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How are we supposed to get better ??

We all want to get better at water starts, foot straps, pumping onto a plane, gybes, bigger winds, waves, you name it ... Jim from Kingston wrote in and says he shares my frustration ...

Some of us are older, some coming back to windsurfing and most of us have to work for a living ...

One example that always makes me laugh is when we get back to the beach and people are complaining that it was gusty. My typical response is,"Bienvenue à  Montréal." Even Environment Canada announces the winds as 20-40 kph, 30-50, 40-60, etc ... That is a ten(10) knot range !! Yesterday at Pointe-Claire a fellow windsurfer summed it up,"Mieux d'être over." We were watching two dudes schlogging about. One had rigged down from an 8.5 to a 6.5 and looked like he was drifting along i.e. worse than schlogging.

Okay, we cannot do much with the environment; nor with the fact that we are weekend warriors ...

Jim and I have both been to Hatteras, North Carolina and both feel that the Sound is THE PLACE to try new stuff and learn. Water never seems to go over shoulder depth, there is usually good wind (less gusty) and is a large expanse of water that never gets crowded.

What about back home? Jim now has a Kona One with an 8.2 and I have a Mistral Equipe 2 XR with various sails in the 8.x range. These are our GO TO setups... MANY times I have gone to Oka, La Crête and I was either alone or there were only some  kiters and I on the water ... up to the point where Sylvain was out on his kite foil and I was out on the MEQ2 - with the rest sitting on the beach.

It was so calm and quiet this day, that I put on the TR-4 10 m² sail:

Jim and I have other boards and sails: Fanatic Shark 165 or 145, SB Kode 137 or AHD SL2 132. The issue is: how often we really get to use them. The conditions need to be right and we need to be sure our skills (or lack thereof) do NOT put us in danger.

This summer I had a magical moment on my Shark 145 and old North Sails Duke 6.9. I was absolutely flying on the water. All the stars had lined up - wind, sail, board, fin and me. Too bad I was not in my straps. Young fellow who was parked beside remarked on how fast I was going - which confirmed it was not just a feeling.

Jim says he had a magical moment at Hatteras on the Carve 137 and found himself in BOTH footstraps ...

Unfortunately for some of us, these magical moments are few and far between. We speak about needing TOW to improve, but with what kind of conditions ?? We are not all these thin, athletic people living right beside the ideal conditions and can go at a drop of a hat. On the local quebecwind forum I often comment that I need to go to work, have a family, etc and cannot go over the border to Lake Champlain at the drop of a hat !!

Some locals like Georgie have gone over to the dark side completely - kiting. Some like Yvente have learned that kiting works in light wind, when winds are up high AND in the winter. Although both Yvente and I do winter windsurfing near Montreal , as in on ice n snow ...

So, remember words of encouragement or suggestions are always welcome to folks like Jim and I 😊

and YES, we should go to Hatteras more often !!!

Tropical storm Anna just missed us when I was there ...

"Unknown" makes some important suggestions in his/her comment... Firstly the suggestion is - how do we get better more quickly ?? Secondly, TOW/time on water is only useful if certain skills are practiced. If one goes out in the same conditions , at the same place and does the same things without trying or practicing those skills lacking, then TOW is just that - only more TOW with no improvements. No pain - no gain.

Helmut, my windsurf buddy, has improved his water start skills more than I. Bruno of 2-rad suggested to him that it was a key skill to improve shortboarding and Helmut practiced it every chance he got. Kudos to him, but I also know Helmut will not go unless it is shortboard weather ie 15+ knots and he has windsurfed at the islands in the Caribbean, Spain, etc. I only started more of this "practicing" this year and things are improving. For me, the most elusive skill is the footstraps. Perhaps I should use them in the winter on the ice ??

Thanks again to all who write in !!!

Jim from Toronto confirms that TOW and consistent conditions are vital to improvement. Here is an excerpt from his e-mail:

"I was fortunate enough to get to Bonaire for a week, a week ago.  I’m sure you know about Bonaire but I must say it exceeded expectations.  There was planing wind all day, every day for the week I was there and I gather that’s the norm for most months (Sep, Oct and Nov having fewer good wind days).  The water was generally between knee and waist deep.  In essence, I got in as much windsurfing in a week as I managed all of last summer and in far better conditions.

Bonaire offered a great learning environment and I was able to get comfortable enough planing to try getting into the foot straps.  (Others further up the learning curve spent their time practicing their carve gybes.)  I had some success and some failure but I did improve considerably and know with more opportunity and some coaching I’ll end up being able to properly use the foot straps (and can then start working on carve gybes).

I understand that the dynamics change while planing and you need to change your body position from what was previously normal starting with adjusting to having your feet further back in those foot straps.  I plan to go back to Bonaire next year to get more time in the right conditions but will windsurf here this summer and hope the stars will align on occasion and provide me with opportunities to get into those foot straps."




  1. Hey Joe
    In response to your post 'How are we supposed to get better?' The first point is that you are getting better and illustrated by the young fellow making a comment about how fast you were going.

    The real questions is 'How are we supposed to get better, quicker?'. This is where I feel the concept of TOW (time on the water) is a real distraction.

    Why? Well lots of us drive our cars a lot, most days of most weeks of most months; that is a lot TBW (Time Behind the Wheel). However, the vast majority of us aren't becoming better drivers with ever more TBW - we generally stay the same or some even get a little worse!

    Driving and windsurfing are the same here, the way to improve is to identify specific core skills, and practice them and then practice them some more - sometimes called deliberate (purposeful) practice.

    In windsurfing, skills such as gybing, tacking and waterstarting are made up of a serious of discrete actions. These discrete actions can, for the large part, be practiced separately and, most importantly, in light winds!

    There are a load of drills that can be used to practice these actions - upwind/downwinders being one of the best. Do these drills regularly in light wind and you will improve regardless of who you are - and improve much, much quicker than someone who just sails up and down.

    1. Hi Joe - further to my comment above, this came out today and I thought you might be interested as it covers your questions (and a lot more)


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