Basic windsurfing skills include tacking, gybing stance and control movements

You should be focussing on the basic skills and fine tuning them so they become second nature and fluid.

I have put together this Guide to Basic Windsurf Skills that will make a huge difference to your progression and speed at which you learn.

BASIC STANCE

Having a good stance is absolutely vital.  All successful movements are based around a good stance and that goes for beginner level moves to advanced wave sailing.

Uphauling

Most instruction uses that basic uphaul method where you stand, with feet equidistant either side of the mast basis, then hand over hand pull the sail up and stand holding the mast. The problem with this uphaul stance is you end up quite vulnerable if there is chop or you’re  on a smaller board as well as being ill prepared for sailing away.

What we teach is the Warrior stance which is a name taken from Yoga. It sees the sailor having the front foot just in front of the mastbase, the back foot about 3ft back and the rear leg extended and the front leg is bent and you’re leaning over it.

As you uphaul and then take hold of the mast or boom, you’re already is a near perfect sailing position without having to move around.  You may also find that it feels more secure once the sail is held up.

SUP Yoga Warrior stance is perfect for windsurfing as it gives you huge stability

Sailing

From the uphaul or secure position it is easy to get back into a sailing position.

If you consider the uphaul position and the fact your back foot is already nicely positioned back on the board all you now need to do is draw or slide your front foot back so it stand just behind the mast base. You can see this in the picture below.

Introduction to Windsurfing with Surfs SUP Watersports

By placing your front foot behind the mast base allows you to move the body back and away from the rig when it is in its vertical position. As you may already know, having the mast standing vertical, allows the board to sail straight.

Another plus to having your body away from the sail is you can manage gusts and power more effectively. The image above shows the sail standing upright and the body being driven back behind the rig, by the front foot placement – you can also extend the front leg by locking out the front leg.

Looking at the back leg, the foot is placed across the board and straddles the centre line. Don’t over weight the back leg as you risk sinking the tail which would see you spinning the board into the wind, so we can refer back to the Warrior pose and shifting weight between back and front leg.

Another big part in sailing is the hip and hear rotation. During our windsurfing lessons, we’re always telling people to LOOK.   That means to not just glance, but to actually turn your head where you want to go. As you turn your head the shoulders and hips follow which will draw you into strong position relative to the sail.

As a beginner it is hard to maintain a Stance, so this is why we use the BBTalkin headsets, as it allows us to maintain communications when on the water.

Steering off the plane

The first thing we do once you’ve uphauled and managed to sail away is to steer. It’s essential that you develop this skill early on and keep building on it whilst you sail.  It will teach you to read the wind and better manage your waypoints on the water, whilst avoiding obstacles.

Leaning or swinging the rig back

When sailing along, drive your hands back past your shoulders. This will lean the rig and mast back toward the back of the back, behind you.   The board will now steer up into the wind.

Leaning or swinging the rig forwards

When sailing along, drive your hands forwards out in front of you. Extending the arms out long helps.  The mast will be angled towards the front of the board and this will make the board turn away from the wind.

Your stance

In both cases, you need to counter the pull in the sail as you extend it away from you. Initially you will feel like you’re being pulled off your feet, so you need to use the Warrior stance to counter the lean and pull.

When we’re teaching, you’ll be introduced to this method from the outset and again we’ll be by your side tweaking you as you sail.

Your head and vision

Anything we do, be it ride a bike or even walking relies on our heard and balance to direct us, so the same holds true when windsurfing.  If you want to steer upwind or downwind, really exaggerate the look and fully turn your head. Your shoulders will follow and then your hips, which helps to drive you through the turn.

The best windsurfing tip for beginners we can give you is where you look is where you go! So if you want to go upwind, keep your head up, look upwind and you’ll get there

The Tack

The first turn we teach is the tack and it is vital for maintaining your position on the water and keeping upwind. It is an easier turn than the gybe, so we work on this one first.

Before you make any turn, look around to make sure that you’re not going to crash into anything or anyone.

If you’re a total beginner you will probably find it easier to go back to you secure position, with both hands on the mast.

  1. Swing the sail around the back of the board and it will turn into the wind.
  2. As the board turns, start to step round with it so you’re always looking down the boom.
  3. Once you have done a full turn, get back into the sailing position.

As we progress through the lesson we will look at getting you to sail through the first part of the turn, which makes it quicker and more stable.

  1. Whilst sailing along, lean the rig back so the board turns into the wind.
  2. Put your front foot in front of the mast base about a ft.
  3.  The rig should be leaning back fully so as the board starts to head into the eye of the wind, you can move your back hand around the mast and onto the boom on the other side.  This is only possible if the rig is leaning back.
  4. Once you’ve got hold of the new side of the boom you can step round, keeping your feet close to the mast base and into the new sailing position.

This is a dynamic movement and needs commitment. Don’t be afraid of falling in as the harder you commit the quicker you will get good results.

The Gybe

The gybe is a turn downwind and can feel more unstable at slow speeds, so we teach two methods gybing.

A total beginner will start off by learning the static turn gybe.

  1. From a sailing position, move to a static hold on the mast and let the rig come to a neutral place across the board
  2. Remember to always keep your arms long, whilst holding the mast so the sail is held away from you and not cuddled towards your body.
  3. Swing the rig around the front of the board and you will find the board quickly turns downwind.
  4. Keeping those arms at full length and the rig away from you, you’re now looking down the length of the boom.
  5. As the board turns start to step round until you are on the other side. Keep the steps small and keep your feet near the middle of the board and don’t step onto the edges.

As the lesson moves on we may start to try and sail the rig through the turn downwind as this can offer more stability, but this is quite a lot harder, so we don’t rush people into this move. We’d rather you focus on the tack and when that is improving we can then look to develop the gybe.

If you’re happy to give it a try, then we” start by doing some downwind sailing.

  1. Lean the rig forwards and the board will start to turn downwind.
  2. As the board begins to turn more you need to let out slightly with the backhand so the sail opens up and is now across the board. To gain more control move your backhand along the boom so your grip becomes wider.
  3. Move your front foot back so it sits more alongside the backfoot. The goal here is to lighten the weight on the front of the board.
  4. Lean the rig over to the outside of the board, that’s the mast hand. This will help to drive the board around the turn.
  5. As you come onto the new side, you can let go of the backhand on the boom and the sail should gently fall away.
  6. In one go you now need to reposition your feet and grab the boom in the new sailing position so you are ready to sail away.  These moves should all just fall into place as the kit naturally positions itself.

Summary

The article “Basic Windsurfing Skills” by Ian at Surfs SUP Watersports outlines essential windsurfing techniques for beginners, focusing on stance, uphauling, sailing, steering, tacking, and gybing. It emphasizes the importance of the Warrior stance from yoga for stability, proper head and vision alignment for steering, and specific steps for tacking and gybing to enhance control and maneuverability on the water. The guide aims to help new windsurfers build foundational skills for smoother and safer progression in the sport.

Read the next blog about Choosing Your First Windsurfing Board. It will give you some great advice on selecting boards that are right for you and your level so you can keep on progressing quickly.

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