Saturday, 28 January 2012

How to start Speedsurfing - Part 1

If you are able to windsurf already then you can speedsurf. The only real requirement is a GPS to be able to compare your speeds, GPS choice is discussed *here(not written yet)*. Once you are able to windsurf in a straight line, in the footstraps with a harness, you just watch for gusts and keep the sail sheeted in which will make you go faster. Of course you can try this without a harness and footstraps, but you must be very brave or mad which most of us who speedsurf are anyway (mad, not necessarily brave).

This is part of a series of articles, the rest can be found here.

There are no other requirements to do this. Whenever you hear the pat pat pat of an approaching board you likely will be trying to go faster to stop them catching up, the GPS does this without having to suffer the embarrassment of being passed. Once set up (The Navi Genie GT-31) it will beep at you with all sorts of beeps, over time you will get to understand what some of these mean.

As you get up to what feels like top speed for the conditions you are used to keep your eyes open for the darker rippled water surface that indicates a gust, and as you enter the gust allow it to take you a little bit downwind. This effectively is 'the slingshot', you enter the gust on apparent wind, the gust adds extra power to your sail so you go with it, and feel the acceleration. If like me you try this for the first time on a fast speed/slalom board in 30knots of wind, having never used a powerful cammed race sail and tiny fin then, like me you will end up buying a new boom after the catapult. Take it step by step, bear away from the wind a little more each time you see a gust, and if you don't find one then head back upwind for a while until the next chance.
Click on the picture to see in more detail.
When you sail upwind your weight is through the harness and your trim means your back leg will be straighter with your front leg more bent. Across the wind this varies but usually there is a balance with good flex in both knees. As you move the nose downwind your back leg should bend more as your body moves over it, while your front straightens keeping the nose of the board away from the wind. I need to emphasize that this isn't your weight going into your back leg as that should still be through the harness.

You have to be careful when you bear away that you do not over-sheet the sail, if you keep the sail foot parallel to the board 'closing the gap' like you would on a reach then the sail will de-power. You edge the clew out as you bear away which is why your body shifts over your bent back leg. Of course this is all open to argument and everyone will develop a slightly different technique, I am by no means a master of this and have as much to learn as anyone reading this.

Another element to watch out for is flatter water, this can exist anywhere, even in what may seem to be very confused chop. There will be areas of water that are flatter than others, when this coincides with a decent gust then the magic can really happen. Get to know your local spot, there will be speedsurfers there already no doubt, or perhaps people training for slalom. They will know the spot very well, and they will know where the gusts and flat water are likely to be in different wind directions. Most are happy to share information about the spot, although it is hard to put some of the techniques into words, it becomes a muscle memory thing that is really difficult to explain. If they are the grumpy sort then just have a look where they go, you can learn a hell of a lot by being overtaken as you can see exactly what the person in front is doing.

The one key bit of advice I can share with you given my limited skill and knowledge is this;
When it feels fast it probably isn't. When everything feels light and effortless then you are probably going as fast as you ever have. When you go with the gust don't assume you are slowing down as sometimes it feels that way, keep going.
Only experience will allow you to understand what I have just said, it is a feeling that is hard to put into words.

Go with the gusts
'The Bus' 

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