There are many ways to ride a wave using surprisingly more surf craft than one could imagine. But can the Laser Olympic sailboat do it?

We've seen people taking on swells with the most unusual and unexpected types of wave-riding vehicles: doors, tables, wooden planks, ice sheets, ironing boards, and even televisions.

However, catching waves with sailboats is a different league.

Sailing boats are heavy and harder to steer and control than a standard surfboard. Obviously, right?

It depends.

The World's Most Popular One-Design Sailboat

Take the famous single-handed, one-design Laser, also known as the ILCA dinghy.

The boat weighs approximately 59 kilograms (130 pounds). The hull is 4.23 meters (13.875 feet) in length, with a beam (width) of 1.42 meters (4.658 feet).

It is equipped with a daggerboard and a kick-up rudder, allowing for efficient sailing in various wind conditions.

The standard rig has a sail area of approximately 7.06 square meters (76 square feet).

While sailing the Laser, there are a lot of things to do simultaneously.

The Laser sailboat was designed in 1969 by Canadian Bruce Kirby and American industrial designer Ian Bruce.

Initially conceived as a simple boat that could be carried on a car roof, it quickly became popular due to its straightforward design, affordability, and ease of use.

The prototype, initially called the "Weekender," was later renamed the "Laser," reflecting its sleek and fast design.

The International Laser Class Association (ILCA) gained significant recognition when it was selected as an Olympic class in 1996, further solidifying its status in competitive sailing.

The Laser is one of the most popular single-handed dinghies in the world, with over 215,000 boats built.

It has active fleets in many countries and is sailed by people of all ages.

Laser Surfing

One thing is riding a Laser sailboat in unbroken swells in an open ocean.

Another thing is taking this dinghy along with the mast and sail into near-shore surf breaks in six-foot conditions and share the lineup with shortboard surfers.

Two Olympic ILCA sailors have done it with impressive results.

One of them is Aruban Laser specialist Just van Aanholt, who published a compilation of his wave-riding skills at Scheveningen, Netherlands, and Islote the Lobos, Canary Islands.

It's impressive how this Olympic sailor manages to keep his boat on an optimal surf line without capsizing or digging the bow underwater.

Most of the time, we are sailing and surfing waves far out at sea, but occasionally, for fun, we surf the bigger waves closer to shore when the conditions are nice," van Aanholt told SurferToday.

"Surfing those waves is similar to normal surfing, where you want to position yourself in a way that you are near the peak but not too close."

"We accelerate by pulling in the sail, which is called a pump and once you have speed, you want to tighten your sail because the wind direction changes (similar to when you put your hand outside of the car, the wind is always coming from the front), the nice thing about having the sail is that you still have acceleration so you can easily change direction."

"I also always like to put up my centerboard a bit so that there is not too much resistance when I am a bit on the side of the wave."

"The key is to get off the wave before the whitewash, so I like to position myself a bit away from the peak."

"But if occasionally I do end up in the whitewash, I just go with it and focus on keeping the boat flat."

"The feeling of surfing waves in a Laser is amazing as you are able to surf it for a long time."

Then, there's the infamous video featuring Brazilian sailor Mateus Tavares taking on overhead waves at Farol da Barra near Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

Tavares casually sails over incoming swells before turning around and dropping into the critical section, where the wave crests start to crumble.

Imagine a point break for dinghies. And now, imagine filling a sail with wind instead of arm power to propel you into a wave.

It takes skills and a lot of confidence.


Words by Luís MP | Founder of SurferToday.com

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