View Full Version : Can't Windsurf... But want to!

11th April 2008, 04:41 AM
I have tried and tried but can't figure out how to windsurf. But I absolutely want to learn how. Do you guys have any suggestions for me? I have oldish gear. That is, a long board and heavy, one-piece mast. But I think the sail is fairly modern. There is still ice on the lakes here in ND, so it will be a while yet before I can work on learning some more. Also, I can't get much more info about the equipment because it is at the lake. Thanks for everything.

11th April 2008, 11:35 AM
Hi ACF1,
Have you looked at the simulator drills video?
Since you are in NorthDakotam perhaps you could make it to the Nationals in Worthington, MN.
I'm pretty sure we'll be there teaching at the Nationals, and we can have you sailing in about 1/2 an hour.
Of course it will be on modern entry level boards and rigs.
Perhaps your long board and heavy mast (with a modern sail) are what's preventing you from having success.
An afternoon on a Start, with a lightweight 3.3 or 4.2 m2 Retro Ripper II and I'd be willing to bet you could go back home, put a lightweight easy to use rig on your
longboard, and be sailing around like you've been doing it for years.
In any event, I'm here to help, but I'd need to have a bit more information from you to determine what might be holding you at the level (no success it sounds like) you are currently stuck at.
Hope this helps,

13th April 2008, 10:11 AM
Thanks for the advice. Hopefully I can make it to the national. Of course though, my cousin's wedding is on that weekend. Might be an excuse to skip!

13th April 2008, 11:17 AM
Hi ACF1,
Not sure you need to miss the wedding.
Tell us what you are having trouble with, and perhaps we can give you the
advice that can provide you with a "breakthrough".
What exactly is happening, vice what you think should be happening.
Windsurfing is not a particularly "intuitive" sport.
It differs a great deal from sailing a boat or dinghy (if that's where your previous
sailing experience lies).
Let us "coach" you a bit online.
If we can discover what exactly isn't working, there are instructional videos that may make a difference, but it would help to know in which direction to send you.
Hope this helps,

15th April 2008, 03:26 AM
Well, I just can't do it. I did manage to sail a little ways on it one day. But other then that, I have had almost no luck with it. Most of my other sailing is done on a little old dinghy. My windsurfing setup came from a garage sale. I guess you could say I am a die hard sailor with out much sailing stuff and about as far away from the sailing hot spots as I could be! When I get up to the lake, I will try and figure out some info about the board and sails for you. I do know that the smaller sail is a Niel Pryde 4.something. I think part of my problem is the lake I sail on is small and it is gusty on it. I am going to try take it to Lake Sakakawea this summer. That should be a better place to learn. I have read everything I can get my hands on. So I have an idea of what I am doing, but I just can't execute it.

Ellen Faller
15th April 2008, 10:38 PM
I'll take my turn to ask a few questions, and try to get a better idea of where you are having problems.
If you bought your gear at a garage sale, it may well be "vintage" gear, like more than 10 and as much as 30 years old. Beginners used to learn on longer narrower boards (many succeeded, but many gave up!) which have a lot of volume but not in the most useful place by modern standards. If you have an older long narrow board, balance will be most important! especially compared to a modern shorter wider board, and to a dinghy. It is also likely that an older rig will be considerably heavier than a modern one, which will add to your challenge. Older small sails were also designed for high winds, and usually for waves, making them less user friendly for a beginner (less control) and heavier (lots of reinforcement).
Sailiing a boat is different from sailing a windsurfer in some important ways. In a boat, the rig (and boat) will heel, or tilt away from the wind. And you have lines and pulleys to help harness the power of the wind. Steering is done with a rudder. We don't use any of that in windsurfing.
On the positive side, your sailing experience will help you with understand the wind, angles of sailing, where you can, and can't go (and why...).
From one perspective, windsurfing is a lot like waterskiing. The sail is your "power boat" and so as it fills with wind and powers up, you will need to lean back against the "pull" of the sail rather than letting the sail pull you over (the usual instinct). The power of the sail is transmitted to the board by way of the mast (as with a dinghy) but *also* via your body through the legs, again more like waterskiing.
Windsurfing is all about balance. When you uphaul the sail, your instinct is to PULL on it to get it up. And most people try to rush that part, grab at the boom too soon, and get pulled in, or get the rig up and pull it right in on top of themselves. I don't know if getting the rig vertical is where you are having trouble, but it is usually a big problem for beginners starting on their own. Your instincts tell you one thing, when what you need to be doing is just about the opposite! (Great sport, windsurfing... it challenges more than just your body!)
Bend your knees, keep your arms straight, and try to stand up as you lean back against the weight of the rig in the water, but slowly. As the water runs off the sail, it will very quickly become much lighter and you will need to balance against that change of weight, using your legs not your arms. Once the rig is out of the water, keep your knees and ankles loose, and your arms straight and learn to balance against the weight of the rig. You are now standing on an unstable board in the water and it will react to very small reactions in your body. A dinghy will not be this sensitive.
I hope I haven't covered ground (or water...) that you've already mastered, but we need a place from which to start in order to help you progress. Roger and I have been doing this for quite a while and have heard from many novices. One common difficulty is that as a novice, you don't know how to describe what is, or is not, happening, and often don't have the words to paint a good picture. So just talk about what you have for gear, what you do to start off, and what happens. And bear with us as we try to work it out in words!
cheers and welcome to the sport. The enjoyment is improved by the challenge to get to the reward!

