Australian Windsurfing

Essential Improvers Tips
for windsurfing (PART 1)

RELAX! This one tip opens most of windsurfing's technique doors. Whatever you're doing stop from time to time to consider if you're tense and trying to use muscles that really need not be working.

PINK KNUCKLES. Whether in or out of the harness, you will not go any faster if you squeeze the boom until your knuckles turn white. Tension in the upper body stems from the hands so relax your grip and your body relaxes with it.

THUMBS OVER. And a way to help relax the arms, use OVER grip (fingers resting over the top of the boom) and rest your thumbs over the boom as well. As soon as you wrap them under the boom, you're in squeeze mode.

BOTTOM AWARENESS! Right trough the levels, the hips and bottom are your key body parts. No matter the wind strength, always check that your shoulders are OUTBOARD of your bottom. It's when you let the shoulders drop inboard of the hips that you place an unholy strain on your lower back as well as looking like the classic beginner in lavatorial stress.

STAND UP! Crouching down is the posture of a threatening beast. Even as the wind gets up try to stand up normally. It's more comfortable and you are in far better shape to handle the rig.

FRONT FOOT FORWARD. Moving into heavier conditions, the improver's niggliest recurring fault is that of turning involuntarily into the wind. More often than not it's the result of standing too square to the rig, which in turn leads to over-sheeting (pulling the sail too far). If you just twist the front foot forward a few degrees so it faces diagonally towards the nose of the board, you'll automatically take up a more open stance.

EXTENDED ARMS. It's the oldest tip in the book but bent arms are responsible for so much grief that they're not even worth considering. Don't lock out at the elbows, just keep them extended. The advantages are endless. For example, you gain a much better view of the road ahead and you divert the rig's load away from the weak forearms and onto the stronger shoulders and back. Above all it allows you to obey that greatest of all windsurfing's adages - GIVE YOURSELF ROOM

SHOULDER CONTROL. Bent arms lead you to control the sail's trimming angle by extending and contracting the biceps - a bad habit. With extended arms, power control should come from the shoulders. Bent arms lead you to control the sail's trimming angle by extending and contracting the biceps - a bad habit. With extended arms, power control should come from the shoulders.

ROOM TO TACK. Only hold the mast with one hand when you're tacking (the new front hand), that way you give yourself more room and can use the other arm for balance

MONITOR YOUR LINES. Experiment with different lengths until you feel perfection and then remember it!

STRAPS UP YOUR BUM? If the leg straps on your seat harness tend to work your up to where the sun don't shine, assuming that the harness fits and is tight, you've been guilty of sitting down too much and crouching under the boom.

FEEL THE BACK HAND. The harness should carry the major percentage of the sail's power. However the trick of setting the lines well back BEHIND the balance point so the body alone sheets in, makes you numb to the sail's needs and therefore prone to over-sheeting. For the most efficient trimming. it's best to just be able to feel the power in your back hand so you can trim it accordingly.

HIPPY SHAKE. Hooked in, it's your hips that should control both the trim and direction of the board. Ease them forward to lower the nose and bear away; swing them towards the tail to lift the nose and head up.

POINT THE TOES. In pleasant planing conditions, good speed comes from getting your weight OFF the board. Resting on your heels tends to sink the windward edge and kill the lift from the fin, whilst standing up and pointing your toes, flattens the board off and gets it riding right on the edge.

SPEED THEN POINT. To get a short board to plane freely upwind, you first have to generate pure speed by BEARING AWAY. With that speed, you can then head up and maintain that momentum.

MASTFOOT BACK. Those with long board experience are used to sliding the mastfoot forward as a way to control the lift from the daggerboard when going upwind. But improved upwind performance on a short board often comes from edging the mastfoot BACK and therefore bringing the power of the rig more onto the back foot and the fin.

STROKE THE NOSE. Pointing high on a short board comes from literally DRIVING it upwind by powering your weight forward through the mastfoot. To make sure your body is moving in the right direction, let the front hand go (by the way, stay hooked in) and try to touch the nose of the board.

PARALLEL ARMS. If your boom height, lines and stance are all good, in normal circumstances your extended arms should be horizontal and parallel with the water.

DRIVE - DON'T BUCKLE. A windy broad reach over chop is the hairiest and most exhilarating point of sailing. although absorbing the chop with knees to give the board a smooth ride, is a sound notion - but totally impossible given the board may be smacking as many as three chops a second. So long as the lumps aren't huge, the accepted speed technique is to brace against an extended (but not locked) front leg so you drive the nose down and blast a hole through anything in the way.

THE BIG PUSH. Spin-out arises most frequently from inconstant pressure against the fin, such as being tentative with the back foot or from delivering a massive SHOCK load like when landing from a jump. It is rarely the result of just pushing hard. As proof, get planing and then try deliberately to break the tail out just by driving as hard as you can. So long as the board is in the water and that pressure is constant, it's impossible.

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Peter Hart

Peter Hart
is Britains best known windsurfer having participated in the sport at every level for over 15 years. International competitor, equipment analyst, level 5 Trainer (RYA), TV Presenter and journalist. He is also recognised for his contribution to the RYA Videos (World recognised as the definitive windsurfing training programmes), and articles every month in the UK's Windsurf Magazine