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 »

Aug 30

How to get a windsurfing mast unstuck

Every couple of weeks, usually towards the end of the day, we get a windsurfer walking up to the center desperate to get a few strong hands together to help him with his mast that just wont come apart.

Storing a full length mast or driving around with one is a nightmare. On top of this we usually don’t find out about the stuck mast until we are going to head home at the end of the day which is usually when there are less people left to help us on the beach.

Why does it get stuck?

Before we put the two pieces together, grains of sand and dirt can get on the surfaces where they join. When we try to get them apart after a session on the water we notice that they are stuck. Even if we put the mast together completely clean, in the water there is sand, mud and dirt which gets in through the slot where they connect.

Prevention

The best solution is preventing the mast from getting stuck in the first place. We do this by keeping the shaft and the inside of the mast clean, prefferably with soapy water and a clean cloth right before putting it together. Once the two pieces are together, put duct tape (or equivalent) over the point where they join. This will prevent any sand getting in on the water.

NOTE: I have no experience with camber sails but from what I have read this duct tape solution doesn’t work for cam sails. Check out Rogers post towards the end.

To get the mast unstuck

That’s all nice to know but what if you already have the problem? That is probably why you are reading this post in the first place. Well, do not dispair, there are a couple of tricks that you can apply.

Lubricants

Puring soapy water or oil over the opening and letting is settle in a little bit can loosen all the dirt inside. In order to get it as far in the mast as possible, bend the mast in various directions so that the liquid can seep in properly. You will properly have to do this a couple times.

Bending the mast

To bend the mast, find two points that are a little bit elevated and bounce the center of the mast as much as you can. After 15 minutes of this you can give it another try.

Two booms of doom

Another sneaky solution is to attach a boom on each side of the joint and to use the extra lever to turn the pieces in opposite diretions. This techique is criticised as it is said to possible damage the mast. Therefore the next method is suggested.

Tug of war

Get as many strong hands onto each side of the mast as you can find and have everyone turn the mast ends in opposite directions (as in each side turing clockwise or both anti-clockwise). If it doesn’t work in one direction don’t immediately dispair. Try out turning it in the other direction for a couple of senconds and switch back to the other side and alternate a few until it comes apart. Usually 3 or 4 attempts will do the trick if not less.

Separate stuck mast

As a fun anecdote, my dad once won a crate of bubbly on a bet that he could get a mast apart. To be fair he had 28 windsurf teacher apprentices who all got together, fitting as many hands on the mast as physically possible and after two attempts of everyone turning counter-clockwise and them clockwise they finally got it apart to the crunching of sand grains.

Other methods

There have been heaps of discussions on forums providing ideas and suggestions. In one they talk about the “Sword in the Stone” (of King Arthur) equivalent of masts. Another one that is interesting is to fill the mast top with water from a hose.

Aug 24

How to flip a beginner board easily

One thing that happens almost at least once per lesson is that my student is pulled by the sail more than expected, rather than letting go holds on to the back hand and is forced to step towards the rail with one foot. This sinks the rail and ends ups tipping the board over and falling in.

This leaves them in the water and with the board upside-down. I have seen endless combinations of how people have tried to flip the board back the right way up. From the correct and effortless way to completely inefficient passing through only managing through raw strength. Here I will explain the ways to avoid and the best way to do it.

How not to do it

Push upwards from the water

Board Flipping 6

This is the least efficient way as we are trying to lift a heavy board around a large axis against its buoyancy without having solid ground under our feet. Thats a bit of a mouthful to say that all we really do is push ourselves underwater since we sink easier than the board.

Rotating the board with the arms like a steering wheel from the bow or stern

Board Flipping 5For those strong enough this one has worked. It is still by far not efficient since we waste a lot of energy just for this petty task.

The correct way

Here is how to do it properly:

  • Turn the board so that the mast is at 90° to the board
  • Go to the center of the board (at the position of the mast foot).
  • Get onto the board (yes, on the bottom side of the board)
  • Grab the far end and put your knees onto the close end
  • Lean backwards onto your knees, pulling the far end towards you util the board has turned

Board Flipping 1

Board Flipping 2

Board Flipping 3

Things to avoid in the correct way

Do not try to turn it towards the mast

Board Flipping 4If the mast is in the way, no matter how heavy we are leaning onto our side with the knees, the board will not turn. Also, make sure the mast really is at nearly 90° to the board. If it is in line with the board it will make turning it more difficult than it has to be.

