PETER HART HOW TO JUMP - FLOP OR FLY PT 2
HOW TO JUMP TECHNIQUE TIPS
In the second instalment of his jumping guide, Harty goes deeper into the technique of sail-powered flight, describes how to take it to the highest level and tackles the common failings.
One of my favourite reads is ‘Freakonomics.’ One of the authors, Steven Levitt, is an economist who addresses a variety of hitherto unproven questions like ‘why did the crime rate drop so suddenly in the US in the late 90s?’, ‘Why do most drug dealers live with their mothers?’ And, interesting as a parent, ‘what factors really influence your child’s development?’
The difference with Levitt’s approach (and he is, by his own admission, a little weird) is that he can only see the world in terms of numbers. He seeks the solution to every puzzle in hard statistics, not in highfalutin theories.
It sounds a little dry, but the results are astonishing, fascinating and turn received wisdom on its head. Here’s one example from the book. Mr Smith from the USA has a daughter. S
he has 2 local friends but he won’t allow her to visit one of them because he knows her father keeps a loaded gun in the house. But he’s happy to let her play with her other friend who has a swimming pool. Sounds entirely reasonable – except that private pools cause over a 1000 times more child deaths than loaded guns.
Raw statistics so often contradict our instincts. It’s interesting to apply the same numbers game to windsurfing. Ask someone why their gybes are a little lacklustre and typically they’ll focus on a technical detail. “I bend my arms/approach too slowly/lean back etc.”
But the real reason may just be down to statistics – like the amount of practice minutes and the nature of that practice. Take the plight of a weekend freerider.
This technique feature originally appeared in the April 2014 issue. This and other premium content is available first in print and app versions.
Say he (but it could be a she) gets 25 planing days a year and sails for about 3 hours each day. Being a blaster with horizon issues (he’s magnetically attracted to them), he only puts in a gybe every 5 minutes.
Each gybe, taking into account a few premature endings, lasts on average 5 seconds.
Let me help you with the maths – the total time spent actually gybing in one year is just 1 hour 15 minutes. That is not the amount of practice time needed to change behaviour.
On top of that, it’s bad practice. The gybes are too far apart. Imagine you were getting a lesson from a tennis coach who only hit a ball to you every 5 minutes.
You wouldn’t learn a thing. It’s only when he repeatedly drops the ball in the same spot, time after time that you can begin to drill the stroke, learn from the last shot, adjust your sights, tweak the skill and discover a little flow.
With jumping the practice scenario is even direr. Most jumps, from take-off to landing, last less than 2 seconds and, thanks to the vagaries of the environment, opportunities are even scarcer.
Last year in Ireland I came across a guy I knew from home. He was complaining about his jumps. It was the wrong tack for him. During a sandwich break I watched him.
It was a cracking day, side-on wind, and head-high breaking waves. In the space of one hour, he attempted 6 jumps. That equates to maybe 10 seconds jumping practice.
What the hell can you learn in 10 seconds! “Any thoughts?” he said when he came in. “Absolutely,” I replied, trying not to be glib. “Do some more!” Jumping is primarily a numbers game.
In the last issue I tried to lay solid jumping foundations suggesting which kit in which combination of wind and waves and with what basic skills would be most likely to bear fruit.
This month we look more deeply into the technique. But I have to start by asking you a question. As someone striving for higher, better or just safer jumps, have you ever had a concentrated jumping session?
My friend in Ireland was not having a jumping session as such, he was just sailing around in waves hoping that he might improve them by osmosis. There was a palpable lack of intensity.
That’s the problem with jumping. It is intense. Faced with a whole day’s sailing, people might back off the jumps to start with because it’s a bit risky.
They might fall where waves are breaking, get washed around, lose ground, break kit, break themselves. Unwilling to ruin the day before it’s started, they vow to give them a lash at the end by which time they’re too knackered to do them properly.
Without an intense focus, they perform as half-heartedly as the intermittent horizon gybed. My first and most potent tip of the month, more potent than any technique related golden nugget, is to create a proper jumping session – where jumping is the sole focus.
THE DEVIL’S TACK
Some jumping windies are so biased to one tack that they’ll choose their holiday destinations according to the prevailing wind direction. “Why can’t I jump on the other tack?” They bleat.
Because you never do it on the other tack! Just like if you’re right handed, you won’t magically learn to write with your left hand unless you actually do it.
I have yet to find any reason why physically people should favour a jumping side (unlike wave-riding where people naturally surf left or right foot forward). It’s purely a numbers game.
Windies of the UK south coast where the wind prevails from the right, if you want to get better at port jumping, go on holiday many times to Pozo where it blows from the left!
The least satisfying of all jumps is where you project the nose high but never get that feeling of floating. Instead you seem to stall and then drop vertically out of the sky, tail-first like a stone. It’s down to letting yourself rotate upwind on take-off, so the sail depowers and your body drops back over the tail, so you can’t pick it up.
In Jeri this past month, we had wind and waves every day, but it was during a golden half hour where the group made the most dynamic jumping progress. We created a session. These are the special ingredients.
