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. (more…)
One of the most elegant maneuvers if done right is the fast tack. A smoothly carried out tack on a sinker board with an upright body position throughout the move is pretty impressive, especially in waves. When the pros do it, it looks like they teleport onto the other side in the blink of an eye. Let’s have a look at how it is done.
First off, I think it is important to remember that this is a move that we should tackle step by step. Just because you are able to plane and gybe on an 80 litre board, doesn’t mean that you should be trying to learn the fast tack on it. Start with bigger boards and move down. It may seem like a nuisance to have to go back to 120 litres on a day that you would be able to sail on 100 litres but trust me, the extra volume will forgive you a lot more of the many mistakes and missteps that you are going to undoubtedly make during the first 50 attempts. Only once you have it down on bigger boards does it make sense to master it on the next size down. This small piece of advice, when followed, will save you a lot of frustration. Trust me.
That’s my two cents out of the way, let’s talk technique.
We are trying to get through the wind on a board that sinks when not planing. This means that we must do most of the footwork while we are planing. Make sense? Good, let’s move on.
At speed we will move the front hand close to the mast and the front foot in front of the mast foot. Just like with the beginner board tack, we want to set ourselves up so that the amount that our feet have to move is as small as possible. The more steps we need and the further we need to move our feet, the more time we will require. Time during which the board slows down and sinks.
Make sure that your weight is over the front foot. As we turn into the wind we will be trapped on the old side of the sail if the weight is on the back foot. Keeping the weight on the front foot will keep the board horizontal (so we don’t lose speed due to the back of the board being pushed down) and it allows our feet to change position under our body. If our body weight is offset from where our feet hold us over the board, we will topple over as soon as we try to move our feet.
Get on the other side of the sail
Before the board is in the wind, jump on the other side, the back foot replacing the front foot and the hands getting on the other side of the boom as quickly as possible (it is important to keep the clew close to the water so that the feet have more space to move).
Speed is key here. The faster we get on the other side, the more steady the board will remain. When I get asked about the secret of the fast tack I always reply: Fast feet!
In choppy water or waves, be sure to choose the moment on the top of the wave or chop. This will provide you with a moment of weightlessness during which you can move on to the other side of the sail without having your board be pushed around under you.
Continue a little on the lee side
We can remain on the lee side for a few metres, mainly to get our balance sorted out. This time frame will get reduced naturaly as we get better. Although I admit that one of the things I find elegant about the fast tack is continuing on the lee side for a second or so before going through the wind but that’s just my opinion.
To achieve this it is important to keep the front arm straight and controlling the power that is pushing us up only with the back hand. If we need more power we can always bring the front arm closer and bend our knees but it is very hard to get the sail down again once we are vertical on the board with the sail pushing against us horizontally as opposed to us laying on the sail and the wind pushing us upwards. The second scenario provides us with a greater buffer to react to gusts, etc.
Turn through the wind
Push with the back hand while keeping the sail low (try to push the clew along the water surface. If the sail is pushed into the wind with the sail too high we will just bear away and get pushed over by the sail.
Bear away on the new side
As the board turns through the wind we can bring the mast forward and sheet in on our side to bear away on the new tack
Start planing again
Be ready to sheet in and lean back. As the board bears away, push with the front foot into the board and pull the back of the board under your body with the back foot. Once it is on a broad reach get the board planing again.
- Start by planing
- Luff up into the wind with the front foot in front of the mast foot and the front hand close to the mast
- Keep your weight over the front foot
- Get on the other side of the sail
- Make sure you are stable on the new side by controlling the power with the back hand and keeping the front arm straight
- Turn through the wind by pushing the clew towards the wind while keeping it close to the water
- Bring the mast over the front of the board and sheet in to bear away on the new side
- Push into the board with the front foot and pull the back foot under your body to start planing again
A while back I wrote about the rules of right of way in windsurfing. While those rules apply for 99% of occasions, once we get into spots with waves the rules change. In this case we have to know who has priority since the end result can easily be an injury or broken equipment that could have been avoided.
