How to get back if the wind drops

How to get back if the wind drops

It can happen to anyone. It has happened to me more times than I can remember. It is annoying and exhausting, but it can also be dangerous if you don|t know how to get back to shore with the kit. First off there are two very important things to keep in mind:


The kit is the only flotation device you have and if you get tired you can just lay on it or hold on to it rather than try to keep your head over water in the waves. Aside from this it also offers more visibility for any rescue services that are looking for you. It is easier to spot a board and sail which may even have bright colors than a person half submerged in the water.


Obviously we don’t want to go to where the current takes us. However, we are not going to be able to be able to swim against the current. So, what is left? Swim perpendicular to the current. If we swim at 90 degrees to the current we will naturally be dragged downstream, but if we keep swimming across it we will eventually arrive on land.

Beginner gear

Sail pumping

Using the sail to move forwards with no wind at all is a very useful skill to have indeed. Mainly it consists of generating your own wind and then using the physics of the sail to work its magic.This technique is to be used if there is at least a little bit of wind as it is faster than the one below.

Start off by leaning the sail far forwards to the bow and opening the sail. From there pull the whole sail backwards to the stern strongly so that you move the whole mass of air over the board aft. It is important to do this in one energetic motion. What this does is us the mass of air as if it were stationary and we push the board forwards under it with our feet. This will generate a slow movement forwards.Then sheet the sail in so that it is practically in line with the board so that you provide as little wind resistance as possible with it and move it towards the bow again. The board will naturally start to slow down again and when it does we open the sail again to repeat the movement. This way we will advance slowly but surely towards land again.

Lay the boom on stern

This method only really works if there is no wind at all as if there is a little breeze, the wind can blow the sail back into the water and undo our work of putting the boom on the board. This method is also slower than the one mentioned before as soon as there is a little bit of wind.

If the water is shallow enough, we can also walk back to the shore although this method also works in deep waters. However there is a more and a less efficient way to do this. The most efficient way is to lay the boom on to the back of the board. If necessary lover the boom. The idea is to balance it on the board so that it does not touch the water. If it touches the water it will generate resistance and make advancing through the water much more difficult.
Then go to the bow and pull the kit behind you. This works for wading through the water as well as swimming if the water is too deep.

No wind Return with Windsurfer

Image courtesy of

Sinker boards

Having the wind bail on you when you are out on a sinker board is one of the most annoying (and tiring) things that can happen. On top of that, even though the wind disappears, the current in the water will most likely continue, meaning that you will be at the mercy of the currents. This can be a real problem indeed if this current is heading out to sea.

Waterstart position

Usually the wind will not disappear completely meaning that there will still be enough wind available to keep the sail in the air. Here our best option is to lift up the sail and hold the back footstrap while keeping our body as horizontal as possible (for less resistance) in the wake of our movement. This will provide us will a slow yet definite progress back to the beach. Another option is to hold the sail in the air with both hands and put the feet on the board if this is more comfortable for you. It ultimately comes down to preference.

The benefit of holding the position with the feet on the board is that if the wind does pick up a little, even if it is just a gust, it may be enough to lift us up with a waterstart and we can wobble on the board in a sailing position back tot he beach which is a little bit faster that dragging our body through the water even if it is a little bit more tiring.

If the wind does drop completely while we are doing this method we can always fall back on the next method.

Boom on stern

It may be the case that the wind goes away completely so that the sail is not held the wind. Here we lay the boom on the back of the board, trying to keep it out of the water as much as possible so that there is as little drag as possible. Then we stay at the middle of the board and hold the sail in place by holding on to the mast at about 30 cm (1′) above the mast foot. In this position we start swimming back to the shore.

Safety in Windsurfing

Safety in Windsurfing

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…)

Being trapped under the sail is harmless

Being trapped under the sail is harmless

I cannot count the number of times In which I have hear the horror story of how someone fell in and ended up with the sail on top of them so that they were trapped under it and were this close to drowning, groping around and finding nothing but foil. You dont know where to swim because it all feels the same and any direction you choose seems to go on for ever as if you were swimming from the mastfoot to the top. Sure, I had that moment myself when I was a kid but never since then. The main thing that has changed is my realization that by staying calm, the oxygen we have in our lungs lasts longer and we can use that oxygen for something better than wasting energy. For example, to think and to find a way to get to the surface. I think I can make you feel calmer by giving you this piece of information: follow the battens.

