Of all the clinics and private lesson’s I do around the world, one thing that is most overlooked is….. where you look. It sounds so simple and many people are convinced this rule does not apply to them, no matter how good you are I am willing to bet that a lot of crashes could be prevented by keeping your head and eyes up!
One of my favorite sayings ( I do have a lot of them) is, “Look down= go down!” Following people around studying their windsurfing skills constantly shows me of this truth. I tell clients, “your feet are always at the bottom of your legs” so no need to look down at them. They might come back to me saying they need to find their footstraps and so they look down. Well that right there is mistake number one and sets you up for the great catapult that we all know and love.
To nip this one in the bud, take your fin out of your board, put it on the sand or grass and start dancing on her. Learn where the footstraps are by FEEL. Practice getting onto your board from a beach start, having that front foot up by the mast track with toes pointing forward and shuffle into your footstraps. I like to have a wide stance on the board at all times for balance. When the front foot moves back, the back foot has to move back as well. I usually move my back foot back first, then front foot back. You don’t want to be caught with both feet really close together at any time as this causes major instability. Work the front foot into the footstrap. Having the straps large enough for your foot to easily get in is very helpful. Just because your front foot is in the strap doesn’t mean you have to get you back foot in immediately. Take your time. Feel where the back strap is and smoothly get to where your foot is just in front of it. When you are ready, slide it in without picking the foot up to high, this causes the board to get confused and normally a big stomp into the strap causes the board to round upwind and you lose all your speed.
This dance you are creating with the board on land is gonna give you confidence and comfort once on the water. Next step is to get your rig out and practice the same thing with getting in and out of your harness lines. It helps to have a little breeze in the air and someone to hold the mast so you don’t get catapulted on land…. that can hurt! Being able to hook in and out without looking at your hands or lines is HUGE! The minute you take your eyes off where you are going, what the water is doing and seeing where the wind is coming from you are asking for trouble.
A good way to remember this when sailing is keeping your chin on your shoulder. This keeps the head looking at the wind and chop coming at you. Watch for gusts and be ready for them. Watch for lulls in the wind so you can anticipate getting out of your footstraps and harness lines.
If any of you are struggling with your jibes, this tip greatly applies here. I like to teach you to look into the turn. Look at the chop 10 or 15 feet in front of you so you can pick a clean line through it. Once you are exiting the turn and clew first, get your chin on your shoulder looking in your new direction. Many people follow their boom and look back on the rotation of the sail causing you to lose balance and speed which usually ends in a very slow exit of the jibe.
One of my favorite tips for those of you learning to tack is to keep your head looking upwind with chin on shoulder. For some reason everyone likes to look down at their feet when doing this move. You have nothing to focus on and lose balance every time unless you are very lucky. Keep the head up!
For all your jumpers out there having problems landing or knowing where you are in the air, I’m gonna bet you might be looking downwind or down at your board. Keeping your chin on your shoulder. Looking at the horizon is my go to spot when I’m catching air. It gives me a reference of how high I am and I can tell when I’m getting close to touchdown so I can extend my legs, sheet out and drop the tail of the board down first rather than landing flat with a shocking explosion that radiates up my spine and out my eyeballs oftentimes wreaking havoc on the structural integrity of my favorite board!
If you need further proof of this simple and effective tip, get in your car and take a drive while looking down at your gas pedal. I”m gonna bet you might run into some problems……. Enough said?
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