Mar 29

What do you want?

Hey guys!

Since June of last year I have been writing and uploading step by step explanations of how to windsurf at various levels and each manouver one by one. I have been writing other tips and tricks in the last few weeks but I want to make sure that the content I am posting is stuff you want to read. So, here is my question:

What are you looking for? What would you like to know?

Just answer in the comments below and I will write about each of them or refer you to a previous post on my site that you might not have been able to find.

Thanks for the feedback!

Jun 14

How to Start Windsurfing

 

Disclaimer: I believe I should strongly advise you to get an instructor to teach you how to windsurf. Especially if it’s going to be your first attempt ever at windsurfing. Windsurfing is a very technical sport and you can make a lot of mistakes and go through a lot of frustration if you try to learn on your own or strain a friendship if you accept having a friend teach you. All the material I give away is intended mainly to serve as a refresh so you can correct any bad habits that might have sneaked in throughout the unsupervised sessions and hindering your progress.

 Safety

Windsurfing is a sport that is done in a potentially hostile environment. This means that before we hit the water it is important that we must take the time to ensure that we will be getting back to shore. There are many thorough articles on safety out there and I will write one myself shortly. For now keep in mind these checklist items:

  • Check your windsurf gear to make sure it isn’t faulty and breaks while on the water
  • Avoid windsurfing in offshore winds (if you do, keep close to the shore, if possible where you can still stand)
  • Don’t go windsurfing alone. If there are others on the water they can get help if need be
  • Wear clothing that will keep you warm if you need to swim for at least an hour

Check out the safety recommendations at learntowindsurf.com or check out my post on safety in windsurfing for more info.

 

How to Windsurf

Now to the actual learning how to windsurf:

Before we start, we must first determine the direction of the wind and adjust the board and sail position accordingly. The board and sail will be put into the T-position. This means that the board will be set out 90º to the wind, and the sail 90º to the board pointing downwind.

How To Windsurf - T Position

Now with one foot on either side of the mast-foot we grab the up-haul and making sure we stand up straight start pulling up the sail. Why the back straight? The sail can be anywhere from 2.5 to 6m2 big, maybe even bigger. All that surface is filled with water which makes it very heavy. Trying to lift this through our back instead of the legs can and will hurt your back. Pressing up with your legs is a simple way to avoid pulling a muscle or doing other serious damage to your back. This factor is usually something we forget about quickly, especially as we get tired. Try not to forget! The easiest way to pull out the sail is to stand up straight and to turn our shoulders and move up the up-haul line with our hands until the mast is in our reach with the next shoulder turn. Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 11

The Windsurfing Catapult – Causes and How to Avoid Them

 Windsurfing Catapult

Every windsurfer has had one, and it becomes the fear of every harness user, especially at the beginning. They can be painful and dangerous. If you don’t know what I am talking about, here is a video compilation showing us that it happens to the pros.

Now admittedly we won’t be having such extreme impacts since we are not going as fast or with as much power as these guys so I hope I haven’t scared anyone away from the sport.

I will first talk about how to avoid getting catapulted and then on the best reaction you can train yourself to do if you are already flying through the air.

Preventing the Catapult

There are a few alterations to our kit and body position that we can apply:

Learn to read the wind and waves

Most catapults come through being caught off guard by a gust or wave. Learning to read the wind changes on the water and the way the chop forms will help you massively to see what is coming at you.

Go down a sail size

I used to love sailing way to overpowered. To the point that if I didn’t do at least 2 catapults in one session I wasn’t satisfied. That phase has passed thankfully but it shows that a good way to reduce your likelihood of catapulting is to get good at planing with a smaller sail.

Long harness lines

If we have too short harness lines, the reaction time available to us when something changes unexpectedly is very small. With practice we become better and it becomes more comfortable to control the sail with short lines. Until then go for longer lines which give you a bit more leeway, more range to move the sail without moving your body and greater ease to hook out.

Smaller fin

Slalom sailers use big fins firstly to avoid spin outs from the massive sideways pressure but also to get lifted out of the water and have as little surface friction as possible. In other words, a long fin can make your board lift out of the water at high speeds (my beginner boards lift out when planing down a wave with the centre-board out). If we know how to control this there is no problem but since that probably isn’t the case, make sure your fin is not so big as to lift the board out of the water uncontrollably.

Have the foot in the back foot-strap

One of the main reasons that I recommend putting the back foot in the straps first is that this is the strap that avoids catapults more than anything else. Only having the front foot in the strap is useless as it is the pivot point over which we rotate in a catapult.

Pull the front arm close

As you notice you are being heaved forwards, pull the front arm in to take the power out of the sail. If you catch it early enough this will allow you to fall back backwards into the correct and stable position.

