TACKING - Boards Windsurfing

Windsurfing Magazine




Simon Bornhoft joins Boards for the next instalment of Basics, the ultimate guide for those taking the first steps in windsurfing.

A tack is a controlled 180 degree turn where the sail sweeps across the back of the board and the body nips round the front of the mast before sheeting the rig in on the new side. It’s how everyone first learns to turn round.



Successful tacking relies on good vision and always moving the mast in the opposite direction to the body to maintain a counter balance. You’ll find your upwind and downwind steering skills link into the beginning and end of the tack respectively. You then add in some swift footwork in the middle of the turn to tack successfully. Once mastered you’ll be able to tack very quickly on very low volume boards.



To turn upwind, look upwind and push off the back foot whilst leaning the rig back towards the tail. To counter balance the rigs rearward movement, step forward with both feet, simultaneously moving your front hand to the mast or front of the boom near the mast as the board turns more towards the  wind.

Rig Back-Body Forward

Rig Back-Body Forward

To keep the board turning, angle the rig back and down so that the clew almost touches and then passes over the tail. Imagine trying to knock a beer can off the back of the board. To counter balance against the rig, move the body, hands and feet forward. As the rig is angled back, wrap your front foot right around the mast base and move the whole body forward.

Body and Rig Cross Over

Body and Rig Cross Over

As the board keeps turning, look back down the board and pull the clew end of the boom right over the tail. This indicates that the board has crucially passed through the eye of the wind. Never try and tack until you truly have swung that clew right over the tail. To initiate the tack, swivel the head to look out of the turn.

Switch The Feet

Switch The Feet

As your body moves from one side of the board to the other, the rig moves in the opposite direction. Keep the mast raked back and use the mast hand to force the rig across the board and downwind as the feet switch close to the mast base and onto the new side.

Rig Forward-Body Back

Rig Forward-Body Back

To re-establish your counterbalance, step back with the new rear foot and force that rig forward. Note how the head looks out of the turn, not down at the equipment. Sink into your drop and push stance to steer downwind.


Most people fall in mid tack because they pull the mast to close to the body or fall by moving the same way as the rig.

Simple summary

1. Look where you want to go.

2. Oppose the rigs movement with your body to maintain that vital counter balance.

Rig back body forward for entry.

Rig across, body across mid tack.

Rig forward, body back for exit.

3. Use a quick two-step movement close to the mast base to switch the feet.

Next time we will cover a more dynamic and rewarding downwind turn; the gybe! 

Simon Bornhoft Windwise www.windwise.net


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