How to self-rescue in windsurfing

Windsurfing: learning self-rescue techniques is critical

When the windsurfing equipment fails far away from the shore, you must be able to return to firm land with what you've got. Learn how to self-rescue on a windsurfer.

Fortunately, problems with windsurfing sails, masts, booms and boards are quite rare. But if something goes wrong, do you know how to get back to the beach?

If you're close enough to the coastline, activate the International Distress Signal. Clench your fists and repeatedly raise and lower your arms at either side of your body, while kneeling or sitting on your board.

But in case you're out in open ocean, there are useful methods of self-rescue that you can try in order to return home. Learning how to survive in unusual conditions will also increase your general confidence in windsurfing.

1. Flagging: standing either side of the mast, with the mast in front of you, in the secure position, is a very simple and easy way to drift or steer downwind;

2. Butterfly: in very light or now wind conditions, lay the rig over the back of the board, remove your harness hook, lie face-down on the board, use your feet to hold the rig in place and paddle with the arms;

3. Full de-rig: this is an extreme option, and it is very difficult to keep hold of masts, extensions and booms unless you tie them down firmly. Another disadvantage is that you make yourself less visible when you de-rig the sail;

4. Turtle: a trickier alternative to the Butterfly where the rig is detached, and you lie inside the boom with the mast base pointing forwards as paddle the board. Useful for a broke UJ, but once again difficult in any breeze;

There are additional methods for multiple situations. You can be towed by another windsurfer; you can tie the mast foot/extension to what is left of a broken UJ with spare cord or the downhaul line, or you can reverse a broken boom and use the side that is still in one piece.

Always remember: relax, don't panic, stay with your windsurf board and conserve energy. More safety and self-rescue tips and techniques can be found in "RYA Intermediate Windsurfing," by Simon Bornhoft. uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more on our About section.