Sailing out has priority over those coming in on the wave
If you are on the wave you have speed and therefore manoeuverability. People sailing out are not guaranteed to be moving because of lulls or low wind. Therefore, if you are riding a wave it is your responsibility to get out of the way. Naturally we will try to not interrupt the ride of the person on the wave. However, if there is a possible collision and you are sailing down the wave, you have to get out of the way.
The one closer to the peak of the wave has priority
When two people are on the same wave the rule has been taking from surfing where the one closer to the peak has prefference. That person has made a better evaluation on the wave and has found the point where it starts to break, the best place to surf it. Don’t go to ride a wave if there is someone already on it closer to the peak. Even if you think you are not interfering, the person on the wave doesn’t know how you are going to act and can’t plan their ride properly. Also, your wake waves make for bumpy bottom turns and mess up the waves for the cut-backs.
Don’t sail in behind the wave
This is not so much a rule as a safety measure. Someone sailing out towards the wave can’t see what is going on behind the wave (if the wave is big enough). I have seen a few close calls where someone hits the wave at speed and jump, only to find someone sailing in behind the wave.
Don´t be in the waves if you are not going to surf them
As a closing note, I don’t mean to sound like a wave hogger but there is nothing quite as frustrating as following the rules and giving away a beautiful wave to someone who just sails along it as if there were no wave. With this I mean, not riding the wave but just “running away” from the wave. If you are just going to be sailing back and forth, don’t do it in an area where others want to actually ride waves. It just shows a lack or respect towards other sailors who go out of their way to find waves only to have to watch a good wave go unridden. Waves are rare in the sense that you only get 4 – 7 in a set and sometimes these sets can take quite a while to arrive. This means that there are a limited number of waves you are going to have lining up just right on all of your tacks during and hour or two hour long session. In the same way that if you are learning how to do a power gybe you would find it annoying if there were always someone practicing the water start in the only spot with flat water and constant wind. Not a great example but you get what I mean.
If you want to get into wave riding, do so in waves that are for your level so that you can at least attempt to ride the wave you are sailing in and work your way up bit by bit from there.
Ultimately, as with the standard rules of right of way, it is all about common sense and common courtesy. The rules in waves are there to make the experience safer and more enjoyable. If you mess up (like made a mistake, didn’t see the other rider, or thought you would make it, etc.) just apologise and if you are on the receiving end of such a mistake, accept the apology.
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.
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.
The duck gybe is one of the easiest extensions to our free-ride repertoire as it shows class without being very difficult. In essence we just take advantage of the relative wind being zero on the running course in order to flip the sail around the clew. Let me go into the step by step:
- Grab the boom a little bit further back with the back hand
- Bear away like you would for the power-gybe
- Once you are nearly on the running course (when your relative wind speed is 0) instead of releasing the back hand to shift the sail, release the front hand and simultaneously bring the clew of the sail forward with the back hand
- Move the front hand to the back of the boom, closer to the clew than the back hand so that you can let go of the back hand
- The sail should now already be with the mast on the correct side only that we are still holding on to it on the old side of the boom
- The back hand (now to be the front hand) grabs the boom on the new side
- The old front hand comes on to the new side of the sail and grabs the boom further forward than the previous hand
- The new front hand grabs the boom close to the mast and we prepare to shift our feet
- We Finnish positioning our feet correctly as we start to catch wind again on the new side
- Push your hips forward and lean back with your shoulders to continue planing on the new course
The idea is to do all this sequence of steps with no wind in the sail. For this we must be going as fast as the wind so that the relative wind in zero. You can start practicing this manoeuvre by just bearing away onto a running course, shifting the sail around the clew and then continuing to shift it around the mast so that we can continue sailing into the same direction. This will allow you to focus only on the sail control and add the foot position and weight transfer once the sail handling is under control.
One last tip:
Don’t let the mast touch the water as it will get stuck in the water, make the kit come to a sudden halt and send you flying forwards, possibly getting hurt in the process. I call this the involuntary superman.
I grew up and learned to windsurf in El Médano. Here we have waves nearly every day and the stronger the wind, the bigger the waves. In other words, for me it came naturally to pick up speed and at some point hit the wave right to tale off into the air.
Most people who pick up confidence to windsurf at speed here end up doing a windsurfing jump sooner or later, mostly by accident. Let’s look at how to make a controlled jump so you can enjoy some air time without risking a crash. (more…)