυστυχώς το μπαμπού που παρουσιάστηκε σαν το πολλά υποσχόμενο οικολογικό ξύλο, διέψευσε τις προσδοκίες στις χρήσεις του σε νερό. Εργάστηκα εκτενώς με μπαμπού στο πανεπιστήμιο του Ρίο και δεν μου άρεσε. Έχει μεγαλύτερα αγγεία σε σχέση με τα άλλα ξύλα και η στεγανοποίησή του είναι επίφοβη.

Το ξύλο πλεονεκτεί στην κατασκευή σκαφών. Αν δουλευτεί σωστά με έποξυ, δεν αυξάνεται το βάρος του, ενώ το φάιμπεργκλας με πολυεστέρα, απορροφά νερό, παθαίνει όσμωση, μαλακώνει, βαραίνει συχνά πάνω από 10% του αρχικού βάρους και ταυτόχρονα πέφτουν οι επιδόσεις. Έχω δει πολλά σκάφη να παραμορφώνουν όταν σφίγγεις τα συρματόσχοινα του άλμπουρου.

Η μοντέρνα κατασκευή με ξύλο σε λωρίδες και έποξυ, αποκλείεται να πάθει κάτι, γιατί οι άκρες του ξύλου απ’όπου θα έμπαινε το νερό, είναι σφραγισμένες με έποξυ. Αν πάλι χτυπηθεί και φύγει η εποξυκή επίστρωση, στεγνώνει γρήγορα και αποκαθιστάται η  στεγανότητα με ένα νέο στρώμα έποξυ.

Το σκάφος μου το Μάνι Μάνι, μετά από 18 χρόνια πλεύσης, δεν είχε πάρει κιλό.

Τα ανθρακονήματα, καταπονούνται μηχανικά, εξασθενούν και κάποια στιγμή σπάνε. Στο ξύλο δε συμβαίνει αυτό, γιατί πάντοτε επανέρχεται στην αρχική του μορφή. Στα σκι ταχύτητος (250χλμ/ώρα) χρησιμοποιούν ξύλο μέχρι σήμερα, μαζί με άλλα μοντέρνα υλικά.

Θέλω να πω πως τελικά, ποτέ δε μετάνιωσα δουλεύοντας το ξύλο. Όταν άρχισα να κάνω τις πρώτες ιστιοσανίδες DII, πολλοί με κορόιδευαν.

Ένα ναυπηγείο που σκέπτεται μόνο την μαζική παραγωγή, δε θα το χρησιμοποιήσει και ποτέ δε θα παραδεχτούν πως το φάιμπεργκλάς είναι καλό μόνο για τον κατασκευαστή και όχι για τον κάτοχο του σκάφους.



Συνολικά κατασκεύασα 285 ιστιοσανίδες και άλλαξα το σχέδιο 12 φορές. Κάθε πράγμα εξελίσσεται και προσπαθούσα να βρίσκομαι στην κορυφή. Εδώ στη Λατινική Αμερική, οι κατασκευαστές εκείνης της περιόδου κατασκόπευαν τη δουλειά μου και έπρεπε να εφαρμόζω γρήγορα τις αλλαγές. Συζητούσα πολύ μ’αυτούς που χρησιμοποιούσαν τα σκάφη μου και περνούσα ώρες παρακολουθώντας τις επιδόσεις τους στους αγώνες. Αυτό με βοηθούσε να τα βελτιώνω. Ήσαν γρήγορα στον δυνατό άνεμο χάρη στην ακαμψία τους και επειδή έβγαιναν ελαφρύτερα, τους προσέθετα βάρος στο κέντρο, προκειμένου να είναι μέσα στις προδιαγραφές της κατηγορίας. Αυτό είχε σαν αποτέλεσμα, η πλώρη να είναι πάντα πάνω από τα κύματα – όπως τα ιστιοπλοϊκά υψηλών επιδόσεων.GREGO in action

61% πουλήθηκαν εκτός Βραζιλίας, κυρίως στην Αργεντινή, όπου πιστεύω πως θα υπάρχουν ακόμα μερικά. Εδώ, γνωρίζω 2 καλοδιατηρημένα, ένα στο Σάο Πάολο σ’ένα μαγαζί ειδών σπορ και ένα άλλο, σ’ένα μουσείο για σανίδες του σερφ.

Δεν έχω φυλάξει όλα τα αποτελέσματα των αγώνων που έτρεξαν τα «Γκρέγκο».

Κέρδισαν πλήθος αγώνων σε Βραζιλία, Αργεντινή, Χιλή και Περού. Πήραν το Νοτιοαμερικανικό, το Βραζιλιάνικο και πολλά τοπικά πρωταθλήματα το ’83, ’84,’85 & ’86. Το ’83 ο Ντόχνερτ Κάρλος, κέρδισε το Ευρωπαϊκό κύπελλο, ενώ ήρθε δεύτερος στο πρωτάθλημα της Ιταλίας. Το ’84 η Σύνθια Κνόθ κέρδισε το Ευρωπαϊκό πρωτάθλημα γυναικών. Μετά τις μεγάλες επιτυχίες του ’84, αυξήθηκαν οι πωλήσεις και συμμετείχαν στους αγώνες πολλά «Γκρέγκο».


