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Footstrap Phobia

Footstrap Phobia ?? WTH/WTF ...LOL !!

A phobia is an "extreme or irrational fear".

I think an important point to realize is that this is "despite the awareness that it is NOT dangerous". (at least not as dangerous as the phobia makes it out to be !!)

In my case, I seem to have a footstrap phobia when it comes to windsurfing and planing. The issue does NOT seem to be related to getting in, but rather getting out – especially in falling or catapulting situations...

We have all fallen into the water still hooked into the harness with the sail on top of us. This can be quite stressful and nerve wracking and yet I have overcome that fear no problem.

So, what about this fear of falling in while still in the straps??

I can only imagine falling in while hooked into the harness AND  locked into the footstraps

In terms of getting into the straps, I am either right in front of them or actually stomping on them…

This above is a JP SLW92 with a 10 m² sail in light winds. People have suggested that I need go NO larger than the 10-oh and just need to get in them straps !!
So, the question is:  How to get over this irrational phobia ??

There are many people out there to help, criticize and encourage you when it comes to windsurfing. Jeff from Australia suggested I put a post on the iwindsurf forum in the US and that is what I did:

That post ran for over 10 pages and touched all kinds of ideas, subjects , etc …

Here I will post what I considered the best and nicest response – from gregnw44. 
Some others were a little more critical of me and my phobia

Here's my 2 cents, and the way I've taught it tons of times (with success). 
For Joe (since he's a big guy) sailing a BIG shortboard... he needs to be going fast (enough). In some of his vids he is planing, but it's marginal planning. 
If he has a powerful enough sail, for the wind he's in... he can sheet in more, and get going a bit faster. 

Anyway, first, install the straps in the most forward and inboard position, that is available. Then, adjust them as big as they go. We don't care about "control in extreme conditions" here. We are only trying to make it easy and not scary. And we need to build success and muscle memory. 
Take the fin off, and lay your board on something soft (sand, grass, etc.). 
Then practice getting in and out of the straps! 
Place your feet on the board, where you normally have them. Wiggle and slide them back, till they're right in front of the straps. 
Imagine yourself going fast over the water. 
Your weight should be on your toes, NOT your heels (you can even lift your heels off the board, to ensure you're not putting weight on them). 
Also imagine you're hanging most your weight off the boom, you want to be light on your toes. 
When your back foot is right in front of the rear strap with weight pressing on your toes keeping the board flat... put the toes of your front foot into the front strap. Because you have the straps BIG, your foot can slide in all the way. BUT don't weight the heel of your front foot, only weight your toes. You can even pull up on your front foot against the strap, and you will see how this tips the board to leeward (keeping it flat). 
Make sure you continue hanging most your body weight of the boom. Make sure you're still maintaining the same direction you started on (usually a beam to broad reach). 
NOW, practice this 10 times on each side of the board. 
NEXT, practice it 10 more times on each side of the board without looking at your feet. 

OK- put your fin back on and go sailing. 
You need the right combination of powerful sail and wind speed... so that you can go fast enough, to hang your weight from the boom. 
Sail in a straight line, usually in a beam to broad reach. 
Wiggling / sliding your feet back to "right in front of the straps. 
Important - with your feet right in front of the front AND rear strap... and hanging from the boom... and weighting the ball of your feet (no heel weight)... make sure you're still going in a straight line the way you began. 
Next - lift your front foot off the board for 1 second and put it back down. 
Then lift it for 2 seconds and put it back down. 
Then do the same with your back foot. Continue this till you can lift each foot off the board for 10 seconds, making sure that you don't change direction while doing this. 
Practice THIS daily, till it is easy. 

And then... you can place the front foot in the strap. Weight the toes of the front foot for 2 seconds... and then unweight and remove it from the strap. 
Continue in a straight line, moving the front foot in and out of the strap for a second longer each time. 
BE SURE that you are maintaining back foot pressure on the toes (which are in front of the rear strap, near the centerline) at all times. 

After your front foot is comfortable in the front strap. Go through this same routine, with the back foot. 

