Windsurfing is a potentially dangerous sport. In fact it is considered an extreme sport for a reason. That reason is mainly the fact that it is carried out in an environment we cannot control, namely the sea, lake, etc. Other sports offer security in terms of reduced risk of injury or equipment failure. Risk is the relation between the probability of something negative happening and the severity of the consequences of it happening. Both these factors are pretty high in windsurfing as we are traveling at important speeds, using gear that is subjected to high stresses and are in an environment that is not exactly a good place to be in if injured or with broken equipment. I know I would rather have a broken leg or be unconscious (not that I want any of these…) on firm land than in water.
Despite this fact, safety is often disregarded. I must confess that I am guilty of not sailing with a helmet or a lifejacket, sailing in offshore winds and not inspecting the gear properly before every use. That being said, my home spot tends to have side-onshore winds, an effective rescue service and waters full with other sailors. In any case it is important to know what can go wrong and make sure to take precautions to minimize the probability of it occurring and to reduce the graveness of the consequences if it does happen. (more…)
What to do? We arrive at the surf spot and there are only 10 knots blowing. Some might say that the day is ruined. That we are cursed to sit on the beach and tell stories of epic windsurfing sessions. Others might say it is time to try kitesurfing. However, it is still worth hitting the water with a board and sail, albeit some big kit.
Low wind conditions give us the posibility to gain sail control and try out new manoeuvres with less likelyhood of falling in. When I teach beginners I frequently practice sailng on the lee side, the heli tack or a sail stall (among others) mainly to stay entertained, but also to develop my skills. I know that every attempt even in low wind contributes to getting the hang of a manoeuvre with more wind. (more…)
There are many reasons why one might want an instructor to teach you how to windsurf. There are a coupe of reasons for which I believe you should definitely hire a windsurf instructor, especially in the initial stages of your learning. Windsurfing is an extremely technical sport in which a lot of details can be gotten wrong and internalized, hindering our progress.
As I just mentioned, learning how to windsurf on your own can be detrimental to your progress as there are a large number of things that you can do wrong. Elements such as keeping the front arm straight, avoiding the monkey stance or bending our back to pull the sail out of the water are crucial to get right from the first lesson. They are also elements which are very quickly forgotten which an instructor will detect as they occur and correct.
While learning you will get loads of well intended advice from your friends. However, they might not necessarily know which your next learning step should be. Depending on the spot you are windsurfing in you might be better off learning the beachstart before learning to plane or using the harness. I have heard of kids in Hawaii or Isla Margarita that have skipped the gybe entirely and jumped straight to the front loop (although this is probably just your standard adolescent “getting ahead of ourselves” :)).
Aside from knowing which your next step on the learning ladder should be, an instructor will be able to tell you if you are even ready for the next step. Countless times I have had students wanting to learn to waterstart when the beachstart was not solid, or wanting to learn how to carve-gybe when they weren’t planing properly.
We are talking about an extreme sport in a potentially dangerous environment. Having someone next to you while you are trying out a new maneuver is a very sensible thing to do. Many times my task for the hours lesson would be to “keep company” to students who did not feel safe at a new spot. I would accompany them with kit that was a little bit easier to handle so that if they grew tired by fighting for a waterstart in non-flat water, they could take over my gear and up-haul to sail back to the beach safely without being washed onto the rocks by the current.
Also, arriving at a new spot that is more challenging than, for example flat water, might give you a hard time. You can save yourself lots of frustration by just getting someone to check out how you are coping with the conditions like shore break or gusty winds and give you a few crucial pointers on how to save your energy or improve your control over the kit, etc.
To conclude, a windsurf instructor is a very smart decision when wanting to learn a new maneuver, arriving at a new spot or going back on the water after a longer break to file at your technique. Hiring an expert will shorten your learning curve and solidify shaky elements of your technique.
I have a bit of a problem with the simulator as it tends to get overused in my opinion. I completely agree that a student will have a better chance of succeeding after a few attempts in which the disturbance of the waves are taken out of the equation, but I also insist that this will only give a false (or at least inaccurate) representation of the reaction of the kit. I therefore think it should be used as little as possible and only to get the general feeling of the motion in place and then continue immediately on the water ie. the real world.
I have seem people take ages on the simulator, going through endless theory and future manoeuvres before the student has even had the chance to experience standing on the board in the water.
I have resorted to offering a few tips on the simulator and then offered the student to practice on the simulator without my supervision but this was usually in cases that I was booked up with lessons or in cases where there was took much wind/waves, such that the safety of the student would be put in jeopardy.
Another subject which annoys me is the wasting of time doing sail/board games or other no-wind activities. I am very skeptical of the actual benefits of these activities. Normally they are solutions to offering lessons without actually having wind and therefore having to provide entertainment for a group that has already paid for a course. To me this is a waste of time and the money of the students. Maybe I am just getting on my high horse here saying that the student is signing up for a windsurf course and all they are getting is a simulation of what the would do if there were wind.
I have indeed missed out on a number of lessons because there was not enough wind to teach whatever it was that the student wanted to learn. It’s a shame for the lost commission but it would not sit well with my conscience if I was asked to teach the tack for example and I took money for standing them on a simulator and pulling them around on it for an hour.
But ultimately what people want to do is windsurf and not just pretend to windsurf.
Let me know what you think.
Simulator: a device which helps prepare a task or action in an environment in which the consequences of failing to do said task correctly results in little or no repercussion.