Οι σανίδες κατασκευάζονταν στη γυάρδα μου στο Κάμπο Φρίο, ένα ωραίο μέρος 140 χλμ ανατολικά του Ρίο. Είναι ένα ακρωτήρι πολύ επικίνδυνο λόγω αέρα και κυμάτων, με ρέμα 2.5-3 κόμβους. Τα γουίντσερφ «Γκρέγκο», άντεχαν πολύ καλύτερα από άλλες μάρκες στις δύσκολες συνθήκες του Κάμπο Φρίο κι αυτό ήταν η καλύτερη δυνατή διαφήμιση.building of GREGOS

GREGO being built @ Zerboulis shipyard

Leo Zerboulis early '80's - applying his  construction method on a GREGO at his shipyard

Grego at the finishing stage

Η παραγωγή γινόταν με μέσο ρυθμό 4 σκάφη την εβδομάδα, με μάξιμουμ τα 5 όταν επέτρεπε ο καιρός. Είναι πολύ σημαντικό η κατασκευή να γίνεται  κάτω από ελεγχόμενη υγρασία και θερμοκρασία, για καλύτερο αποτέλεσμα.

Είχα πολλές παραγγελίες και μερικές φορές ο χρόνος αναμονής, έφτανε τους 3 μήνες. Ήταν μια εξαιρετική περίοδος για μένα, αλλά τα παράτησα όλα για να ταξιδέψω με το ιστιοπλοϊκό μου το Μάνι Μάνι – μου αρέσουν οι προκλήσεις, ενώ η σύνεση έρχεται με την ηλικία…Τώρα ήρθε η ώρα να πουλήσω το σκάφος μου για να αφιερωθώ σε κάτι καινούριο, όσο είμαι καλά.




Η ιστορία του ιστιοπλοϊκού μου, άρχισε ως εξής: Είδα το σχέδιο σ’ένα αμερικάνικο ναυτικό περιοδικό και το ερωτεύτηκα με την πρώτη ματιά. Επικοινώνησα με τον Μπόμπ Πέρρυ τον σχεδιαστή του και ρώτησα αν ήταν διατεθειμένος να μου πουλήσει τα σχέδια για να το κατασκευάσω στη Βραζιλία, από ξύλο με τη μέθοδο του ψυχρού καλουπιού, των Gougeon BrotherssWest System” συγκεκριμένα.

Ο Πέρρυ, είναι κι αυτός τύπος που του αρέσουν οι προκλήσεις (δέχτηκε να κάνει αλλαγές που τελικά πέτυχαν το στόχο – το Μάνι Μάνι κέρδισε αγώνες κόντρα σε μεγαλύτερα και ελαφρύτερα σκάφη) κι έτσι αγόρασα τα σχέδια με αποκλειστικότητα για τη Λατινική Αμερική. Στη συνέχεια, πήγα στις ΗΠΑ και επισκέφτηκα τους Gougeons στο Μπέυ Σίτυ στο Μίτσιγκαν. Πήρα πολλές πληροφορίες και συμβουλές για το χτίσιμο του σκάφους μου, που μου φάνηκαν ιδιαίτερα χρήσιμες. Μου πρότειναν να δουλέψω κοντά τους, αλλά εγώ επέστρεψα στη Βραζιλία και άρχισα τη ναυπήγηση. Λόγω στενότητας χρημάτων πήγαινα πολύ αργά. Κατασκεύασα πρώτα μερικά άλλα σκάφη, μετά ξεκίνησα τις ιστιοσανίδες και έτσι μάζεψα τα χρήματα για να ολοκληρώσω το δικό μου. 85% με 95% της κατασκευής την έκανα μόνος μου για λόγους οικονομίας. Δούλεψα Σαββατοκύριακα και αργίες για 9 χρόνια – ήταν όμως καλά, γιατί δεν είχα να γκρινιάξω για κακοτεχνίες κάποιου άλλου. Το έκανα ακριβώς όπως το ήθελα!Gregos in front of Mani Mani


When I wrote about Grego, the wooden windsurfing race board of Division II and started searching in vain for the Greek Brazilian who created it, I do not know how, I forgot to ask my brother – big omission!

Why? Simply because he loves the sport, he was racing in the Division II, and as a specialized reporter of TAHIDROMOS – the largest news & culture magazine of the era, had written 3 page article about windsurfing, including reference on THE GREGO & IMAGES of both the creator LEONIDAS ZERBOULIS and his boards! …

But I learned that later. Meanwhile, Zerboulis, after a random search on the internet, got to my blog and contacted me.

I asked him for material and he sent me several photos, including the article by my brother. Imagine how stupid I felt!

So it is with great pleasure that I have his chronicle plus some interesting topics:



I was born in Athens in 1941, but I live in Brazil for the last 61 years.

I live in Cabo Frio, a place with difficult sailing conditions and great spot for diving. From 1963 to 1967, I was a professional diver, working in ports and hydroelectric dams, earning good money when I caught lobsters, while with my fishing boat I fished sharks by long line and shrimp by trawl.

It was a good time – all week job at sea and sailing on weekends.


I don’t have a degree in naval architect; I only attended the first year. I practiced and studied much outside school. Worked at the National University of Rio as shipbuilding specialist and gave practical construction courses.

I had my own yard, where I built 11 vessels and 285 wooden surfboards. When I finished building my own wooden sailing boat, I stopped production and sailed for Greece in ’90 & ‘91.

I worked for 2 years in Vernicos Yatch and then set off to Brazil, stopping on the way in Palma de Mallorca, where during 1992, I taught navigation and construction of small vessels, while I worked as a captain in a sailing 86footer.