Ideal conditions. We’d waited for a couple of days until the strongest wind of the day (12-2pm) coincided with low tide. In Jeri that means the wind blows over the inside waves unhindered and the waves themselves are small, but well spaced.
Conditions have to inspire the right performance, suck you in, place you on the right side of the terrified/adrenalised frontier, make you want to spring. Crucially, the best jump-able waves were close to the beach, in full view of the crowd, in waist deep water, where the ‘what happens if?’ factor was negligible.
Best launch spot. There’s a spot in the middle of the beach where a channel pushes in, allowing you to launch early in flat water and hit the first waves motoring.
Good company. We were a group. There was banter, a little competition and a lot of mutual support.
Happy Pressure. It’s all about creating the right sort of pressure. There were the peers. There was also a video camera. Being observed, recorded and cajoled can make you go the extra yard.
Basically we’d imitated an indoor windsurfing arena. Indoor windsurfing and, especially, jumping off the metal ramp, is the closest our sport gets to being a ‘closed’ skill, where, like gymnastics, the apparatus is fixed and you can replicate the same action time and time again.
During our golden session, like the indoor set-up, the team formed an orderly queue and went one at a time. This had extra benefits.
* They didn’t want to waste a turn. So they studied the wave patterns and began to time their launches as the sea opened up between sets. And they really worked to get going. The rest between gos meant they were re-charged. However cute your skill, it takes energy to plane early and to spring.
* Thanks to the shallow-shelving beach, the waves peaked gradually, meaning that, if their timing was right, they’d hit perhaps 5 jump-able waves in one run. Knowing they were soon to get a rest, they’d go for the lot. It’s when you get a series of ramps that you can find some rhythm, start correcting things as you go, relax into it, stop thinking too hard and react instinctively and even lift the head to admire the view.
* The ‘how many jumps can you get on one run?’ challenge is a strong incentive. If you mess up the first ones over the smaller inside waves, land too tail heavy or into wind, you lose all your speed and miss out on the peachy bigger ones. The desire to land on the plane encourages the right spirit and the right technique.
And one more key element of such a session is brevity. After half an hour, we were done. Conditions were still good but, as soon as I felt the intensity drop and performances falter, we called a halt. With the right arena comes genuine desire. Like the kids I mentioned last month, when they genuinely wanted to go high, they instinctively discovered the best techniques. Create the right arena on the right part of the right day with the right mates and the jumping bit will take care of itself … almost.
AND SO ONTO THE TECHNIQUES …
The Jeri team started getting some decent jumps. But when you start getting a little air, you want more. Then you want a lot more. Euphoria is gently replaced by frustration as you see the video or photo and realise that the jump that felt like 5 metres was more like one and a bit.
Yes you took off. The fin was clear … but you came straight down. Too many times you lost all your speed on landing. You absolutely didn’t soar. You’ve seen the good guys do it where they seem to get that secondary lift.
Inside the head, arms and feet of the high flyer.
So what’s happening when the average jump height of Geoffrey Holiday-Maker is just a couple of feet, yet the little (but actually not always so little) chap who does it for a living is frequently peaking at 30 foot or more?
It’s the same day, same wind, similar kit, same breakfast and probably the same volume of Caipirinhas the night before. Well it’s not one thing, it’s lots of little things perfectly combining into one perfectly crafted moment.
Lets dissect what’s going on and then perhaps you can estimate which elements of his performance you’re failing to imitate. First understand that the pro, despite tendons like hawsers, cannot jump 30 ft every time.
He too needs the special environmental moment. But he’s totally clued into the spot, knows the frequency of the sets and exactly where the best waves peak – so is very good at finding those moments.
He’s not just eyeballing what’s in front of him but clocks the distant scene. Tacking on the inside, his peripheral vision picks up a swell some 200m away. Like a slalom sailor timing his run to the line, he knows how long it’ll take him to get there, except that this line is moving towards him, which makes the timing even trickier.
He steps straight into the straps and gets planing immediately by working the sail, holding it right forward hooked into long lines. That takes strength, energy and fitness.
It’s a position from which he can best negotiate the inside waves. Taking those inside waves at full tilt is a hidden skill. Every one demands a different tactic. The unbroken small lumps he’ll squash just by lifting the knees to keep board water contact.
The next one is a bigger reform wave with a little white water on top. It’s impossible to absorb without sheeting out and slowing down.
So he goes for a long jump. He seems to do nothing but stay hooked in, sheet in and pick the tail up. But if he just did that, the nose would stick into the white water or drop straight into the trough on the other side.
So, almost imperceptibly, just before the nose hits the wave, he sheets out by pulling in the front hand. That releases the mast-foot pressure (M.F.P.) so the wave bumps the nose up a little.
He can then pick up the tail and level out without nose-diving. He lands slightly off wind, over the board on his toes, favouring the front foot being especially careful not to:
a) overload the fin and spin out.
b) Fall back against the rig and oversheet.