Don’t let go of the board before it is turned completely

When we have turned it more than half way, some consider the job done and just let go. I recommend to hold onto it until it has flipped over completely with us under water and then just pulling ourselves to the surface that 0.5 seconds later. By letting go of the board you lose control of its position with respect to you. This means that it can either flip back into the wrong position or even worse, keep turning towards you faster than you expected and hit you on the head. Just hold on all the way.

A tip for the correct way

As in all aspects of windsurfing, we want to see how the wind can help us save energy. In this case this occurs if the mast is pointing into the wind. In this instance, when we lift the far rail, the wind pushes against it from the other side, making it flip over easier and faster. This is a useful tip for the lighter sailors like children.

Aug 18

Use Suncream!

I have written on this subject before the summer in my post “Avoid Sunburn!” but since this is a pretty important subject I wanted to remind you all by sharing this video that has gone viral recently.

WEAR SUNSCREEN!!!

Aug 14

Where should the foot-straps go?

Most people who get a new board will be stuck when it comes to screwing on the foot straps. There are plenty of options to choose from but the correct one depends on our level and the conditions.

First steps

When you start with the foot straps I recommend putting them as far forward as possible. Since we are doing the transition from having our feet near the mast foot to putting the feet into the straps further back, we want to make the difference between these two stances as similar as possible.

Foot Strap Position

Big boards (slow planing)

In the initial phases of windsurfing in the straps we will still be standing pretty upright even while planing. For this case it is good to have the straps pretty centred so as to keep the pressure into the board more over where most of the volume is. Planing slowly with the straps close to the rails will only sink the boards side and slow you down even more.

Big boards (fast planing)

As we pick up speed, the fin will start to act as a foil and begin to lift the board out of the water which then tilts downwind. If we have the feet in the foot straps close to the centre of the board we will not be able to avoid this. Therefore, as we begin to achieve high speeds consistently (and have the board lift up every now and then) we know we have to put the foot straps closer to the rail.
Just a small note here: when you get into the straps in this set up, try to do so before you start planing. The straps on the side will force out feet to be close to the water and it will happen every now and then that the heel catches the water. The faster you are going, the more it will trip you up and the more likely you will have a pretty little catapult.

Small boards

Usually the small boards are used in choppy conditions or in waves. Personally I have always felt more control over the board with the straps closer to the centre in these situations. Especially when wave riding where you have to put pressure on the downwind rail while in the straps of the upwind rail.

More control

For more control ver the board in general i recommend putting the straps further apart. This creates a large lever for us to control the board with our feet.

 

I hope this has given you a bit of a better insight as to where you want to put the foot straps. Naturally our body size and weight will have an impact on where we will feel most comfortable and in most control over our board so you will have to try out different options to see what works for you. However, these guidelines should give you a better idea of what you need to change instead of shooting in the dark. For more tips and tricks from Boardseeker Magazine and pro riders check out their page here.

Let me know how you get along in the comments or if there is any other observation you think should be included.

 

Aug 07

Where should the mast foot go?

Mast Foot Position

This question has and is plaguing a lot of intermediate level windsurfers. It gets a lot of debate thrown at it and is often given as the reason for some maneuver not working or the windsurfing experience being unpleasant. Let me try to shed some light on the matter.

There are mainly two reasons for which we might put the mast-foot further forward or backward. Both are related to board handling. Here they are:

1. Beginner to intermediate planing: up until the point where we are just getting the hang of planing, the mast-foot position will determine how easy it will be for is to bear away from the wind and how mich effort we have to put into going on a close haul -LINK-. The further forward the mast-foot is, the firther forward the whole sail will be, and with it the sails pressure point. By moving the mast foot forward we are in essence moving the sails pressure point away from the fins (or skegs) pressure point which makes it easier to bear away from the wind. This is a good trick for those who have trouble with the board turning into the wind when they get into the foot-straps.
2. Advanced (fast) planing: once we are planing at high speeds we will be at a level where we no longer have to make use of small adjustments to the mast-foot position in order to get going or feel comfortable while sailing. At that point we need to find the position which give the most speed and the most control for the conditions. When we position the mast-foot towards the back we are able to get more speed (at least according to slalom racers, I still haven’t found the physical explanation for this) whilst the further forward we position the mast foot, the more control we have over the board as the pressure of the sail is transferred into the board further forward, keeping the nose down. Therefore, on flat water the mast-foot will do better more towards te back whereas in choppy conditions, putting the mast-foot further forward will provide us with more control.