17th April 2008, 03:20 AM
Thanks for the advice. I can't wait to get on the water and try it some more. A few things. The board is really narrow and long. It also floats really good; you couldn't sink it if you tried. Getting the sail up isn't to much of a problem. I am athletic (played high school hockey). What happens is I get the mast up and then I can't start sailing. Also, where should I have the mast set in the track? I usually just put it in the middle. One time when I did get sailing pretty good, it seemed like the nose of the board came out of the water a little bit. That made things way better, becuase a lot of the times, the board is pushing so much water if I do manage to make some headway. I understand how windsurfers work with the wind (steering, sailing, etc.) But I can't seem to find the correct way to sail it to make it work. Thanks for all the help. It is much appreciated.

Ellen Faller
17th April 2008, 07:04 AM
Great to have more information! Long and narrow sounds like more of a "vintage" board. Many of us learned on them, but it wasn't as simple and easy as the more modern designs, largely because they are tippier and less stable. Modern novice boards have about the same volume but most if it is *under* your feet rather than out at the ends where you don't really ever go. Consider a pencil and a paper plate floating in a tub. They may have the same volume, but the plate has more "floatability".
Forgive me for being wordy but here we have to deal with a thousand words instead of a picture, or rather, to create the picture.
Setting the mast in the middle is just about always a safe choice. Having the mast there will allow the nose to rise a little bit, which is good, since as you have noticed, you don't have to "push" water as much. In dinghy sailing, you are usually sailing in *displacement" mode, sailing *through* the water. One does this in windsurfing in light wind most times, with a bigger longer board and smaller sail, such as you have. The goal for most windsurfers is to get planing (hydroplaning), rising up and over your bow wave, and get going *on top* of the water. Thus one needs to get the bow up, and it will rise as you pick up speed, so you are on the right track.
As for getting the sail to work, things will be different from dinghy sailing. You will want to raise the sail with one foot on either side of the mast base. Learn to balance against the weight of the rig, and try not to let the mast get too close to you. Hopefully, you have the board perpendicular to the wind direction, and the wind is hitting you in the back and the sail is flapping like a flag, also perpendicular to the wind.
So that we are all on the same page, let me bring up a sort of "visual" concept. One way we talk about the wind, and our relation to its direction, is the "wind clock". The wind clock has you at the center; the wind always blows from 12 o'clock, and toward 6. Your course will be to sail towards 3 or 9 o'clock, back and forth across the wind. You can't head up higher than 2 or 10 o'clock, and you won't want to head much farther down than 4 or 8 o'clock.
So you will have your back to the wind, facing down wind, with the sail just hanging off with no power in it. When you want to get started, AND to have the best mechanical advantage to deal with the power that will be in your sail, you will need to get behind the mast with your front foot on or next to the centerline of the board and the toes pointed forward. Your back foot will have to move farther back and be more or less across the centerline of the board. With you now behind the mast, you can pull the rig up and across the board as you rotate your body to face (let's say) 3 o'clock where you want to travel. As you face the front of the board, get the mast right across so that your left hand is in front of your left shoulder AS YOU FACE the nose and the direction in which you want to sail. The sail should still be flapping downwind with no power in it, and the mast should be tilted slightly into the wind. With your right hand, put 2 fingers (really) on the boom just in front of your right shoulder (NOT way out on the boom), "sheet in" just a bit to get the wind on your side of the sail. Don't pull the sail in more than a few inches or you will end up steering the board too far upwind. Don't REACH for the boom either. You will need to keep your shoulders positioned over your hips or actually a bit farther outboard and keep in mind the analogy to waterskiing: When the motorboat powers up, you need to lean BACK so as not to get pulled over forward.
Keep looking where you want to go: 3 PM. When in doubt, just let go with the 2 fingers and all the power will go away, you can catch your balance and start over, also check to see if the powerless sail flaps at a right angle to the board. Again, don't reach for the boom, but rather be sure that your front hand (here your left) has brought the mast past vertical and a little bit towards the wind. The boom will be right there, put your back hand on the boom with a VERY light grip (so that you can let go...) and sheet in just that few inches. Try not to let your thumbs go under the boom (squeezing doesn't help!) but just to hook your hands over the boom. Keep in mind, when in doubt... let it out! and you will have more control.
You may have seen other windsurfers flying along with the sail pulled in almost along the centerline of the board. You don't have the speed to do that YET. You probably know about "apparent wind" from dinghy sailing. If not, let us know! Anyway, you need speed to sheet in more, and right now you need to feel comfortable and confident sailing in a straight line. More speed comes more easily with practice. The idea is for you to be sailing the board, rather than for the board to be taking you for a ride.
For now, consider the wind clock, your course, balancing against the weight of the sailing when uphauling and determining where you CAN go, and then balancing against the pull of the rig when you do get going. Fail safe is always to let go with the hand farther from the mast, and to control the position of the mast with the hand closer to the mast.
That's probably enough for now. But please keep in touch and let us know what and how you are doing it.

