Jun 14

How to Start Windsurfing


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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 »

Dec 12

9 Tips to Buying a Windsurf Board

Buying a board can be pretty confusing, specially if we don’t know what to look out for. Be it in a shop, surf centre, garage sale or some guy on the internet, there will always be a gap between our knowledge on what we need and the seller who wants to get rid of his board. Let’s try to close that gap a little today.
Here I have compiled a checklist for you to know what to take into account when going to buy a new or second hand board.

Buy Windsurf Board

Buying a new windsurf board

Where are you going to sail?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. The answer will have a very big impact on what you need to look for. If you are going to windsurf in El Médano you will not be needing the same kind of gear as if you usually sail on Lake Garda. In El Médano we usually have 20-25 knots (and more in the summer) which for my 75 kg means 80 – 100 litres waves board whereas in Torbole (Lake Garda) the average is 15-17 knots where I would need a freestyle or free-ride board in the 100 – 115 litre range. Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 27

Waist Harness vs Seat Harness

Learning how to windsurf with a harness is one of those abilities that opens the door to longer sessions on the water as it save you heaps of energy. At this point you will have to decide on the harness you want to get for yourself. Much like the wetsuit, it is one of those things that you will want to have your own of.

Waist Harness vs Seat Harness

Waist Harness vs Seat Harness

You essentially have two options when it comes to harnesses: a seat harness or a waist harness. Ultimately it comes down to preference. The most important factor to take into consideration is how it feels when you wear it. It should never be uncomfortable, have a single pressure point and much less hurt when using it. The more distributed the force in the harness, the more comfortable it will be to wear and the more fun we will have on the water.

Nevertheless, aside from comfort, each harness type has its advantages and disadvantages. I will break down the pros and cons of each type.

Waist Harness

This is the most common type of harness used for wave and freestyle.

Waist Harness

Pros

  • The main benefit of a waist harness is that it is very easy to get in and out of the harness lines since the hook is higher up.
  • Another benefit is that when sailing upwind, it allows you to turn your body so that you are facing the sailing direction as the harness usually slides around a little. At least for me, this makes for a relaxed body position when sailing upwind.
  • Putting on a waist harness is also faster and less hassle than a seat harness

Cons

  • Since the harness is high up, it is not really compatible with life jackets. In some locations such as Lake Garda where life jackets are compulsory, this may make the decision somewhat easier.
  • When planing, you not only have to keep the legs pushing forward but also remember to keep the hips pushing forward as well so you don’t fall into the monkey stance.
    If you fluctuate much in body size, the waist harness will become too big or too small pretty fast. Since it only stays in place due to a correct fit to your body,if it is too big, it can slide up to your chest pretty fast.
  • If you have a big belly, a waist harness is probably not for you. It is like wearing a belt loosely at the belly button, it will most probably slide up or down and be a nuisance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 15

Windsurfing in Lake Garda

Windsurfing Lake Garda

There are a couple of places where you can go windsurfing in Lake Garda. Going from east to west there are the Conca d’Oro beach, Circolo Surf Torbole beach, the Foce Sarca beach and the Pier Windsurf beach.

Windsurfing Lake Garda

Conca d’Oro Beach

A nice family friendly beach where you have a lawn to assemble your kit, a bar and a parking place nearby. The beach is a pebble stone beach but they have a rubber mat there to stop your kit from getting damaged. If you sail far enough from the shore (50-70 metres) the wind is nice and stable as you will be sailing between the beach and the central part of the village.

Starting from this beach you have 3km of pure planing until you get to the Ponale.

Fabio, from waterwind.it, explains that the best wind of all is between the Conca d’Oro and Pier windsurf. You basically have to throw yourself into the water from the rocky coast next to the road.

Circolo Surf Torbole Beach

This place is Fabio’s favourite. Here you also have a nice grassy area to rig your equipment as well as a bar and restaurant for the after-session coffee/beer/lunch. Parking is available nearby so carrying your kit to this point is not too cumbersome. The same as at Conca d’Oro, there is a rubber mat to protect your kit when going into the water which the Circolo Surf Torbole have placed for everyone (when you are not using the beach to get in and out, make sure you put your kit on the racks provided and not on the beach so as not to disturb the other sailors).

If you manage to get over the small beach break you can have some nice rides up to Ponale from here as well.

Foce Sarca Beach

There are a couple of beaches between the Circolo Surf Torbole beach and the Foce Sarca beach but swimmers (from the camping areas) have priority here which is marked by buoys. At the end of the beach is the mouth of the river Sarca where you can find the Segana Surf Centre. Here you also have a grassy area for rigging and some places to get food and drinks as well as racks for the equipment.

If you go to the west end of the beach you have a beach for chilling of for getting started with windsurfing as it is sheltered.
Should you start from here you will have to sail towards the west due to the wind direction and the current of the Sarca river mouth. One thing you should watch out for is to turn around early enough so that you don’t get caught in the windless area close to the shore.