Push against the wind with the back hand

This can go in combination with the previous one, although I would only recommend it if you already have a little experience in lee-side sailing or some other form of sail control on the lee side of the sail.

Last Second Solution

At some point you will catapult. That’s just the way it is. Sooner or later you will be flung over the board and land with a crash or a splash. It is up to you and how you will react which one it will be and if the splash is going to hurt. The two things we want to avoid during a catapult is hitting the board with the mast or our body, and also avoid coming to a sudden halt on the sail (especially the mast).
The only real solution in this case is to sheet in as hard as we can and push the mast away from the wind. What this will do is make the sail turn downwind and let us rotate around with it so that we land in the water and ideally under the sail. This, incidendally, is also the second step to learning the front loop. I would recommend practicing this motion unhooked a few times so that you get a feeling for the motion and build up the reaction before you need it for real.
I hope this has been useful to help you prevent catapults. If you want to read more about them here is an interesting post on catapults.

Apr 06

How to replace a windsurfing sail batten

Windsurfing battens nowadays are pretty resistant. The materials that are used make them more lightweight but at the expense of them becoming more fragile. Normally the fragility is no problem as we rarely subject them to forces great enough to snap the battens. However, if we fall on the sail or have a wave break on it, there is a large possibility of a batten snapping.

Usually the batten will snap but leave the sleeve it is in intact. Since we can’t just pull out the entire batten (since they are in two pieces) we need a technique to replace the batten. Here is a step by step sequence of how this is done.

1. First of all, make sure you have a batten of the same length as the previous one.

2. Loosen the stopper that keeps the batten in the sleeve and take it out. (the stoppers may vary from brand to brand, this section is just an indication)

tense sail batten

pull out sail batten

3. Then pull out the batten end with some pliers.

4. Take a cutter and cut a slit in the pocket just above the end of the broken piece.

cut batten pocket

5. Before trying to pull out the second batten piece, release the tension on the downhaul to make the pulling out easier.

untensed sail downhaul

6. Take the pliers and fumble the broken batten piece out through the cut in the sleeve. This is easier if you have someone holding on to the mast while you pull with the pliers.

getting broken sail batten

broken sail batten

7. Insert the new batten, taking care not to push the end back out through the slit you cut in the sleeve.

8. Replace the batten stopper.

Inserting sail batten

I hope this guide has given you an idea of how to replace a sail batten for your particular sail in the future.

Mar 30

Knots for Windsurfing 2: Bowline

The bowline knot is the second essential knot on the list. It is the best knot to add a non-self-tightening noose to the end of a rope. It is used on the end of the downhaul line to hook the harness hook in to tense the downhaul.

Here is the sequence:

 

Bowline Knot 1

Bowline Knot 2

Bowline Knot 3

Bowline Knot 4Bowline Knot 5 Bowline Knot 6

 

 

 

 

Mar 24

How to Repair a Damaged Fin

First off, don’t be misled by the title. I am only talking about how to get the form back on a fin that has scraped over rocky bottom.It is impossible to repair a fin that has snapped in half.

Badly Damaged Fin

This also goes for fins that have been sailed over sandy ground a few times to many and have flattened the smooth curve to the tip. This also usually implies that the tip has been formed into a sharp point. These changes in the fin shape will greatly influence the efficiency of the fin and cause more spin outs than necessary.

Very Used Fin

Depending on how badly the fin has been damaged. If you have gone over rocks, it is very likely that the edge has split open and you can see all the individual layers of materials that make up the fin. If that is the case you have a lot of sanding to do if you use sandpaper. For the rough sanding it is best to use a rasp.

rasp

Then for the fine sanding you can use sand paper. There is a trick you can do though. If we just take the sandpaper in our hand and start scraping the edge, we will not get a good result because of the uneven surface and the small area of our fingers. What we have done at the surf center is to wrap some sandpaper around a block of wood and staple it on to make the sanding easier and faster.

Wooden Sandpaper Block For Fins

Now to the technique for getting a smooth curve on the fin again. Don’t just sand the immediate area that is damaged but the 5 cm on either side of it in long broad strokes (to get a gradual curve) moving from one side of the fin to the other every two strokes or so (to make sure the leading edge doesn’t become flat but rounded).

As for the trailing edge, here is my advice on that. Obviously a sharp edge will make for a clean separation of the water from the fin and reduce the risk of a spin out. However, do not make it so sharp as to be able to cut flesh. I have had the painful experience of accidentally kicking the fin when hastily positioning the kit for a waterstart and have to get stitches on the sole of my foot. That same fin could just as well cut another part of your body in a wipeout or a stranger in a collision.

In short, have a narrow trailing edge on the fin but not so sharp that it cuts.

