Harty mulls over the challenge of looping – and challenges in general as a way to freshen up your game.
Originally published within the March ’16 edition.
On my travels through the West Indies, I came across Richard, a maverick, who was teaching windsurfing out of the obscenely expensive Four Seasons Resort on the island of Nevis. Richard was a very good windsurfer but what he wasn’t so good at was biting his lip in the presence of entitled oligarchs who treated him with slightly less respect than the dog poo on the bottom of their platinum flip flops. We were having a drink just after he’d been fired for … well a hedge fund manager type had approached him that morning looking for lessons. Richard had enquired as to his level of experience. He hadn’t done it before. Ok so we’ll go out into the lagoon where the water is shallow and flat and get to grips with the basics. “Now listen buddy,” said the customer, “I don’t want to do that light wind sh*t, I want to do this.” And in so saying produced a centrespread of Naish or whoever, flying some 30 foot above a Ho’okipa wave. It had been given to him by a business associate who windsurfed and had pricked his competitive curiosity. Richard explained that wasn’t quite how it works and that strong wind sailing, especially in waves, was the result of thousands of man hours climbing up the technique ladder. “I don’t think you quite understand who’s in charge here,” said the tourist, “I’m paying top dollar for this and if I want the high wind stuff, you’ll give it to me. Capiche?” After a couple more exchanges Richard told him to eff off, which is apparently not how you speak to a customer who’s spending $4000 a night on the Emperor Suite – and that afternoon he was sent on his way to pastures new and more democratic.
When it comes to big challenges, you have to work out what’s really involved.
Looping and Everest
This month’s technique piece is about the forward loop. It’s a tad extravagant to devote 7 pages of script to a move that lasts 2 seconds and which will be attempted by perhaps 3% of the windsurfing population. However, the forward loop sits within windsurfing like Everest does in the climbing community. It’s an overwhelming, spectacular and at the same time, mildly annoying presence. For most in the sport of climbing, Everest is a complete irrelevance – but they know people who’ve done it – climbers much less proficient than themselves – so a little part of them feels they should do it. I’m not a climber but I imagine when they’re introduced to a non-climber, that’s the first question they get asked – “Have you climbed Everest?”. “No but I’ve done Scafell Pike in Cumbria which is technically much harder …”. They’re not interested. It’s the same with windsurfing. “Can you do that loopy stuff?”, they ask. “No but I can plane out of a carve gybe, which is actually trickier…”. They don’t know what you’re talking about and turn to bother someone braver and more interesting.
It’s a funny one the loop. What’s the motivation? Surely the only reason to do one is to show off, get one over your mate, move up a rung on the ladder. Yes whirling around is a wild sensation but it doesn’t last long. You can’t do it all day and the novelty soon wears off. And let’s face it, once you can do them, the only reason to chuck one in is if someone is watching. Isn’t it? What a drastic generalisation. One of my favourite looping stories is Rob – a 45 year old dentist from Birmingham. He’s quiet, understated and absolutely not in it for the adoration. About 3 years ago he set his eyes on the forward loop. He said he’s not a natural risk taker, not particularly brave, but wanted to find out about himself. That’s what challenges do, Everest or looping, they reveal strengths and weaknesses that you didn’t know you had. And sometimes discovering a weakness and embracing it, can be equally liberating.
The happy story is that Rob did his first loop at the end of 2016. It took 3 years – he wasn’t faffing or procrastinating. He just did it in bite-sized chunks.
He’s a proficient sea sailor and described creaming along over big North Sea swells three years ago, trying to imagine himself launching into a somersault. He said it felt completely ridiculous – in fact he said it was so ridiculous that he decided he was going to mount a campaign. Rob is just the sort of guy I can imagine climbing Everest – he’s a gritty, determined, pragmatic plodder. The kind of tortoise that would beat the hare every time.
So together we made a plan. Lots of questions. Where are you now? What actually are you frightened of? Do you understand what the loop is? What are your windsurfing strengths? Which part of your general game are you unhappy with? To his credit he never mentioned fear of injury apart from to say that it wouldn’t be much of a challenge if it didn’t carry some risk.
He told me he’d watched my DVD ‘Learn to Loop’ and was confused by something Daida Moreno said, which was that a carve gybe was far harder. He said if that was the case, more people would be able to loop than gybe and that’s obviously not the case.
He was spot on. You can’t possibly see any sport purely in terms of technique, which only makes up a small slice of a big pie. The psychological battle is the one to win.
The full story of Rob’s journey is for another time, but he learned to loop. It wasn’t a 30 foot high stalled number but he got round and waterstarted away. Interestingly the main lesson from it all was how much the challenge had freshened up the sport for him and his life in general. Completing it was joyful but he admitted that even if he’d fallen short, he’d have been happy – because by putting the bar up so high, every part of his game, early planing, speed, jumping etc had improved. It was a very different approach from our money man at the beginning who thought brilliance was for sale.
PH 27th Jan 2017|
All big challenges involve a lot of broken eggs. Photo Hart Photography