Returning to Brazil, I worked for a long time as captain in a sailing 80footer, making trips to Brazil, Europe and America.

I changed my activities to be near my son. So now, I work as a consultant for renovation & construction of vessels.

In the coming year, I plan to build a limited number of wooden SUPs. It is a constantly updated technique, using modern materials and wood, that attracts me greatly. We are currently trying new combinations of materials such as carbon fiber, wood & divinicell.




Now, about the new design trends and materials, I believe for example, that the folding boards are heavier and definitely will experience problems with use. Because of their construction it is inevitable.

Of course because of their transportation practicality, they have some appeal. Respectively so, are the inflatables. It is impossible for such a hull to match the performance of a rigid one.

Boards constructed with sophisticated materials such as honeycomb, are very costly. This method offers top weight / strength relationship, but limited to special structures of limited production. Instead, the wood reduces the cost considerably. Thus, the combination of wood and other materials is the ideal choice at the moment.

The potential of wood has not yet been fully exploited. It has been used more for aesthetics and less for its exceptional structural features. There is some difficulty in the implementation of modern, complex hulls, but there are solutions and I want to try some ideas.

Unfortunately bamboo introduced as the promising eco wood disappoints in water uses.

I worked extensively with bamboo at the University of Rio and I did not like it. It has larger vessels compared with other types of wood, and sealing is inferior.

Wood is advantageous in boat building. Properly worked well with epoxy, does not increase its weight, while the fiberglass polyester absorbs water, suffers osmosis , softens , often resulting weight increase of more than 10% of the initial weight and consequently decreasing performance . I have seen many boats to deform when tightening the ropes of the mast.

Modern wood strips/epoxy construction, does not allow such thing to happen, because the edges of the wood from which water would enter, are sealed with epoxy. If hit and epoxy coating comes off at a spot, wood dries quickly and tightness is fully restored with just a new layer of epoxy.

My boat Mani Mani, after 18 years of cruising, did not get a single kg.

Carbon fiber, strained mechanically weakens and eventually breaks. The wood is not the case, because it always reverts to its original form. In speed skiing (250km/h) wood is been used to date, combined with other modern materials.

I mean that in the end, I never regretted working with wood. When I started building the first DII surfboards, I was mocked by many.

A yard focused in mass production, will not use wood and will never admit that the fiberglass is only good for the manufacturer and not for the owner of the vessel.


” Grego “

Overall I built 285 boards and changed plans 12 times. Everything evolves and I was trying to stay at the top. Here in Latin America, manufacturers of that period spied my job and I had to quickly apply the changes. I talked with the riders of my boards and spend hours watching their performance in the races. This helped me to improve. They were fast in strong wind thanks to their rigidity and as they came out lighter, was adding weight at the center in order to confront to the standards of the class. This resulted in the bow to sail always above the waves – as high as of performance sailboats.Grego @ buzios

61 % were sold outside Brazil, mainly in Argentina, where I think there will still be some. Here in Brazil, I know 2 well preserved one in Sao Paulo in a sports shop and another, in a museum for surfboards.

I did not file all competition results of the   ‘ Gregos ‘.

They won numerous competitions in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru. They took the South-American, Brazilian and many local championships in ‘83, ‘84, ‘85 & ‘86.

In ’83  Carlos Döhnert won the European Cup and came second in the league in Italy. In ’84 Cynthia Knoth won the European women championship. After the great successes of ‘84, sales increased and many ” Gregos” were participating in all kind of championships..1984 DIVII The best equipment of 1984


maybe 15 Gregos

The boards were produced in my yard in Cabo Frio, a nice place 140 miles east of Rio. It is a very dangerous cape due wind, wavesand current of 2.5-3 knots. The windsurfing ” Gregos ” sailed much better than other brands in the difficult conditions of Cabo Frio and this was the best possible advertisement.

The production was of an average rate of 4 vessels per week, with a maximum of 5 when weather permitted. For best results, it is very important that construction takes place under controlled humidity and temperature..

I had a lot of orders and sometimes the waiting time, was up to 3 months. It was a great period for me, but I gave up everything to travel with my sailing boat Mani Mani – I like challenges, while prudence comes with age…

Now it’s time to sell my boat to devote myself to something new, while I’m still OK.




The story of my sailer , began as follows : I saw the plan in a U.S. nautical magazine and fell in love with it at first sight . I contacted Bob Perry the designer and asked him if he was willing to sell me the plans to build it in Brazil, from wood using the method of cold mold, the Gougeon Brothers’s “West System” to be specific.

Perry, is a guy who likes challenges (agreed to make changes that ultimately achieved the goal – Mani Mani won matches against bigger and lighter vessels) so I bought the designs exclusive for Latin America. Then I went to the U.S. and visited the Gougeons in Bay City in Michigan. I got a lot of information and tips on building my boat, which proved very helpful. They offered me the opportunity to work with them , but I returned to Brazil and began the construction . Due to scarcity of money progress was very slow. I built first few other vessels, afterwards I started making the windsurfing boards and that way I collected the money to finish my boat. 85 % to 95 % of the construction I did it myself for reasons of economy. I worked weekends and holidays for nine years – but it was fine because I would not bitch about someone else’s faults. I did it exactly as I wanted!Grego Zerboulis @ laser world 1977

It all started with my post about vintage wooden boards and specificaly this 1984 piece by the Greek magazine Surf & Ski, about the division II racer of great beauty.
As I wrote in my post, it was an entry to the international regatta that took place in Porto Carras in Greece, but although they took photos and provided the info that was made by a Greek in BRAZIL, they failed to record THE NAME of the guy. The bottom photo shows Greek athlete George Giagoulakis who raced the beautiful board. GRECO wooden division II sailboard - made in Brazil 1984

This Is the translation of the article:


 Among the various boards we saw during the European windsurfing championship in Porto Carras (Halkidiki area-northern Greece), there were 2-3 that attracted us.