In the case of the windsurfing simulator it is any device which allows us to learn a number of manoeuvres on land so that when we get it wrong we dont have to crawl onto the board after falling in and waste energy in the process.
Types of windsurfing simulators
Maybe a little too macabre way of calling a retired board. I am referring to an old board that has had one beating too many on the rocks or has gotten delaminated beyond salvation. As soon as it becomes the simulator it is doomed to be used roughly until it breaks apart. It is free to rotate the full 360 degrees over its centre. At the SURF CENTER PLAYA SUR we have drilled a hole into the nose and passed a rope through it to pull the board around when teaching steering, turns or even the effect of lateral waves.
Should we not have an old board at our disposal that we can turn into the beach gimp-board, we can improvise with an intact board and just dig a hole for the fin so that it doesn’t have to take the weight of the student and risk breaking off. The downside is that it can only be rotated around the fin, meaning that the student has to get off each time the course is modified.
This consists only of a beam with a mast-foot attached to it and some lateral supports to keep it upright.
This device is good only for one thing: getting the feeling of finding the equilibrium between the shift of weight by leaning back with the body and the pull of the sail.
The aim for the student is to remain on the beam by opening and closing the sail in the correct amounts in order to learn to not compensate the shift in bodyweight by moving the feet but only with the sail power.
I got this idea from Will Rogers. I haven’t tried this one as I have only taught on the sea with waves and a pontoon is just not viable.
The idea is to have a platform on the water that can rotate over its centre (so the board can also) and lay the board on it so that it has more stability.
The anchored vessel
This one comes from Colin Walters. Much like the pontoon but taking it a step further by taking a functioning board and tethering it to the bottom in shallow water through the daggerboard slot. I haven’t tried this one either for the same reason as mentioned before but I assume it simulates the windsurfing sensation without the inconvenience of drifting downwind and having to walk back again.
The high tech simulator
A state of the art device which takes somewhat more dedication and handicraft. It is basically a board strapped onto a platform that can rotate 360° over a pivot point. It is a fairly good representation of how a windsurfer reacts to the different sail positions and pressure increments.
As we can see in the video, the simulator rotates very quickly and at the slightest alteration. Whilst this may be great training for someone that is slightly advanced past your basic sailing back and forth routine, for a beginner this can be very frustrating since they don’t have the feeling built up in order to react correctly in time. A solution to this is to install a set of springs or dampeners to the rotation mechanism so the kit doesn’t overrotate constantly and you don’t have to be so precise with the sail control. Another option is to use small sails (less power) or sails with a low centre of power.
For guide how to build it check out the post by Andy Reed or the one by Colin Walters.
The only downside to this construction (considering the dampening to the rotation is in place) is that it cannot be used in locations where sand flies around all over the place as the grains will obstruct the rotational workings of the simulator. However for other locations this is fine.
The VDWS had this one on display at the Boot.
I like this one. I haven’t had a go on this but it looks like loads of fun. As to how well it simulates reality, I believe the only thing it can prepare you for is the sensation of rotating forwards so that it doesn’t surprise you the first time you actually dare to go for it. As I don’t know how this one works I can’t tell whether the rotation is induced by the weight displacement or the pulling of the back hand or both (or neither).
As I said, I have no idea as to how accurate it is but I guess that if they went through the hassle of constructing something so elaborate, it must be for a reason.
Just so you don’t drift downwind during the hours and hours of waterstart training, how about an anchor?
Much like the flight simulator for airplane geeks, this game is fun and an accurate enough representation of the real deal. Naturally the graphics are not on the standard of say the latest Call of Duty game but it is definitely entertaining. I have only played the demo version for a short while meaning the only thing I got to try was jybes, tacks, cutbacks, goitas and the occasional frontloop but I gotta say that it was entertaining. Once you get the hang of it you might use it to hype yourself up for a session during those last tiresome minutes at the office.
The guys at Windsurfing MMX have done a great job so if you get the chance check it out here.
As useful as simulators are to get across the basics of windsurfing or specific moves I do think they are overused as the only real way to learn the art of windsurfing is to do it in the real world.
If you think this post is incomplete or inaccurate let me know in the comments and I will update whatever is applicable.
A surf center is a key point to a surf spot. It is a resort that offers an introduction to the awesomeness of watersports and the facilitator of means to enjoy any of the sports that use the ocean as its playground.
Here is a list of what I believe a surf center should have.
I could say that this goes without saying but it is good to remember what our target clientele is. If you intend on bringing beginners to your center, it would be a good idea to choose a spot with flat water. However, don’t expect experienced riders to come if all you have to offer is a maximum of 12 knots (formula sailors do exist, but are they going to rent or will they be more likely to bring their own stuff? An alternative to watersports should also be nearby for days with less favourable conditions as well as decent establishments for food and accommodation.
2. Good equipment
A surf center is characterized mainly by its equipment. What makes one center better than another at the same location is the quality of the equipment it offers. It will naturally also determine the price it asks.
3. Storage space
People who own their own stuff will most likely not want to spend money on rental. They prefer the commodity of sailing the kit they are used to and if you can’t provide a place for them to store it safely, they will go someplace else.
4. Good instructors
A surf school might have great facilities but if the instructors giving the lessons are no good then you might as well just rent. There are a couple pf things that make an instructor good which will be mentioned in a future post.