We shouldn’t forget that these are only guidelines for gaining more control over the kit when sailing. Our size will also have an impact on where we will feel the most comfortable so try out different positions for each sail size in different water conditions and see which is the one that offers you the most enjoyable windsurfing experience.

I hope this helped. Let me know your experiences with testing various mast-moot positions.

 

Jul 29

How to Windsurf – the Planing 360

The oldest person I have seen learning the planing 360 is an 80 year old Swede. Just in case anyone was wondering whether they are getting too old to learn new manoeuvres…

In essence, the planing 360 is a transition from a planing gybe into a helicopter-tack that is backed out of.

Planing 360

Here is the step by step breakdown:

  • Start off planing at speed.
  • Take the back foot out of the foot-strap (as you get more advanced you can attempt to leave it in the foot-strap throughout the manoeuvre)
  • Put pressure on the downwind rail with the back foot to start bearing away from the wind. Make sure you transfer your weight over the front foot..
  • As you bear away, sheet in the sail, keep the front arm straight and lean the sail to the back of the board.
  • As we turn through the downwind course, the power should start to increase on the other side of the sail. At this point we will probably have to move some of our body weight onto the back hand to be able to hold the power that increases in the sail.
  • Keeping our front arm straight and using the back hand to control the power of the wind in the sail we keep pushing the clew to the back of the board to make it luff up into the wind again.
  • Once it has gone through the beam reach we must continue pushing the clew to the wind instead of to the back of the board, mainly for our stability. If we were to continue pushing the clew to the back we will end up with no wind in the sail and just falling in. As we push the clew towards the wind and away from the back of the board it is important to get our weight on the front foot to avoid the board sinking and shooting out from under us.
  • Once the board has turned back into the wind (i.e.. the mast has come over the board again) it is time to sheet in again to push the board back onto the original direction. At this point it is important to push into the board horizontally as we sheet in to ensure we don’t just end up in a water-start position but upright and can start planing again as quickly as possible.

Planing 360

Jul 22

How to Rig a Windsurf Sail

I often see a lot of people rigging and de-rigging their sails at the Surf Center, and every now and then I see someone who has very little idea of what they are doing. In this post I aim to provide a step-by-step guide for those who are a little lost.

Aside from transportation, the most exhausting part of windsurfing (once we sail more with technique than with force) is the rigging and de-rigging of the sail. It will always take a few minutes and just the walking to and from the water to spend time on this activity will force us to get a feel of the wind speed and the sail size we need for it. Although it can be done in under 2 minutes like in this demonstration by Victor Fernández, it usually takes a little longer and not everyone knows how to do it in the most efficient way. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to rig a sail correctly (note that here I only focused on how the steps of rigging the sail, not on the fine tuning. I will write a few posts in the future on the tuning of the sail):

Mast into sail sleeve

This part is usually the most tiring as the mast is built to bend inside the sail sleeve. The easiest way to do this step is to find a corner or wall that is solid and lean the base of the mast against it as we pull the sails mast sleeve over the mast.






Mast into sleeve Mast top plug



If you have a variable length top, adjust it to the correct length and then fiddle the plug onto the mast.

-IMAGE OF SAIL-MAST PLUG-
-IMAGE OF PUSHING MAST INTO SLEEVE-

Mast extension/base into mast

Put the mast base on the mast or, if necessary, the mast extension. You can find out the extra length needed by checking out what it says on the sail (usually close to the lower edge of the sail).

Sail characteristics

Fumble down-haul

Now the time has come to fumble the down-haul line to connect the mast base to the sail. I wrote a post on how to do this here.