The first one was the self-made board of the French Ossedat, which as seeing it on the beach, it was giving the impression of something abandoned & obsolete. When later managed to be placed 5th on the final classification, we got really astonished. It was full of tar & patches – a good example that a nice finish is not necessary for a competitive design.

The second was a very expensive all-aluminium board designed & sailed by Hervé Borde, French champion and official designer of the Division II boards of Dufour.

The third board was a wooden one from Brazil, built by a Greek who lives there. We had the chance to discuss with him about the board, the materials and the construction in general.

So here are some of its secrets.

We start from the selection of light cedar wood, which is cut in thin stripes, with opposite direction (90deg angle). That way we get the needed strength, because as wood has only longitudinal strength and not lateral. this is the only right combination (top photo).

After the building of the hull, reinforcements are done to the inside, together with the dagger board case. Then a narrow diameter band is made, that will be used to join the deck to the hull.

The deck is made the same way and when bonded to the hull, starts the finishing procedure (top photo). After the sanding, epoxy resin is applied, which accounts to the

70% of the total weight. The shaper prefers epoxy than polyester resin, because it is less hydrophilic. He also noted that if there were no minimum D2 weight regulations, the board would weight ~ 15,5kg.

When epoxy dries, comes the varnishing, which will protect the surface from the sun radiation. (bottom photo).

Everything fine so far, but what about damage repairs? Thanks to the robust construction, it is difficult to have damages, but in the unlucky case, the repair is done easily by cutting out the broken wood stripes and replacing them with new ones, which if glued with polyester will regain 25% of the original rigidity, while using epoxy will improve the figure to 80%. As the hull has the natural curvatures that wood stripes can follow without the need of any pressure, repairs present no difficulty.

The representation of the boards in Greece was appointed to the athlete Giagoulakis who may also service a board if needed. 

In SEPTEMBER 2012, Thanks to Argentinean friend ARG425, I  got the info that the“Gregos” were built  by the naval architect Leonidas Zerboulis, and that Grego means Greek in Portuguese.

In JANUARY 2013, Rainer Frohböse from Germany GER 239, send me this message:

Hi Dimitri,
I have one of those legendary Gregos which I bought in 1985 after the Europeans in Travemünde. It has been restored and it is in excellent condition. Has anyone else such a fine board?

Having the name of the designer/builder of the GREGO, plus a proud owner of a well-kept & restored board, I could not help but try to get things together and maybe come up with a nice story with memories & photos hopefully provided by  the persons involved.

Rainer gave me both a story & some great photos which I happily share with you:

Hi Dimitri,

Here is my story:

I bought the Grego in 1985 after the European Championships in Travemünde / Germany where we had the pleasure to meet two competitors from Brazil which were Cinthia Knoth and a guy whose name I forgot. They both sailed the Grego in Travemünde and in the DIV II World Championships in the same year. Right after the Europeans they had to go back to Brazil. Because of the expensive freight cost they sold the Grego. As former president of the German DIV II Class organisation, I had been working as press officer during the Championships. So I took the chance and became lucky owner of this wooden beauty on the spur of the moment.

I have been sailing the board until 1988 in many Div II regattas in Germany. Since the collapse of the DIV II class, I used to sail the board just for fun and in several open class races.

A couple of weeks later the mast foot had broken which was a severe problem for me. Where would I buy a spare part? Luckily, a friend helped me to reconstruct it in his workshop. This has been the only problem I have had with my Grego. There has never been any water inside it, as I have managed to avoid any collision.  Some years ago I finally invested in a new epoxy lacquer coat. The board is like new since that time. Now and then I take it out of its handmade board bag made by Josef König. In light wind it is still a pleasure to sail a displacement board!

Attached please find some photos and a copy of a sticker which I got in 1985 when I bought the Grego.

Best regards,


GREGO wooden D2 board sticker - copyright Rainer Frohböse

GREGO wooden D2 board bottom - copyright Rainer Frohböse

GREGO wooden D2 board ID 6538 - copyright Rainer Frohböse

custom mast track for GREGO sailboard - copyright Rainer Frohböse

Rainer is windsurfing since 1979, with plenty of DIV II racing experience from 1980 until 1986, since then he competes in the Raceboard Class until today.
CFO of Windsurfing Club Hamburg ( www.surfen-wch.de) since 2001 and finally responsible for windsurfing within the Hamburger Seglerverband (a local sub-organisation of the Deutscher Seglerverband). Understandably so, he is supporting all windsurfing classes. 
I cannot but think, the Grego 6538 ended up to the right owner…

Although the start with Rainer was very easy & productive, unfortunately, I did not manage to trigger more response from the people involved:

1. Leonidas Zerboulis Some months ago, I tried to contact him through a postage address – as it was impossible to find his e-mail, but unfortunately he has not responded to my letter.

I hope he is doing fine & that the address is no longer valid.

2.  Cintia Knoth - I found the information below, but she never replied to the e-mails I send her to the 2 sailing schools she coaches.

Cintia Knoth, experienced yachtsman, has dedicated her life to nautical sports. Degree in Physical Education from UFRJ.