Fin Trailing Edge

Mar 18

How to get back if the wind drops

It can hapen to anyone. It has happened to me more times than I can remember. It is annoying and exhausting, but it can also be dangerous if you don|t know how to get back to shore with the kit. First off there are two very important things to keep in mind:

1. NEVER LEAVE YOUR KIT!

The kit is the only flotation device you have and if you get tired you can just lay on it or hold on to it rather than try to keep your head over water in the waves. Aside from this it also offers more visibility for any rescue services that are looking for you. It is easier to spot a board and sail which may even have bright colours than a pesron half submerged in the water.

2. SWIM PERPENDICULAR TO THE CURRENT

Obviously we don’t want to go to where the current takes us. However, we are not going to be able to be able to swim against the current. So, what is left? Swim perpendicular to the current. If we seim at 90 degrees to the current we will naturally be dragged downstream, but if we keep swimming across it we will eventually arrive on land.

Beginner gear

Sail pumping

Using the sail to move forwards with no wind at all is a very useful skill to have indeed. Mainly it consists of generating your own wind and then using the physics of the sail to work its magic.This technique is to be used if there is at least a little bit of wind as it is faster than the one below.

Start off by leaning the sail far forwards to the bow and opening the sail. From there pull the whole sail backwards to the stern strongly so that you move the whole mass of air over the board aft. It is important to do this in one energetic motion. What this does is us the mass of air as if it were stationary and we push the board forwards under it with our feet. This will generate a slow movement forwards.Then sheet the sail in so that it is practically in line with the board so that you provide as little wind resistance as possible with it and move it towards the bow again. The board will naturally start to slow down again and when it does we open the sail again to repeat the movement. This way we will advance slowly but surely towards land again.

Lay the boom on stern

This method only really works if there is no wind at all as if there is a little breeze, the wind can blow the sail back into the water and undo our work of putting the boom on the board. This method is also slower than the one mentioned before as soon as there is a little bit of wind.

If the water is shallow enough, we can also walk back to the shore although this method also works in deep waters. However there is a more and a less efficient way to do this. The most efficient way is to lay the boom on to the back of the board. If necessary lover the boom. The idea is to balance it on the board so that it does not touch the water. If it touches the water it will generate resistance and make advancing through the water much more difficult.
Then go to the bow and pull the kit behind you. This works for wading through the water as well as swimming if the water is too deep.

No wind Return with Windsurfer

Image courtesy of http://www.nationalcentrecumbrae.org.uk/

Sinker boards

Having the wind bail on you when you are out on a sinker board is one of the most annoying (and tiring) things that can happen. On top of that, even though the wind dissappears, the current in the water will most likely continue, meaning that you will be at the mercy of the currents. This can be a real problem indeed if this current is heading out to sea.

Waterstart position

Usually the wind will not disappear completely meaning that there will still be enough wind available to keep the sail in the air. Here our best option is to lift up the sail and hold the back footstrap while keeping our body as horizontal as possible (for less resitance) in the wake of our movement. This will provide us wil a slow yet definite progress back to the beach. Another option is to hold the sail in the air with both hands and put the feet on the board if this is more comfortabke for you. It ultimately comes down to preference.

The benefit of holding the position with the feet on the board is that if the wind does pick up a little, even if it is just a gust, it may be enough to lift us up with a waterstart and we can wobble on the board in a sailing position back tot he beach which is a little bit faster that dragging our body through the water even if it is a little bit more tiring.

If the wind does drop completely while we are doing this method we can always fall back on the next method.

Boom on stern

It may be the case that the wind goes away cmpletely so that the sail is not held up.by the wind. Here we lay the boom on the back of the board, trying to keep it out of the water as much as possible so that there is as little drag as possible. Then we stay at the middle of the board and hold the sail in place by holding on to the mast at about 30 cm (1′) above the mast foot. In this position we start swimming back to the shore.

Mar 10

Localism

Localism: The aggressive behaviour that locals of a particular spot have towards outsiders to make sure they don’t have to share the wave, etc.

Localism - street warning

How many stories have you heard of local surfers threatening, insulting or even attacking other surfers who are visiting the spot? This is a worldwide phenomenon and is not limited to surfing or water sports. In essence it is a form of surf rage but applied to territorial protection.

On my home island of Tenerife alone there are a large number of spots governed by a group of friends who have been surfing at a certain spot for ages and don’t let anyone else enjoy that particular wave or spot by resorting to violence.

Ultimately, localism is nothing but selfish behaviour manifested through violence. As nice as it is to have the spot all to ones self, the ocean belongs to everyone and as long as we all using concienciously and respectfully towards everyone else, there is no reason why we can’t all enjoy it.

