Pulling out the sail to start windsurfing is for beginners. Real windsurfers do a beachstart by just stepping onto the board from knee-deep water and gliding away. However, it isn’t as easy to learn as it looks. Anyone who has given it a try for the first time will have noticed that there is more to just putting your foot on the board and getting up (although it actually is just that once you know the technique).
The beachstart, like the waterstart is predominantly technique. The beachstart (when done correctly) consists of 95% technique and 5% wind. The 5% is actually just so that the sail doesn’t weigh us down. The main components in terms of technique are the same for the beachstart as for the waterstart so it is important to get the beachstart technique right to avoid creating bad habits which will later have much more negative impact when we move on to the waterstart.
So let’s get to it. First off let me describe the beachstart as simply stepping onto the board the same way we would get on to a high step: by putting our foot on the centre of the board and leaning our shoulders forward so that our body’s weight centre is over the board and then push ourselves up with the leg. As you can see, in theory we don’t need wind in the sail to do this. That being said, let’s break the theory down a little bit more.
First of all, board position. Before we try to get on the board we must have the board set up on the correct course. It should be somewhere close to the beam reach (90º to the wind) or sightly more downwind. The reason for this is that if the board is pointing too far upwind the wind will be acting against us. Then again, if the board is pointing too far downwind we can have too much power in the sail so that we can no longer hold it or get catapulted over the front.
In order to get he board into the correct position we must learn to control the board through the sail. The control of the board for the beachstart and waterstart are different to how we steer while windsurfing. In this case we need to use pressure on the mastfoot through our sail control to position the board correctly rather than lean the sail forwards and backwards. Let me explain.
We always want to control the board through the sail. There should be no need to touch the board with our hands… ever. The only time we touch the board is when we put our foot on it. To make the board turn downwind we must push with the mast hand towards the mast foot. When we want the board to turn upwind we must pull the mast to the wind (or towards us as we are going to be standing upwind). We can also use the back hand as a lever if we push in the opposite direction than the front hand (pushing to the mast foot or pulling towards the mast top, always without adding wind power to the sail).
An important note: Do not pull down with the back hand when controlling the board as it will make the board try to sail away or pull the sail down backwards. Use two fingers. We only want to make sure the wind comes under the sail pulling it up slightly and not heaving us up uncontrollably or pushing us down.
So much for the board positioning, which is what I have found to be the most challenging part of the beachstart due to waves and current. Although if you are learning this in flat and clam water you might find it easier. For those wanting to learn how to beachstart in waves and sail through breaking waves I will write a post on that in the future.
Doing the Beachstart
Now it is time for the actual getting up on the board. As I mentioned earlier, the beachstart is like getting up on a high step. In order to achieve this maneouvre there are three main components in our body position that we must apply.
1. We must stand close to the board. It is easier to get on the board if the distance of our weight displacement is 40cm rather than 80cm
2. Now we put our back foot on the board. Some people have been told to put the front foot on the board but I explain why this is wrong in another post.
3. Keep the front arm straight. This one is absolutely crucial. By all means avoid bending your arm as doing so will greatly hinder your progress. Read more about this in my post The Golden Rule Of Windsurfing.
4. Lean forward. Get your body over the board. This is another aspect you want to get right. Avoid trying to get on by thrusting your hips forward over the board. The only this this will do is to leave your shoulders (and therefore much of your weight centre) upwind of the board. This is good when we are sailing and want to counter the pull of the sail. However, for the beachstart we WANT to be pulled forwards by the sail and onto the board.
So to recap:
– Board 90º to the wind
– Step on like on a high step
– Stand close to the board
– Front arm straight
– Back foot on centreline of the board
– Shoulders forward keeping the boom horizontal
– Close sail only as much as necessary
– Normal windsurfing stance
Before heading into the water and giving all this a shot I would first practice all this on a simulator. The simulator is not going to move around as much (if it does it is usually because you are pulling too much with the back hand when positioning yourself). It allows you to get a feeling for what the motion should look and feel like. This allows you to be able to be familiar with the final component of the beachstart already so that all you have to focus on is the board control.
That is all for the beachstart for now. Please let me know in the comments if this post is useful to you, if you have any questions or if you think it is missing anything.