Her main achievements: Brazilian Champion and twice champion of European Windsurfing Sail and 4 times Brazilian and South American Champion 470. Furthermore, represented Brazil at the Olympics in Seoul.

She is currently a professor at the Gloria Marina and Yacht Club of Rio de Janeiro. http://www.clvela.com.br/clquemsomos.htm

3. George Giagoulakis – I spoke with him on the phone, but you must realize that nowadays, many people in Greece are struggling to survive, so maybe my request is out of time…  The contact details were given to me by Stratos Efthyvoulidis, who organizes the annual Div.II regatta in Greece

As you may notice, Nicolas Patroni wrote in the Windsurfing SPECIAL comments section,  that he also owns a similar board, so maybe we will have some more material in the future…


Stratos Efthyvoulidis send me some interesting photos:

A wooden Grego COPY – as I understand from the comments of Leonidas Zerboulis, which looks like a Dobbelman replica in wood – as Stratos Efthyvoulidis points out…Complicated case indeed.

A Grego waiting restoration, found in North Greece, which Stratos describes as similar to Mistral M1.

Vintage D II training of himself & his pal Cyrus on a Grego.D II training 1988 - GR

Ο Στάτος Ευθυβουλίδης, μου έστειλε τις πιό πάνω φωτο, με τα εξής σχόλια:

Δημήτρη γειά, σου στέλνω ένα σετ φωτογραφίες από το ξύλινο σκάφος που ανέβασε στον τοίχο της ομάδας division 2 ο Nicolas Patroni . Επίσης σου στέλνω μερικές φωτο από το δικό μας ξύλινο Grego εδω στη Χαλκιδική. Αυτό βέβαια θέλει κάποια δουλειά για να επανέλθει. 

Το σκάφος που έχουμε εμείς μοιάζει με το Μ1 της Mistral, ενώ αν πρόσεξες του Patroni είναι αντίγραφο του Dobbelman. Από φωτογραφίες σου στέλνω κάποιες παλιές από το 1988 όπου κάνουμε προπόνηση με τον Κύρο με το ξύλινο. 


September 26, 2013    Issue

They’re Taking Over!

Tim Flannery

Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean

by Lisa-ann Gershwin, with a foreword by Sylvia Earle
University of Chicago Press, 424 pp., $27.50
David Hall

A moon jellyfish and cross jellyfish floating in a remote channel near Vancouver Island, British Columbia; photograph by David Hall from Beneath Cold Seas: The Underwater Wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, which collects his images of marine life in that region. It is published by University of Washington Press.

It’s become fashionable to keep jellyfish in aquariums. Behind glass they can be hypnotically beautiful and immensely relaxing to watch. Unless we are enjoying them in this way, we usually give little thought to the creatures until we are stung by one. Jellyfish stings are often not much more than a painful interlude in a seaside holiday—unless you happen to live in northern Australia. There, you might be stung by the most venomous creature on Earth: the box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri.

Box jellyfish have bells (the disc-shaped “head”) around a foot across, behind which trail up to 550 feet of tentacles. It’s the tentacles that contain the stinging cells, and if just six yards of tentacle contact your skin, you have, on average, four minutes to live—though you might die in just two. Seventy-six fatalities have been recorded in Australia since 1884, and many more may have gone misdiagnosed or unreported.

In 2000 a somewhat less venomous species of box jellyfish, which lives further south, threatened the Sydney Olympics. It began swarming at the exact location scheduled for the aquatic leg of the triathlon events. The Olympic Committee considered many options, including literally sweeping the course free of the menace, but all were deemed impractical. Then, around a week before the opening ceremony, the jellyfish vanished as mysteriously as they had appeared.

Most jellyfish are little more than gelatinous bags containing digestive organs and gonads, drifting at the whim of the current. But box jellyfish are different. They are active hunters of medium-sized fish and crustaceans, and can move at up to twenty-one feet per minute. They are also the only jellyfish with eyes that are quite sophisticated, containing retinas, corneas, and lenses. And they have brains, which are capable of learning, memory, and guiding complex behaviors.

The Irukandjis are diminutive relatives of the box jellies. First described in 1967, most of the dozen known species are peanut- to thumb-sized. The name comes from a North Queensland Aboriginal language, the speakers of which have known for millennia how deadly these minuscule beings can be. Europeans first learned of them in 1964 when Dr. Jack Barnes, who was trying to track down the origin of symptoms suffered by swimmers in Queensland, allowed himself to be stung by one. With nobody attending but a lifeguard and his fourteen-year-old son, he was lucky to survive.

It’s now known that the brush of a single tentacle is enough to induce “Irukandji syndrome.” It sets in twenty to thirty minutes after a sting so minor it leaves no mark, and is often not even felt. Pain is initially focused in the lower back. Soon the entire lumbar region is gripped by debilitating cramps and pounding pain—as if someone is taking a baseball bat to your kidneys. Then comes the nausea and vomiting, which continues every minute or so for around twelve hours. Shooting spasms grip the arms and legs, blood pressure escalates, breathing becomes difficult, and the skin begins to creep, as if worms are burrowing through it. Victims are often gripped with a sense of “impending doom” and in their despair beg their doctors to put them out of their misery.

It’s difficult to know how many victims the Irukandji have claimed. The extreme high blood pressure that often kills is hardly diagnostic. Many deaths have doubtless been put down to stroke, heart attack, or drowning. There is some evidence that the problem is growing: Irukandji have recently been detected in coastal waters from Cape Town to Florida.

