One of the most fun parts of my beginner lessons is getting back to the beach at the end. No, not because I am desperate to end the lessons but because it gives my students the chance to ride a wave with a windsurf board. There is very little else that will get a beginner hooked to windsurfing than the sensation of gliding down a wave (except for when I pull them so that they start planing, which is basically the same sensation). There is however a very important element to riding a wave with big boards which will make or break the ride and that is making sure that the board does not dive underwater with either the nose or the leeward rail.
Depending on your level you should be using one type of up-haul or another. In the initial stages, when we rely a lot on the up-haul to maintain our stability on the board when lifting the sail out of the water, we need a rope that is not elastic. If we lift the sail up with and elastic rope, the control over the sail will be greatly reduced as when we pull the sail towards us, some of that energy is lost in the elasticity of the rope.
These are a rigid rope that is attached to the boom and has an elastic rope that goes from the center of the up-haul rope to the mastfoot. Since there is a loose piece of rope dangling near the mast base they are not practical for high speeds, especially with choppy water as the loose end will be flapping around and hitting the sail all the time.
Once we can do the water-start we are less reliant on the up-haul. We may only need one in circumstances where the wind drops so much that we cannot do a water-start any more. For these cases we use an elastic rope as it will be close to the mast the whole time that we are sailing and not be a nuisance.
The downside to this is that when we lift the sail we don’t have a direct response of the sail. This means that when we start to lift the sail, the rope stretches first and then starts to lift the sail out of the water. If as we are lifting up the sail, a bit of chop hits us, or a small wave, or we just lose our balance a little bit, we have a harder time to stabilise ourselves with the weight of the sail because as we pull, we first stretch the rope instead of the rope being pulled taught right away and helping us catch our balance again.
Until the water-start use a non-elastic rope as it will provide you with more control over the sail when hauling it up. After learning the water-start you should get an elastic one just in case you need it.
One of the most exhausting parts of windsurfing in the initial stages is getting on the board after every fall in the water. And it wouldn’t even be all that frustrating if we were just falling in when windsurfing at speed. However, when we fall in because of a stupid little detail when lifting out and positioning the sail, then annoyance is piled on top of exhaustion.
One of the most common senseless falls I have come to witness time after time is when people try to lift up the sail with their body weight but not in line with the mast. Let me show you in this image:
If we lean backwards, we will need something to hold us in the same line but in the opposite direction. In the basic T-position this is usually no problem.
The problem tends to arise when the sail is lying with the mast nearly parallel to the board. Often I have seen people try to lift the sail out from this position with the same foot stance as when the mast is at 90 to the board. While this is possible with a little experience or luck, it is hardly the correct way to cope in this situation.
Imagine the blue arrow is our body weight leaning backwards and the red arrow is the weight of the sail pulling downwards. If these two are aligned we are in equilibrium. However, if they are not aligned, we are leaning backwards with nothing pulling us in the opposite direction yo hold us. We are expecting the sideways pull of the sail to hold us which it can’t.
The solution is to turn our foot position so that our body and feet are facing the mast. Only in this way will the sail allow us to balance by leaning back.
It is important to remember that this foot/body position must change as the sail position changes. The second error I have seen is when the first part of the foot position was adopted well, but when the sail got flipped over by the wind, they didn’t follow the mast with their foot orientation and were knocked off balance and into the water again.
In short, have your feet facing the mast at all times and be prepared to adjust when it is moved by the wind.