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Windsurfing is about harnessing the elements but one of the greyer areas of our sport that people shy away from either understanding or even experimenting with is the tuning of our kit.

Jem Hall  //  Photo  Nicolas Jones, Clark Merrit


(This feature originally appeared in the May 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!)


On my Coaching clinics I teach basic tuning straight away; board setup and making easy changes to the rig, like boom height or outhaul tension. This forges independence and experimentation and begins the self-coaching and resilience I like to foster in my students. It even starts before the clinic with an email to say bring some smaller / spare fins for example. Tuning assists the rider in getting a huge range out of one board, thereby necessitating less board and sail changing and so this month I will look at how to tune the ever-versatile freestyle wave board.

Please remember my recommendations as to what to tune and how are a guide. In the art of tuning the goal is experimenting to find out what works best for you! This feature covers FSW tuning as these are not only very popular but they have also now, so to speak, ‘come of age’ with their tri fin setup options alongside their straight shooting single fin predictability. They were already chameleons but now even more so.

“ In the art of tuning the goal is experimenting to find out what works best for you! ”


Focused on carving so the setup here will be inboard straps and a smaller fin’  PHOTO N.Jones

Changing our chassis

So what exactly can we can tune and to what outcome:  
Footstrap size – I have banging on about it for some time now so please note the term ‘footstrap’ and not ‘toe strap’. Note if these (inboard) straps feel big when blasting you can edge your foot out of the strap to help lock down the rail, and thereby the board. Bigger footstraps help you carve, jump and slip your feet in and out smoothly.
Footstrap position – Changing the position helps us to make our boards more comfy for our own stature, and it also allows us more control over the board or furthermore to prioritise speed over moves. No 2 brands have the same spread between the front and back straps, so a tape measure is the truth and your friend. I have detailed more in my picture
captions but in brief, a wide spread will give control, an inboard position for carving and outboard for blasting.
Mastfoot position – This is an easy change and can be performed both in and out of the water. It can yield a huge difference in performance. Moving it controls the pitch of the board; essentially nudging the mast foot forward locks the board down and bringing it back lifts the nose. Find your 130cm point (distance from the tail) and mark it. Note some brands have this marked already, but it is worth double-checking. Again please experiment to find an all-round setting and move the mastfoot fore and aft by a cm or 2 – no more.
Fin Size – This feature covers FSWs but even freemove boards could see you running 3 different fins to great effect. Increasing fin size ups the lift and assists early planing and upwind sailing. Decreasing fin size lessens the lift and helps the board to become more controllable and manoeuvrable. On a lot of FSWs our choices are; run with the often-bigger stock single fin, size down the single fin or switch to a tri fin setup. It can be said that changing fin size can be like changing sail size; again increasing the board’s wind range and application.


‘Assess your generous sized front footstrap with your front leg straight. The pic shows how your foot will often be locked down for speed with an inboard bigger footstrap.’  PHOTO N.Jones


An inboard position and generous size allows your ankles to bend so you can drive into carves and release your feet easily for transitions. The proximity to the centreline also makes the foot change in the gybe smoother and for the rider to lift the upwind rail in the air for jumping, thereby feeding air/lift under the board.’  PHOTO N.Jones.


‘This shows how your back foot can be positioned, for a single back strap, when locking down the board at speed or for better upwind gains. The single back strap gives better jumping, and is easier for carving in the straps. Using the double back strap option is best accompanied by a bigger fin and is more for speed, lighter winds and for gaining more leverage over the fin.’  PHOTO N.Jones


This highlights how the single generous back strap facilitates ankle dynamism and getting your weight over the toeside rail. This will assist windward rail lifting for jumps, carving hard whilst strapped in for wave rides and flat water 360s and for busting through lulls without sinking the upwind rail!’ PHOTO N.Jones.


‘This setup can be a good compromise for bigger fins / lighter winds, or for more speed. The outboard front strap allows you to control the rail lifting (generated by going faster and the bigger fin) and the single back strap gives easy access and helps with moves and jumps.’ PHOTO N.Jones

“The strap spread that works best for you comes from your stature and preference. Measure from the back of the front footstrap screw to the front of the back footstrap screw.  As a guide the range is around 38-44cms. Shorter (height and/or leg length) riders suit a narrower spread and taller riders go wider. For a point of reference this might be the front strap being on #2 hole and the back one on #4 (the very back hole) for me. The shorter rider can bring the front strap back and / or bring forward the back strap. Experimentation and knowing the measurements are key.’  PHOTO N.Jones.