The box jellies and Irukandjis are merely the most exotic of a group of organisms that have existed for as long as complex life itself. In Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean, biologist Lisa-ann Gershwin argues that after half a billion years of quiescence, they’re on the move:

If I offered evidence that jellyfish are displacing penguins in Antarctica—not someday, but now, today—what would you think? If I suggested that jellyfish could crash the world’s fisheries, outcompete the tuna and swordfish, and starve the whales to extinction, would you believe me?

Jellyfish are among the oldest animal fossils ever found. Prior to around 550 million years ago, when a great diversity of marine life sprang into existence, jellyfish may have had the open oceans pretty much to themselves. Today they must share the briny deep with myriad creatures, and with machines. It’s not just the wildlife they’re worrying. In November 2009 a net full of gigantic jellyfish, the largest of which weighed over 450 pounds, capsized a Japanese trawler, throwing the three-man crew into the ocean. But even mightier vessels have been vanquished by jellyfish.

On July 27, 2006, the USS Ronald Reagan, then the most modern aircraft carrier in existence, was docked in the port of Brisbane, Australia. New Zealand had earlier banned the entry of nuclear-powered ships, and many Australians felt it might be prudent to follow their lead. So when the commander of US Naval Air Forces announced that an “acute case of fouling” had afflicted the giant vessel, people took notice. Thousands of jellyfish had been sucked into the cooling system of the ship’s nuclear power plant, forcing the closure of full onboard capabilities. Newspapers ran the headline “Jellyfish Take on US Warship.” Local fire crews were placed on standby, and the citizens of Brisbane held their collective breaths as the battle between the navy and the jellyfish raged. In the end, they proved too formidable, and the ship was forced out of port.

Even nations can be affected by the power of the jellies. On the night of December 10, 1999, 40 million Filipinos suffered a sudden power blackout. President Joseph Estrada was unpopular, and many assumed that a coup was underway. Indeed, news reports around the world carried stories of Estrada’s fall. It was twenty-four hours before the real enemy was recognized: jellyfish. Fifty truckloads of the creatures had been sucked into the cooling system of a major coal-fired power plant, forcing an abrupt shutdown.

Japan’s nuclear power plants have been under attack by jellyfish since the 1960s, with up to 150 tons per day having to be removed from the cooling system of just one power plant. Nor has India been immune. At a nuclear power plant near Madras, workers removed and individually counted over four million jellyfish that had become trapped on screens placed over the entrances to cooling pipes between February and April 1989. That’s around eighty tons of jellyfish.

As Gershwin says, “Jellyfish have an uncanny knack for getting stuck…. Imagine a piece of thin, flexible plastic wrapper in a pool, where it can drift almost forever without sinking, until it gets sucked against the outflow mesh.” Chemical repellents don’t work, nor do electric shocks, or bubble curtains, or acoustic deterrents. In fact even killing the jellyfish won’t work as, dead or alive, they still tend to be sucked in. And everyone from concerned admirals to the owners of power plants that lose millions of dollars with each shutdown have tried very hard to deter them.

Salmon swimming in pens can create a vortex that sucks jellyfish in. Tens of thousands of salmon can be stung to death in minutes, and repeated attacks can kill hundreds of thousands of the valuable fish. But those losses are small compared with the financial devastation jellyfish have inflicted elsewhere. Would you believe, Gershwin asks, that “a mucosy little jellyfish, barely bigger than a chicken egg, with no brain, no backbone, and no eyes, could cripple three national economies and wipe out an entire ecosystem”? That’s just what happened when the Mnemiopsis jellyfish (a kind of comb jelly) invaded the Black Sea. The creatures arrived from the east coast of the US in seawater ballast (seawater a ship takes into its hold once it has discharged its cargo to retain its stability), and by the 1980s they were taking over. Prior to their arrival, Bulgaria, Romania, and Georgia had robust fisheries, with anchovies and sturgeon being important resources. As the jellyfish increased, the anchovies and other valuable fish vanished, and along with them went the sturgeon, the long-beloved source of blini toppings.

By 2002 the total weight of Mnemiopsis in the Black Sea had grown so prodigiously that it was estimated to be ten times greater than the weight of all fish caught throughout the entire world in a year. The Black Sea had become effectively jellified. Nobody knows precisely how or why the jellyfish replaced the valuable fish species, but four hypotheses have been put forward.

The first is that stocks of anchovy, which compete with the jellyfish, collapsed because the jellyfish ate their eggs and young. A second is that jellyfish ate the same food as the anchovies, and starved them. A third is that overfishing left more food for the jellyfish, and the fourth is that climate change caused a decline in plankton or promoted a jellyfish bloom. There may be a little truth in all four of these ideas. But one thing is clear. In the end, Mnemiopsis was controlled, and then only partially, by the accidental introduction of another comb jelly. Beroe has tooth-like structures that allow it to eatMnemiopsis. Only a jellyfish, it seems, can halt a jellyfish invasion.

Jellyfish continue to pop up in unusual places, and more often than not trouble is not far behind. Around 2000, the Australian spotted jellyfish was noticed in the Gulf of Mexico. It had presumably arrived in ballast water. These jellyfish can weigh up to fifteen pounds, and by August 2000 a plague of them covered around sixty square miles. Their consumption of fish eggs, fish larvae, and other plankton was far greater than could be sustained. They ate ten times more fish eggs than was typical for the area. And they had a sneaky way of catching plankton. They jellified the surrounding waters with a kind of foam that slowed the plankton down, making them easier to catch.

