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Learn how to windsurf with Starboard

In our learn to windsurf video, we’re going to go through the basics you need to progress your windsurfing journey as quickly as possible. From setting up the equipment to recovering the rig from the water and your first basic turns. All the way through to good stance, a sailing position, steering and then starting to head towards the wind, away from the wind, as well as faster turns like tacks and gybes.

This video goes through how to windsurf using windsurfing specific equipment. However, for all of the windsurf inflatable paddle boards and windsurfing rigs we stock, the basics of windsurfing theory and technique are the same.

Let’s look at the Starboard iQFOiL 85 SurfaceToAir and how best to set it up for a beginner windsurfer.

Windsurfing Equipment

So, in terms of parts of the board. First of all, we have the nose and we have the tail. Down the sides of the boards, we’ve got the rails. The most important part of the board to think about is what we call the center line. Now this is the imaginary line that runs from the nose of the board straight down the middle through the universal joint or UJ where our sail attaches all the way to the back of the board and that’s the most stable point in the board and where we’re going to keep on weight all the time.

My last bits of set up then are my fins. My 41 cm fin is going to go in the slot in the middle of the board from below. In the rear of the board, I have this 30 cm fin and that helps me go in a straight line. Last little thing to look at then is my universal joint or my mast foot. So again, this is where the sail attaches. I’m going to try and position that in the middle of the board. However if you using really small sails like the 2m, I might slide it a little bit further back to help the board turn more easily.

Windsurfing Conditions

The best conditions to learn to windsurf in are normally flat water anywhere from 3 up to roughly 10 to 15 knots. As your skills progress you can start to go out in windy conditions or start to increase your sail size.

Getting Started

Approach the board from the opposite sides of the rig, placing your hands and keeping your body weight over the centre line. Grab the uphaul and check the wind direction. Stand up and lean back slightly. Use your legs, not your back to pull the rig out of the water working hand over hand, always keeping your weight over the center line. Grasp the mast below the boom with extended arms.

If you lean the rig to the back of the board, it turns towards into the wind. If you lean the rig to the front of the board, it turns away from the wind and with the rig flapping freely at 90 degrees to the board, this is your secure position. The secure position is the first chance to get the rig up and out the water, orientate yourself to the wind and it’s the beginning and the end of all the moves you do as a beginner.

Pick a goal point ahead, take your front hand off the mast and move across your body and onto the boom. Step back on the board, pointing your front foot forward. Turn your hips and shoulders to face your goal point and draw the rig across your body and upright, sink your weight down for the back leg. Place the back hand on and pull in slightly to generate power.

When you are in your sailing position, keep looking forward at your goal point, if you get a bit more wind, you can sink weight down through the back leg to control the power. To slow down, you can ease out with the backhand and stand up slightly. When you’re sailing along, always look ahead and pick your goal point.

Try and keep your weight on the center line and try and keep your hips facing forward with extended arms.

Basic Turning

The static turn is our most basic turn, and it’s the first way we turn the board around. So, holding onto the mast with both hands in your secure position, lean the rig towards the back of the board. As the board turns towards the wind, take small footsteps around the mast foot. Keep the rig leaning across the back of the board. Once you’ve turned the board through 180 degrees and you’re back in your secure position, your turn is complete.

Steering

Once you’re happily sailing across the wind, we can then look at steering. To steer towards the wind, look towards the wind and pick a new goal point. Lean the rig back, extending your back arm, moving your hips in the opposite direction. The board will turn towards the wind. Once you’re facing your new goal point. Bring the rig back up to your sailing position and pull in gently with your back hand. To steer away from the wind, drop your body weight low, lean forwards and towards the wind, with extended front arm. Once you’re pointing back towards your original goal point. Ease out the backhand and return to your sailing position. The trick to steering is you can move a windsurf rig wherever you want, as long as your body and your hips can counter it.

Tacking

Look towards a goal point closer to the wind and steer towards it. Once sailing towards the wind, place your front hand on the mast and wrap your front foot around the mast foot. Lean the rig back as the board steers towards the wind, step up with both feet in front of the mast and both hands on the mast. Keep the rig leaning across the back of the board until the turn is complete and then set back off your sailing position across the wind.

As you progress the tack, we can steer in and steer out of the tack. So rather than returning to your secure position steer into wind, step round the front, grab the new side of the sail and lean the rig forward to steer away.

Gybing

To gybe drop your body weight low, you may even need to step back on the board a little. Lean the rig forward and towards the wind with an extended front arm. As the board steers away from the wind, keep your body weight low until you’re going straight down wind on a run. Ease out the back hand and bring the rig across the middle of the board. Change your feet. Front to back foot and stepping forward with your new front foot. Keeping your weight over the centre line. Slide your hands right up next the boom clamp. Release your backhand and transfer it across your body and onto the new side of the boom.

Sailing Upwind

To make ground towards the wind, we can’t sail straight there. We can sail across the wind and we can sail closer to the wind, but 45 degrees either side the wind, this is our no go zone. So like a road up a mountain and all the hairpins, we have to zigzag our way towards the wind. So to do this? Pick a new goal point closer to the wind and steer towards it. Once you are aiming at your new goal point, return the rig to the sailing position and pull in gently with your back hand. Hold this course. You are now sailing closer to the wind in the correct sailing position. After a while, check for obstructions and tack. Once you’ve tacked do the same thing again. Pick a new goal point closer to the wind and steer towards it. When you’re facing that goal point return the rig to the sailing position, pulling in slightly with your back hand. Again, hold this course. You’ve done your zig, this is now your zag, and you’re slowly moving towards the wind. Keep doing this until eventually you reach your upwind goal.

Self Rescue

If the wind drops or you’ve been blown downwind and you’re struggling to get yourself back to the beach, we do have a form of self rescue. This is called the butterfly rescue. From your secure position. Lean the rig towards the back of the board and making sure your boom is low enough, lower the rig across the back of the board, so it’s resting there. Now lie down on the board with your feet balancing the rig and you can paddle the board back towards the wind or back towards the beach if the wind has fully dropped. Make sure you return to your safest bit of land to get yourself to safety as quickly as possible.

Key Tips

  • Some key tips when we’re learning to windsurf.
  • Always look towards your goal point, your head is your most important part of your body.
  • Keep your hips and your shoulders facing forward. This will help keep the rig upright and take the weight out the sail.
  • Your boom height should be between chest and shoulder, any lower It puts pressure on your back, and too high, it becomes hard to control.

Thanks for learning windsurfing with us. Find all our windsurfing inflatable paddle boards and windsurfing rigs here. We hope to catch you on the water soon!

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.