How to windsurf in waves
Wave sailing is one of the most challenging and thrilling disciplines in windsurfing. Learn how to get into a wave your windsurf gear.
Contrary to popular belief, windsurfing is a sport made for the waves. In fact, the wind and the waves are the DNA of windsurfing.
Windsurfing waves can be an exhausting experience, and it is not as easy as it sometimes looks, but if you're an intermediate sailor already with experience in medium-to-high, there's no reason why you shouldn't try and catch a wave.
The good news is that maneuvering a windsurfer in the waves is something you can learn relatively quickly. If you happen to surf, understand the breaking of the waves, you're able to read them, and everything will run smoothly.
As with everything in windsurfing, wave sailing requires practice. It all starts with small summer waves and 15-knot winds before you evolve into serious, double head liquid giants.
Finally, always remember that surfers, bodyboarders, bodyboarders, and swimmers have the right of way in the water. And when in doubt, maintain a safety buffer.
Choosing a Spot
Find a calm beach break with small and gentle-rolling waves. In the early stages, avoid reef breaks, point breaks, and crowded surf spots. Analyze the area, study the currents, and pick a safe launching/landing zone.
It is also easier get into wave sailing in side or offshore winds, i.e., riding a wave down the line downwind.
Launching into the Surf
Timing and speed are critical for getting out in the lineup. After performing a beach start, time the wave sets, and try to sail and reach the lineup as fast as you can. Whenever possible, stay clear of the breaking waves.
If you fall in the impact zone, keep cool, wait for the right moment, perform a water start, and resume sailing.
Depending on the size of the wave, you may want to get over the white water. If that's the case, just angle the board straight against the wave, unhook, stay low, sheet out, and lean back to lift the nose. The water will hit the bottom of the board, allowing you to move forward.
Catching a Wave
Now that you've hit the lineup, it's time to catch a wave. But be selective - watch a few unridden sets pass by, and visualize your sailing speed timings before taking off on your first wave.
A good advice is always to take the last wave of the set. Why? Because, many times, it is the best wave, and because you will avoid getting pounded by additional waves, in case you fall or wipe out. It will also be easier to get out the back when you finish your ride.
So, how do you catch a wave in windsurfing?
1. Get to the lineup and pick your wave;
2. Plan your jibe/tack so that you're aligned with the moving wave;
3. Sheet in to an identical speed as that of the wave;
4. Bend the knees, and drop down the wave;
5. Feel the wave "catching" your gear;
6. Move backward on the board;
7. Let the wave drive you down the line;
8. Eye potential speed sections, and adjust the ride to them;
9. When the wave gets steeper, get your feet into the foot straps;
Sooner or later, you'll be understanding how a windsurfer works in the waves. You'll fine tune the speed-to-wave timings, and start feeling more comfortable with the rig in an ankle-to-should-high swell.
If you're losing speed on a wave, make sure you keep the board in the wave's pocket, and/or adjust the position of your feet.
A common mistake is to move your hands along the boom constantly.
Exiting the Wave
Whenever you feel that the wave has delivered its full potential, or that the wind has died down, plan an exiting strategy. Sometimes there are useful channels and currents nearby, and they can be extremely useful if you kick out close to them.
To get out of the wave, you can jibe, tack, let the wave outrun you, or simply sail back to the shore.
For additional backside and frontside wave sailing tips and techniques, get "Tricktionary 3: Windsurfing Bible."