FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
If you are considering taking up windsurfing and are thinking of buying your first board and rig, please DO NOT simply rush in and buy a ‘bargain’ off ebay!. Get in touch with TWC and we will be more than happy to give advise on the type of boards and sails available and what would work well for you, to suit your budget.
Here are some links to useful advice pages:
If you want to see some other resources for advice on buying windsurfing kit… click here – http://bit.ly/1oxn4AA – definitely recommended before plunging in at the deepend.
Windsurfing is one of the most satisfying of sports. You can learn it at any time in life, you can do it in company or alone, you can be competitive or leisurely, you can be stylish and/or fast. You can do it inland or on the coast – a good way to visit some of the most beautiful places. No matter how good you get, you can always see ways to improve – so there is always something to hope for. It is tranquil and spiritually satisfying because you know you are harnessing the power of nature – the only fuel you use is getting to the lake in your car. At every venue, the other windsurfers you meet are always helpful and friendly. Be warned – windsurfing can be addictive.
Q. Do we need to wear them?
A. It is a club rule to carry some buoyancy aid. Fresh water is not as buoyant as sea water. 5mm neoprene wetsuits provide some buoyancy, and most waist harnesses include some buoyancy (if you wear a lifejacket over a harness, it obstructs hooking and unhooking). If you are not using a waist harness with buoyancy, then please wear a buoyancy aid – they also provide thermal insulation if it’s cold water or breeze or if you have a thin wetsuit. For experienced windsurfers, the buoyancy aid can protect you from injuries to your thorax if you are catapulted at speed.
Q. Why do we need insurance?
A. As with cars, the one you must have is 3rd party liability (‘comprehensive’ is an optional extra). Your kit could work loose off the roofrack, causing a Rolls Royce behind to crash into a Bentley coming the other way – your fault! On the water, you can fall off your board, allowing your mast to hit someone on the head – you pay! Additional insurance can be obtained for extra boards, or for a comprehensive policy covering theft or damage while sailing.Q. Can I let someone else use my board?
A. Yes, if you are satisfied that they are competent (to sail without colliding with another member). But 3rd party won’t cover you if they damage your board or put a hand through your sail.
Q. I already have insurance with another company, due to renew in July, do I need to insure through the club?
A. How could we be sure you would renew in July? To guarantee that all members are properly insured, we require you to insure with our insurer, at the time of renewal, April 1st. Thus you can let your old insurance expire in good time.
Q. I used to be a member, but dont get on the water enough these days. Can I retain the gate key for the occasional sunny breezy day?
A. NO! The keys are the property of the club and MUST be returned promptly when you cease membership. The club is paying rent for the lake, but only for its paid up members! If you want to windsurf once a year, try Rutland or Carsington where you can pay a day fee.
Q. I am a recent member, but not on the committee. Is it OK to turn up to meetings?
A. It’s more than OK, it’s extremely beneficial to have new members turning up to meetings and sharing ideas, beer and advice with experienced members. Fresh blood is always welcome, but we assure you, you won’t need to bring garlic – our reflections are visible in mirrors. Please come!
Q. Why should we display the plastic sticker?
A. The window sticker is the only real proof that you are a member. If members see cars without stickers displayed, they are requested to ask the owner (politely) if they are a member. If they are not, the owner should return the key they used to open the gate.
Q. What about the Sail Sticker?
A. The only guarantee of membership is the Car-window Sticker – the Sail Sticker is nice, and it’s a sign of loyalty to your club. You can keep it there even if you are not a member – and thanks for the advertising!
Q. Why cant TWC just change the Gate lock once a year?
A. We can’t do this because we share the lake with the anglers. The combined cost and complexity of changing the (welded on) padlock and all the keys is too much to do annually. We depend on the good eyesight of members to notice cars coming in without Trent Windsurfing stickers.
Q. It’s August, just discovered windsurfing on holiday, can I join now?
A. Yes you can, we have a joining point before the winter semester in which you can pay a half year membership and insurance. (see membership page). Once March comes round, you slot into the regular April-March cycle.
