This is pretty long, so if you aren't interested in techniqes
for learning how to shortboard just hit J.
Several people have asked for a description of my shortboard
teaching method for beginners. Here is the full story in
excruciating detail. If you are going to use it, I strongly
suggest that you print a copy in a small font, laminate the
pages, and take it to the beach with you.
My brother got on a plane and went a hundred yards or so
on an OBrein ProAm the first time he ever tried windsurfing.
Here is a description of the method:
First, some vocabulary:
POWER UP : Lean the rig slightly forward and sheet in.
(front hand out, back hand in)
DEPOWER : Lean the rig slightly aft and sheet out.
(front hand in, back hand out)
All sail position adjustments are made with a rotation of the
shoulders. You should not bend your elbows while handling a sail
unless you have to. Just twist the upper half of your body to
the right or the left to effect powering up or depowering.
I. LEANING AGAINST THE SAIL'S PULL:
First, go to a sand beach with reasonably steady wind in the
13-18 mph range. If you cannot find this, the method will probably
not work very well. You need to stand up the rig (without the board)
in the sand so that the mastbase sinks a bit into the sand.
Have a friend brace the mastbase with their foot so that it doesn't
You may be able to do this in a grassy area instead of a beach
if you drill a hole in a wooden plank and attach your universal
to it. (If you have a starbase this is particularly easy).
Do not try this in a rocky area. It is not fun at all. :-)
Next, practice some simple weight balancing:
Make sure that you have the proper amount of sail for the wind
conditions and your bodyweight. For a 160 lb sailor in 15 mph wind,
a 6.0 sail works well.
Stand the rig with the mast vertical and the sail rotated so that
the boom points directly downwind (natural weather vane position).
We will assume that the wind is coming directly from the north
in order to describe angular positioning of the rig.
Stand to the port side of the sail and place your left foot six
inches southwest of the mast base. Hold the boom near the mast
with your left hand and further back with the right hand.
Place your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart in
a line west by southwest from the mast base.
Squat down a bit (bending knees) and sheet in on the sail.
At the same time, tilt the mast forward (towards the imaginary
front of the board).
It will power up a bit. As soon as it begins to pull you over
forward, sheet out, and straighten your knees a bit. Balance your
weight against the pull of the sail by continually adjusting sheeting
angle and the bend of your knees. During lulls, bend your knees and
sheet in. During gusts, straighten your knees and lean back while
sheeting out. Do a combination of these to keep yourself balanced,
leaning back but not falling over backward. It can help to have
someone stand behind you and suport you from the back to remove fear
of falling down.
Experiment with tilting the rig forward and back a little while
your are*** from the boom. You should notice that you tend
to round up into the wind when you rake back and you tend to get
launched over the front when you rake forward.
In this way you will get a feeling for controlling the board with
the sail while underway.
After you are comfortable with 'sailing' on the port side, try switching
to the starboard side and repeat the whole exercise.
This will take about half and hour or so.
II. FLYING THE RIG
For this exercise, you need a large area of shallow water and a
steady 13-18 mph breeze. Bird Island basin near Corpus Cristi is
an excellent example.
Take the board out with sail attached in water just deep enough
that the fin does not touch the bottom. Pick up the rig by the mast
between the boom and the head of the sail. It should naturally
rotate to a position where the mast is perpendicular to the wind
and the clew is directly downwind. Hold the mast at shoulder height
and the sail should begin to 'fly'. It should be able to mostly
hold up its own weight with the force that you put on the mast
serving only to hold up the weight of the mast. If this doesn't happen,
you don't have enough wind or your sail is too small.
Move toward the boom (downward along the mast) until you can get
your sheet hand onto the boom and your forward hand is still on the
mast about two feet above the boom. The mast should not be standing
straight up but angled considerably over to the side of the board.
You should have to bend your neck to get your head under the sail.
Remember to keep the mast perpendicular to the wind at all times.
If the sail tries to launch you, the mast head is too far upwind.
