MOVE ON UP – WINDSURFING TECHNIQUE
SURFVIVE FLOAT & RIDE
I will now continue to unlock your waveriding potential by building on the skills we covered last month in my WindSup piece (please re-read for reference) as we look at how to surfvive and thrive in ‘float and ride’ conditions – side to side-offshore mainly non-planing winds of 10-15 knots and waves of a reasonable shape and speed.
Words Jem Hall // Photo Dave White
(This feature originally appeared in the September 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!)
I will highlight the tools you need to rip and enjoy this environment, how to get out, how to catch the waves, ride them and exit them in readiness to repeat this amazing sensation all over again. Light winds allow us to flow up and down a clean wave with your sail light and working a beautiful ocean wall – it is one of the best feelings in windsurfing! For me it is not only great fun but also mentally engaging and like a game of chess, as you always should be looking to know your next move.
It is worth noting that I learnt how to ‘float and ride’ from watching others but also mainly from getting out there and catching waves and riding, and inevitably the odd bit of swimming thrown in for good measure too. I urge my rippers on my coaching clinics to ‘lead and not follow’, so be the first one out there catching uncrowded clean waves. This attitude can start right now by being the first one to rig and plane on a marginal day. “If you don’t go, you won’t know.”
The tools you will need
There are a huge amount of tools that will equip you for the battle you are about to face and you have really got to nail these and do your homework on them!
A lot are covered extensively in my articles,
coaching DVDs and my Vimeo top 100 tips. In fact for many of you who have been following my pieces I have already been building you to be ready for this.
• Psychology: this is a huge factor, as you need belief in yourself as you will not be planing around being able to outrun some of the dangers and you will definitely need courage under pressure. Add to this a very positive self-dialogue, I can/shall/will.
• Physical: swimming skills and fitness to get to your kit should you lose it. Fit arms and legs to pump and sail a lot out of the harness. Balance is also a huge part of getting out over the whitewater and I have really improved in this by getting out in the waves on a SUP which naturally provides excellent balance training as well as improving your surf timing and how to read the waves.
• Technique: getting out and pumping skills will see you be able to get out the back. You will require all the waterstarts (lightwind, clew first and board flipped over). Having top transitions will see you fall less whilst tacking and gybing and will ensure you catch more waves and exit them in style too. It is also best to have some elemental wave riding skills so that not all the skills you need are fresh and new.
“ Light winds allow us to flow up and down a clean wave with your sail light and working a beautiful ocean wall – it is one of the best feelings in windsurfing! ”
Take a wide stance out of the straps, pump early for speed, believe and pop over the wave.
Be ready for very light winds and some swimming!
It is important to look at the how, but even more so we should examine the where and the when. Please note that this section is almost an article in itself so I will only cover the main points here:
• Where: there will be a part of the break where the waves are smaller and there might even be a channel (deeper water with less steep waves) to give you a better chance of getting out, so have a good look for this AND use it. It may well be up or downwind of where you might first be looking to launch so be proactive as this will save you a lot of swimming. It is almost a necessity to have a channel for ‘float and ride’.
• When: you will want to launch as a decent sized set is breaking as this often brings a bit more wind and it also means that by the time you have got over a few bigger lines of whitewater and are in the steeper/breaking/impact zone that you will not be confronted by a monster. Note: If you have mistimed this then turn around and go back to the inside to be ready to go again (chicken tack or gybe).
• How: as you are not planing then every bit of speed will help, so ensure you are unhooked and pumping before the wave/white water comes (ensure this is with straight arms, bent back leg, straight front leg and with a rowing motion!). Get over the board with a wide stance, front foot quite far forward (next to the mast base for me), open the sail and push the tail down as you soften your front leg to lift the nose. Believe you will make it and get your arms extended behind the wave so that you don’t lose too much wind and fall in backwards. I have found greater success recently by pointing my board at 5-10 degrees (downwind) just off straight at the wave as this means I am less upwind (and losing less speed) behind the wave.
I will assume you have the basic skills of how to catch a wave and cover here the points worth noting in this lighter wind and more technical situation:
• Wind: before you look to get on a decent sized wave, take a very good look upwind to see if there is actually enough wind, or a gust, to pump (efficiently and with your legs) to catch the wave. These waves will have some speed and you are not planing so you need to be using your sail to pump (paddle) into the wave. Understanding what is required to take off on the wave takes time and through experience this will develop. For now just be in a position to actually catch the wave and be ready to be proactive!
• Wave: with your existing wave knowledge you will already be looking to catch the last or penultimate wave of a set. You will either be turning onto the wave, or more likely you are waiting for it, and yet you must also consider your position on the wave. With the wind being so light you are not able to catch any wave anywhere so you have to be on a steeper part of it (the peak) so the wave will push you down the face and give you the vital speed you need to get a good ride. This can be a bit further inside the break in lighter winds as you need to be where the waves are steeper (water shallower). Out the back the wind may be better but the wave will be less steep and so it will be harder to catch.
• Set up: get into your straps at the top of the wave and then hold your position at the top of it and have a good look around. A tip for this is to really pull down on the boom to lighten your feet as they move around the board and also to ensure you can keep your back leg very bent throughout. Once in the straps it is important to not fly off down the wave so you will be sheeting out the sail slightly, not sheeting in going into freeride mode.
