One consistent theme I see recurring nearly on a daily basis is spending too much time on the water. I am naturally guilty of this as much as anybody else. I have spent many more hours on the water than I should have.
What do you mean? you may ask.
It is actually quite simple. We are doing a sport that requires quite a lot of coordination. Most of the movements become intuitive and reflexive over time. There are a few things which are constantly changing however: wind, waves, other windsurfers, etc. then come all the manoeuvres such as gybing, jumping, wave riding and all the other wonderful things that make this sports so great.
These all require our concentration which in itself already depletes our capacity to continue concentrating. However, as our energy gets used up, our concentration reduces also. You might remember a situation in which you were so exhausted physically that you could no longer think straight but could only focus on breathing and not falling over like after a long sprint or after fighting to get out of a strong beach break.
As our concentration decreases we start making more mistakes which inevitably causes us to fall in more often, wasting more of our precious energy… and so the vicious cycle continues.
My beginner lessons usually go like this: We spend 10-15 minutes on the simulator to know what it is supposed to look like on the water. Then we head into the water. The first few attempts are usually difficult because of the waves. A lot of falling off and getting back on the board until they get the hang of getting into the windsurfing position quickly to not spent much time balancing. Then they have the same problem but even harder sailing in the other direction because of the waves.
Bit by bit they improve, staying up longer and start getting a better feel of the sail power. However, at around the 35 minute mark I see nearly everybody (call it 85% of students) start to make mistakes again. Mistakes that they had already been corrected up until then. At this moment I know that their exhaustion has caught up with them and they are just running on instincts which is bad for a counterintuitive sport.
Right then I encourage them to take a 2-5 minute break which most people are pretty grateful for. This gives us time to sit down on the kit, go through some theory and explanations and some little chit chat.
When we get going again it is as if someone else were on the water with me. They are able to focus again, do the movement sequences correctly and overall develop a better feel for the movements.
For me this works in a slightly different way. My first 15 minutes on the water are to warm up. I then start training on the moves I want to improve on. Then, about 45 minutes in everything starts to no longer work. My gybes become wobbly, my tacks nearly all end up in the water and all the tricks start to look less and less like what they should. That is the moment I decide to catch my last wave or do my last jump which from time to time ends up in a minor injury and/or damaged kit.
If you take anything from this articles let it be this: make your sessions on the water up to an hour long at the most. Then take a break to refill energy. Eat something, get hydrated again and in general just rest your body to regenerate. Only then give it another session if you want to continue practicing.
A disclaimer just to finish off. Here I am mainly referring to when you are practicing or learning something new. If you are just cruising back and forth leisurely this advice can be taken more lightly. Just be wary that you might start to have more shaky gybes at a certain point and it is more sensible to take a break at this point rather than keep going mindlessly.