fbpx Windsurf MagazineJEM HALL - BODY DRAG

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This month I am seeking to inspire you to try something different, or perhaps finally complete, the body drag. It is a classic freestyle move, heaps of fun learning, feels amazing when you nail it and actually the techniques required build excellent actions to add to your expanding skills base. Let me first classify the move in that it is more of a shin drag and I liken it to a planing waterstart. It will develop your wind awareness, subtlety and seriously up your crash quotient. Yes, catapulting and all manner of dismounts are part of this journey, so embrace this move and who knows, perhaps other moves involving the risk of crashing hard will come your way.

Jem Hall  //  Photo  Nicolas Jones


(This feature originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Windsurf Magazine. To read more features like this first, Print and Digital subscriptions are available. Prices include delivery globally for 10 x issues a year!)


Here are a few drills and skills you can work on as training for progression in learning the body drag:

Water / Beach start drags – Get into your ready position for a waterstart and then push the board downwind and let your legs hinge behind you. Look to drag along behind the boom on a downwind course (broad reach), keeping hips and shoulders parallel to the boom. Your target is to understand how to steer and control the sail power and then use this power to lift you partially out of the water. Do it both ways! This is actually a great skill to have for getting out / back in shallow water, and making it home after losing a fin. Feel how effective it is to be close to the boom with bent elbows.
Planing beach start – Getting back on the board can be the more challenging part of this move. It can be improved with the following exercise if you have access to knee-deep water and a sandy bottom. In windy conditions, get in your beach start position and start running with the board heading slightly upwind. Then extend the front arm, tilt the sail forward and sheet in to get pulled onto the board. Once on smoothly, open the sail, look upwind and keep your momentum.
Improve your waterstart actions – When looking to get out of the water, really feel and focus on thrusting the rig upright, sheeting in effectively and looking at (eating) the mast foot. Lastly, as ever, once up, open the sail and look upwind to get control and avoid catapults after all your hard work.


“ Your target is to understand how to steer and control the sail power and then use this power to lift you partially out of the water. ”


1. Feel the power in the rig and control the sail as you steer the board downwind pushing through the front arm. Keep shoulders and hips parallel to the boom as you let your legs hinge and drag behind you.


2. Feel the power increase as you push the board downwind and pull in on the backhand.


3. Play with the sail power and aim to use it to raise your body out of the water by shifting your head towards the mast foot and sheeting in. Sheet out before you get too high and do this a couple of times. Finish by coming back upwind, and then getting back on the board with a perfect waterstart.


It’s just a phase
So you have the move visualized and have been working on your skills and drills and are ready to embrace and attack this move. These are the phases that I feel we all go through as we move towards a successful completion:
Get off and slow down to a stop without getting back on – You go for it and perhaps do it all a bit too slowly, or without the required subtlety, and perhaps do not steer downwind enough and keep the power in the sail, so you will therefore slow down. This is OK and here you can focus on getting into the drag smoothly, and then gradually look to add more power in the sail, along with steering downwind as you look to get the sail pulling you back out of the water.
Get off, drag and crash – You might have jumped in here and just got launched around the sail. Or hopefully you have got off, skimmed on your shins a bit and then powered up the sail too hard which will fling you out the ‘front door’. This is a vital part of making the move, as you need to generate enough lift to pull you out of the water so you are getting closer, hoorah!
Get off, drag and get back on – You have got off smoothly, dragged for a while and powered up just enough to get you back on the board and,
importantly, you have then controlled the power and steered back upwind.  


‘‘ Unhook and carve slightly upwind and be ready to come out of the straps. Pull down on the front arm to keep the board flat and smoothen coming out of the straps. NOTE: You can experiment with coming out of the straps before you get off and then go into the body drag chain of events. “


‘‘ Keep close to the boom and start to lower your front shin into the water first, keep back leg bent. Pull down on the boom!


‘‘ The back shin / thigh then goes in and you immediately push down on the mast foot to steer you downwind to maintain speed and power. Grins and gurns for the camera are optional here. NOTE: Your hips and shoulders will move outboard to keep parallel to the boom and to help you both steer and drag.


‘‘ Drag a while and then as you start to slow down the head moves towards the mast foot (looking at it) and begin to sheet the sail in to increase the sail power and pull you out of the water.”


‘‘ Pull down on the boom and get that back foot moving towards the board. The front foot follows and as you are coming out of the water the sheeting out is already taking place so you don’t go out the ‘front door.’ Aim to get both feet on the board’s centre line and just in front of the relevant footstraps. “


‘‘ You are now back on and need to get back across the wind so look upwind, which will assist sheeting out and help you weight the heels to change your sailing line. You are not done yet so ‘get down James Brown’ and get fully planing and then back into the straps. When you are a drag pro you can slip straight back into the footstraps. Whoop and Smile.”


The top tips
Here are some of my top tips to take on board before you really get into the nitty gritty of the sequence actions:

• Have good power and speed on flat water (or between waves).
• Ensure you know the wind direction and can see you have enough wind for the move. Many people do it near the beach for maximum crowd appeal but this can be dangerous and there may also be not enough wind there.
• Unhook and come out of the straps smoothly with heaps of mast foot pressure.
• Lower yourself in gradually with the front shin first.
• Come upwind to get off, drag off the wind and then get back on the board and come back across the wind.
• Keep shoulders and hips parallel to the boom.
• Be close to the boom with bent elbows.
• Drag for a short distance when you have less power and longer when you have more power.
• Really co-ordinate the head moving in and sail sheeting in to get you back on board.
• Land on the board and get back upwind by sheeting out, looking upwind and weighting your heels.
• Go for it and enjoy the whole process!


“ Your target is to understand how to steer and control the sail power and then use this power to lift you partially out of the water. ”

RRD boards, wetsuits, softwear, Ezzy sails
sponsor Jem Hall. Get him live and direct on one of his highly acclaimed coaching holidays but be quick as they are selling out – check out his fab new site www.jemhall.com for details. You can also follow him on twitter / Facebook / Instagram..


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