Q. The TWC lake has quite steeply sloping banks, how can I learn to beachstart?
A. The beach by the rigging area has the shallowest shelving of the whole lake. If the wind is firmly in the East/West you have the best opportunity. Ask an experienced surfer to show you how. Some other parts of the lake edge have sticky mud or bushes/reeds, but mostly it’s shingly. If heading for a shore (with a view to returning), land somewhere that will enable you to beach start back.
Q. Beach starting: the rig gets flipped out of my hand
A. While waiting for the off (you should be no deeper than knees), hold the mast about 20cm higher than the boom with your windward arm – it is surprisingly easier to handle. Tilt the mast steeply back towards you (so the wind doesnt fill the sail with full power) until you are ready.
Beachstarting – it is more easily done when the water is only up to your knees, and you step up to the board. When the wind is strong enough, you can stand in deeper water, and rely on the wind to provide lift out of the water – the beginning of learning to waterstart.
Q. Where should my feet be?
A. At low speed, your front foot will be pointing forward with the toe just behind the mastfoot, your rear foot transversely aligned, and half a metre back. As speed increases you move both feet further back. By the time you are planing, your feet are far back because the board can ride on its tail and tail fin (maybe you are tucking them into your footstraps). If you slow down suddenly with your feet in this position the board would sink under you – so move the feet forward. This is part of the ‘reacting to gusts and lulls’ technique. If you are trying to get hard up to wind, this is one time your front foot toes might be slightly ahead of the mastfoot.
Q. I am a relative beginner – I can tack, and I have just learnt the beach start. My son’s friend says now I should learn to waterstart. Where do I go next?
A. Some people who are experts take their skill so much for granted that they have forgotten the steps of learning – in all fields, not just in windsurfing. He’s wrong. In your case there are several intermediate stages to master. Inland lakes rarely have enough wind for water starting, and when they do, the wind is such that beginner surfers are grateful if they can just get going without wiping out.
Logical stages in sequence are: Pull up and getting going, tacking, beach starts, using a harness, handling larger sails, planing technique, learning to gybe, windsurfing on the sea (with small waves), learning to gybe at speed, footstraps… now perhaps water starting!
Q. I have children aged 9 and 11, they are interested in windsurfing, what is the best option for them?
A. There’s an organisation called T15, which offers training and events for under 15 Windsurfers, at many venues in the country. Nick Dempsey, bronze medallist of the 2004 Olympics is a graduate from T15.
Q. What is Planing?
A. All hulls have a maximum speed at which they push through the water, dependent on hull aspect ratio. Container ships, Keel yachts etc will just churn up the water more, but cannot go faster when the power is increased. Lightweight hulls such as dinghies and surfboards lift out of the water and exceed the natural hull speed, travelling on a crest of white water. With even more power, the board (or a speedboat) will appear to skim lightly over the water and this level of planing gives windsurfers a huge thrill.
Q. How do you get the board to plane?
A. If the board is travelling close to planing speed but not quite lifting, it needs a catalyst: a momentary pump of the sail (short pull back) or leaning back on the harness so that you can unweight your feet, or a momentary slight bearing away from the wind, a sudden gust (or a combination of these) will prompt the board to lift onto a plane.
Rules of the Road
Q. I am on collision course with a surfer coming towards me!
A. If you are on Starboard tack (wind coming from the right), hold your course, so that the surfer on Port tack (left) can steer to avoid the collision. If you start to steer away you can increase the chance of a collision. If you are on Port tack, it is your duty to steer away from the collision (and hope the starboard tack holds his course).
Q. I am being overtaken by a faster surfer!
A. He has to ‘give way’ (i.e. avoid you), but the corollary of this is that you must hold your course – avoid doing a turn, and avoid laying down the rig in his path. As he passes you will have a severe momentary lull, so prepare for it.
