Over the years I have been able to differentiate the 3 stages of sail control that people go through in windsurfing before one can say that they have control of their sail. I call them the step-dance, the hula-hoop and the windsurfer. They basically describe how you react to the changes in your body position that is affected by the wind and waves. I will go through these to help you determine at which stage you are at and what you need to do to get to the next level.
Level 1: The step-dance
This is the first stage. This stage describes the most natural reaction we have to getting pushed or pulled around as is the case on a windsurf board in the early attempts. Every change in our body position is corrected by moving our feet around. So if a gust hits us we get pulled forward and to compensate that displacement we move one foot or another. Good thing that we start off with a big, wide board. Overcoming this stage is the greatest limiting factor to being able to move to a smaller board.
Level 2: The hula-hoop
Once we learn to feel the changes in the sail pressure and our body position sooner we no longer need to move our feet. However, while we keep the feet in place, we still haven’t got the reaction to a gust or a lull down fast enough and so we move the hips either forward or backward to maintain the centre of gravity over the buoyancy of the board. In this stage we are still using the sail only for forward propulsion and not yet for stability.
Level 3: The windsurfer
The final stage and the way we should be windsurfing. People that have reached this level are easy to spot as they show no hectic movements on the board. As the gust hits them the simply sheet out in time to release some of the wind pressure in the sail so that they don’t get pulled over. They may even lean back with a straight body and sheet in to use the extra power.
So there you have it, the three stages of sail control that I have been able to differentiate. It is one more aspect that I can point out to students to show them that they are progressing when they feel that they haven’t improved. If you have any other subtle differentiation that you have noticed I would like to read of it in the comments.