Maybe you missed the best wave of the day because a newbie was in the way or a visitor took the wave thinking you would get wiped out because they didn’t know how the wave breaks at that particular spot. Never mind, the ocean will bring plenty more waves, winds and epic sessions on the water. No need to act like it is the end of the world.


Localism sign

 

 

Feb 28

High Wind Alternatives

We are dealing with a sport that depends on the weather. In other words, there will be times when there will be too much wind or simply not enough wind for our level. There are two alternatives we have when there is too much wind, or too dangerous conditions for us to go windsurfing on the water.

Simulator practice

The first option is to practice manouvers on the simulator. This is aespecially applicable for beginners as we can run into trouble quickly if we go out in conditions above or ability.
Building up the control of the power in the sail is a crucial ability to have for windsurfing and every minute you can spend honing this ability in the early stages will be beneficial once we finally get onto the water. If you have only had a few hours on the water or even none at all yet, getting on the simulator and practicing holding the equilibrium between our body leaning back and the sail holding us up is going to make the progress on the water be much faster as you can then concentrate on the board handling rather that our body position.
However, also for more advanced windsurfers the simulator can be a useful optoin. Practicing controlling the sail from the lee side, the fast tack, the duck tack, the sail stall and a few other manouvers.

Watch the pros

Not everyone likes to stand in the wind practicing on a simulator (you might also already be past that). Another way to progress is to watch the pros. Seeing what is possible by watching what and how the guys who know what they are doing do their magic can help us learn for when the wind drops a little.
Naturally you don’t have to sit on the beach and watch. You can also make use of the endless video library that is the internet.

Feb 21

Knots for Windsurfing 1: Square Knot

There are three basic knots one should know as a windsurfer as they can come in handy at one time or another. There first is the square knot. The square knot is the most useful of the three I will talk about as it is what we use when we need to unite two rope ends. This can help us out of a pickle when the downhaul or the outhaul line tears on the water. Make sure you have control of this knot.

Here is the sequence for a square knot:

 

Square Knot - step 1 Square Knot - step 2 Square Knot - step 3 Square Knot - step 4 Square Knot - finished

Feb 15

How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting

Every year around February and March, El Médano is visited by jellyfish. A jellyfish sting is a pretty excruciating experience and so knowing how treat the resulting burn is a handy thing to know. Now it is true that not all jellyfish are painful to touch and not many are actually deadly.

portuguese man of war

How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting

Things you should do:

  • First off, stop any strenuous exercise. If you continue to pump the toxins through the body you will notice a pain spreading through the chest. Sit down and relax and treat the burn.
  • Take a hot water shower. As hot as you can bear. The hot water destroys the protein cells that contain the toxin.
  • Get rid of all the tentacles (make sure you don’t touch them with your bare skin. Use gloves or tweezers)
  • Keep the area wetted with the type of water you were stung in (salt water or fresh water)
  • Scrape the burnt skin CAREFULLY with a sharp edge such as with a knife, safety razor or credit card (make sure to only scrape in one direction)
  • Apply heat (a first aid course in Australia taught me to treat land animal stings with cold and water animal stings with heat, i.e.. very hot water)

The thing that helped me the most when I got stung was take a hot shower. Hot as in, as warm as I could bear it and then increasing the temperature when I got used to that setting. From what I have read the toxins are protein cells much like egg-white cells which get neutralized by heat.

Things you should NOT do:

  • Apply fresh water on the area
  • Apply alcohol
  • Urinate on the area
  • Apply ammonia
  • Apply ice to the wound
  • Rub the area (this will only make the protein cells that contain the venom burst and hurt more)

There are a few methods on how to remove the venom of a jellyfish from the skin. One is to make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the area and covering it with a cloth.

jellyfish sting

Prevention

So much for the cures to these very painful stings, now to the prevention.

The best way to avoid a jellyfish sting is of course not to go in the water. If you hear of jellyfish being in the water, just do a land activity, as simple as that.

If you decide you must go in the water, go prepared. A long-leg, long-arm wetsuit will at least protect most of your body, minimizing the area available. Naturally this does not protect your head. I personally have a long wetsuit that is thin for warm waters to stay protected.

There is also a sun cream with jellyfish repellent available on amazon which you can give a try although I have no idea just how effective it is.

When encountering a jellyfish in the water, you will probably only see the bag on the surface and not so much the tentacles. This is true for the portuguese man of war. Remember that the bag is always downstream of the tentacles and the current and wind on the water surface blow the bag and the tentacles follow. So if you are sailing along and see the bag, pass it on the downwind side to avoid any tentacles getting stuck and tangled on your feet.

If you have any more tips of dealing with jellyfish stings, please let me know so that the information is complete.

Older posts «

%d bloggers like this: