Beach Starts and Water Starts:
When the going gets tough
by: Marc Lefebvre
If I had to decide
on what is the most tiring part of windsurfing for the beginner, intermediate
and advanced windsurfer, it would be uphauling the sail. If you are on
a shortboard and have a fully cambered sail in choppy surf this compounds
the problem. It can be downright exhausting trying to get the sail out
of the water. Well, this is why the beachstart and the waterstart were
invented. You don't have to install sheet rock for a living to have the
strength to beachstart or waterstart. It actually can be quite effortless
when you know what you are doing and there is enough wind. Below I will
outline how to beachstart and then progress into a waterstart because
they are very much related.
- start in enough
water to clear the fin.
- point the board
away from the beach on a slightly broad reach.
- holding the boom
near the mast, the clew should be down wind.
- grasp the boom
with your other hand. You should feel the sail trying to pull you.
- place your back
foot between the back and front foot strap. Do not step on the board
just place it there.
- sheet in with your
rear hand by bending your elbow, keep your front arm straight while
tilting the rig forward. The sail should be REALLY pulling now. This
applies mast foot pressure (MFP).
- while sheeting
in, step forward, putting your weight on your back foot and push off
with your front foot.
- once you're up,
sheet out so as to not catapult and now your moving.
- I can't get pulled
up onto the board.
This is caused either by not enough wind to get going
or you haven't powering the sail up enough. Remember, to power up
the sail means to sheet in by bending your rear elbow, keeping your
front arm straight, and tilting the rig forward. Also, you may need
to position yourself closer to the board so that when you fully extend
your arms the sail will be flying higher and therefore pulling you
- I keep sinking
the tail of the board.
You need to not step with your weight early on. Let
the sail pull you up, committing your weight then, using mast foot
pressure to balance.
- Once I get on the
board I fall back on my butt.
You are committing too much weight to the rig too
soon. If you are under powered, bend your knees more when you are
on the board rather than leaning out over the water.
- I keep rounding
up into the wind.
To avoid this, lean the rig forward and power up a
bit. Do not stand straight up or lean toward the rig, ever!! Falling
in backwards is OK. Falling in on the downwind side is inexcusable.
Never do it!
When you fall (which
you will do relatively soon) swim or walk the board back to shallow water
and repeat the beach start until you feel comfortable with it. Once you
have this down you are ready to learn the waterstart.
The waterstart is
very much like a beachstart. The best way to learn to waterstart is to
beachstart in a place that gradually gets deeper than knee deep. As you
get better, just make your starts from deeper and deeper water until you
are making them in water which is chest deep. From this point, learning
to waterstart is really easy. Someone once gave me advice that helped
a whole lot, they said, "Waterstarting is like pulling a sheet over your
head, you have get really under the boom...". Think about this when you
are at the stage of getting out of the water.
The first thing to
do in a waterstart is to get your rig oriented properly. To this day,
the one thing that takes the most energy for me is getting my rig into
position for a waterstart.
The rig needs to be
positioned with the mast perpendicular to the wind and the clew downwind.
The board should be facing slightly downwind on a broad reach and the
rear facing you with your back to the wind. This may seem easy to the
untrained eye but it can be quite a pain. Here are some tricks to make
it easier and always remember to let the wind do the work, not you:
Now your board should
be in perfect position and ready to start.
- mast is pointing
Swim the rig so that the rig is perpendicular to the
wind. Always swim away from your clew not towards it. Otherwise you
will sink the rig.
- clew is upwind.
If the clew is upwind, you have to swim around to
the clew and lift it. The wind will catch the sail and flip it over
so that the clew is downwind.
- board is pointing
To get the board to point down wind grab the nose
of the board and while holding the boom by the mast, push down on
the nose and up on the boom. You can use your feet to finish the job
by pushing the nose away from you
Here are a few helpful
tips to remember:
- clear the sail
by lifting the boom and place it on the stern of the board so that the
mast/boom connection will be resting on the rear of the board. If it
doesn't make it then lower booms and/or move your mast track forward.
- fly the sail by
lifting up on the rig above the boom connection and pushing down on
the rear of the board for leverage, so that the wind will catch the
sail and fly it. Then grab the rear of the boom with your other hand
and move your front hand to the boom. Fly the sail overhead, keeping
the board on a beam reach and keeping the mast perpendicular to the
- place your rear
foot on the board in front of the rear strap and use your front foot
to swim against the drift of the board. This will provide more lifting
force for you to get on the board.
- while powering
up the sail bend your knee so that you are closer to the board and the
rig is flying higher. You should be moving a bit now. This applies mast
foot pressure (MFP) and helps the board bear off.
- with your front
foot kick like you are swimming and place more weight on your front
arm as the sail pulls you out of the water and forward. You actually
swing your weight forward, toward the mast base.
- once you are up
sheet out and you are on your way.
- Lower booms make
waterstarting easier (shorter lever arm) but sailing more difficult.
You may want to lower your booms a bit after you know how to sail pretty
well and are just working on waterstarts. After you have waterstarts
down, start moving them back
- A life vest makes
sail handling in the water less tiring.
- Flat water makes
EVERYTHING much easier.
- Rig with LOTS of
downhaul to lock the draft forward in your sail. A poorly balanced rig
can make all of the steps much more difficult.
- Rig to be overpowered,
it will accelerate the whole learning process.
- Also, the trouble
shooting tips for beachstarts also apply to the waterstart.
So now you think you
know how to waterstart. Well each time you waterstart it will be different
because of wind, the waves, or the sail you have rigged, so keep practicing
in varied conditions and don't give up. And don't be too quick to throw
away that uphaul line once you have learned to waterstart, when there
isn't enough wind to waterstart you're going to need it to get home!
Marc A. Lefebvre (email@example.com)
© 1995-2004 by Marc A. Lefebvre. All rights reserved.