The Moves That Matter - One Handed Top Turn - Boards Windsurfing

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The Moves That Matter – One Handed Top Turn

Over to Jem Hall, our technique guru, to see what he has to say in his new series of articles examining a multitude of windsurfing skills and techniques and aptly named ‘The Moves That Matter’. This time round Jem further highlights the links from your fundamentals and continues on a waveriding theme to inspire, educate, entertain and enthuse you to take your sailing up a level by dropping a hand in your top turns.

Let go and let it flow - Photo, Dave White

I hope you have enjoyed my recent articles in my new technique series, the Moves That Matter (MTM), and you can check the technique section for a recap should you so wish (Click on the following: 1, 2 or 3). I have covered the basic tips on how to waveride front side both in pics/words and then last month with a video. For this feature I implore you to get experimental and let go of both fear and the boom in the one handed top turn.

Now before I go on to the benefits that my clients, pros, mates and I have found from getting a bit disco in our wave riding I would like to invite all windsurfers to get involved in the ‘one handed club.’ Not everyone has the ability or the opportunity to whip out one handed top turns whilst wave riding yet we can all look to drop a hand whilst sailing along. Here are the contexts:

  • Nothing better than seeing a beginner understanding how their position works in relation to the rig, so it is great to see instructors showing, and inspiring, their pupils how to sail one handed. This helps them lean back and find the power point in the sail.
  • In order to get people committed to the harness I have found it best to get them to drop one of their hands in their first hour of learning. This drops their hips, makes them commit and gets them trimming the sail. So please hook in and drop or briefly raise one of your hands.
  • When blasting along quite comfortably in the harness and straps it is not only fun to drop your front hand and move it towards stroking the water but it also moves your body position further outboards. This has many benefits including a straighter front leg, more bent back leg and generally you just have to move into a better stance – or it’s out the front door you go as you catapult and look to clear your kit in style.

Funnily enough getting the camera out and pointing it at people, once prompted, seems to guarantee even more of a step up in peoples one handed sailing skills, and it also keeps us entertained as we think ‘will he, won’t he – catapult?’ as their stance changes and adjusts. So please, everyone, drop a hand, enjoy it and try and keep your hand gestures just a little bit politically correct.

Drop the hand, get out and get down. Photo - Mary Bush

As we look at the technique of when and how to one handed top turn let’s recap. Perhaps the best and most visual way is to check out the front side wave riding video from last time.

Lets keep it simple – for the bottom turn, hands wide, look downwind and gradually turn off your toes.

Then as you top turn bring your hands together, look forward and get outboards to push on your heels.

Why – I can hear you thinking why is this Jem bloke asking me to do this? Well here are just a few reasons, that over the years, my clients and I have found:

It feels good and it looks good in pics.

Jeremy Selway could not get enough of this move in Punta San Carlos. Photo - Clark Merritt

Next up – it makes you move your hands so that you get them together ready for the release and this will open your sail more effectively in the top turn and lead to more fluid riding.

With only one hand on the rig you are forced to counterbalance the rig more so you inherently get down lower and move your body-weight further outboard, which again makes the turns feel and look better.

The main reason it works is that it sets both you and I challenge and conditions us to gain a new skill and break away from the norm – we therefore look to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.


Now before we head out there and rip the waves to shreds it is important to examine our tuning.

Harness lines – whilst in your stance check and reposition the lines to how the sail feels, ensure they are correctly placed and in order to get the hands together they should only be a maximum of 1 hand width apart (I like them 1 finger apart so I can really feel the rig).

In general – bigger straps allows us to turn the board more forcefully, smaller fins on fsws make them looser and lastly, please set your sails relatively flat so they are stable, easy to handle and do not pull you out of position.


The conditions you require for this are easy open faces that are not too steep and anyone who is doing basic frontside riding is able to do it – believe and achieve. It can be performed in side-off to side-on winds and you don’t want to be too powered up. If you have access to, or own, a WindSUP then you gain even more opportunities to get into it.

SUP it up and let go. Photo - Dave White

The timing of dropping the front hand is just after you have repositioned your back hand up the boom in readiness for driving out of your top turn. Let’s give you a few more words to visualize this – the video will be out next month so stay tuned, this feature is to get you in the know and ready to flow.


> After coming out of the bottom turn and moving outboards ready to top turn, begin to look over your front shoulder. As for all good frontside turns slide your backhand up the boom as your hips to continue to move over to your heelside rail.

> Aim to get your backhand up in front of your lines and continue to look out of the turn. You are now able to start driving more through your rear hip and heelside rail to make your top turn and are ready to let go. You can see here how the dropping of my front hand brings my front shoulder and therefore whole body position lower.

Get down James Brown. Photo - Dave White

> After you have dropped your front the rig will be free to come forward so do just that whilst opening the sail and counterbalance the rig’s weight. Rig huggers are not welcome here, so get the rig away from you as you look forward and down!

> As you get more confident you can really get outboard and carve hard to throw up some spray. The one handed top turn is a good way to ‘cutback’ on an open face to get back to the power section of the wave – fine exponents and inspiration for this are Levi Siver and Josh Angulo, pure class!

> If you want to add a bit of fun to this then you and your mates can let out a big noise as you do it, like ‘boom.’ This keeps my friends, clients and I entertained on the smaller days, and as my good friend, Tony ‘Tattsy’ Ford, would say ‘memories are built on emotions’ so if you are laughing then you are more likely to enjoy this and remember it.

Hands together for Clive ‘El Toro’ Boden. Photo - Clark Merritt

As a sign off, I would like to highlight how this move helped my main man Clive ‘El Toro’ Boden (60 years young) in his top turns. One of the targets I set my wave-sailing clients is to do some one handed top turns so that their hands were surfing the boom as much as they surfed the waves. Those that did a lot, and that is more than 10, progressed the most and Clive did so many that he was almost nonchalant about them, where at first he was somewhat tentative. Therefore, the standards you set and the targets you aim to achieve will strongly affect how much you improve. Check out ‘El Toro’s’ learn to loop movie for both carnage and inspiration.

Of course, like Clive, you will learn so much more on one of my fine coaching clinics as you can get all this live, instant and direct with the conditions to put it in place, pimping done now.


“To earn more, you must learn more. Your outer world results will always reflect your inner world preparation.” – Brian Tracy


If you seriously want to improve and have a fantastic holiday book on one of Jem’s coaching clinics NOW! For 2012 he kicks off with marvellous Marsa Alam in March, then magical Moulay in May, reliable Rhodes in summer, Beautiful Brandon Bay, Ireland in October and the pièces de résistance, PSC, Baja in August and Beautiful Brazil in November.


Jem’s brand new wave technique movie Winner to Wavesailor is ready to PURCHASE NOW, and for all your fundamentals he has Beginner to Winner. You can now buy all 3 movies, including Freestyle, in the Trilogy box set.


RRD boards, Ezzy Sails, Flying Objects, Big Salty Weather and Prosport Sunblock sponsor Jem Hall. Check out for more details.


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