Q. I am overtaking a slow surfer!
A. It’s your duty to ‘give way’ which is that you must pass with enough clearance, and the slow surfer should hold course and avoid wobbling. Be ready for the panic effect your sudden appearance can cause on a beginner, they may lay down the rig, or fall over after you have passed.
Q. I am running parallel to another surfer!
A. In this condition, the ‘windward’ vessel gives way. If the ‘leeward’ vessel converges on your course, he is entitled to and you must avoid a collision.
Q. This beginner doesnt understand the Port Starboard rule!
A. Experienced surfers should remember that beginners probably dont know the rule and even if they did are not very good at steering anyway – so the requirement to avoid collisions overrides petty priority over who has the right of way.
Q. I am converging dangerously with a motor vessel!
A. How big is it? A cross channel ferry or a fisherman in an outboard dinghy? If its a large working vessel you should never be in that area! Keep out of shipping lanes! If its a vessel of the smaller size, the rule is that moving motor vessels should give way to you, but may not do so because they are ignorant or bloody minded! You should always give way to motor vessels if they are ‘not under command’, i.e. at anchor, mooring, stalled.
Q. What are beating, reaching and running?
A. ‘Beating’ is sailing to windward as close as you can go (without pointing so high to wind that you actually stall).
‘Reaching’ is sailing with the actual wind on the beam (but as your speed increases, the apparent wind will appear to be more from the front). ‘Close reaching’ is turning more to windward, and ‘Broad reaching’ is bearing away so the wind is more ‘aft’.
‘Running’ is sailing with the wind coming from the behind – it’s slower because you can go no faster than the wind… and it’s a very unstable wobbly way of sailing, because you have no resistance to rolling.
(Sailing is too complicated to explain at length without diagrams, you may be able to find more extensive tutorials on the web or in a book.)
Q. What is sheeting?
A. ‘Sheeting’ comes from the idea in sailing of relaxing or tightening up the sheets (sails), the ropes that pull the sails have come to be called ‘sheets’. In windsurfing, it refers to control of the boom angle. If you angle the boom closer to the line of the board, you are ‘sheeting in’ as for ‘beating to windward’. If you let the boom out, you are sheeting out, as for a reach. If you are running, your are fully sheeted out, your boom is almost transverse to the board. When hit by a gust, you can sheet out to avoid being overpowered – then sheet back in and direct the force down your legs into the board to take advantage of the gust’s power. When suffering a sudden lull, you can sheet in sharply (then adjust your feet and balance) to avoid falling back into the water.
Q. What is pumping?
A. If the wind is too light and you need to make progress, or you are just on the edge of planing and want to lift off, some rhythmical pumping of the sail will do this for you – slowly forward and rapidly back. In some competitions, pumping is banned, a bit like dinghy sailors being banned from oscillating their rudders.
Q. What is Tacking?
A. Tacking is when you steer the board directly up to windward (lay the rig back, push down with your rear foot), step round the nose of the board while it is static (directly in line with the wind), and get it going again on the other tack (lay the rig forward and put your front foot forward of the mast foot briefly) by bearing away..
Q. What is Gybing?
A. Gybing is when you turn by bearing away from the wind, and just after the board passes through the line of the wind, you flip the rig to the other side and get into the stance for the new tack. As the board is moving all the time, it requires more fluency and skill than tacking. Feet positions, timing and balance are important. There are several gybe methods, and this only describes the simplest one. Its a good idea to use some of the tutorial videos on the Internet (free) to learn the techniques.
Q. Tack or Gybe?
A. If you are trying to get hard to windward, Tacking is always taking you in the right direction; but while you are static at the midpoint, you can be buffeted by waves and are getting nowhere. Experienced surfers almost always Gybe because the board remains in motion, and the loss of downwind distance can be recovered by getting onto the new tack faster, and more efficient sailing on the next tack.
Q. How do you do small turns, adjustments in course?
A. In light wind, or for beginners, the rig position will do this. Tilt the rig forward and the board bears away, tilt it back and it comes up to wind. In strong wind, e.g. planing conditions, experienced surfers (with their feet further aft) instinctively use their feet, tilting the board to turn it.