Tense the down-haul slightly

At this point we must tense the down-haul slightly so that the mast bends a little, bringing a little tension into the sail. We don’t want it so tense that it is hard to get the boom on. Usually we can tense it enough with just wrapping the line around our fist. If you need more you can check out this article on tensing the down-haul.

Tense downhaul slightly

Set boom length

To set the boom to the correct length you must check the recommended boom length specified on the sail. Then take the booms standard length and pull out the extension by as much as needed.

Boom length adjust

Clamp the boom onto mast

Get the boom clamp protector on the mast.and then clamp the boom on the mast over it. On some systems the protector can be left inside the boom clamp and just fixed on simultaneously.

Boom on mast

Boom clamp on mast

Fumble out-haul

Once the boom has been clamped onto the mast we fumble the out-haul onto the boom, making sure that the line has as little friction as possible to other points of the line. I will write a post on the options available in the future.
We tense until the sail is touching the boom. If the sail doesn’t reach the boom even on the boom’s shortest setting, you need a shorter boom. I have seen a few people sailing with the sail about 7cm or more away from the boom. This is “possible” but not a good/efficient way for the sail to be trimmed.

Downhaul fiddle

Tense outhaul

Tense down-haul

It is time to get back to the down-haul. We now tense it all the way so that we get the loose leech we need/want. My preferred position is so that the first batten above the boom is at about 1/3 of the width of the mast.

Tense downhaul

Up-haul rope onto mast base

Now all that is left to do is to attach the lower end of the up-haul rope onto the mast base and we are done.

Put on uphaul

Stow away mast top band

Top avoid the band on the mast top flapping about, it is really easy to stow it away by using a loose sail batten and pushing the mast into the mast sleeve.

Fiddle loose top band 1 Fiddle loose top band 2 Fiddle loose top band 3 Fiddle loose top band 4 Fiddle loose top band 5

Tense the sail battens

Make sure all the creases are gone around the sail battens

tense sail batten

So, to recap:

- Mast into sail sleeve
- Mast extension/base into mast
- Fumble down-haul
- Tense slightly
- Boom clamp protector + boom clamped onto mast
- Fumble out-haul + tense
- Tense down-haul
- Up-haul rope onto mast base
- Stow away mast top band
- Tense the sail battens

I hope this has been useful and that you now have a clearer understanding of the order in which to rig your windsurf sail. Some other tips and tricks can be found over at Poole Windsurfing.

Jul 14

How to Tense the Down-haul Best

Pulling on the downhaul to trim the sail can be most annoying part of rigging the sail. The two main factors that make this part of windsurfing unpleasant are the strain on the back and the trouble pulling the downhaul rope easily.

Back strain

For the back we need to consider technique. Ideally the lower back is kept straight and leant back at an angle slightly over 90° with respect to the mast. Also we want to pull increasing the force we apply gradually rather than in a burst.

Now to the techniques with getting a proper grip on the rope.

Coil around the fist

The most simple of all but it provides de natural disadvantage that the rope cuts into the hand. This technique may work well for the outhaul since there we need less power. The downhaul however offers more resistance and so using nothing but our hands will only let us pull as far as our pain threshold.

Rope-bite grip

This is the fastest method to set up. All we need to do is pass the rope through the channel and let the teeth do the gripping. The downsides to this approach is that firstly the rope will start to wear with repeated use. The other disadvantage is that the appliance itself is not very big (only big enough for one hand) and so yo use both our hands we need to put one over the other making it a little uncomfortable.
Rope-bite Grip

Handle

This takes a second longer to set up, simple passing the rope through the holes and trapping the loose end under the middle section. This device is better than the rope-bite grip in the sense that it will not cause wear on the rope. A slight discomfort is caused due to the handle being a little thin but otherwise this method is great.

Downhaul Tenser Handle Bar

Harness

This is the most practical solution as we will always have our harness with us when rigging our sail. A simple bowline knot is used and the noose passed over the hook. The only two minor disadvantages with this is that the bowline knot needs a considerable length of rope and that the test of the harness is a little cumbersome when setting up this method.

Downhaul tense harness

Stick

We have two knots that we can apply to be able to use nothing but a thick stick to tense the downhaul.