It is not unusual for this to take all summer... for some people to learn this and get totally comfy with it. But if you break it down to small steps, and practice them a lot... you will get more and more comfortable with it. 
After a summer, with diligent practice, it will become totally natural. And your board speed will improve... and you will be much more comfy flying across choppy water. You will discover a whole bunch of new ways to control the trim of your board... and to steer the direction you want to go... when you're fully powered up and using the straps. 

After you are comfy getting in and out easily and often... you can slowly adjust the strap size down to where you want it. And later, you can plane with different footstrap locations on your board, depending on what your priorities are. 

If you are diligent and practice all these steps long enough (no short-cuts) you will have success... and there will be no fear. You should always be able to get out of your straps, any time you want. And that's why, when learning, you should dance in and out of them constantly!! 
It becomes very natural eventually, and the muscle memory will allow you to make quick changes (in or out of straps) immediately. 
Have fun, Greg 

first, install the straps in the most forward and inboard position
Then, adjust them as big as they go
Place your feet on the board, where you normally have them.
Wiggle and slide them back, till they're right in front of the straps. 
Your weight should be on your toes, NOT your heels
Also imagine you're hanging most your weight off the boom
When your back foot is right in front of the rear strap with weight pressing on your toes keeping the board flat... put the toes of your front foot into the front strap
Make sure you continue hanging most your body weight of the boom

Based on this discussion and since it was winter, I did the following:

1) Made a practice video:

2) Adjusted the footstraps forward and wider:

The arrows show where the straps were before. It seems to only be a difference of one inch forward and one towards centre…

Some suggested getting a board with even more inward straps. Yet others seemed against this idea, feeling the JP SLW92 was a good board to start…
This did seem to work for Morgan from Australia on his RIO. SHAKY video , but you get the picture (pardon the pun)

Maybe this one is a better example - better film in any case 

My windsurf buddy and ex-colleague , Helmut, listened to Bruno of 2-rad, who suggested that water starting and footstraps were critical skills to progress in real windsurfing – especially short boarding.  On the other hand, Helmut does NOT listen to me about getting light wind equipment for Montreal. This means with his Fanatic Hawk 135 and various SailWorks Retro sails, he goes out less than 10 times in a summer season (maybe twice in 2015). As we are heavyweights, we need high volume boards and large sails. Helmut will NOT use a sail larger than 8.5 m². That is my most used sail because I use it on the longboard(s) as well.

I will document progress on this - what works and what does not. 

While Peter Hart, Dave Whitey, Jem Hall, Sam Ross and MANY others are inspirational, I feel someone like the Rig Geek deserves credit. Unfortunately his blog has not been updated since about 2012 - hope all is well !!

You may have noticed that I did NOT broach the subject about which foot should go into the straps FIRST. Some people are advocates of FFF/front foot first and others BFF/back foot first. Suffice it to say, I need to get into the straps FIRST and can only imagine this will be FFF until slalom or other craziness is attempted ...

Some people say lean sail slightly forward, with mast foot pressure and go for front strap while leaning slightly back. And the inverse applies for the back foot. Maintain MFP, lean sail slightly back while going upwind and then leaning slightly forward , slide into back strap.

FrenchSalsa tells us EVERYTHING we need to know about footstraps, but were afraid to ask !!
Like which ones are easiest to get out of and why !!

Here's my buddy Jeff from down under tryin to get in them damn straps !!


  1. hey! I've check your thoughts and video.... look, everything is FINE with you. you're going through a normal step in windsurfing. it's all normal! just have more time in straps and soon you'll ask yourself about how you could live not being in straps :)))

    the only thing that I would suggest - try to ride without boots. it's so much better to 'feel' the board with your bare foot. more control and actually it's much easier to take it out of the strap - since you don't have that super grip between rubber of your boot and the deck.

    but again, all is fine - don't forget to enjoy! :)))

    1. thanks for that Serge !!
      i believe that it is important that windsurfers encourage each other ...
      some things come more naturally than others
      and not all of us have the ideal conditions
      i agree about the bare feet syndrome
      had already purchased a mesh backpack where booties can be stored
      some areas have clams and boots MUST be worn to get out


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