Case Studies

Situation: The rider is sailing in and the board’s nose is looking to rise, alongside the windward rail getting a bit unwieldy. As they try to gybe the board it will not turn downwind easily and has problems holding the carve.
Solution: They are overpowered and their fin is too big. Options are to increase outhaul and size down the fin in order to decrease the fin lift and help the board become more controllable and able to turn/carve.
Situation: A rider is looking to get planing and get upwind and also make some chop hops, or even learn to forward loop. The board appears to have no drive or pop.
Solution: Whilst looking to up their game they have simply gone too small on the fin size. They need to upsize the fin; even from 22 to 26 cms can make a big difference. This will give them easier planing and pop so they can try more moves!
Situation: A wannabe wavesailor is looking to get into wave riding and despite their best efforts on a suitable wave, the board (their FSW), is just not turning responsively.
Solution: Their setup is single fin and they have neglected to change their fin to a more responsive tri fin setup.
Situation: A rider is flying around in a fast great stance but the board is not at the speed it should be and is catching chop around the shoulders (in front of the mast foot).
Solution: Modern boards are just so well behaved that sometimes they are just too flat to the water and we need to release them. In this instance it is best to move the mast foot back. The rider may have also fallen for that old tuning classic of ‘put it in the middle.’ Note that sometimes your best mast foot setting may be at the back of the mast track!


‘The distance from the centreline does not look like much, but believe me it can make a big difference. My suggestion for tuning is make one change only and go with it for 6 – 8 reaches (assuming stable conditions) and look to feel what the kit is telling you; better control? faster? easier turns? Lastly, record these knowledge-gathering results in a notebook or on your phone so you have them for next time and for reflection. ‘Knowledge is power!’  PHOTO N.Jones


‘To be clear the #2 hole denotes its position from the nose of the board. 1 being most forward and 4 being furthest back. A majority of boards have 4 choices. Be careful screwing in your footstraps and use the right sized screwdriver! PZ3 seems to be industry standard.’ PHOTO N.Jones



‘Two change down fin options for a FSW 104 that I favour. I would use the stock 32cm fin for very underpowered 5.8 sailing or for my 6.4. As soon as I’m flying on a 5.8 or smaller I want to be on the 26cm fin. This means I have to work a bit harder to plane and get upwind, but the benefit of better carves and boosting more air easily far outweighs the required focus on my fundamentals.
The 22cm is for windy / bumpier waters and some tricks. It means I can use a 5.3 or 4.7 on the 104 when required. Sailing a smaller fin makes us more sensitive and so when we go down to smaller boards they feel, well, less small. As a 90 kgs rider I favour bigger boards, medium sails and fins that are not too big. Look to find your preferred setup and benefit from having more fun and perhaps learning more.’  PHOTO N.Jones.


‘Setting up your FSW with its tri fin option gives you even more control in stronger winds and bumpy water. It will also help you to go into the waves and be able to wave ride more easily when well powered up.

Note that when your board is in single fin mode the outside boxes should have ‘box covers’ in place to keep the water flow efficient.
Again you should experiment here with a few different sizes. For me on bigger FSWs I favour 12cm outside fins and an 18-20cm main fin. If you go down in board size then you can take a cm or 2 off those. I suggest getting acquainted with your tri fin setup. PHOTO N.Jones

Fin calculator
This is a system that I have been using for a while and suggesting to my clients.  Take the sail size and multiply by it 5 to get around the right sized suitable (single fin) for that sail. From here you can take off or add cms for ability, bodyweight, move targets and wind strength. Let’s look at some examples for big bald 90 kgs coach me –

• 6.4 on my FSW 104. 6.4 x 5 = 32cm. This is the stock fin size so that is great.
• 5.8 on the 104 = 29cm. I need less fin and my ability is not bad and I want to carve hard so I’m down to a 26cm fin.
• 5.0 on bumpy to flat water and we are down to 22-25cm fins.
• Freemove example – 7.0 on my 110 and a 95 kgs client wants to try my board. 7.0 x 5 = 35cm, but they want to get going easily so I reach for my 40cm for them.



‘To get a feel of where your mastfoot should be you can make a mark on your mast track by taking a measure from the back of the board to 130cm from the tail, or use (double check) the markings that might already be available.
Small movements in the range of 128-132cms can often yield excellent results.
It is worth noting that riders often move their mast feet forward but rarely rearward for good effect. Also moving your mastfoot back will require you pull the kit more down into the water, often with a bent back leg. Therefore you are required to improve your technique to benefit from the looser feel and more available pop of a more aft mast foot.
On the other end of the scale, when it is blowing hard, simply moving your mastfoot forward 2cms can make a huge difference, as this drops the nose and your body position.

Essentially the feelings of moving your mastfoot are: forwards feels like you have more weight on the board so it will feel like it is more planted and settled, backwards feels like you have more weight on the rig and the board has more release and excitement to it, feeling somewhat freer.’ PHOTO N.Jones


In the art of tuning the goal is experimenting to find out what works best for you! ”

RRD boards, wetsuits, softwear, Ezzy sails
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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