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MOVE ON UP With Jem Hall


I hope you had a chance to reflect upon and put in place the tips on the ‘Holy Trinity.’ If these skills are the fundamentals that will serve you well through all aspects and disciplines of our great sport then this next move is the single most important transition you will require. I believe and suggest to you that tacking is more important than gybing and, shock horror, you heard it here first. It is hugely relevant from ‘Beginner to Winner’ and is crucial for improvers, intermediates and wave sailors alike.

(This feature originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Windsurf Magazine. To read more features like this first, Print and Digital subscriptions are available. Prices include delivery globally for 10 x issues a year!)


 ‘Get low in and get low out and look where you go. Photo Dave White
Now I should be selling the tack to you but in some ways I feel I have to. I am looking to get you ‘moving on up’ and therefore out of your comfort zone. Carving 360s started this, and now tacking will not only challenge your learning and self-coaching but it will give you many skills that you will use throughout the sport. As ever, “If you always do what you have always done, well then you will always get what you have always got,” Anon. So please learn, improve and tack a lot. The tack is a fundamental move in windsurfing and it definitely assists intermediates in their quest for the carve gybe giving them that all important upwind advantage from where they can bear away and go for gybes. For wavesailing it is well known that if you tack at both ends in a wave break you will shorten your reaches by about a third and therefore get more jumps going out and more rides coming in. So I suggest you ease up on the ocean grooving, massive long reaches and please get tacking, that is if you want to get better. In fact I can say that from my coaching the people who struggle to learn to forward loop are more than often the ones who are unable, as yet, to tack. 

The tack has 3 key stages and like a good book there is a clear beginning, middle and end. Focus on improving on each of these areas and most of the winning is done in sound preparation. Keep your focus simple, look where you want to go, keep low and get the rig away. As in all moves the head is the key. You are already moving your head more effectively and looking where you go a whole lot more as you are already embracing the ‘Trinity,’ so this means you will find tacking learning, improvement and mastery all the more easy, hoorah! Now, I know you are waiting for a blatant plug here, so yes, the tack is covered extensively in my very complete instructional movie ‘Beginner to Winner.’ In order to present the move to you I will be giving you tips on each of the 3 stages, rather than a whole move breakdown – and for this piece I am looking at the planing entrance tack. 

Rig away and carve off heels. Photo Nick Jones

Tacks help your gybes through improved counterbalance. Photo Dave White

Look forward at exit – immediately! Photo Jem Hall

Rig back and along centreline, body  forwards and out. Photo Jem Hall

Hands move before foot change. Photo Jem Hall

Get low and back on exit and scissor legs’ Photo Nick Jones


When learning to tack, people, try to remember and even focus on ALL the aspects of the move. This is a mistake and it is best to focus on the relevant stage and even competent tackers are best to revisit and refocus on the vital entrance sequence in the tack. The top tips are: 

• Get the order right: Back hand at back harness line, so it’s easier to get it around to new side. Stay low and move front hand along boom and low down on to the mast. Then, unhook by bending arms and keep low and out. Next are the feet. 
• Now ze feet: Pull down on the boom to unweight your feet! This helps them slip out of the straps and the back foot comes out first, then the front foot, both just in front of the straps. 
• Keep the speed: Aim to maintain your speed in this unhooked / unstrapped position – this is a good drill in itself! Keep your front arm extended to get the rig away. Body is low with a bent back leg and straighter front leg. 
• Carve gradually upwind: Carve on your heelside whilst looking forwards. The feet will initially be placed just in front of the straps and then step up as the board slows down and you come more into the wind. 
• Counterbalance the rig: As the rig moves back, shift your body forward. 
• Eyes on the prize: Look forward and aim to be in the position in the pics at just before head-to-wind – looking forward, rig back down centreline, hips swinging forwards and out AND crucially front foot wrapped right round the mast foot. 

Look at these different targets / key body positions and visualise them and even walk through them and think about choosing 1 or 2 as targets for your 20-minute tack session. If you have got the prep phase you’re already succeeding, well done!

The footwork and transition comes at just before head-to-wind and you know you are there because you can see it, as you are looking that way. 

The toppest transition tips are:

Fast feet: Slick footwork comes from getting the weight off the back foot by swinging those hips forward whilst creating space with the rig back. The back foot can then step up and pivot.
Get in order: A great way to remember what to do in the transition phase is to think ‘release, reach and pivot’. At head-to-wind, release the backhand and reach round to the new side of the boom. This will make your footwork and the pivot that much sweeter. Think hands before feet!
Foot Work: The key is in the words you have to work and pivot the feet, so bend those ankles and get on the balls off your feet. Think about getting on down, James Brown. 
Look: All of this is much improved by looking where you want to go. Forward at start, back down new side of boom to move hand, then forward again as soon as you are around to the new side. 
Don’t think, do: No time to pause here, get round and believe you will make it. 

As for the entrance, work on your chosen targets from above.  

You’re so not done yet, so let’s finish this off … 

The top exit tips are:

Never give up: By looking to finish off the move and recover yourself from all sorts of positions, you learn and improve a great deal at saving all manner of tacks. Windsurfing is so often about ‘dynamic recovery!’
Look forward: This action will save you so many tacks, do it as soon as you are round to the new side. 
Pick it up: The new back foot must be lifted up, heel to bum and then moved aggressively towards the tail in front of the rear strap. This helps you steer / scissor out and stops the nose sinking too. 
Forwards and across: Get both hands down the boom so as to twist the rig and draw it forwards and across you. Front hand should slide down to front line and backhand goes way down the boom (key forward-loop skill!). 
Scissor: With the back foot way back and your front leg forward you can be in counterbalance (away from the rig). The rig is moving forward and you are moving back and being aggressive at pushing through front foot and pulling with back foot to scissor out from a low position

Focus on your chosen targets and you can even write key words on the back of your palms to remind you. I believe in you, so you believe in you. 

I really shouldn’t have to ‘sell’ you the tack, however through my many years of coaching at all levels I now feel I know you windsurf types very well and your shying away from tacks is legendary. And I have also personally witnessed how much tack competency – and focus – has transformed many of my clients. I will now present the skills present in the tack and how they transfer to other moves.

Unhooking and hand movement: Moving hands prior to unhooking – and smooth unhooking – is also hugely important for gybing

Carving upwind and keeping speed: Essential for wave riding and freestyle moves like upwind 360s, shuvits etc.

• Weight change and hip movement: Vital in gybing and wave riding

• Slick footwork: Huge factor in the mid part of the carve gybe

Moving rig forwards and across to steer: Massive in learning and improving forward loops. Non-tacking loopers simply don’t loop as well as tacking loopers!

Scissoring board with feet: The push and pull of the legs helps you steer into gybes and position the board in the air in jumps, amongst other moves. 

As I’ve said before, you may need to do a move, but until you WANT to do it, all it will be is just talk and procrastination. There’s no better time than now to get into tacking on any board that floats, including big beginner boards and SUPs. The water is warm (er) and you should be looking to make the most of any opportunity to improve your sailing. Whilst I’m covering it here from a planing perspective, you can get it better and better on bigger boards and in lighter winds and look to move down in volume and up in wind strength as your competency and consistency improves. I will be covering this more in a future piece.

RRD boards, wetsuits, softwear, Ezzy sails and Pro Sport Sunblock sponsor Jem Hall. Get him live and direct on one of his highly acclaimed coaching holidays but be quick as they are selling out – check out his fab new site for details. You can also follow him on twitter / Facebook.  

The post JEM HALL TECHNIQUE – CRACK THE TACK appeared first on Windsurf Magazine.

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