Prevalent wind direction and sources

The Peler

In the mornings the most prevalent wind is from the north. They call it the “Peler”, which blows all year round due to the cold air from the mountains moving to the warm air on the lake. In the south of the lake, intermediate sailors will have a great place to practice due to the wind being around 15 knots and the water being flat.

The Ora

The most common wind is the “Ora” which blows from the south from March to October. The pressure difference in cold air on the lake and the warm air in the mountains to the north is what makes this reliable wind build up around mid-day and last until the late afternoon. On a good day it can blow at up to 20 knots. Just make sure that you keep a distance to the shore so that the wind bouncing off the mountain doesn’t bounce back and eliminate the wind.

Waves

The water is generally flat near the shore where the wind blows off shore and the deeper you head onto the middle of the lake, the more choppy the water is going to get. On the onshore-wind locations you will have a little beach break which requires a little technique to overcome.

Rules and Regulations

Bear in mind that it is obligatory on the whole lake to wear a life vest. The police will fish you out of the water and fine you if you are sailing without one.

Surf Centers at Lake Garda

Circolo Surf Torbole

A private windsurf club which aside from offering lessons and storage facilities also organise various competitions and regattas. You can check out their website below.
http://www.circolosurftorbole.com/

Surf Segana

They are located at the Foca Sarca beach. They offer rental (Fanatic boards and North Sails), lessons, kitesurfing, catamaran and dinghys as well as mountain biking rental and tours. Here is their website:
http://www.surfsegnana.it/en/home.asp

Shaka Surf Center

Located and the Conca d’Oro beach, they offer lessons, rental (JP boards and Naish sails). Here you can check out their website.
http://www.shakasurfcenter.com/index_eng.php

Vasco Renna Surf Center

These guys are located directly behind the Circolo Surf Torbole. Their rental quiver is made up of Fanatic boards and Gaastra sails. The same as the rest, they also give lessons. Here is their website.
http://www.vascorenna.com/

Pier Windsurf

The only surf centre (as far as I know) on the west shore of Lake Garda. Aside from windsurf rental (RRD boards and Simmer sails) and kitesurfing, they also offer accommodation which is quite practical considering that they are quite far from the town of Torbole. Here is their website for info and booking.
http://www.pierwindsurf.it/english/index.php

Shops

Shaka Surf Shop

Not to be confused with the Shaka Surf Centre, these guys are located in the centre of Torbole and offer windsurfing equipment as well as clothing. To check them out you can go here.
http://www.shaka.it/index.php

Surf Planet

I can’t say much about this shop other than that it exists… Also, their website seems to only be in Italian. Anyways, here is their website.
http://www.surfplanet.it/

Torbole, the town

Torbole Lake Garda

Accomodation

In Torbole there are heaps of places for accommodation. Here is a list of hotels taken from trip advisor.

Restaurants, bars, cafés, etc.

As for places for eating out, here is another list, also from trip advisor.

Alternatives to windsurfing

Being such a touristic spot you have the advantage that you also have quite a few alternatives to windsurfing should your hands be full of windsurf blisters, your body tired, your family asking for some of your time or simply no wind. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Trekking
  • Free-climbing
  • Mountain biking

I personally have never been to Lake Garda but have heard great things about it. This spot guide is a condensed version of the full article by Fabio Muriano over at waterwind.it. Go check out the complete article here.

I want to make this article as complete and helpful as possible so I would be really grateful for any recommendations, suggestions and feedback with regards to any of the sections (spots/beaches, surf centers, shops, accommodation, restaurants, etc.) in the comments below.

 

Nov 04

How to bend your legs to avoid falling in

Here is just a small tip I wanted to give away to start off the month. It has to do with one of the most avoidable falls into the water at the beginner level that I have seen.

Dropping the sail

When we are starting to learn how to windsurf we will be in the first phase of sail control – LINK -. This means that we will be pulled over forwards at the hip. The most typical consequence of this is that we let go of the sail with the mast already inclined over the water. Only then do people tend to let go of the back hand (when they don’t let go of the front hand by mistake).
The problem of letting go of the back hand at this point is that the clew will touch the water and get stuck, thereby pulling the sail out of our hands.
This in itself is not that big of a deal. We just pull the sail out of the water and start again and that’s it. The mistake that I see most people do is remain standing on the board completely upright. The consequence is that the first wave knocks then in the water.

The solution

The reson for the wave being able to make us fall into the water so quickly is that our center of gravity is very high up and once the support (the board) is moved, we simply fall in.
If we bend our legs however, our center of gravity is close to the board and we are less likely to fall in
So remember, when you drop the sail but are not thrown in the water, be sure to bend your legs so that you don’t fall in stupidly and waste energy unnecessarily.

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