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I am looking to get you fully up to speed in your planing and rock solid in your footstraps. To kick off it might be worth revisiting my ‘Revolutions’ piece from a few months back and my fundamentals article on my technique pages on this fine magazine’s website – www.windsurf.co.uk. These tips are not just for intermediates but also for advanced sailors as perhaps the most important skill in windsurfing is planing early and getting in the footstraps efficiently, yet it is quite often the most presumed or neglected.  So in this copy I will be describing different techniques to get you planing earlier, strapped up and providing tips for you to refine your technique and reflect upon.

Words  Jem Hall // Photo  Nicolas Jones


(This feature originally appeared in the August 2015 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!)

One of the main strategies for early planing is to embrace the 3 T’s:

•  Temperament – you actually believe you will get planing!
•  Timing – to get planing in the most suitable area of the water (e.g. enough flat water between waves) and in the right amount of wind.
•  Tuning – ensure you are in tune with your head, hips and hands and the huge effects their positioning can have on effective early planing and strapping up.

Here are the most essential tips for planing early and moving towards strapping up:

• Look upwind to spot gusts to utilise.
• Chug upwind by sinking the rail to gain ground when not planing.
• The back foot is placed behind the front straps and facing across the board. The front foot faces forward and is towards the mast foot.
• Really pull down on the boom and get your weight on the rig, best achieved by being low and outboard!
• Get the rig away on extended arms, shoulder width apart hands, to ensure it is upright and catching the most wind.
• Place your front hand very proximal to your front harness line to illicit max power from the sail.
• Keep the board flat by mainly bending your back leg and pushing the board forward through the front foot and leg.
• Bear away (turn downwind) by scissoring your legs, push through the front foot and pull the tail upwind with your back leg.
• When looking to get the relevant foot in the strap ensure the weight is on the other foot and the mast foot through downforce.

The common misconception in windsurfing is that to progress it is all about planing and windy sessions. Yet to plane early and strap up you will learn a huge amount more in light wind sessions with the skills I presented last summer on a SUP and a freemove board. This might be on a summer afternoon, or after work sailing or just staying out when the wind drops on a suitable board. The skills for these winds are wind awareness, seeing the wind, spotting gusts and lulls and changes in wind strength. The wind is your fuel and these skills help you best utilise it. Harness commitment and keeping a flat board are paramount so harness up, commit to it, (be a harness user not just an owner) and sail one handed, and really ensure you are very effective and efficient with your hooking in and out! Really work on getting in the straps whilst non-planing. Pull down on the boom and keep your weight forward and pop that front foot in and then go for the back strap. Learn to adapt on the fly and it will really build your skills. Remember these fundamental skills will be called into strong account when the wind kicks in and are what you will require to nail planing earlier and strap up smoothly, more often and in control!

“ Get down, get out, bend the back leg and push that board on to the plane ’’ 

Traditional: get hooked in and then into the straps. Perhaps the easiest technique for lower ability sailors or more moderate winds.

Active: from a dynamic low position get the board planing unhooked, then get in the straps and then hook in. This pays huge dividends for the future and is actually what I push people to do to build their windsurf fitness and ready my intermediates on my coaching holidays to become wavesailors. Planing carve gybes will only really be cracked if you can plane in the straps before hooking in!

New School: from a non-planing position get into the straps smoothly and then look to bear away and plane on a gust either before or after hooking in. Modern boards and wave boards prefer this as you can be more active with your planing and use your legs more to steer, unstick and almost lift the board onto the plane.


// Pulling down on the boom when powered up is easiest when low and beneath it’
Photo Nicolas Jones

// Sailing one handed gives you vital harness skills to dominate planing control’
Photo Nicolas Jones
// Keep planing in lulls by rolling your body weight forward with the rig upright and away’
Photo Nicolas Jones



• hook in across the wind, spot your gust and scissor the board slightly down wind.
• commit hard to the harness and pull down on the boom as you lean out, weight back when well powered; weight forward when less powered.
• flatten board with bent back leg, get weight off your front foot, lift it up and pop it in the strap.
• accelerate by leaning out more to power the sail up and ensure you look upwind to take you there.
• with your back foot positioned next to the back strap pivot on it and pop it in whilst sailing across the wind or slightly upwind and with your weight more on the front foot.


• Good early mast foot pressure.
• Really develops committing to the harness lines.
• Very effective in less powered winds.
• Less physical.


• Board can accelerate too fast before riders get time to get feet in the straps.
• Hooked in catapults can occur if people are not low, committed and wind aware.
• The rider cannot go as far off the wind to use the wind more effectively to get planing as being broad and hooked in is very unsafe.



//  Traditional: hook in, lean out, drive the board forward, pop front foot in and accelerate’
Photo Nicolas Jones



//  Active: Get down and out, drive the board forward, get front foot in, accelerate, then hook in.’
Photo Nicolas Jones



//  New School: Pull down on a bent front arm and then pop your front foot and then back foot in. Keep front knee bent and weight on balls of both feet.’
Photo Nicolas Jones



• With enough wind get out and get low on extended arms to scissor the board  downwind and pull down on the boom.
• Really bend your back leg and from your low position pop your front foot in.
• If enough wind then go for the back strap.
• Bring the board back upwind to sail across the wind and hook in. If you are less powered you can hook in and then get in the back strap.


• A strong safe position where you can really feel the wind and develop a  dynamic active stance that you will use in many aspects of windsurfing.|
• Being so low and outboard you can really drive the board on to the plane.
• Gets you windsurf fit and develops active technique.
• Very effective in windy and well powered conditions


• Quite physical.
• Requires good wind awareness as hooking in must be performed across the wind or slightly upwind.



• Pull down on a bent front arm and then pop your front foot and then back foot in. Keep front knee bent and weight on balls of both feet.
• You can choose to hook in either before or after planing.
• Spot your gust and because your feet are already in the straps you can just lean out and get low to drive the board on to the plane.


• Foot movements are done early and so you are not upsetting the board when  just at the threshold of planing.
• Again you can be dynamic, low and driving as you can hang off the rig from a low position.
• Makes your footwork and steering very subtle and refined.
• Readies you to sail on smaller boards and in a wave environment.
• Gives you a choice of when to hook in.
• Easy to hook in if you choose to do it early as the harness lines are very available.
• Develops key windsurf skills.
• Can be used in all planing winds.


• Requires subtlety and wind awareness.
• Sail trim has to be sensitive so as to not over sheet or under sheet in.

Refine and reflect.

“If you are not planing then YOU are not planing.” I use this quote when coaching a lot so people take ownership for their planing. The wind will do what it wants but it is us who can take actions to tune our board, body and sail, be positive and be active in getting planing.

Generous straps to allow feet into the footstraps smoothly. Long lines enable you to move your weight to keep the rig upright and will hugely extend your wind range and give you way less catapults whilst also making hooking in and out way easier.

Medium to strong winds and flat water are the best. If it is choppy or wavey then embrace these conditions as an opportunity to improve and to not limit yourself. Go to the right spot to get the right conditions. Windsurfing is challenging enough, help yourself by using watercraft from a recognised windsurfing centre to get back upwind if required, they can give you vital aid at a key learning stage.

RRD boards, wetsuits, softwear, Ezzy sails and Pro Sport Sunblock sponsor Jem Hall. Get him live and direct on one of his highly acclaimed coaching holidays. You can also follow him on twitter / Facebook and Instagram.


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