Simon Bornhoft looks into effective use of our body when we seek to gain control and cope with rapid acceleration.
If ever there was a time when stance and body mechanics influenced our windsurfing, it’s when we’re put to the test by challenging conditions. These influential principles, actions and land exercises will ensure greater karma when all around you is raging.
Last month we concentrated on marginal situations; this month deals with excess. Excess power, excess speed, excess “Oh my god" moments – all work to reduce your energy. That’s not to say windsurfing doesn’t take effort; it just needs to be directed in the right place! As ever, simplification, accentuation and having the faith to give it a really decent go far outweigh fussing about getting things absolutely right or over-thinking the issue.
Q: How do I control excessive power, speed and tame my board and rig?
A: Get your head and hips angled behind your feet.
“Hey! Wait a minute..." I hear you cry, “...that’s what you said for early planing last month!". Yep, well spotted. However, as you may recall from the very first BodyWise feature, similar body positions appear in different areas of the sport, but subtle redirection of forces make a massive difference. That’s why it’s so easy to miss some vital signs and actions. So yes, we adopt a super-7 style stance, but rather than dropping and pushing to promote planing, we ‘drop-&-dig’ to maintain control and accentuate other forces, which we’ll expose shortly. So we’re now going to ensure you know how, when and if you’re actually getting the actions right.
RULE #1 : Body and Board to Windward!
Regardless of how well you develop your stance and understand body mechanics, your number one objective when controlling excess speed or power in virtually any situation is to head upwind! This not only reduces speed but crucially helps sheet the rig in. Moving your feet towards the windward rail (when out of the straps) will assist in this ‘get upwind’ quest!:
Let’s look at how the body figures in all of this...
Vision: Head up and look forwards.
Trim : Wide foot spread with weight on both heels.
Balance: As ever, oppose the rig’s position and forces by dropping your weight well below the boom, pushing the board ‘away from you’ with the legs, rather than squatting French toilet style.
Power : Adopt a wide hand spread and hunch the upper body slightly to make sure you’re accentuating pulling down on the boom:
If conditions worsen the body hunches more and the front arm flexes to emphasise pulling down on the boom. So, unlike lighter winds, when we adopt a straighter, tighter frame (straight-7), in stronger winds hunch, sink, relax! Drop and dig to become heavy!:
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE?
Thee ‘stances’ below look very similar, but the forces are decidedly different, and often hard to spot. In pic 5, I’m adopting a super-7 position, but I’m not curling the toes up on the front foot. This is fine IF the board, and the water, is flat. But the moment I sense the nose or windward rail lifting, I push harder into the harness, flex the back leg slightly more and, most importantly, curl the toes up on the front foot to help increase pressure on the heels of both feet (as in pic 6).
Q: Where might I be going wrong?
A: If the body stands upright, tenses and puts strain on the arms, (as above) you’ll often sheet out and feel every bump because the board is more underneath you.
Q: Should I use under or over grip?
A: Nothing wrong with underhand grip – if the arms stay relatively extended. However, there’s a tendency to excessively bend the front arm. If this relates to you, experiment with your harness lines and try an overhand grip to limit becoming too intimate with your boom!:
Think harness, hips and legs ... not hands
The emphasis should be to hang back and get the board out in front of you (like in pic 5). From an outboard position you can drive, push and pull through the legs to direct the board.
Hang, sink and relax the upper torso and you’ll become ‘heavier’:
You could even try an exercise with some mates like the one below:
Q: So where are the pressure points?
A: Equal weight distribution between both feet, and remember – this is an action, not a position!:
1. Arms roughly shoulder-width apart, elbows pointing down!
2. Sink and drop the lower torso back into the harness and down, a lot!
3. Flex that back leg over chop. The bigger the chop, the bigger the flex.
4. Drive through an extended front leg and lock the heel of your front foot down onto the deck, really curling the toes up to lock that windward rail down.
Q: What if wind / board speed or chop increases?
Q: How do I know I’ve got it?
A: Go grab a chair, hang off a bar, or lean off a mate, but copy this stance and the one in pic 6 NOW!
Ask yourself “Am I this low, is my back leg bent at nearly 90° so my backside is about 30cm off the ground, and can I see my front foot well out in front of me?":
1.Be prepared to really hunch the upper body and flex the front arm and rear leg more.
2.Accentuate pushing the lower back into the harness.
3.Accentuate the heel pressure and front foot toe curl.
Q: Why does the board still leap out of the water (above) going over chop?
A: Often it’s a combination of standing too upright, too close to the boom, and over-weighting or straightening the back leg. Plus, and this is rather counter-intuitive, if you push down with a flat front foot the body tends to come inboard, which than makes the board lift more!
Cheating, compensating, exceptions and injury coping:
There’s little else you can do on this one. It’s all about commitment and making sure your harness lines are allowing you to sheet in through bodyweight rather than back arm grunt.
Option A: Adopt a super-7 drop-&-dig to regain control:
Option B: Do nothing and excessively weight or straighten the back leg and you’ll probably spin out! (tip: don't pick this option.):
BodyWise Simple Summary: You’ll find a super-7 drop-&-dig stance is used and often exaggerated in other situations such as these...
Pic 14: High wind gybe setup – before, during and after unhooking:
Pic 15: It’s massively accentuated mid-jump (requires no toe curl until the board is back on the water):
Pic 16: Completing carving moves like top turns off waves and finishing upwind 360s:
In excessive winds, before getting going I will...
a) Widen my__________________and__________________spread.
b) Turn the board__________________to gain initial control.
To control excessive speed, acceleration and power, I will adopt a super-7 stance focusing on...
c) Dropping my__________________, weighting my__________________,
curling the__________________of my front foot and flexing my__________________
d) I’ll keep my elbows__________________and__________________the actions if the wind increases.
e) I’ll try to__________________my grip and remain__________________and low.