Del Carpenter
23rd April 2008, 06:27 AM
I’m mentioning the following resources in case you are missing one of them:
There are plans for cheap but very useable simulator on Starboard’s Windsurfing Academy. That might help you quite a bit while your are waiting for warmer water.

The “Ten Step Guide to Windsurfing” for older longboards like yours is found at: http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~wprinz/windsurfing/windindex.html

Often on e-Bay you can buy the book, “A Beginner’s Guide to Zen and the Art of Windsurfing” by Frank Fox. It helped me when I was learning more than 20 years ago.

There are at least four ways to steer a windsurfer. all steering is done with a combination of all four. Each way creates a force which acts toward turning the board. Which way the board actually turns depends on the relative strength of each force. Each of the methods is always “on”. Two of them move the board’s nose toward upwind or downwind. Two of them move the board’s nose toward port or starboard. Two of them are acheived by moving the mast. Two of them are achieved by placing your weight. 1. Lean mast toward bow (nose) the bow turns downwind. Or lean the mast toward the stern, the bow turns upwind. 2. Use your body to weight the bow, the bow goes downwind. Use your body to weight the stern, the bow goes upwind. 3. Lean the mast torward the port side, the bow goes starboard, lean the mast toward the starboard side, the bow goes port. 4.Tilt the board to port with the daggerboard down, the board pivots on the daggerboard and the bow goes starboard. Tilt the board to starboard with the daggerboard down and the board pivorts on the daggerboard and the bow goes to port. (#4 is tricky because the results are different with the daggerboard up or on a shortboard with no daggerboard.)

One example using all four: When the wind is coming from the starboard (right) side of the board and you want to turn downwind (toward port or left), to make all four steering methods help you turn downwind you can (1) lean the mast forward, (2) weight your frong foot, (3) lean the mast toward starboard, and (4) tilt the board toward port (if the daggerboard is down), all at the same time. It is very easy for a beginner to concentrate attention on using one method to turn but, unintentionally turn in another direction because another method has more force, and the beginner forgot about what was going on with the other three steering methods. How you move your feet, where you put your weight can make as much different as how you move the mast.

You can feel smqll changes in the wind, but you can’t feel subtle changes in direction. The only way to know how much the board is turning is to look foward over the bow. If you spend much time looking at the sail you’ll be surprised by a change in direction you didn’t know was happening.

You can learn to windsurf.