1. Prepare the knot for the bar

Downhaul Bar Knot 2-1Downhaul Bar Knot 2-2Downhaul Bar Knot 2-3Downhaul Bar Knot 2-4Downhaul Bar Knot 2-5

 

2. Tie the knot around the bar

Downhaul Bar Knot 1-1Downhaul Bar Knot 1-2Downhaul Bar Knot 1-3Downhaul Bar Knot 1-4 Downhaul Bar Knot 1-5

 

You can also finish off the knot like this to make it easier to undo afterwards

Step-winch Mast Base

This device really makes life easy for us. This is by far the tool that makes tensing the downhaul the easiest. It, however, has two major downsides: firstly, it eats away at the rope constantly, wearing it down. This probably will never come to happen though if you don’t wash the mast base with sweet water after EVERY use because it will at some point get stuck and stop working. Yep, I have yet to meet someone who can say they have been able to use this mast base for very long.
Step-winch mast base

Winch

If you have any back problems, you should definitely get one of these bad boys. Since all you do is plug it into the mast base and turn the winch, all you need is arm strength and don’t need to use your back at all. It might need somewhat more energy input than the step-winch mast base (maybe someday they will come out with a version with gears :) ) but it is completely harmless for the rope.

Downhaul tense WinchDownhaul tense Winch in action

Jul 07

The order of the downhaul lines

Sails used to have just a hole at the bottom next to the mast sleeve through which one would attach a downhaul pulley hook which allowed for the lines to run perpendicularly from the mast base to the sail.

For a few years this system was changed to the pulley set was in line with the sail but 90° to the mast base. This has been changed back to the original orientation by some manufacturers.

Downhaul lines correctly

I’ve had a lot of people asking me how to sort the downhaul lines on their sail as it can get confusing since the mast base and the pulleys of the sail are usually at 90 degrees to each other meaning that the lines will most likely end up at various angles or twisted.

Basically, the only thing we need to keep in mind when arranging the lines is that they do not touch at any point as rubbing of any sort will cause erosion of the lines and end up in a startling snap of the downhaul lines (most likely when we are in the middle of an awesome session, Murphy’s law and all that).

Downhaul lines correctly

The line should not touch at any point to avoid erosion.

Here is a quick description on how to achieve this. Bear in mind that not all sails and mast bases are like this so this guide will not work for everyone.

20140705-200246-72166860.jpg

20140705-200248-72168156.jpg

20140705-200248-72168457.jpg20140705-200248-72168752.jpg

20140705-200249-72169059.jpg20140705-200250-72170389.jpg

Basically we are using the niches of the sail from the outside to the inside and the pulleys of the mast base from the origin to the sawtooth. This is not possible with all mast bases however. Here is an alternative sequence which you can use:

Downhaul Line Setup 1Downhaul Line Setup 2Downhaul Line Setup 3

Downhaul Line Setup 4 Downhaul Line Setup 5 Downhaul Line Setup 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 30

How to Screw on the Foot-Straps

I wrote this post on past blog and thought I might as well post it here again. Sharing this occurred to me when I was checking a large number of boards at the Surf Center to make sure they were all good to be rented out again. Part of this check consisted of making sure that the foot-straps we screwed on tightly. Most people will not do this small change in technique as they usually only have to screw on one, maybe two, sets of foot-straps at a time and therefore will mot feel the consequences of doing it wrong. The way people usually screw on foot-straps is by turning the wrist. The wrist is pretty much the weakest part of the arm and with a long streak of continuous use it will get very sore and drag into the next days. Instead, rotate your arm around your shoulder. The benefit of this is threefold

  1. We will get less tired as we are not using only the forearm but the entire arm.
  2. We can screw the screw from jumping out of the slot as we can apply all our bodyweight onto it.
  3. Our shoulders will not hurt after spending a lot of time screwing the foot-straps. This would not be the case for our forearms.

One more thing: Electrical screwdrivers are not a good idea to use as the screw holes are usually made out of plastic. An electrical screwdriver might rotate too fast and the heat from the fast rotation will cause the screw hole windings to go soft meaning they will be less resistant. This can result in the the foot-strap ripping out of the board on the water. Elecrical screwdriver

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