If the sail tries to push you into the bottom the mast head is too
I don't know how to stress this enough. I have taught many people
how to windsurf and this seems to be the most important and
hardest thing for them to remember. During every exercise that you
do, always check to see that you are keeping the mast perpendicular
to the wind.
Use your sheet hand to pull in on the back of the boom. The sail
should power up considerably and will pull upward. Immediately push out
again with the sheet hand. The sail should start pushing down on
you. Move your sheet hand in and out, to get a feeling for the way
that sheeting affects the forces on the sail.
Try to make the sail 'fly' just over your head. Adjust the sheeting
angle so that the upward wind force on the rig just balances its weight.
You should be neither pulling down on the rig nor pushing up, but
only controlling it's angle of attack. Remember to keep the rig angled
over so that the sail is almost touching your head.
After you have a good feel for that, you can move your forward hand
down from the mast to the front of the boom. Repeat all sail flying
exercises with both hands on the boom.
Make sure that there is noone directly downwind of you.
Now rotate the mast head somewhat upwind and power it up and then let it
go. The rig should fly out of your hands and land on the other side
of the board. Go around and practice all of the above exercises on the
other side of the board.
Whenever you are handling the sail in shallow water, it is important
not to fight the wind. Use the wind to help you when moving the rig
around. Always first get the clew to the downwind side before
trying to lift the mast. If the clew is upwind, just lift it slightly.
The wind will catch the underside of the sail and flip it over for you,
placing the clew on the downwind side. From here on, manipulating
the sail consists merely of lifting the mast between the boom and
head and waiting for the board to move on its own.
III. HANDLING THE BOARD.
While flying the rig you may have noticed that the board moves around
alot, making your job more difficult. When the board moves upwind,
this makes the mast head point downwind which causes you to get
pushed into the bottom.
In order to control the mast's angular position, we will have to
control the board's position. This is done as follows:
Get the sail flying as described in section II. If your mast head
is too far downwind, you can correct this by moving the board
downwind. The rig rotates around you when you do this. To do
it, just push away with your forward hand and pull toward yourself
with your sheet hand. The forces should be applied perpendicular
to the sheeting direction so that the sheeting angle of the sail
is unchanged. Your forward hand will push directly toward the
board in a line parallel with the mast. Your sheet hand will
do exactly the opposite.
If the head of the sail is too far upwind, you can correct this
by applying exactly the opposite forces from those described above.
To change the board's angle with respect to the wind, the following
technique works well:
Get the sail flying overhead as described in section II. Now, with
both hands on the boom, push directly toward the board (along the
direction of the mast). Walk toward the board. This motion should
not cause sheeting in or out as the force should be perpendicular
to the sheeting direction. This is how to point the board more downwind.
Now step backward, pulling along the line of the mast
(with the hands on the booms, the mast just defines the direction of
the pull). You will probably have to take a couple of steps, this
is ok. This is how you point the board more upwind.
Keep the sail flying and practice changing the course by pushing and
pulling along the line of the mast.
OK, so now you are pretty good at flying the rig, changing the board's
course, and dodging out-of-control masts :-). It's time to beachstart.
Stand in water that is knee deep. Manipulate the rig and board as
described above until the rig is flying well and the board is pointing
on a slightly broad reach.
Keeping the sail raked back over your head. Stand within 12 inches of
the back of the board (it will be pointing away from you somewhat).
Power up (tilt forward and sheet in). Let the sail pull you upward.
As you rise, place your rear foot on the board between the back
footstraps and the front footstraps. DO NOT STEP UP ONTO
THE BOARD! Let the sail PULL YOU up onto the board. If it won't do
it, you do not have enough wind. Don't force it, that doesn't work.
As your front foot is forceably pulled from the bottom, lift it up
and place it on the board between the front foot straps and the mast
Do you remember step I. ? Apply what you learned about
leaning against the rig. Lean back and then sheet in to keep from
getting your rear wet. If you don't have sufficient power, bend your
knees. If you have too much, straighten your legs and sheet out.
At this point, many people immediately round up into the wind and
fall in backwards. To avoid this, lean the rig forward and power
read more »