Under sail

The sail has a number of batons across it spaced at no more than maybe 80 cm apart from each other. Each of these batons goes from the mast all the way to the leech, meaning that if you find one (less than a second of groping with your eyes closed is enough for that) then all you have to do is propel yourself along the baton in either direction until the end of it.

And if you have the boom at hand then I probably dont have to mention that the same thing goes, apart from the advantage that you can pull yourself along it rather than having to swim.

Sail only

I have also heard so many times from people that they dont hook into the harness for fear of getting trapped under the sail underwater.

To me this is completely unreasonable.

“But how am I supposed to get away from under the sail if I can’t move?” I hear you say. Well here is my answer:

You don’t have to go anywhere! All you have to do is twist your body so that it is in line with the boom and poke your head out and then calmly get unhooked. The distance from your shoulders to the hook of your harness plus the length of the harness lines is greater than the distance from the mast to the location of the harness lines on the boom. Problem solved.


Rules of Right of Way

Rules of Right of Way

Once we are sailing back and forth we need to consider that we are indeed not the only ones on the water. In order to avoid collision we must abide by the rules of right of way of the sea. First we will look at the hierarchy of the different vessels on the water. The ones on top have more priority whereas the ones towards the bottom need to get out of the way (according to

Vessels not under command

Vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuver
(freighter that take ages to turn)

Vessels constricted by draft
(freighter in a channel)

Fishing vessels engaged in fishing, with gear deployed

Sailing vessels
(windsurfers & other sailing boats)


Power driven vessels


Basically, the ones that have more difficulty in manoeuvering are the ones who have priority.

Now that we have established whom we need to avoid and who needs to act to get out of our way, lets see how the rules apply withing the sailboat category:

In the first two rules, one person will not be able to see the other. We must keep in mind that the responsibility of avoiding the collision is always going to be of the person that can see the other. Makes sense, doesn’t it?


Overtaking person needs to avoid collision

When two windsurfers going on the same tack, one behind the other and the one behind is going faster with the intention to overtake. As the person that is in front is looking forwards (as they should) they are not going to see who is coming up behind them. So it is on the person that is going to overtake them to avoid collision. And no, shouting to get their attention to make them get out of the way does not make you exempt from this obligation nor is it good form to do so.

Rules of Right of Way Overtaking

Downwind over upwind

Again, two windsurfers sailing on the same tack. The one going that is downwind is going to have a hard time seeing the one upwind. Therefore, the one sailing upwind has the obligation to change his course if the one downwind decides to bear into the wind. If the one downwind can continue on the closed haul course, so can the one upwind. That being said, if you are going to bear into the wind, make the small effort to turn your head to avoid any scares or close calls.

Rules of Right of Way Downwind over Upwind

Port bow over starboard bow

This is the only rule for which a call had to be made in terms of priority as both people are in the same situation. Two windsurfers are headed toward eachother on different tacks. Both can see eachother and effectively one must get out of the way. Which? Instead of using technical terms, let’s just put it this way. The one with the left hand nearer to the mast must change their course to avoid collision.
However, the one with their right hand closest to the mast has the obligation of staying on their course. They cannot go changing their course as they please as it makes the decision difficult for the one whi must get out of the way to decide on which way to avoid into.

Rules of Right of Way Starboard over Port Tack

In the end, it all comes down to common sense and common courtesy. Don’t be a nuissance on the water and try to play fair when having to share the water with others. If in doubt on what to do you can just stop or turn around. More than once have I had to hit the brakes due to the other not knowing the rules and changing course when they shouldn’t or simply being arrogant dicks and ignoring all rules. Most of the close call have been when two people decide they can both still arrive upwind of the predicted collision point and so not have to bear away.

As a small side note, these rule apply to when we are sailing on “flat” water. That is to say, not in breaking waves. When we are sailing in breaking waves where people are riding the wave and jumping around, the rules are a little different. I will write a post on that in the future. However, these are the ones that will count 95% of the time so abide by them.