The 3 Keys that will Make or Break your Waterstart

The 3 Keys that will Make or Break your Waterstart

While the waterstart has a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of subtle details that will make an impact on whether you succeed or not, the actual getting up and out of the water can be summed up in 3 components of our body movement and position. Positioning the kit correctly, then getting the sail out of the water and putting our feet on the board are all part of preparing for the waterstart and there are a lot of little things that go into doing these steps correctly and in a way that saves energy. However, when it comes to actually getting lifted out of the water by the sail, there are only 3 things that, if ignored, will sabotage the waterstart. (more…)

Lifting the sail out of the water for the waterstart

Lifting the sail out of the water for the waterstart

Optin box

The waterstart could be an easy and energy saving way to get going again after falling in the water. However, a lot of the time I see how people on a more advanced level (such as learning how to gybe in lessons with me) waste a lot of energy on the waterstart. In my previous post on how to waterstart I only focused on the waterstart itself and skipped the part on how to get the sail out of the water or position the gear. In this post I will focus on how to lay out the gear and lift the sail out of the water in the most energy efficient way so that your sessions on the water can last longer.

Check the wind direction

Missing this small little detail is by far the one which has robbed the most people of a lot of energy. By trying to lift the sail out at an angle which has the wind pushing down on the sail rather than going underneath it and lifting it up, many windsurfers end up tired in a matter of minutes. Before you do anything in terms of handling the gear or making a physical effort for the waterstart, take a moment to ensure you have a clear notion of the wind direction.

Put the sail on what would be/is the upwind side of the board when the board is pointing in the direction we want to start in

Let’s assume we want to start on a starboard tack. If we have the sail on the upwind side of the board, all we have to do is turn the board under the sail (if necessary) so that it is set out on the starboard tack. If the sail were laying downwind of the board, simply lay out the board so that if the sail were upwind, it would be set out for a starboard tack.

Position the sail so that the mast is on the sailing direction and the clew is on the aft side of the board

If the sail is not already laid out like this, we must flip the sail. The way we do this is by positioning the clew upwind of the mast and starting to lift the clew out of the water until the wind gets some of the sail surface and helps you by pushing the clew all the way on to the lee side.

Turn the gear so that the mast is between 20° and 90° to the wind

There are two ways we can turn the gear. I generally recommend considering the mast top as the centre of rotation and making the board move around it, always with the bow first (as this is the natural direction to move in and will be wasier). The exception is when the gear is practically already correctly laid out and all that is needed is a few more degrees around. It is more effective to swim 20° in the unnatural sense than 340° in the natural one. I recommend grabbing the mast between the boom and the mastfoot and swimming paraell to the board.

Swim to the correct position along the mast

The closer the sail is to 20°, the higher up on the mast we must position ourselves to start lifting up the sail. The closer to 90° the sail is to the wind the closer to the boom we must position ourselves. At the 90° mark we must be at around 60 cm (2ft) above the boom.

Swim to the wind until the sail is flat on the water surface

Start swimming towards the wind with the mast in hand until the sail is lying flat on the water. Do not lift the mast out of the water until the sail is flat on the water as if the clew is still to deep in the water when you lif the sail up, the wind will blow the sail out of your hand and over the clew instead of getting the rest of the sail out of the water smoothly.If the clew is in the water you will not be able to hold it when the wind hits the sail, and if you are able, all that is going to happen is that the sail sinks into the water again.

Lift up the sail slowly and don’t stop swimming

With the sail flat on the water we start lifting the sail with constant upward force. Do not jerk it upwards. The water on the sail will keep the sail from going up and all you are going to do is waste energy. Lift up the sail slowly so that the water can run out of the sail as you slowly lift it up. Slowly lift the mast about 30 cm (1 foot) over the water surface so that the wind can do the rest of the sail lifting for you. Do not stop swiming towards the wind or the clew will start to slip deeper into the water.

Set up for the waterstart

Now all that is left is to move the sail over your head and grab either the boom or the back footstrap with the back hand and you are set to tackle the waterstart itself.

