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.


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 »

Jan 20

Wearing Glasses for Windsurfing

Wearing Glasses for Windsurfing

I am short sighted. Not borderline blind mind you, but I do have trouble seeing without my glasses. I am not allowed to drive without them, let´s put it that way. On top of that i have what is called nystagmus. It´s kind of hard to explain (check out the link) but in essence it causes my eyes to move around the place when I am tired, hungry or otherwise low on energy (hangovers were a real pain).

Every now and then I get a student who is also short sighted. Unsurprisingly I get asked how good of an idea it is to go windsurfing with glasses. Usually my answer is divided in one of the following categories.

No glasses

No Glasses in Windsurfing

Personally I don´t wear any visual enhancing aide. My sight is good enough to acknowledge the presence of other windsurfers, kitesurfers, surfers and, most importantly, swimmers around me. I may not be able to recognise the person but I know that they are there. This has led to some fun conversations on the beach where I would tell a friend how awesome the conditions were at the harbour wall -LINK- only for them to tell me that they were also there… and they had waved at me … and I had waved back. What can I say? If someone waves at me, I think it would be rude not to wave back, even if I am not sure who it is…

So, if you are able to distinguish between a person and water at 50 metres away, I think you can get away with windsurfing without glasses. If you have trouble beyond that you should use one of the following.

Contact lenses

The next best solution in my eyes (pun intended) are contact lenses. There is pretty much no restriction on your windsurfing other than that when you go underwater you have to keep your eyes shut or they will fall out. However, this should not be a problem because there is no moment in which you need to open your eyes underwater, not even when you are “trapped” under the sail

Contact Lenses in Windsurfing.

The only thing that might be a limiting factor for wearing contact lenses is if the sand is flying. getting sand in your eye while wearing contact lenses is really uncomfortable and can lead to eye injuries. That said, one of my colleagues at the Surf Center has been using daily contact lenses for years and never had a problem.

Wear the glasses with safety cord

My least favourite option is to actually use glasses for windsurfing by tying them fast with a string,cord, rubber band, etc. around the back of the head. It is a good enough solution for a one off but personally i see a few drawbacks to this.

They can fall off

No matter how tight you tie them around the back of your head, there will always be the possibility of them getting knocked off, be it through a knock or by the water when you fall in.

They can break

The worst thing that can happen to you is that they break through a hit by the mast or a collision and that you get injured. Naturally this is not likely if you are not sailing radical but once you go for more advanced manoeuvres it becomes more probable. i have had a few hit to the face over the years which would have broken a pair of glasses had I been wearing them.

The droplet on the lens

Even if you don´t manage to lose or break them, sailing with glasses ends up being exhausting on the eyes because there will always be drops clinging to the glass. It is a bit like watching a video where there is a water droplet on the lens that is distracting from the shot. I teach wearing sunglasses and it is always annoying when some water spray from a wave gets on the glasses.Glasses in windsurfing

Graded sunglasses

Sunglasses for Windsurfing

There are plenty of people windsurfing with sunglasses. Due to their shape, they are less likely to fall off and since they are made of plastic they danger of getting cut is reduced. Sure, the droplet on the lens is still a problem but there are worse things to worry about.

The main downside to this is that getting a pair of sunnies graded can get expensive depending on your level of shortsightedness. For this reason this is only really an option for those planning on windsurfing frequently.

If you have any other solutions or stories related to this I would love to hear them in the comments.

Jan 12

How to Windsurf – Pumping

Pumping in windsurfing is a technique that is not really talked about much. Many people do it intuitively, others can’t seem to get the hang of it, and the rest have no idea how to explain it properly. I was only made aware of this recently and noticed that even in the vastness of the internet there is not much information on pumping. So here goes:

I like to break pumping down into for types as the techniques varies on the wind available to us and the purpose of pumping.

Pumping in near zero wind

In my post on how to get back if the wind drops, I describe how to move the sail in a way that pushes the mass of air to the stern, thereby pushing the board forwards. Then moving the sail forwards with the sail surface in line of movement to reduce the surface causing drag

Pumping in low winds

Now we get into a different type of pumping. Since we now have a little bit of wind, we no longer have to generate our movement by shovelling air (I don’t know how else to put it) but can use the little wind we have to push the board forward. In essence, all we have to do is position the board onto a brad reach (to have the maximum sail surface available to the wind and so that we can push the board with the wind), keep the sail as vertical as possible, move our hips back and push them forward by sheeting in. The idea is to get a burst of power in the sail and push that power into the board horizontally.

