Max Rowe and Andy ‘Bubble’ Chambers are not only professional windsurfers, but experienced coaches too. Throughout their time windsurfing and instructing, certain common mistakes have cropped up again and again, both on the water and on the beach. Max and Bubble join Boards to share the most frequently seen windsurfing errors, and explain how fixing them could help improve your windsurfing.
1. NOT CHANGING DOWN
Everyone will admit to having that huge fear of being underpowered and for this reason far too many of us will rig big and then just hang on, as we’ve got the fear of the wind dying. In reality, you’re more likely to be able not only to maximise your sailing hours but also feel like you’re in enough relative control to try something new if you do change down that little bit sooner.
2. FOOTSTRAPS TOO SMALL
They are called footstraps for a reason; your foot is supposed to be inside them! The ideal size for general freeriding is to be able to see the knuckles of your toes poking out the other side of the strap. Having the straps this big makes it possible for you to balance properly on the balls of your feet during manoeuvres, instead of feeling like you are prancing around on your tiptoes. Bigger straps will also allow for your foot to be released from the strap easier if something does go wrong. Generally speaking, the bigger your straps, the easier your foot can come out, and the less likely you are to get injured.
3. TOO MUCH OUTHAUL
This is the biggest killer of having a comfortable feel from your sail; too much outhaul will give your sail a horrible, twitchy feeling. The most important thing here is to not just take what is written on your sail as gospel, remember the boom length is measured from one point and the boom length required can change a lot depending on whereabouts it is positioned in the cut out.
Placing your hand over the sail, in line with the boom clips, you should be able to comfortably press and touch the other side of the boom. Obviously, you can increase and release tension when required depending on what the wind’s doing, i.e. more tension for stronger winds. With this in mind, still remember on your smaller sails that they will naturally feel twitchier, so be gentle with how much tension you’re putting on. Don’t be afraid to allow the sail to touch the boom whilst you’re sailing.
4. THE NOSE SINK TACK
The nose sink tack used to actually be a move back in the ‘80s…but it was more of a freestyle move. Nowadays some of you seem to still be trying to do a nose sink tack, whilst learning to do a normal short board tack! Sinking the nose is very common when learning to tack; especially with the new school, shorter, wider boards. However, these new wider boards can actually help you a lot; they have the width around the mast-track area meaning you need to keep yourself around that area, when moving your feet. They also stay planing for longer and are more stable at low speeds. This allows you to change sides nice and early, before the board has come to a complete stop. Changing sides while the board is still moving will stop you from driving the nose underwater; have a look at the light wind sailing section following for another tacking tip.
5. NOT ENOUGH LIGHT-WIND SAILING
Light-wind sailing can drastically improve your windsurfing. Not so much the blasting around element, but certainly the manoeuvre based element. Throwing the sail around in light winds on a big board helps to improve your sail control. You learn to move your hands around on the boom and to keep light fingers, which stops you from gripping on so tight that your knuckles go white! You should never feel like your hands are superglued to the boom, it allows you get much more of a feel for the sail. Light-wind sailing especially helps to learn some of the backwind moves like heli tacks and the end of downwind 360s. The short board tack is another move that you can learn the technique of getting round the other side of the sail earlier on a long board in light winds. It’s time to dust off that old long board in the garage or use a SUP.
6. UN-ROLLING THE SAIL DOWNWIND
Windsurfers in general love a bit of faffing. Getting all your gear and yourself to the beach quickly and easily to go windsurfing doesn’t always happen. On all those no-wind days where you have a bit of spare time at home, try and get organised. Make sure you have all your bits like: screwdriver, deck plate/ extension, fins, harness and any spare parts in one place. It could be a bag or a box; it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s sorted. Countless times at the beach someone needs a screwdriver or has forgotten their harness. Get it all in one place at home and never forget anything. Otherwise, you will end up faffing at home and at the beach. You will save a lot of time and stress and therefore get more time on the water if you just organise your windsurfing gear at home.
8. INHAUL ON THE BOTTOM
9. CAR PARK WINDSURFING
Too much time is spent in the car park looking at the conditions and making decisions on which gear to go on, chatting about tides and blah blah blah. Save the chat for after the session! Get to the beach, make the decision for yourself (not what others say), rig up and get on the water. It’s not like we get six hours of wind every day, so make the most of it when it comes. Windsurf first, chat later.
10. BOARDIES OVER WETSUIT
This really is not cool at all. If kiters want to make themselves look uncool (read complete idiots), then let them, but it's not something we should be doing.
11. SEAT HARNESS OVER SPEEDOS
Actually speedos should never be worn, full stop. And a seat harness with boardies is really uncomfortable, too. Generally, if you are wearing a seat harness, for comfort and aesthetics, wear a wetsuit.
12. THE STAND UP, LEAN BACK, SHEET OUT GYBE
The most common of all gybing mistakes, it’s the opposite of what you are supposed to do! By standing up, leaning back and sheeting out you are not using enough of the rail to drive you round the turn. Instead you are trying to use the back third of the rail, which is not designed for turning. As you move up towards the front of the board, the rail becomes more curved, this curved or more rounded shape allows the water to stick to it, which pulls the board around the turn. So from now on: get low, bend the knees and sheet in!
13. VANS WITH BARN DOORS
If you live in the UK, or anywhere that shares the same kind of non-sunny or dry climate, then a van with a lift-up tailgate backdoor can be very useful. It shelters you and a few friends from the rain and also gives you somewhere to hang your wetsuit. Another big plus point is that you don’t damage any equipment when getting out of the van. This is a common occurrence with the central opening, barn doors; they can slam shut when a gust of wind comes and it’s usually just when you are getting your prized board or mast out.
14. harness lines too short
The easiest way to gauge the harness line length you need for your size is to place your elbow into the bottom of your lines, from there the boom should sit in the palm of your hand if you’re wearing a waist harness, or to your wrist if you’re using a seat harness. If your lines are too short it can give you a horrible sensation of being stuck too close to your sail. Many people get used to this feeling and deal with it, but if you are one of them then get out there and try some longer lines; you won’t regret it.
15. Not colour coding
Looking good on the water starts with looking good on the beach! Wherever you are, you make sure you look as colour co-ordinated as possible. This is a foolproof way of making sure that even if you crash your gybes on the inside, people will still be checking you out on the beach.