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The waterstart, and all its variations, is often a skill we can take for granted and not realise just important it is and how much it can open up different areas of sailing, and also not to mention just how much energy we can save by doing it efficiently. For the next two features I will be presenting how you can perform more advanced waterstart skills in order to add them to your repertoire.

Words  Jem Hall  //  Photo  Nicolas Jones


(This feature originally appeared in the October 2016 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!)


Perhaps you have already seen how much better you have to be at lighter wind waterstarts when out WindSUP’ing, or in float and ride conditions, or my Moves that Matter pieces have inspired you to put the Super in your Starts. So without further ado we are going to get both your light wind (LW) and clew first (CF) waterstarts moving on up this month. The next issue will cover 2 more waterstarts, super light wind (SLW) and flipped board (FB).  All of these waterstarts are not only Core Skills (Moves that Matter) in your windsurfing they also develop your core strength and stability. Increased physicality can help us sail longer and harder, learn faster and protect us from injury. Having better flexibility and strength in our legs will really help us all waterstart better, so let’s get physical!

Main Core Skills
There are some essential core skills that will not only open up your ‘Super Starts’ but will also boost your waterstart learning or improvement, so please really take these on board.
Check your wind direction and strength. It is essential to ensure that you are ready and waiting to go with the board pointed just slightly upwind, and for lighter winds that you co-ordinate your ‘up and away’ efforts to coincide with a gust that you SEE coming!
• Keep your rig flying. This tip relates to the above in that not only must you keep an eye on the wind but also you should keep your arms extended in lighter airs so that the rig does not fall back into the water, necessitating another labour intensive rig clearance.
• Keep in control. When it is windy the rig can get ripped out of your hands so ensure you remain slightly upwind and don’t expose too much of it to the wind. More relevant in the CF and FB waterstarts.
• Heal down / toes up. This helps your back foot steer better and enables you to use your back leg more aggressively.
• Pull in with your back leg. Now we are looking at the ‘up and away’ phase it is important to understand the actual technique of getting up and this is massively helped by bringing your back heel under your bottom so as to power the rig up and also get your back leg in a dynamic effective position.
• Front leg off and on late. This will stop the dreaded downwind drift and then you can kick with it to propel you upwards!
• Twist the rig. The back arm pulls in ever so slightly as you throw the rig upright on an extended front arm.
• Pull down on your arms. As you are coming up, think reach for the sky and as the rig nears upright pull down on the boom, especially with your front arm. Pulling in on the boom will make you fall backwards!
•  Eat your mastfoot. Moving your head forwards and in over the boom actually gets you bending your back leg and extending your arms so get hungry!
•  Believe. In light airs I believe I am getting out of the water and am patient until I actually achieve it.
•  If at first you don’t succeed then go again. We don’t always get up on our first attempt so if you don’t, just reset and go again.

All of these points are crucial in the heat of the advanced waterstart battle so Think Clearly Under Pressure and address them. Let’s go on to look at 2 of the advanced waterstarts and their very own specific tips.

“ Bring your back heel under your bottom so as to power the rig up  ”

Attack; pull in on back leg & twist the rig whilst tipping the rig upright.

Eat mastfoot on way up, keep pulling back leg in & kick hard with front leg.

Maintain pulling down on the boom & start to sheet out & begin to look forward.

Get forwards momentum, look upwind & place mast hand on the boom.!

Light wind waterstart (LW)
Many of the main actions to get you ‘up and away’ in lighter airs can be learnt and developed firstly in your beach starting, so first think about using your physicality (arms pulling down and back leg working hard) more when out in non planing winds on bigger boards. The essential physical principle is that you are looking to actually use more of the wind, as there is less available, and so this requires us to place our front hand on the mast so we can get the rig more upright, allied to this we have to use our fitness.
We may have actually tried to get ‘up and away’ through a conventional waterstart but there was not enough lift and so we should then go for it using this hybrid version, with our front hand on the mast.

Core skills and top tips:
• All waterstarting core skills are heavily bought into play and none more than so than ‘eating the mast foot,’ bending your back leg and pulling down on the boom.
• Twist the rig to create drive to get you up but be subtle and aware so as not to oversheet (stall) the sail.
• Pull your heel really into your arse before then driving up.
• Get the rig up and tip it forward to create maximum lift.
• Keep pulling down on the boom and moving forwards and in until the rig is fully upright.
• Sheet out at the top of the ‘up and away’ and switch your vision from looking (eating) at the mastfoot to looking forwards, this aids not oversheeting.
• Get some forwards momentum before placing front hand back on the boom.

With the clew controlled get your back foot on the board.

Attack; pull in on back leg, kick with front leg & twist the rig whilst tipping the rig upright.

Keep pulling back leg in & start to sheet out with mast hand as arms pull down on boom.

Be ready for the power by staying low & begin to look forward as you sail a few metres.

From a stable CF position rotate the rig, keeping low & looking forward.

Clew First (CF) waterstarts  

The CF waterstart is a massively useful skill either for recovering from a crashed gybe or if you want to get out of the water quicker, e.g. in waves, and you have not got the time to turn the rig around in the water. Again you can learn a lot of the essential skills in light winds. Light wind gybes and CF beach starts are not only fundamental skills but they are also moves that very much matter and as such they will give you the necessary actions required to nail your CF waterstarts!
One very important point is to ensure you are great at rotating the rig (before learning to CF waterstart) as this is often where this battle is lost and won, not only in this move but also in ALL gybes.

Core skills and top tips:
• This is again a physical move and for it you will you need a tad more wind, than a regular waterstart, but this will also mean you have more of a wrestle when you actually get out of the water.
• You sail is essentially backwards so subtlety is the key. You have to really
understand the importance of the back (mast) hand being in charge of
trimming and the front (clew) hand both controlling power and steering.
• Knowing your point of sailing is key. This will help you both get out of the water and assist in a successful rig rotation.
• Hands; often a narrow spread to get out of the water and then a wider spread to control power in a CF position.
• Start broad (off the wind) to get out of the water and then ensure you
control the sail, again whilst off the wind, before rotating it.

• After coming out of the water sheeting out (with the mast hand) is very important, as the sail is very easy to stall in its CF position.
• Get low and station yourself at clew first and be in full control before rotating the rig.
• Sail a few metres to get the rig light. Forward momentum will lighten the sail to ease the rig rotation, and ensure you are on a downwind course!

This tip is vital.

• All the usual rig rotation rules apply; look forward, have your clew hand way down the boom, slide mast hand to the mast, take a big circle in the rig rotation, counterbalance with your hips, KEEP looking forward, get down James Brown to take the power at the end.

“ People who succeed are not lucky; they’re doing something differently from everyone else ” Tony Robbins, one of the world’s leading personal development coaches 

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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