Improving Techniques - The Harness and Beach Starting

Want to look like a pro? Then practise the beach start…

This technique enables you to walk into the water, hop on your board and sail away! Sounds easy? Looks easy? It is with a bit of practice! Anyway here's how to do it…..

You will need to start knee deep in the water with your board and rig (make sure the daggerboard is retracted). Stand windward (the side of the board nearest the wind) of your board and rig, with the board at right angles to the wind. Hold the rig above your head, slightly upwind. Steering at this point is done via Mast Foot Pressure - hold the mast above the boom with your windward hand and hold the boom near the middle with your other hand. Pushing down on the mast will make the board turn away from the wind whereas pulling up on the mast will do the opposite, it's worth practising this to get you used to moving the board using Mast Foot Pressure alone. Luckily the wind and the water are free stuff so you can practise as much as you want. With something like surfing the motto practise makes perfect really does apply.

When trying the beach start for the first time a cross shore wind is ideal, position your board on a beam reach and move towards the back of it (do not try pulling the board towards you at this point or you'll be at the beach for the rest of the day!) You should start the beach start standing near the back end of your board; upwind of the board & rig.

Transfer your front hand onto the boom whilst lifting your back foot onto the centre of your board (in between the front and back footstraps). Keep your back leg slightly bent and use your foot to keep pressure on the board to stop it heading into the wind as it no doubt will…

Providing that the board is still across the wind you can now raise the rig and sail off in style!

Actually raising the rig can often be the hardest part of the beach start but all you need to do is push the rig away from you and by straightening your arms you will increase the power in the sail. You can then push down slightly on your back foot and allow the wind in the sail to bring your centre of gravity over the board. Lift your front foot onto the board just behind the mast track, lean forwards, keeping low and off you go!

Technique Troubleshoot: If you find yourself flat on your back in the water this is most likely to be caused by pulling on the boom whilst getting your front foot on the board, don't do this, let the wind do the work and lift you onto the board.

Want to go really fast? Then use a harness…

A harness may seem a scary prospect to some but they really are the only way forward! To progress and be able to endure a days windsurfing they are essential. Modern harnesses are easy to hook into and also to hook out of, and virtually impossible to get stuck in!

Harnesses tend to fit around the chest, waist or seat. The seat harness is by far the most comfortable and enables you to use all of your body weight to balance the force in the rig. However as a beginner a chest harness may be the best option for you if you are particularly nervous about hooking in and out as they are the easiest to hook in and out of, they also restrict your movement less. With this in mind, purchasing the wrong harness can cost you a fortune that could have been budgeted for savings and other important matters. Thus, the advice of professionals can be of good help for individuals who want to make sure that they'll get their money's worth and purchase a harness that will suit their needs.

Harness lines:

Harness lines normally attach to the boom with velcro and vary in length. As a beginner when hooked into your harness, you should find that your arms are nearly straight. If not adjust them accordingly.

Harness lines must be positioned at the balance point of the rig to prevent one arm taking more strain than the other. To correctly position your lines the following steps should be taken:

  • number 1 Stand your rig out of the wind and support the mast foot with your foot. Hold the rig with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • number 2 Now slide your hands together until you find the point where the rig is most balanced. Mark this point.
  • number 3 Lay the rig down and attach the lines either side of the balance point, shoulder width apart, on both sides of the rig.

When out on the water if you find your front arm is taking more strain move the harness line nearer the mast. If your back arm is the aching one move the lines further back.

Long harness lines should be used initially due to the ease of hooking in and out, as you progress and feel the need for speed(!) look at getting shorter lines, or if buying brand new buy adjustable lines so that you can discover what length suits you best. Modern rigid harness lines are excellent, they have a plastic coating and are very easy to hook in and out of.

Fitting your harness:

Harnesses come in various sizes and forms. A well fitting harness should most of all feel comfortable, with no looseness and at the same time not so tight that it rubs, for example on the hips. Leg straps should be tightened first and then the spreader bar, any looseness will make hooking in and out harder.

This is best initially practised on land, especially if you are nervous about using a harness.

  • number 1 Hold the rig up (out of the wind) with your hands outside the harness line and put your foot against the mast foot.
  • number 2 Pull the boom towards you and move just your hips forwards slightly towards the harness line, bend your knees so that the harness hook goes over the line and traps it, then straighten up. It is important to bring the sail towards your body, do not move your body towards the boom.
  • number 3 To unhook bring the rig towards you and the lines will drop out, this is much easier than hooking in (honest!)

Once you feel confident with hooking in & out get onto the water, and once hooked in lean back and let the harness take your weight.

Using the harness for the first time

When in the harness your movement is restricted somewhat but you can still power and de-power the sail as before, all that is required is more subtle movements.

  • number 1 To increase the power in the sail move the hips to face the rig and use your weight by leaning hips & bottom in and out to cope with gusty winds.
  • number 2 To de-power the sail move your hips towards the front of the board and your speed will decrease.

All movements when in the harness should be slight, if you observe other more experienced windsurfers you will probably not notice their movements at all.

Most importantly when using a harness for the first time RELAX! Tense muscles do not aid windsurfing at all.

hint When you are not in the harness practise using your fingers just as hooks on the boom, use your weight & hips to balance the wind. Then when you hook in with the harness you can do the same thing without thinking about the harness. Just use your fingers as hooks and loop them loosely over the boom, you should be able to relax enough to allow the harness to take all of your weight and release both hands from the boom briefly.

When you are comfortable with releasing both hands from the boom briefly test that your harness lines are fitted correctly;

Whilst in the harness release both hands from the boom momentarily, if the harness lines are fitted correctly the rig will be balanced.

When do you use the harness?

The harness is used when sailing upwind, always unhook when tacking and gybing! Unless experienced it is not a good idea to use it when the wind is very gusty unless you like being catapulted into the water at fast speeds, although that can be fun…..