Feng Shui – Wind and Water
Q. What is an Off-shore wind? (sea)
A. If the wind is coming off the land (roughly 90degrees to the shoreline) and blowing out to sea, it’s not safe for underconfident surfers, as any mistake in your technique or rig damage will result in your being blown out to distant open water. It will be milder, and will flatten the waves, and it will be an easy broad reach to get out – but this could mislead you into going out – don’t!
Q. What is an On-shore wind? (sea)
A. This is a wind coming off the water (at roughly 90degs to the shoreline) and is safer in the event of a rig failure, but its still dangerous. You have to fight your way out through breaking waves, and your only easy movements are from side to side. The launching point might be a nice sandy beach, but a few hundreds metres to the side could be bathing areas, breakwaters, jetties, rocks, riptides. You will be hit by waves always coming from the side, and if you have to do a pull up start your board will be side edge on to incoming waves. If you are exhausted you may come ashore half a mile from your car – a long trek back carrying the kit. Beware!
Q. What is a Cross-Shore Wind? (sea)
A. This is the wind that every Windsurfer wishes for: The wind running parallel to the shoreline. The waves are not breaking viciously, and a nice beach start will take you out on a comfortable reach to deeper water. As long as you are confident in turning (or pulling up) you can get back safely. If the deeper water gets choppy, its your decision when to turn round – strong sailors will venture out further. With frequent returns to shore you can always stop for a rest or drink, and keep an eye on your car.
Q. How much wind is required to Plane?
A. Check the weather forecast before going out… if its in double figures, i.e. above 10 knots, you will get planing if you get other things right, e.g. sail size, harness, and stance.
Q. When is the best time to windsurf?
A. Around the June solsice you often get lighter winds, and the water may still be surprisingly cold. In September, the water is at its warmest, both in the sea and in lakes – there is roughly a 3 month inertia in the water temperatures (i.e. it can be at its coldest in March). But the wind will be better, albeit colder especially if from the north, and the daylight is fading about 2 hours earlier. Once the clocks change, and it’s officially winter time, forget it unless you have a good winter quality wetsuit – and go early, because daylight finishes early.
Q. Whats are the differences between Lake and Sea windsurfing?
A. Many – inland surfing gives you flatter water, fresh water, and less wind – but no tides or currents. All inland lakes require some permission or club access to windsurf. Fresh water is less buoyant so a buoyancy aid is advisable. But its cleaner, and your kit will stay clean. If you surf in the sea and then put your kit away for the winter it will be damaged by the salt. Use a shower to wash down kit used in the sea, or just use it on a lake the following week. The sea gives you waves, and it can be fun surfing through breaking waves, or letting a wave push you along. But watch out for tidal currents, underwater rocks, breakwaters, swimmers and jetski users, shipping or yachting channels, areas of randomly choppy water. Not all beaches permit windsurfing, some of those that do will limit it to designated short launching points (to reduce the risk of hitting swimmers.). Lake users can always get to an edge if they get into trouble. Sea users in an offshore wind can get into serious difficulty if a rig fails or you just get too tired to get a pullup start.
Q. It’s the long winter break… what do I do?
A. Yes, the water is cold and around the solstice, the winds are light, meaning that even the brave people with good wetsuits can’t get out on the water. The best way to maintain winter fitness is Rowing or a Rowing machine, as this provides the best combination of maintaining leg fitness (knees and hip) and upper body fitness (back, shoulders, arms, elbows, and grip) – it’s also excellent for general aerobic fitness, but this depends on how many minutes/hours you are prepared to put in. If you want to maintain Balance, you cant beat Skiing/ Snowboarding, it’s remarkably similar to windsurfing in some ways.
