Once we have figured out how to use the harness properly, we will have had more than a few catapults and silly lunges over the lee side due to not hooking out in time and not having anything to stop us from flying over forwards. It is time to learn how to use the footstraps.
Be it to avoid getting pulled off the board or to keep the board under control when jumping off a wave, the footstraps are a crucial component to windsurfing with speed.
A prerequisite to using the footstraps usually is knowing how to plane when windsurfing. The main difficulty we are faced with is the actual position of the footstraps on the board. They are much further back than our basic windsurfing stance. This means we have to learn how to sail with our feet towards the back of the board and compensating for the weight at the back with the sail position and pressure on the mast foot (I will get to that in a moment) and for this it is easier if we know how to plane.
Up until now we have gotten used to a certain body position that feels comfortable for the ideal sail position. Now we must get used to a new body posture that has the feet more towards the back.
How to learn to use the footstraps
My recommendation is to start off with no footstraps and get used to sailing with your feet gradually further back until you are able to sail as comfortable as possible with your feet where the footstraps would be without losing control (like having the board shoot into the wind).
How to stop the board from turning into the wind with the feet in the footstraps?
This is a question I get asked a lot and a problem I need to correct very often. Think of it this way. As we move our feet back we tend to keep our body position woth regard ro the board the same as always. However, this means that we are bringing the sail to the back of the board. This means that not only are we moving our weight further back (which causes the back of the board to sink more and thereby cause more resistance and slow us down) but moving the sail back which causes the board to luff up. These two components cause the board to turn into the wind uncontrollably.
So, what to do? We can do two things. The first is to consciously lean the sail forward. This is a motion we are already used to but it also has a disadvantage, it means we have to lean forward, putting a lot of weight on our fron foot, meaning we are more prone to getting catapulted. Also, this technique is hard to apply if we are hooked in the harness.
So let's look at the second option. We must apply pressure on the mast foot. It may sound strange but keep reading. The idea is to push/pull downwards with our front arm in line of the mast towards the board. What this does is cause the board to recieve a sideways force on the front which keeps it on course. This method doesn't require the sail to be leant so far forward that we lose control and it helps keep the board flatter on the water so we don't create so much resistance.
Think of it as trying to get your front arm elbow to the mastfoot while holding on to the boom.
Now comes the actual getting into the footstraps. I have a theory that differs a little from what is usually taught. Most people are shown to put the front foot into the strap first and then the back foot. I agree with this ... when sailing on flat water.
However, when we are sailing in waves or choppy water, my recommendation is to put the back foot in the footstrap first and then the front one. I will write a future post describing why but for now I will just say that the back foot in the footstrap is the one that stops us from doing a catapult.
Putting the back foot in the footstrap is not so difficult and so the change in body position will not be too big other than standing with a wider stance. The difficult part is putting the front foot is the strap as it is usually the one we are pushing into the board with and that is stopping us from being pulled over forwards. The trick is to push down and onto the mast foot with the front hand as we lift up the front foot to make up for the missing pressure of the foot.
That's all I have on windsurfing with the footstraps. Let me know your thoughts.