While the waterstart has a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of subtle details that will make an impact on whether you succeed or not, the actual getting up and out of the water can be summed up in 3 components of our body movement and position. Positioning the kit correctly, then getting the sail out of the water and putting our feet on the board are all part of preparing for the waterstart and there are a lot of little things that go into doing these steps correctly and in a way that saves energy. However, when it comes to actually getting lifted out of the water by the sail, there are only 3 things that, if ignored, will sabotage the waterstart.
The 3 keys to the waterstart
Front arm straight
If you forget any of the other ones, abide by this rule. Keep the front arm straight. You can make up for a lot of bad technique just by stretching the front arm. The idea with the waterstart is to get the sail as vertical as possible and pushing the mast away from your body does the most to achieve that.
Knees bent (heels to bum)
So often I see people trying to get on the board like a cat that is trying to be forced to take a bath. Stiff as a plank. In order to get on the board we want to get our body over it and there is no chance we will manage that if we are pushing the board away with our feet.
Put your feet on the board and pull it to your bum.
If you are sitting on the ground and want to get up without using your hands you would not try to do so with outstretched legs. With the waterstart it’s the same.
Using the example from before. If you want to stand up without using your hands you will lean your shoulders forwards so that they go over your feet. Well, when attempting the waterstart we have to aim for the same body position.
When we are sailing, we lean back to avoid getting pulled over forwards by the sail. However, for the waterstart we WANT to get pulled over forwards, at least until we are on. Then, only once we are up, do we sheet out to stop going over onto the other side.
To sum it all up imagine that you are sitting on the ground and a friend offers to lift you up. What would you do with your body? Would you lean back, stretch your legs and pull your friend down? Or would you bend your knees and lean forward stretching your arm so that your friend doesn’t have to bend over?
Are you sheeting in correctly?
Here is a little bonus tip. Make sure you try to keep the boom horizontal all the time. The reason is that when we pull one side down we influence the board and usually lose control.
If you pull the front hand down the sail will get the wind from above and push you underwater. If you pull the back hand down you make the board luff up into the wind, or, if you pull it down when it is close to the water the clew will get caught in the water and get sucked/pulled down.
Have patience and keep the board on course
Wind can be gusty. Or we can be trapped in a lull. In any case we might have done all of the above correctly but still don’t get lifted out because there simply is not enough wind. In this case all I can advise is: HAVE PATIENCE. The most important thing to focus on in that situation is to keep the board on course. Make sure it doesn’t luff up or bear away since if the gust comes when the board is on a wrong course we will get pulled into the water again.
Also In this situation we already have everything set up correctly and all we need is a little wind. The worst thing you can do there is to sabotage your progress and effort up to there by either trying to pull yourself up (bending front arm) you trying to force your body out of the water (pushing hips forward and thereby shoulders back).
Basically wait for the wind in what I call the cheering frog position: knees bent, back hunched forward and arms stretched to the sky.