How to steer in windsurfing

Steering: learn how to turn in windsurfing | Photo: Carter/PWA

Steering a sail in windsurfing is an essential skill. Learn how to turn and adjust your windsurfer in a slightly different direction.

The regular interaction between the wind and the windsurfing equipment (board, mast, and sail) triggers a propulsive force that drives us forward. Fortunately, we can make a few adjustments to that propelling movement.

In windsurfing, sometimes we really need to make subtle changes in our course.

As a result, we try to sail into the wind or away from the wind. It enables us to control the direction the board is traveling.

The technique is called steering and, in windsurfing, you can do it by moving the sail either toward the front or back of the board, depending on where you want to go - sailing on a broad reach (downwind) or sailing close-hauled (upwind).

Turning Upwind 101

Turning upwind is easy:

  1. Get yourself across the wind in a straight line;
  2. Eye a new goal that is slightly closer to the wind;
  3. Slowly tilt the rig towards the back of the board by bending your front arm and straightening your back arm;
  4. Put your weight on the back foot, and you'll turn toward the wind;
  5. Bring the rig back to the upright sailing position;

Turning Downwind 101

Now, let's learn how to do it downwind:

  1. Choose a new goal to aim for;
  2. To begin turning away from the wind, move both hands back on the boom;
  3. Move the rig across your body towards the front of the board by extending your front arm and bringing your back arm closer to your face;
  4. Put your weight on the front foot, and you'll steer away from the wind;
  5. When the nose of the board is pointing across the wind, bring the rig back to the sailing position;
  6. With your back arm, let the sail out slightly, back to its original sailing position;

Remember that if you turn too much towards the wind, you'll enter the "no-go" zone.

Try to practice steering on both tacks, with your hips and bottom tucked in and hands shoulder-width apart.

If you're on a run, leaning the rig and body to the left will move your board to the right and vice versa.

Learn these techniques and more in "Start Windsurfing Right!" and "RYA Go Windsurfing!".