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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Technique |

Windsurf conditions – what to look for?

Short annoying answer; the best can make the most of all windsurf conditions! As long as there’s a puff of wind you could be on the water training your mind and ​muscle memory​ so your prepared for big wind days.

Windsurf conditions – what to look for?

For example, if you follow Sam Ross on social media you will see that he makes it his mission to be on the water every single day regardless of the conditions, practicing ​wave sailing​, wind​foiling, ​SUP​ ​etc based on what best suits the wind and tide that day. Now you might say it’s easier for him to achieve this being a sponsored pro but how do you think he got to be so skilled in the first place? The reason instructors always look so controlled on the board and make windsurfing look so effortless is simply because they practice the basics so much that there totally ingrained in muscle memory. So something complicated like a carve gybe with lots of steps to remember in a few seconds, becomes instinctual.

However unless you have a lot of experience already, it can be difficult to interpret the weather forecast and figure out the most beneficial windsurf conditions to get out on the water. Especially if you live far away from where you windsurf and want to make the most of every session. So we have created this basic guide with a few exercises in each wind range to help fast track your progression from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced. So you can always make the most of your time on the water!

As instructors we recommend around 10 hours practice in between lessons at a beginner to intermediate level. As a more advanced windsurfer it’s much more down to the amount of hours you practice, supplemented by one to one tuition to work on a specific skill. I would also recommend researching any of the links we have made in this article, on areas of windsurfing that you may not be familiar with. All of these links and other terms that have been highlighted are key techniques and other windsurfing terms you’ll need to know about as you progress.

2-5 Knots – Windsurf Conditions

Windsurf conditions - Beaufort Force 2

Of course this is very light wind and although this is absolutely ideal for beginners, improvers and intermediates can still work on core skills in slow motion. When you practice steering or even gybing in light winds the rig will feel unresponsive, and therefore you will need to learn to move your sail smoothly and efficiently so as not to stall your momentum. Pumping your sail to increase your speed without upsetting the​ ​Trim​ ​of the board is also a good exercise in light winds.

Remember, unless the windsurf conditions are for ​planing, a bigger sail will not help you to improve or even make you go faster! It’s simply more weight to hold and a bigger surface area to drag through the air. Don’t make windsurfing harder than it already is, take a small sail relative to your size when practicing in light to medium winds or learning a new skill.

You learn most efficiently when your pushed beyond your comfort zone but without being pushed too far, and into your stress zone.

Remember we’re always working with the wind not fighting it, but unfortunately the only way to learn to work with the wind involves a certain amount of wrestling the sail at first. So give yourself a fighting chance while you’re learning something new, no one can fight a windsurf sail in 20 knots and win!

6-12 Knots – Windsurf Conditions

Windsurf conditions - Beaufort Force 3

If your at an improver to intermediate level, this is your ideal wind range for fast progression. This is because it gives you enough wind for the sail to respond quickly and the need for effective ​counter balance​, but not enough wind to cause stress, panic, or simply the sail overpowering you before you have a chance to figure out what your doing wrong. So for example, the best way to prepare for a ​planing carve gybe​ session is to practice your NPCG (​Non planning carve gybe​) over and over to get that muscle memory in place. So get out there and practice your rig movement and footwork while you have time to think about what your doing!

When it comes to exercises in this wind range you can’t really go wrong. Apart from the NPCG and ​fast tack​ my favorites would be the ​Heli tack,​ sailing​ ​backwinded​,​ and sailing ​switch stance​. These will develop a good sense of counter balance while also improving your ​clew first​ ​sailing and footwork along the ​centreline​ (all essential for gybing progression). And of course you can come up with any combination of these such as a heli tack from switch stance or a sailing backwinded into a heli tack!

This is also the best wind range to learn to use a ​windsurf harness​ or learn how to ​beachstart​. Once you’ve cracked a basic Beach-start in knee high water, keep walking out further to see how deep you can beachstart from and this will eventually lead into your first ​waterstart​…

13-16​ ​knots – Windsurf Conditions

Windsurf conditions - Beaufort Force 4

​This wind range is commonly described in windsurfing terms as marginal planning conditions. This means that with the right kit and technique (big rig and ​freeride board​) you can start to plane, but the board will not plane without encouragement.

Therefore this is the optimum wind range for learning ​early planning​ technique! Anyone who can hold onto the boom tightly can get planning in 20 knots of wind without much control. A good windsurfer can pick out a gust in marginal conditions and use it to there advantage to get the board planning intentionally, once on the plane it’s much easier to maintain your speed with the right technique. If you develop good blasting control and learn how to spot gusts in marginal conditions, your stance will be unbreakable and you’ll feel much more confident in stronger winds.

Even when learning how to use ​footstraps​ marginal conditions are preferable. It may be frustrating every time you come off the plane whilst moving your feet towards the straps, but if you can get your feet into both straps in marginal conditions without upsetting the trim of the board, you will develop good ​mast foot pressure​ and feel the benefits massively when you go out in stronger winds.

However I would also recommend sailing with a small rig and big board in these conditions. Practicing moves like the NPCG or Fast tack in marginal planning conditions with a small rig and a more forgiving board will massively help when you when trying these moves with a big rig in marginal conditions or a small rig and ​freewave board​!

17-25​ ​Knots – Windsurf Conditions

Windsurf conditions - Beaufort Force 6

In this wind range we start to see white caps on the waves. While you can still have lots of fun as a beginner or improver in stronger winds, there is a much higher risk of serious injury or kit breaking. Therefore this is the point I would stop a beginner lesson, especially with younger or less confident students. You will need to be comfortably planning in both straps to make the most of these conditions

However as a more advanced and confident windsurfer with good muscle memory built up from practicing in lighter winds, this is where things start to get interesting! With a small-medium board and rig, this is the best wind range for attempting your first planning carve gybe. You will need the stronger wind to build up good amount of speed to make the rig feel light through the turn and potentially plane out of of your gybe! Any more wind than this and you will need to think about using a ​strap to strap gybe​ or ​lay down gybe​. These are more advanced gybing skills intended to kill or control excess power throughout the turn, but we don’t need to think about this until were confidently carve gybing at full speed.

This is also the best wind range to learn to waterstart, again with a small-medium board and rig. When learning to waterstart make sure your taking the smallest possible rig you could plane with in the conditions. This is because a big sail will be more difficult to recover from the water and more power than is necessary will make the rig harder to control.

25+ Knots – Windsurf Conditions

Windsurf conditions - Beaufort Force 7

For me this is the cut off point where I would stop all lessons except high level intermediate-advanced. This is not just because of the obvious increased risk of injury and kit breaking, but also because you will not be able to learn a new skill easily in this wind range even as an intermediate-advanced windsurfer. Of course if your practicing​ ​upwind 360s​ or ​Vulcans​ then you would look for these conditions but be honest with yourself and your ability.

If your not at this level your skills won’t be improved by hanging onto the boom for dear life! I know from experience that this is more fun in the short term than working on your technique but trust me, you’ll be glad you put the hours in when your out in 30 knots and waves in full control 🙂

This is the time when all your hard work and progression pays off and you can use the skills you’ve built up in light winds in challenging conditions and start to experience the extreme side of windsurfing! If your confidently using both straps and waterstarting but still need to work on your tacks and gybes this wind range can help you to improve those. This is also when you would normally look at attempting your first ​chop hop​. But if your not landing most of your turns, any more than 20 knots is probably going to be a survival sailing session! Maybe lots of fun, but your tacks and gybes wont get any easier next time it’s windy…

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