Then the Gulf experienced Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill of 2010. Fish and prawn numbers plummeted, but the Australian spotted jellyfish kept going from strength to strength. By 2011 it had shown up in the western Mediterranean, and more than ten people a day were being stung, forcing the closure of tourist beaches at the height of the season. It’s recently been spotted off Israel and Brazil.

From the Arctic to the equator and on to the Antarctic, jellyfish plagues (or blooms, as they’re technically known) are on the increase. Even sober scientists are now talking of the jellification of the oceans. And the term is more than a mere turn of phrase. Off southern Africa, jellyfish have become so abundant that they have formed a sort of curtain of death, “a stingy-slimy killing field,” as Gershwin puts it, that covers over 30,000 square miles. The curtain is formed of jelly extruded by the creatures, and it includes stinging cells. The region once supported a fabulously rich fishery yielding a million tons annually of fish, mainly anchovies. In 2006 the total fish biomass was estimated at just 3.9 million tons, while the jellyfish biomass was 13 million tons. So great is their density that jellyfish are now blocking vacuum pumps used by local diamond miners to suck up sediments from the sea floor.

David Hall

A fried egg jellyfish, Nigei Island, British Columbia; from David Hall’s Beneath Cold Seas

Jellyfish are very diverse. They range in size from a millimeter long to giants with bells over a meter across that can weigh almost half a ton. Common names give some idea of the diversity and appearance: moon jellies, lion’s manes, sea walnuts, snotties, agua vivas, agua mala, blubbers, Portuguese men-o-war, and long stingy stringy thingies. These last two types are not, strictly speaking, organisms at all. Instead they are made up of collections of jellyfish species, the individuals of which are referred to as “persons” (as in food-catching persons, digestive persons, defensive persons, etc.) that function collectively like, and indeed appear to be, a single individual. And they can be enormous—up to 150 feet long. If you’re confused by this you’re in good company. As Gershwin explains, such entities are “not quite an individual. Not quite a colony…. For over 150 years, many of the greatest minds in evolutionary biology have debated [their] proper status.”

To understand why jellyfish are taking over, we need to understand where they live and how they breed, feed, and die. Jellyfish are almost ubiquitous in the oceans. As survivors of an earlier, less hospitable world, they can flourish where few other species can venture. Their low metabolic rate, and thus low oxygen requirement, allows them to thrive in waters that would suffocate other marine creatures. Some jellyfish can even absorb oxygen into their bells, allowing them to “dive” into oxygen-less waters like a diver with scuba gear and forage there for up to two hours.

Jellyfish reproduction is astonishing, and no small part of their evolutionary success: “Hermaphroditism. Cloning. External fertilization. Self fertilization. Courtship and copulation. Fission. Fusion. Cannibalism. You name it, jellyfish [are] ‘doing it.’” But perhaps the most unusual thing is that their eggs do not develop immediately into jellyfish. Instead they hatch into polyps, which are small creatures resembling sea anemones. The polyps attach to hard surfaces on the sea floor, and are particularly fond of man-made structures, on which they can form a continuous jelly coating. As they grow, the polyps develop into a stack of small jellyfish growing atop each other that look rather like a stack of coins. When conditions are right, each “coin” or small jellyfish detaches and swims free. In a few days or weeks, a jellyfish bloom is observed.

One of the fastest breeders of all is Mnemiopsis. Biologists characterize it as a “self-fertilizing simultaneous hermaphrodite,” which means that it doesn’t need a partner to reproduce, nor does it need to switch from one sex to the other, but can be both sexes at once. It begins laying eggs when just thirteen days old, and is soon laying 10,000 per day. Even cutting these prolific breeders into pieces doesn’t slow them down. If quartered, the bits will regenerate and resume normal life as whole adults in two to three days.Jellyfish are voracious feeders. Mnemiopsis is able to eat over ten times its own body weight in food, and to double in size, each day. They can do this because they are, metabolically speaking, tremendously efficient, being able to put more of the energy they ingest toward growth than the more complex creatures they compete with. And they can be wasteful. Mnemiopsis acts like a fox in a henhouse. After they gorge themselves, they continue to collect and kill prey. As far as the ecosystem goes, the result is the same whether the jellyfish digest the food or not: they go on killing until there is nothing left. That can happen quickly. One study showed that Mnemiopsis removed over 30 percent of the copepod (small marine crustaceans) population available to it each day.Jellyfish “can eat anything, and often do,” Gershwin says. Some don’t even need to eat, in the usual sense of the word. They simply absorb dissolved organic matter through their epidermis. Others have algae living in their cells that provide food through photosynthesis.The question of jellyfish death is vexing. If jellyfish fall on hard times, they can simply “de-grow.” That is, they reduce in size, but their bodies remain in proportion. That’s a very different outcome from what is seen in starving fish, or people. And when food becomes available again, jellyfish simply recommence growing. Some individual jellyfish live for a decade. But the polyp stage survives pretty much indefinitely by cloning. One polyp colony started in 1935 and studied ever since is still alive and well in a laboratory in Virginia.One kind of jellyfish, which might be termed the zombie jelly, is quite literally immortal. When Turritopsis dohrnii “dies” it begins to disintegrate, which is pretty much what you expect from a corpse. But then something strange happens. A number of cells escape the rotting body. These cells somehow find each other, and reaggregate to form a polyp. All of this happens within five days of the jellyfish’s “death,” and weirdly, it’s the norm for the species. Well may we ask of this astonishing creature, “Sting, where is thy death?”

