MOVE ON UP – WINDSURFING TECHNIQUE
TOP TEN TIPS TO RIP
I coach a lot of people of all levels, many of whom have a huge variety of end goals, yet the main area they improve in whilst looking to acquire certain skills, like the carve gybe for example, is their fundamentals.
On their first coaching clinics I look to give them a solid base from which they can progress faster and ultimately, enjoy their sailing more.
Words Jem Hall // Photo Dave White, Nicolas Jones & Clark Merritt
(This feature originally appeared in the January February 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!)
In the sport of windsurfing I feel we learn and understand important skills and actions that are required in the early stages but we lose sight of these as both the board and wind speeds increase, we begin to lose ‘focus’. So, in keeping with this month’s issue, I want us all to focus on some fundamentals by addressing the top 10 actions that will see you not only make steady improvements but also will assist you in learning new moves and put you in a better position to self coach. The people who improve the most on my clinics, and in their sessions at home, focus on setting targets and they self coach, i.e. look to understand what they can do to get better and the actions required to achieve this.
Look forward and upwind
One of the most important and basic skills is that we should be looking forwards and upwind whilst sailing in a straight line. This builds so many great habits and really boosts your wind awareness. It will also ensure you don’t get into the dreaded habit of ‘gear gazing’. For all levels this simple action will assist you in nailing tacks. If waveriding is your mojo then how we sail upwind is how we top turn, so look upwind and get your hands together and then boom your top turns will flow. Our straight line ‘personality’ is reflected in our moves. Lastly, actually looking forwards and upwind will also see you get higher upwind too.
“ The people who improve the most on my clinics, and in their sessions at home, focus on setting targets and they self coach ”
Looking forwards and upwind creates a life long great windsurf habit. Photo Nicolas Jones
Prepare early to give you the time and space to make your tacks and gybes. Photo Nicolas Jones
Keeping the rig away gives you space to get low and dominate the rig. Photo Nicolas Jones
If we are lower, we are more dynamic and less likely to fall in, simple. Being lower also makes us ironically both lighter and heavier. From a low position we can pull down on the boom (making us lighter) to get our weight off the board, useful when getting planing. Being lower we can also ‘pull’ the kit down into the water and use our bodyweight to exert more control over our equipment. Getting low is simple but so effective. Note: you may not get as low as you can because this is a way more physical way of sailing, so ensure you are as fit (strength and endurance) as possible to do this more effectively!
Keep rig away
This makes us get low and follows on from the previous point but in essence its main benefit is that it helps us counterbalance which aids our footwork and the changing of rails. In most situations this means you are in the opposite place to where the rig is, i.e. rig back and body/hips forward on the mid point in your tack, or rig upright and you outboard and away in a straight line. Inevitably ‘rig away’ will also see us extending our arms more and this in turn gives us more space and leverage.
This has been well covered in the last 2 issues; however as a reminder we should set a high standard in our beach/water starts and look to be more physical. Employ the mantras of ‘extend (arms) and bend (back leg)’. By now I hope you are beginning to see a theme through this piece; look forward, rig away to help you get (keep) low. Lastly, being very good at your starts also drastically improves your recovery of moves or falls, which in turn means less starts and the conservation of energy. If I am falling I look to throw the rig up and bend my back leg as my head moves in to ‘eat the mastfoot’.
Effective hooking and unhooking
On a coaching week I will ask the same question quite a few times: how do we unhook?, raise hips or bend our arms? Even my regulars get this wrong and we all assume we are good at this yet we can improve in this key area. The answer is bend our arms to unhook so we remain low and out. To hook in more effectively be in a low position and bring the rig to you by bending your arms and coincide this with a subtle hip thrust. Bad hooking in means big catapults, and inefficient unhooking means a precious loss of speed.
Use the right planing technique for the right situation. We have covered this earlier in the year so I strongly suggest a recap. A quick reminder is that we have 3 ways of getting planing: Old school, Active and New school.
Old school is great for planing in marginal wind, i.e. hook in before getting in the straps. Active planing is great in waves / strong winds or coming out of gybes, i.e. get in the straps before hooking in. Lastly, I implore you to learn New School planing to develop so many skills; this is getting in the straps before getting planing.
Prepare early. H.U.F.
Time and again people ask me to help them out with the middle part of their gybe or the tack exit and in the main, I trace the ‘opportunity to improve’ back to the preparation phase of the move. If we prepare early we give ourselves the time and space to make the move and it also means we begin ‘focusing’ on the move earlier. My main recommendation is to employ my H.U.F. principle before the majority of moves/transitions. This being move your Hand first, then Unhook and then (where applicable) come out of the Footstrap/s. So, for example, in a tack the front hand moves forward, we unhook and then come out of the straps and then steer into the wind.
“ If we are lower, we are more dynamic and less likely to fall in, simple. ”
Tacking will not only give you a great move you can use forever but it also helps you to develop a whole array of other skills. Photo Nicolas Jones
Change the record and try new moves. Photo Clark Merritt
We learn it on our first hours of windsurfing and then many leave it behind. Keep on it, and make the tack your most consistent transition. It gives you upwind advantage, and from there you are better able to learn getting in the straps, in a position to sail fast downwind into your carve gybes and lastly it will allow you to ‘surfvive’ in wavesailing!
Backhand back for gybe
This is not only for all the de rigueur moves like carve gybes, bottom turns and forward loops but it also gives you the set up for learning even harder moves and gives you a great life long habit. This technique actually should begin in light winds, so when we get out and practice our gybes, or perhaps learn to heli tack, really exaggerate getting your back hand way down the boom.
Back hand back has so many benefits, too many to mention but here are 3 for now, it gives us leverage when unhooked, helps us to get the rig forward into moves (thereby keeping the nose down), and lastly it opens the sail in the middle which leads us to a better gybe exit. If people don’t gybe backhand back they will most likely not learn to forward with their back hand back, nor bottom turn, heli tack and so on and so forth.
Change the record
I love my waveriding as I can always look to improve it and no 2 waves (rides) are the same. A few years back I realised I had spent a long time working on my bottom and top turns and carving and not ‘invested’ in learning to aerial so I have now addressed this and am much more aware of what the wave lining up ahead of me wants me to do. I work with the wave and am forced to think more on my feet. It also taught me to ‘look up and out’ of the aerial and pull up my back leg in the air, in effect ‘get low!’
Examples of changing the record across the levels might be: learn to waterstart (even if you sail in a shallow location), sail one handed, try a duck gybe, jump before we learn to carve gybe or choose to go in the waves rather than carving huge grooves in the ocean whilst freeriding super long reaches. “If you always do what you have always done, then you will always get what you have always got.” Break free and move on up!
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