Michigan Windsurfing

Windsurfing & Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Michigan

Hey I haven't drowned yet.  So far so good.

I went out yesterday in winds (gusts) up near 15mph.  Holy cow!  A whole new experience and a lot learned.  I lost count of the times I was balancing on the board because the wind died and next a gust would come up and whip me around and into the water.  My body is feeling that today.  It wasn't all wrestling with the wind though.  I got quite a few good fast sails and my feel and control for the board improved.  I basically tired out and by the end of my time on the water I was getting frustrated.  I didn't want to quit not knowing if I'd get back out again this year.  However, I kept wanting just one more good run.  In the end, a great outing.

I did experience something yesterday that I couldn't seem to correct.  There were times, when the wind was stronger, that the board wouldn't straighten (when trying to get underway).  In other words, the sail was full, I was leaning, and the board was going across the water like a butter knife over toast.  Leaning the mast forward or back didn't seem to make a difference in my direction.  My only remedy was to let go of the boom, hold the rope, and bring the board around with my feet then try to take off again.  I checked my fin and skeg(?) to make sure they weren't broken.  Can anyone explain this to me?  I'm sure it's operator error, but I don't know what I was doing differently.  Thanks in advance.

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When you're first learning, when the wind picks up it is

hard to get the nose to point anywhere but upwind. While

I remember this clearly, I'm not sure that I can put a good

explanation behind it.  One part of it is clearly that you've

stalled the fin (and centerboard if you have it), so they're

slipping sideways rather than providing meaningful lift.

(You need to establish some forward speed before you

can ask your foils to provide lift.)

Another part of it is clearly that you need to lean the sail

toward the nose of the board - but while I can't remember

why this is a challenge, I do remember that it is. I'm

guessing that part of the challenge is that as you try to

sheet-in the COE moves aft which is working against the

forward lean of the rig.  You might try moving your feet so

that you're straddling the mast base?  Maybe someone

else can chime in with their suggestions.  What I do know

is that you'll get much better at that maneuver with practice,

dramatically raising the wind limit where you experience

that phenomena.

Yeah, Scott made some good points here.  I am assuming that Brent was referring to the board rounding up into the wind.  Everyone has experienced that as they learn to sail in higher winds or move down to a small board.  I think it comes down to mast base pressure.  

When you load the sail, and resist the force on the sail with mostly your feet, you push the tail of the board downwind, and round up.    To counter that, it helps to hang down on the boom - really think about pushing down through the mast base, and also tilt the tip of the mast into the wind (rather than move the mast toward the front of the board.   Tipping the mast into the wind (not toward the tip of the board), naturally pushes the nose of the board off the wind. 

Secondly, as Scott said, don't expect the fin to resist lateral forces until you're moving with some speed.  So, get going, even slightly off the wind, and then once you're moving, begin to sheet in and load the fin.

Thirdly, don't get frustrated.  We all seem to go through the same issues while learning.  After 20+ years at this, I'm still learning to properly jibe!

This is my first year and learning similar things. Right now, I am just starting to get on plane. I do remember the frustration of turning upwind without trying. I would check your fin size relative to your weight and sail like Scott suggests, but also remember to point with your toes. You might be placing too much weight on the board (specifically the windward side) and causing it to turn into the wind. Pointing with the toes will place more weight on the leeward side and will also place more weight onto the boom/mast base. If you don't have a harness, you should get one and this will allow you to get even more weight on the boom/mast base. There's a lot of information out there about maximizing mast base pressure and this will help tremendously.

I got out again today for about an hour.  The wind was even stronger than last time.  Still gusting but seemed a little more constant.  I did much better even with the faster winds.  I had fewer "dismounts" also.  I had to laugh at myself as I was getting rigged up.  I couldn't seem to get it done fast enough!  I wanted to get out on the water while the wind was still strong.  I actually had butterflies.

How do you decide what size sail and board for your size and weight?  I imagine there must be some sort of criteria/formula for this.  I suspect the type of sailing you do or conditions you're in mostly would affect the size as well?  I'm 5'11" and 195lbs.  There were times today when it took all I had to keep my feet on the board as the sail filled.  The mast is 15' on my board.  365 is printed on it.  I think this is centimeters.?  Is this a big sail?  Too big for me?  Big for higher winds?

Thanks for the feedback on my posts.  I don't know anyone who windsurfs, so this is where I talk about it.


We all get butterflies!  It's a great sport!!!

RE the board size, 365 could be the length of the board, but that doesn't mean much.  Generally, a 195 beginner should be on a wide board with a lot of volume.  The sail size depends upon wind and skill level.  For what it's worth, here's a link to a board, fin, sail size calculator.  It'll give you a rough idea.  It works better for the average 160 pound sailor.  It doesn't work as well for me at 200 lbs or for a light woman.



Hi Brent,

Brian mentioned mast base pressure (MBP) - it is really important for getting into the footstraps and having real control of the board.  

If you are not yet in the harness and footstraps - and it sounds like you aren't - then you should make that a primary goal.  As you load the harness lines down, there will be significant MBP applied which will allow you to work into the footstraps. Shifting gears on a car is a good analogy:

1st gear:  Board is moving in displacement mode, and you may or may not have enough power in the sail to be using a harness.

2nd gear:  Board is almost planing, and you are in the harness with your feet moved back toward the footstraps but not in them yet.

3rd gear:  Board is barely planing - time to get the front foot into the strap as you keep loading the harness and driving the mast down and forward therefore imparting good MBP.

4th gear:  Board is on a solid plane, keep the sail powered up and weight down through the harness, then get your back foot into the rear strap.

5th gear:  Smile big;)

In the olden days before harnesses and footstraps there was a lot more fussing around about where to place feet etc.  The game today in planing conditions - which you are sailing in - is to get hooked in, on a plane, into the straps, and relaxed.  Your legs should be carrying the load, not your arms.

Easy to write (sorry;)) but once you are in the harness and footstraps you will be amazed at the huge decrease in energy required to have a massive amount of fun.

One drill in non-planing conditions is to work on driving the mast down and forward while you get your feet way back on the board.  It forces you to impart a lot of MBP or else the board just does a wheelie.

Your "365" board is a 12-foot something or other.  You will notice a huge difference when you get on smaller gear but the fundamentals are the same.

Finally, non knowing your time and money budget, the best investment you can make is in yourself to develop skills, not gear.  I spent a few years really stuck with self-taught bad technique until I attended a couple of ABK Sports camps.  http://abkboardsports.com/  Seriously, find a way to spend a week with them or with Tinho at Calema http://calema.com/ and you will be amazed at your progress.  If you are at a beach full of other windsurfers the story is different, but if you are going out mostly alone then take the plunge and go to school.





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