We Floridians are a spoiled lot. While much of the Mid Atlantic and Northeast remains buried beneath several feet of snow, my friends, neighbors and colleagues continue to whine about a little cold weather. Well, fear not. Spring is just a few short weeks away. In the meantime, get off the couch and really enjoy the next month. Trust me. Six months from now, as you break a sweat just walking outside to pick up your newspaper, you will be longing for these long, lost days of winter. I, for one, have learned to love and embrace each passing cold front. We average about a dozen every year. And with each cold front comes two or three days of wind and waves, the stuff surfers, kiteboarders and sailors live for. So instead of sitting inside this weekend, put on a sweater, step outside and get a piece of the action. Here are just a few ideas to get you up, out and going.
Sail on, sailor
The city's waterfront will be crowded with hundreds of masts this weekend as sailors from across the United States gather for one of the largest regattas of the year.
The National Offshore One-Design series always draws a big crowd in St. Petersburg and the eight other U.S. cities it visits before its championship.
The St. Petersburg regatta comes just a few weeks after Key West's race week, which, next to the America's Cup, is one of the most competitive racing series in the world.
The NOOD features three days of one-design (a term used to describe boats with identical measurements and specifications) racing on different courses with easy viewing from the Pier.
Organizers expect more than 1,000 competitors, including some from Europe and South America. The overall winner is invited to compete in the 2010 NOOD championship, scheduled for November in the British Virgin Islands, where the winners from each of the nine NOOD events will compete in Sunsail 39s.
The racing runs today through Sunday. For best viewing, head to the Pier. Boats race on different courses, all within sight of land.
Paul Arcoss doesn't mind the cold.
The editor of the Tampa-based Saltwater Angler magazine likes to fish regardless of the weather.
Four years ago, he was standing at a friend's backyard tiki bar nicknamed "The Filthy Pelican" when he and his pals decided somebody should organize a fishing tournament for the average angler.
Most fishing tournaments take place during the warmer months, when fair-weather fishermen are out in hordes. Arcoss and his die-hard angling brethren decided to hold their tournament in February, when only the most committed of anglers dare wet a line.
This weekend is the fourth annual Filthy Pelican Invitational. Competitors will target sheepshead, species often scoffed at by "serious" anglers. But it is the fish of choice for Florida natives during the cooler winter months.
These prolific feeders have a small mouth but a full set of teeth — incisors, molars and rounded grinders — which they use to crush barnacles and other crustaceans. But despite their strong, crushing jaws, sheepshead are notorious light biters. There's an old saying that a successful sheepshead angler must learn to set the hook before the fish bites.
This year's event will be at the Tampa Harbour Yacht Club, 5200 W Tyson St. The fun starts at 6:30 tonight with the mandatory captain's meeting. Fishing starts at 6:30 a.m Saturday. The entry fee is $55, and the heaviest sheepshead will be worth $2,500. To register, go to saltwaterangleronline.com.
Hands across the sand
Sailors and sheepshead fishermen aren't the only outdoor lovers who will be out this weekend, regardless of how cold the wind blows.
West coast surfers will be on the water taking advantage of the waves these cold fronts usually bring.
But at 1 p.m. Saturday, waveriders, environmentalists and conservationists will be out in force dressed in black — the color of an oil spill — to show their opposition to offshore drilling.
"Hands Across the Sand" protests are planned for Upham Beach, Clearwater Beach, Fort De Soto, St. Pete Beach, Gulfport, Lassing Park, Madeira Beach, Pass-a-Grille, Redington Shores, Clam Bayou, Treasure Island and Tarpon Springs. For details, go to suncoastsurfrider.org.
Terry Tomalin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8808.