So to recap:

– Check wind direction
– Set up board relative to the sail first
– Then rotate to get mast between 20 and 90 deg to the wind
– Grab mast and swim towards the wind until the sail is laying flat on the water
– If the sail is not flat in the water it can get stuck in the water an undo all the progress.
– Start lifting the sail by continuing to swim towards the wind and lifting it up slowly but steadily.
– Do NOT jerk it upwards as tere is water weighing the sail down and will just use a lot of energy for little result.
– Slow steady lifting up so the water can roll off the sail.
– Raise it up to 30 cm so the wind lifts it up completely
– Do waterstart


How to Windsurf – The Waterstart

How to Windsurf – The Waterstart

The waterstart: portal to the small volume boards. The manoeuvre that separates the men from the boys, real windsurfers from the newbies, the dedicated from the dabblers…. The waterstart is THE manoeuvre you need to get a hang of to truly enjoy the sport of windsurfing.

If we remember my post on the beachstart, I mention that the beachstart is 95% technique and 5% wind. The waterstart is 80% technique and 20% wind. This means that we can still do a waterstart easily even if the wind drops. However, I have seen so many people unable to sail back to shore when the wind dropped just because their waterstart technique was useless. Therefore I recommend that everybody read this even if they know how to do the waterstart.

The technique of the waterstart is very similiar to that of the beachstart. Basically you can think of the waterstart as a beachstart without touching the ground. Therefore I recommend getting the beachstart technique sorted out before you tackle the waterstart.

Pulling the sail out of the water

I wrote a separate article on how to get the sail out of the water for the waterstart and positioning the gear to save time and energy. You can read up on it now and come back to this post later or finish this one first. For now the main piece of information I want to to take away is that you make sure you keep the sail flat on the water surface to avoid the end of the boom sticking in the water and undoing all your progress of getting the sail to hover out of the water.

Now to the actual waterstart:

We position the board similar to the beachstart, beam reach or slightly more downwind for more sail surface (if there is little wind). We get the board into this position with the same pushing/pulling on the mastfoot as the beachstart only that we need the keep our body more tense as we don’t have a ground to use as fixed point.To get and maintain the board in place we can hold the boom or mast with the front hand and the back footstrap with the back hand.

With these two contact points we can lever the board into place. We can either move on to the next step immediately if we have enough wind or, if we don’t have enough wind, wait for a gust strong enough to lift us is what comes next: Once we have the gear laid out correctly we put the back foot on the board. If there is enough wind we can put both feet on the board which will give us greater control. However, if we use only one foot we can use the other leg to swim upwards and help us get on.

A very important note, when you put your foot on the board DO NOT push the board away from you. You want to lay the foot on the centerline of the board and pull it towards you if anything. Pushing the board away with the back foot will cause the board to turn into the wind and leave us luffed up so far that we no longer have any wind lifting us.

So: lay the back foot on the centerline of the board and push with your front hand onto the mastfoot through the mast. As soon as the foot is on the back hand goes from the back footstrap to the boom (if you didn’t have there already). Once there do not immediately pull down. What you want to do is pull the back hand upwards towards the mast top. Basically over your head. Our intention is to keep the boom horizontal throughout the whole procedure.

As you do this you want to bend your knees and lean your shoulders forwards so that your chest is touching your knees. What this does is in essence position the sail as vertical as possible while bringing your weight centre as low and close over the board as possible. The result is as much sail surface available to the wind to lift us up and the minimum resistance of your bodyweight to pull us down.

Windsurf waterstart 3 components

Do not sabotage yourself

As soon as we start to get lifted out it is important to avoid two things:
– Bend the front arm
– Lunge forwards with our hips

Both of these will sabotage our efforts and make us fall backwards into the water again. Try to keep this in mind:we want the sail to lift us out of the water with the wind. We DON’T want to pull ourselves up as we would doing pull-ups.

Once our body’s weight centre is over the board we must start to open the sail again to avoid being catapulted over the other side.

And to top it all off we need to keep the boards position steady throughout the whole procedure. As you can see, it is quite a complex maneouvre indeed and one that takes a while to be mastered. I would definitely recommend getting an instructor to guide you for the first two hours as keeping all of these things in mind is nearly impossible… Also, it will stop you from taking up bad habits (especially the front arm and hip lunging thing).

How to Water-start

So, to recap:

– Board on beam reach or slightly downwind

– Wait for wind gust if not enough constant wind

– Foot resting on the board, not pushing the board away

– Front arm straight and leaning the mast forward

– Bend knees

– Shoulders forward

– Let the sail lift us up and NOT pull ourselves up

– Open the sail in time

– Maintain board direction steady throughout all manoeuvre

Again, here is the post on lifting the sail out of the water.