Q. How did Windsurfing begin?
A. Newman Darby experimented with ‘rudderless sailing’ back in the 40s, but began making the first boards with a universal joint in 1964, and evolved techniques for beating, running, gybing, tacking etc. See in the Links page, or see the Popular Science (Aug 1965) articles about it on the TWC Yahoo website. It’s interesting that early windsurfers had a foresail (jib) ! Early windsurfers stood with their back to the sail, and only travelled in light winds. Planing demands a different wind speed, sail and board design, and technique.
Q. Windsurfing is expensive…
A. Good windsurfers are regularly upgrading their kit, so there is a lot of second hand equipment on the market. Windsurfing resellers do part exchange for new, so they are one good source. Hayling Island Windsurfing Boot Sale is monthly in the summer. If you are starting out, don’t buy ‘expert level’ equipment even if it’s very cheap – this will not help you learn. There are good New Package deals from resellers which have the right balance of board, sail, mast, boom, wetsuit etc at a good price. Ask members of the club for cast off kit.
Q. Windsurfing is for muscular men…
A. Rubbish! Windsurfing is not about weight and strength! Its about finesse, stance, understanding the wind, balancing harness and stance. For every individual’s weight there is the appropriate combination of size of sail and buoyancy/length of board. There are many excellent women windsurfers and one of the best books on windsurfing is written by a female medal winner, Nottinghamshire’s Penny Way.
Q. You need a howling wind to windsurf….
A. This applies to more experienced windsurfers who want to surf faster and challenge themselves more with manoevres and sea conditions. It’s true that more challenging techniques like carve gybing and water starting can only be done in strong wind. But, for the early windsurfer, there can be great enjoyment even from below-planing conditions (below 10 knots). Surfing in light wind is the best way to build your confidence, develop muscle memory for essential manoevres, teach yourself new manoevres in slow motion such as beach start, gybing and helicopter tack or duck gybe.
Q. Windsurfing is hard to learn…
A. It can be if you start out with advanced kit (e.g. short boards), or without instruction. There is a new generation of easy-to-learn-on starter boards – wide and buoyant. There are courses you can go on with RYA approved instruction, e.g. at the National Water Sports Centre or Notts County Sailing Club or Rutland Water. It only takes a day or two. There are also books, and there are a lot of tutorials on the web.
New to Windsurfing Advice page on Boardseeker magazine
Q. You can only do it if you are young…
A. That’s also wrong! it’s not like Ballet or professional Tennis. If you are doing it for pleasure you can start at any age. If you are reasonably healthy you can start in your 50’s. Windsurfing is not highly strenuous if you are on lakes and not racing – and you can choose light wind conditions. If your technique is good (harness, stance etc) windsurfing is not lungbursting – and you can graduate to sea sailing if the waves aren’t breaking. Enjoy going fast in a straight line and turning safely: leave Vulcans and Forward Loops to the young! Older skiers enjoy ‘old man skiing’ and you can do the same for windsurfing – as long as the knees and back can still do it. Some windsurfers go on into their sixties and even seventies – windsurfing and skiing are wonderfully rejuvenating. (if this applies to you, consider also joining the SEAVETS, a national windsurfing veterans organisation).
Another Plus!: Middle aged windsurfers are better able to afford the decent kit and travel to varied venues.
Q. Windsurfing is dangerous…
A. No, it’s not dangerous – but you should be a confident swimmer (and you are helped in this by the buoyancy of your wetsuit and lifejacket), and you should never go out if you know there are faults with your kit (e.g. cracks in your mast, or fin, perishing rubber in the foot). The furthest you can fall is your own height, and it’s water or your sail you are falling on to. Sea sailing offers more chances of danger (e.g. off shore winds, kit breakage, waves, tidal currents, rocks, breaking waves) but sea is more thrilling to sail on when conditions are safe. Avoid the sea if you are nervous. Lake sailing is incredibly safe, sail in company, there’s always a shore you can be blown to, and there are people around with mobile phones. Know your limits, and stop if you are feeling tired. Take sandwiches and bottled water in the car so you can take on fuel every hour or so.