How to windsurf – Part 3
In this latest installment of the how to windsurf guide, you will be given a clear breakdown of the 5 skills that you will learn in your beginner windsurfing lessons. These steps are essential learning blocks and should be included as part of any good windsurfing school syllabus for simulator work and water training during a beginner windsurfing course.
Assuming you are clear about your general action plan after reading the How to Windsurf Guide – Part 2, let’s look at the essentials any beginning windsurfer should know …
1. Name the different parts of a windsurf board and sail – Not good if your instructor tells you to put one hand on the neck and the other on the arm if you don’t know what these things are! A quick windsurfing and sailing tour should be the first thing you cover on your beginner windsurfing course.
Looking at the board, you have to know the front of the back (otherwise you may end up windsurfing backwards!). The front is more rounded and the back more square. The three parts that fit into a board are called the centerboard, fin, and universal joint (UJ for short). The daggerboard stops lateral drift (the curse of everyone learning to windsurf!) And provides much-needed stability! The fin keeps you moving in a straight line and the UJ is the missing link between the board and the sail, basically the magic piece of the kit that allows windsurfing to happen.
The sail or, more correctly, the ‘rig’ is a combination of the sail itself, a boom (which you hold onto) and a mast (which is the pole that goes up the front beam of the sail). With these three kits, some ropes, and a little knowledge of how to wind a sail properly, you can be ready to go in less than 5 minutes from hitting the beach!
2. The starting position – The first thing you have to master in windsurfing is how to get on the board and be in a balanced position from which you can move. Easier said than done! The key points here are to understand that the board has a center line that you must maintain your full weight on, using your stronger leg muscles rather than your back to pull the sail slowly from the water and creating a counterweight between the candle and your body.
It takes some practice and some splashing, but after a short period of time and the right conditions, this starting position should become second nature.
3. Static 180 turn – You may think the next step in learning to windsurf is setting sail into the sunset, but what if you don’t know how to turn around and go home? This is why the second skill you need to learn is actually how to turn yourself and the board in a full 180 degree static turn.
A simple explanation is that from your starting position you tilt the back of the sail (called the clew point) downward to try and touch the back of the board. This action will cause the board to spin under your feet, at which point you should take small controlled steps around the front of the board, making sure to stay very close to the center line as explained above. Once the board has completed a full 180 degree turn and you are facing where you came from (ie ‘home’), you return to your starting position once more, to stop the turning process and stabilize the board.
It takes some practice, mainly to master the balance of tiptoeing at the front of the board, but it is an essential skill that should be learned early in your windsurfing career.
4. The navigation position – Well, it’s time to windsurf! You’ve been going around in circles practicing your static 180-degree turns and feel confident that you can get back home, so it’s time to master the important step of getting from the starting position to the cruising position.
Here there is nothing more than remembering a certain sequence of movements that will help you go from being still to moving on the board. First, check that you are pointing through the wind, cross your front hand over the boom, release the back of the mast, move your feet in an ‘L’ shape (rear foot behind the centerboard and front foot next to the mast) , draw the Sail to ‘breakeven point’ and gain strength on the sail by pulling the boom with your rear hand.
The above description is a good starting point, but keep in mind that it does not replace tuition from a reputable windsurfing school where you can practice the movements under supervision on a simulator on dry land, gaining valuable muscle memory. You will also receive ongoing feedback and advice as you practice in the water, which is particularly important as all thoughts seem to go out the window once you are actually trying to windsurf.
5. Address – Often overlooked, but very important, the ability to drive around fellow beginner windsurfers and avoid other stationary objects, such as expensive yachts. The key to steering is to think in terms of “upwind” and “leeward”, not left to right. Because you change sides every time you turn 180 degrees on a windsurf board, so does your left and right effective!
To sail into the wind, gently tilt the end of the sail towards the tail end of the board and to avoid the wind tilt the mast forward / through the nose of the board. After each steering action, you must return the sail to a neutral and upright position to straighten its path.
When practiced under professional supervision, using modern equipment and in the right conditions, you will have a lot of fun and your progress through the basics of learning to windsurf will be fast. After taking beginner windsurfing lessons, you really must continue your good work by hiring windsurfing equipment to consolidate your learning. The absolute best way to learn and progress is to intersperse lessons with your own practice time. You can be shown ‘how’ to do something over and over again, but you will never fully understand movement without practicing it yourself.
So that’s an overview of how to learn to windsurf, from naming the various parts of the board and rig to getting acquainted with the basic principles that all beginning windsurfers should know.
In future articles, you can learn how to progress from beginners to improving windsurfing skills, detailing how to make your learning curve as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Enjoy your windsurfing.