Despite their marvelous biology, jellyfish populations have been held in check ever since complex life evolved half a billion years ago. So why are they expanding now? In Part 2 of Stung!, titled “Jellyfish, Planetary Doom, and Other Trivia,” Gershwin attempts to answer this, and to tell us what it means for the oceans.

It’s clear from Gershwin’s book that it has taken a mighty effort by other living creatures to hold jellyfish down. An important part of that effort has involved the maintenance of complex ecosystems, with their abundant predators and competitors of jellyfish. It’s no accident that prodigious jellyfish blooms have occurred in areas like the Black Sea and off South Africa, where anchovies once swarmed. Overfishing anchovies, which compete with jellyfish for food, has doubtless helped them take over. That alone might not have been enough to allow the jellyfish to gain the march on us, but we’ve overfished virtually every resource in the oceans, causing the outright collapse of many ecosystems, thus opening vast new resources to the jellyfish.

Our waste, such as plastic bags, and fishing methods like drift nets and long lines are busy destroying the few jellyfish predators, such as sea turtles. We are also creating the most splendid jellyfish nurseries. From piers to boat hulls, oil and gas platforms and industrial waste and other floating rubbish, we’re littering the oceans with the kind of artificial hard surfaces that jellyfish polyps love.

Then there is the amount of oxygen dissolved in seawater. Oxygen is created by plants using photosynthesis, and high oxygen levels allow fish and other complex creatures to compete successfully with jellyfish. But the oxygen in water can be depleted far more quickly that it can be replaced. Where humans add nutrients to seawater (such as fertilizer runoff from farms), areas with depleted oxygen, known as eutrophied zones, form. They can occur naturally, but are spreading quickly as the oceans become filled with excess phosphorus and nitrogen derived from a variety of agriculture and industrial human activities. In river estuaries, and in confined waters such as the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, eutrophied zones have spread to a frightening extent, and they appear to be permanent. Nothing that needs even moderate amounts of oxygen, including fish, shellfish, prawns, and crabs, can survive in them. But the jellyfish thrive.

Our changing climate is also having many impacts on jellyfish. As the oceans warm, the tropical box jellyfish and the Irukandjis are likely to extend their ranges, while other species will benefit from the lowered oxygen levels that warmer waters contain. Remarkably, jellyfish may have the capacity to accelerate climate change. This can happen in two ways. Jellyfish release carbon-rich feces and mucus (poo and goo) that bacteria prefer to use for respiration. As Gershwin puts it, “jellyfish blooms turn these bacteria into carbon dioxide factories.” But jellyfish also consume vast numbers of copepods and other plankton. These creatures migrate vertically through the water column, taking in carbon-rich food at the surface and releasing it as fecal pellets, which fall to the sea floor and are buried. The plankton are thus a major means of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and oceans. If their loss occurs on a large enough scale, it will hasten climate change.

There is one final impact that must be considered: acidification of the oceans. This results from carbon dioxide being absorbed into seawater. Already our oceans are 30 percent more acidic than they were thirty years ago, and creatures with shells are suffering. In recent years, there has been mass failure of oyster spawning off the American Northwest, and tiny snails in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans are having their shells eaten away by the acid. Jellyfish lack hard parts: they, it seems, will pull through the acidification crisis admirably.

How could jellyfish take over the ocean? “One bite at a time” Gershwin says. And there may be no way back. A new balance may be struck, one in which jellyfish rule:

We are creating a world more like the late Precambrian than the late 1800s—a world where jellyfish ruled the seas and organisms with shells didn’t exist. We are creating a world where we humans may soon be unable to survive, or want to.

At the same time that Gershwin asserts that jellyfish are taking over the oceans “one bite at a time,” she offers a slender hope that we might eat our own way through the problem. Ancient Chinese texts show that jellyfish have been part of the human diet for over 1,700 years. Recently, the global jellyfish harvest has risen to 321,000 tons, most of which is consumed in China and Japan. But unless we all develop an Asiatic zeal for the gelatinous creatures it’s hard to imagine we humans making much of a dent in the jellyfish multitudes.

As I came toward the end of this astonishing, if dismaying, book my spirits were lifted briefly when I discovered that Congress seems to be aware of the jellyfish menace. On November 2, 1966, it passed the Jellyfish Control Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 1201–1205; 1966, amended 1970 and 1972). This seemingly prescient legislation authorized the secretary of commerce to “conduct studies, research and investigations to determine the abundance and distribution of jellyfish and other pests and their effects on fish, shellfish and water-based recreation.” Up to $1 million annually was spent in the 1970s. Regrettably, today Gershwin and the handful of jellyfish experts in the world struggle for access to what is clearly pitifully inadequate funding.

Gershwin leaves us with a disturbing final rumination:

When I began writing this book,… I had a naive gut feeling that all was still salvageable…. But I think I underestimated how severely we have damaged our oceans and their inhabitants. I now think that we have pushed them too far, past some mysterious tipping point that came and went without fanfare, with no red circle on the calendar and without us knowing the precise moment it all became irreversible. I now sincerely believe that it is only a matter of time before the oceans as we know them and need them to be become very different places indeed. No coral reefs teeming with life. No more mighty whales or wobbling penguins. No lobsters or oysters. Sushi without fish.

Her final word to her readers: “Adapt.”


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