MOVE ON UP – WINDSURFING TECHNIQUE
GET ON THE FRONT FOOT
From our August issue Jem looks at how our front foot weighting can affect and improve different aspects of our main windsurfing moves.
Photos: Brett Kenny // Eye Sea You
Perhaps the most important action we take in windsurfing is not having too much weight on our back foot as this will sink the tail and lift the nose and make us go slow. As we progress through the sport we fully understand this, yet as we look to boost the core skills of early planing, and reaching higher speeds in more control, we should look to focus on getting more weight on our front foot. Furthermore these two skills give us the keys to being able to learn and boost carve gybes.
Early planing starts with the front foot pushing the nose downwind in order to flatten the board and help it accelerate so we can get in the straps and fly. Acceleration then continues with the front foot, and leg, pushing down hard to flatten the board and lock down the rail to give us more speed and control.
Lastly, when the wind is decreasing and we are looking to keep planing we weight our front foot more, and move forwards and out, to take weight off our back foot to stop us sinking the tail and thereby losing speed.
Get on your front foot to boost early planing and top end speed and you will boost your wind range, thereby putting you in a position to not only learn to carve gybe, but also have more attempts!
This essential skill gives us a dry transition and helps us learn / improve gybes and gives us more options in a wave environment. One of the key aspects of nailing the tack is getting more weight on the front foot to allow us to shift our back foot in the foot change and thereby get ourselves round to the new side. If we look at the carving tack then there is a whole lot going on with the front foot; here are the key phases:
- Preparation – moving our body forward and weighting the front foot more, to be able to reach the mast (or forwards on the boom) prior to unhooking.
- Weighting the front foot to get the back foot out of the strap.
- Approach – carving upwind more off the front foot helps our hips ‘keep up,’ so they can be shifted forward to make a good foot change / transition.
- Transition – plenty of weight on the front foot so the back foot can shift.
- Exit – after stepping round to the new side, front foot pressure is key to getting the nose off the wind and getting the power in the sail so we can hang off the sail and exit efficiently.
Getting more on the front foot will boost all aspects of our tacks and carving off the front foot in the approach to a tack can help us learn backside wave riding.
Gybing is the area that really gave me the inspiration for this article. Furthermore, getting more front foot in gybing will not only help your progress in wave riding, but also in learning other carving moves like the duck gybe or 360. In fact I look to ‘trick’ people into gybing on the front foot by imploring them to attempt duck gybes and carving 360s as soon as they can complete a decent amount of gybes both ways.
Front foot carving can be seen as the action of going forward with the rig and your body weight in order to carve, initially, off the front foot. It is typified by the front knee and ankle bending and the rig in a position extended in front of the rider, to the inside of the turn, whereby they get the fantastic view of the water in front of them, as opposed to the rig!
It is important to understand that we must earn our right to carve off the front foot and that it can only be an option if we get speed into the carve, and crucially have the sail light. This means we must turn downwind to accelerate and then as we go into the carve we must ‘go with the rig’. To get a more thorough gybing overview please revisit my previous articles on this, but for now, as we did for the tack, let’s examine what actions the front foot and leg are taking and the phases that these actions are taken in:
- Preparation – weighting the front foot helps get the back foot out of the strap, after pulling down on the boom to both unhook and release the back foot out of the strap.
- Approach – pushing the board downwind by scissoring, extending the front leg and pushing through it as the back leg pulls the tail upwind.
- Carve – initiating the carve through a mini catapult of the rig to pull us forward into the turn as we go with our gear and ‘roll with it’, feeling pressure through the front foot, as we bend our knee and ankle forwards towards the mast foot as the front arm extends and gives us a clear view to ‘see the sea’ so to speak.
- Exit – calling on our early planing skills the front foot pushes down to get the board flat and, depending on the conditions, off the wind in order to give us a speedy getaway.
If you follow these actions then the first few times you do this the board will feel very responsive, and you may ‘overturn’. Please note that that it is much easier to carve off the front foot with your footstraps generously sized, otherwise you cannot bend your ankles and drive forward.
Let’s briefly touch upon what our front foot and leg does in the air. Here are the actions your front foot is performing, and the phases they take place in:
- Pre-jump – weight over the board and front foot so the back foot can be pushed down to assist sending the nose in the air.
- Take off – we can lift the nose further in the air by pulling up on our front foot, akin to kneeing yourself in the chin with the front knee. This will give us more height and also a better jump when less powered up.
- Aerial stance – look to push the nose off the wind with front foot pressure and front leg extension. From here we can then lift the tail by bending the back leg, we cannot do this however without first ‘pushing the nose off’.
- Active air – we can lengthen our flight time by sailing the board through the air and getting more active with the front leg.
Some key training moves to help us bend our front ankle are lunges, lower calf stretching, step ups onto a box and squats.
RRD boards, wetsuits & softwear, Ezzy sails, Black Project fins & Streamlined sponsor Jem Hall. For details on his coaching holidays check out www.jemhall.com. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.