• Wait hold and assess: ask yourself is this the right wave, i.e. will it be a nice size to ride and will it not close out? If not, what are your options? Get off the wave there or perhaps fly downwind to the channel, and then get back out to the bus stop (where you wait for the waves). In order to accelerate along the wave you are best advised to be near the top where the wave gives you the most speed, as you have not got that much wind to rely on. Note that you need to be in the right place on the wave to have an option to get off it, this will be closer to the channel and not right next to the peak.
Pump onto the right wave if you have enough wind to do so.
Low wind but high fun as long as you follow your game plan.
Generous straps to allow feet in smoothly and to enable carving with ease and the bigger straps will let you get out when things go a bit wrong.
Long lines enable you to unhook and hook in smoothly and are easy to use when non-planing.
• Sail tuning: not too big a sail and full enough to pump onto the wave.
Use a big enough board to float but please experiment with the size, big enough to get out but not so big as it won’t turn. If it’s really light and tough then I use a 63cm wide / 104 wave cult. Yet I can also get away with my 60cm wide / 90 on a lot of days too.
If you have taken the wave too far in towards the beach then you might have to take the wave in anyway as you may well run out of time to get a clean face to ride or to move towards the channel, and if your selection has been poor here then this can be seen as a bit of a waste. Don’t worry the more you get in the waves the better your assessment skills and wave management will be.
Again I am assuming you are reliable in your riding and know about the relative head, hand and hip movements so I will give you here some main tips about what to consider in these lighter airs.
• Speed: you will need to develop how to get your speed along the wave before you drop into your first turn and then look to keep using the wave’s power/speed to make more turns. There is very little speed/energy at the bottom of the wave, so you will be better positioned to get speed in the middle or top of the wave. Your first waves should be about ‘finding your line’ to get enough speed and energy from the wave. Remember you have not got much sail power to push you along and hide any misjudgments. If you are accelerating too fast and perhaps getting too far away from the section of the wave you wish to ride then sheet out and stall the board, weighting the back foot, but keep near the top so you are in a position to drop down the wave in readiness for your first turn. Sometimes you will have to head upwind along the wave to give it time to form and a big tip in this scenario is that you should always ‘scissor’ the board upwind at the top of the wave just prior to turning downwind, so as not to lose speed or position before making your first turn.
• Avoid the oversheet: your sail will be super light in the hands with you going faster than the wind so it is very easy to pull the sail in too much. After dropping down the wave, starting your carve as you do this, concentrate on driving the sail forward in the bottom turn. I want to feel my front knee and ankle really bend to drive everything forward! After your bottom turn, really aim to open the sail so you can drive back up the wave; back hand way back really helps here. I strongly suggest really extending your arms in top turns, and again with plenty of front knee bend, so as to not lose any wind and valuable power. Lastly, if you really look up and out of your top turn then this will turn your torso and further ensure that you don’t oversheet!
• Let go: to get into the rhythm of the riding I like to do a lot of one handed top turns as this means I have to hit the key targets of looking where I go, getting low and keeping the rig away. It also means my backhand has to move forward.
• Work with the wave: your energy and speed comes from the wave so some parts are not so steep and you will have to do easy and less powerful turns there and then when the wave gets steeper, you should aim to be more aggressive and go a bit harder, i.e. try and get more vertical in turning back up the wave. If you are competent and are nearer the end of your ride then you can really challenge yourself and go for an aerial.
• Flow to the channel: you have to plan ahead with your wave ride so if you are executing a more conservative game plan then you will be working along and with the wave in order to get to the end of it and hopefully to the channel. This means you can then get out the back again easier and enjoy catching and riding more waves.
On a floaty wave board or a FSW and with your hands together and rig away in your top turns you WILL score some great rides
The Heli tack is one of my most used transitions in float and ride
Time for another turn or gybe off? Follow your exit plan for a happy ending
If all has gone well then you are fully exhilarated after a fantastic ride, but now is not the time to be whooping or claiming it too much as you have to get off this wave and get in a good position to get out the back and enjoy it all again. Let’s look at the tips for this:
• Where: it is best to get off the wave where it begins to get less steep and this is often where the channel is so you can do a gybe off the end of it, some even duck gybe off.
• Ticket to ride: sometimes the wave is only whitewater and so you are forced to take this in until it gets less powerful. As it gets smaller then keep your board facing straight in and let the wave wash underneath you and then you can tack or scissor gybe to head back out. My favoured move in this lower speed situation is the heli tack.
• Lose the battle to win the war: sometimes the wave may be looking quite critical and if you go for it and attack a big washing may result if you mess up, so you have to calculate is it worth it, or shall I just get down the wave to the channel to give me a chance to get more waves sooner and protect both body and gear.
• Washing: this is going to happen so look to relax if it does and ensure you duck your mast deep into the water and hold on tight. If you lose your gear it will be off with the waves and rip and will inevitably go to the channel so swim with your head up to spot it and believe you will get to it! Other sailors will often guide you to your gear.
This is a very underestimated part of your game plan. Ensure that you are keeping one eye on the wind all the time so that you can get in on a wave in case the wind fully drops. With the wind being light you can’t just plane in to the beach so you should look to come in on a small to medium sized wave and just cruise along it to get a suitable place to land. Remember to let it wash underneath you just prior to landing so you can sail just behind the whitewater up the beach and to safety
“ Really pull down on the boom to lighten your feet as they move around the board ”
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.