Since the wind is not that strong, the board will not plane as it won’t get lifted out of the water. On the off chance that we do manage to generate so much power and transfer it horizontally so much that we lift out of the water, we will not be able to maintain the plane as the actual wind (including the relative wind generated by our forwards movement) is not enough to keep it over the water. This means that we will have to keep pumping to maintain the extra speed.

Pumping to get planing

In this case there is just enough wind to plane. I describe the leisurely way to start planing in this article. However, you might be in a race, have to get back to the shore quickly or need to catch up with someone. For these cases you want to know how to pump to get on the plane quickly.

The technique is just like described before but with the difference that we only have to pump 3 to 4 times (if done effectively) until we have generated enough speed that we are just planing and can use the relative wind as propulsion by sheeting in. If the wind is not strong enough it can happen that the friction of the board slows us down again, meaning that our plane is short lived and we will have to start pumping again to maintain or regain the speed.

Windsurfing Pumping 1 Windsurfing Pumping 2

On other occasions what happens is how I have seen some people pump onto a plane but then not stop pumping, thereby killing their plane. Once you have managed to get the board out of the water, use the physics of the sail to maintain the plane.

Pumping to remain planing

In gusty winds we will sail into lulls from time to time. It is really frustrating to run out of speed and sink back into the water again. Sometimes it is more energy efficient to use our relative wind (the one from our movement) to pump ourselves over the water a few times to last on the plane for a few more metres (or seconds) which sometimes is enough until the wind or next gust returns.

Essentially we want to sheet in in bursts while we bear away while on the plane. We will still be leaning back but only to bring our hips down to push forwards with the waist as horizontally as possible. It is important to male sure not to put our weight down on the back foot as this will sink the back of the board, cause more drag and slow us down to a standstill and kill our efforts of pumping in the first place.

Jan 03

Riding waves with big boards

One of the most fun parts of my beginner lessons is getting back to the beach at the end. No, not because I am desperate to end the lessons but because it gives my students the chance to ride a wave with a windsurf board. There is very little else that will get a beginner hooked to windsurfing than the sensation of gliding down a wave (except for when I pull them so that they start planing, which is basically the same sensation). There is however a very important element to riding a wave with big boards which will make or break the ride and that is making sure that the board does not dive underwater with either the nose or the leeward rail.

Riding waves with big boards the wrong way Riding waves with big boards the wrong way

If you have had any bad experiences with this, be it with beginner boards or with smaller ones (I have also seen this happen to people on 120 litre boards) this post is for you. Here are the three things you need to watch out for if a wave builds up behind you and you want to surf it to the beach.

No skeg

If your board has a skeg (centerboard, daggerboard) this one is essential. When we catch the wave we pick up quite a lot of speed. So much speed in fact that the skeg, if it is out, will act like a hydrofoil, lifting the board out of the water and falling onto the lee side. I have not seen anyone regain control over the board once it does that. In short, once you approach the beach break, hide the skeg in the board.

Weight really far to the back of the board

This one is the second most imortant one. In the same way that a surfer has to take care not to do a nose dive on take off, we must also make sure that our windsurf board doesn’t dive into the bottom of the wave as we start to slide down it. The result is pretty predictable (and entertaining to watch): the nose dives in, the tail lifts up, the sailor gets catapulted over the board and falls in head first. Aside from annoying, this can also be quite dangerous.

Firstly because the water may not be that deep and we can seriously injure ourselves on the sand. Secondly, if we were going fast enough, or the wave is strong/big enough the board might topple over right on top of us. Things can turn pretty ugly if a 10-15 kilo board falls on top of you or get pushed ito you by a wave.

So: how to avoid this. Very easy, by keeping the boards’ nose up. To achieve this we must put our weight as far as possible to the back of the board. If this means having to move the feet right next to the tail of the board, so be it.

Riding waves with big boards - correct Riding waves with big boards - correct Riding waves with big boards - correct

Sheet in

As with non-breaking waves, the wave will cause the board to move away sideways from under your feet. I have written a post on windsurfing in waves before so check out why you have to sheet by reading that post. In essence we need to make our body acompany the board as it accelerates down the wave and the only easy way to do that is by getting power in the sail (ie. sheeting in).

Bonus tip: if the wave doesn’t take you along

Sometimes we don’t get the timing right or the wave is just not big enough to take us along. If that is the case you need to be prepared to react to the board coming to a stop and the power in the sail increasing suddenly. The only way to avoid getting pulled over forwards is to sheet out as soon as you feel the power in the sail pulling you too much.

Let me know any other aspects of riding down waves with a beginner board you might have noticed by writing them in the comments below.

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 »

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