A few yards ahead there’s an inside wave which is folding over – a mini dumper which could break on the nose and kill all his speed.
So he pre-jumps it, doing a little chop hop to bounce onto the white water rather than crash into it. Through the mush he bears away for maximum speed.
Speed remains the high jumper’s biggest weapon. Knowing where the wave will peak is not an exact science but the more speed he has, the more scope he has to veer up and down wind to hit the sweet spot.
As he bears away, the rig pulls his hips upright and forward so he’s balanced between his feet (not sitting on the back foot). The pressure moves from his heels to his toes.
A few metres before the ramp he unhooks, heads up so he’s across the wind and bends the knees but stays on his toes. Rewind a few frames and a little way back he will have sized up the shape of the ramp, gauged out how much power he has and worked out which jump will be best.
For the purposes of demonstration, he’s nicely powered, the wave is steep with a curling lip and he’s just going for maximum height. This is where it gets complicated. Get your notebook ready.
As he starts to climb the face he sheets out by bending the front arm. As with the little jump, this releases the nose and stops it sticking into the face.
He climbs the face and as the lip hits the underside of the board, he pumps the back hand and straightens the legs (jumps!), pushing off his toes, tightening his core and lifting everything up.
He favours the back foot so there’s a feeling of driving off the tail and then releasing it (but without leaning back). He does the same with the rig. No sooner has he pumped than he opens out again to release the power and the nose.
All the time his shoulders have stayed upwind of the windward edge. His momentum combined with the collision with the lip and the wind getting under the board, projects him skywards.
He now gets as compact as possible, pulling the rig down parallel with the water to turn it into a wing, bending the knees to pull the board right into his body.
To get the board to soar and not just drop back on the tail, he levels the board out nose-to-tail, by easing the hips forward to lean on the mastfoot and pulling the tail up. The wind now supports the board.
When the rig is parallel to the water, he pumps it to get an extra bit of lift and delay the drop. He doesn’t want to bear away any more or the M.F.P. will send him into a nose dive/forward loop.
From a high jump he’s coming down with little forward speed. To avoid a flat landing, he lets the board drift into wind by dropping the rig back and sheeting out a tad. The tail drops first, sinks and cushions the impact.
So much happens in such a short time – the cognitive computing of all that info is impossible but let me try and distil the essence of the technique.
The best jumps feel explosive but effortless. It sounds a bit nebulous, but don’t fight the forces. Let the wind and the wave do the work.
Make yourself and the kit suddenly light by powering and then releasing it. Still, I’m sure you have some questions. Ok, you at the back …
Case study 1 – Paul
“The first challenge was getting on the right kit. Going for a ‘gruntier’ sail made a lot of difference. In the end I preferred jumping with a single fin over the multi-fins because I felt I had more to push against on take-off. From a technique point, the problem for me is that I’d spent 20 years trying NOT to airborne and catapulted. To begin with I just needed to concentrate on the core skills. Thinking of it like a waterstart helped, staying upwind so you can pull the tail upwind.
“I feel unstable as I run towards the wave.”
As a precaution, people hook out too early. It takes a lot of core strength to sail fast and steady hooked out. As people unhook, they tend open out (sheet out), squat to hold the power, go a bit floppy around the midriff and drop onto their back foot, which is the worst take-off stance. As they lose speed and M.F.P., the nose starts to lift and they start the jump leaning back. The trick is to stay hooked right up to the last moment (and maybe even as you fly – more about that later)
“For me it was all about the take-off. I was taking off into wind – that’s the road to ruin. The best tip for me was about pulling the tail to where the nose was. That’s when I started landing on the plane.”
Case study 2 CHRIS – TAIL to NOSE
Case study 2 – Alex (the victim)
I actually do have the statistics to hand and can reveal that jumping is far from being the most dangerous windsurfing pursuit. According to A and E reports the biggest culprit is running aground, followed by ramming another craft.
Jumping, at a reasonable altitude, is no less risky than entering a speedy gybe – and far LESS risky than most new school tricks which involve delivering shock loads to twisted and vulnerably-loaded joints.
However, nothing is 100% safe. “It wasn’t even a very big jump – but I committed the cardinal sin of sitting on my heels and dropping the windward edge.
The board went into a nosedive. I got thrown forward, the back foot came out and I landed just with the front foot in the strap. I see now that my straps were too small.” Happily Alex just tweaked a medial ligament and was able to get back on the horse 2 days later.
I always land into wind and usually spin out.
You and a thousand others … it’s the most popular ending. I refer you to the answer above. It usually starts with a dodgy approach. If you take off on your heels, leaning back heading towards the wind, into wind is where you’ll to end up.
Take off more downwind and hold the hips outboard so you have room to pull the tail upwind under your backside and bear away. And look at the rig angle. It has to be tilted to windward if you’re to use M.F.P.to bear the nose away.
Landing into wind is bad if you want to maintain speed after a long, fast jump but fine if you’re dropping from a height. But spin-out is never good.
It comes from delivering a lateral hoof to the fin from landing with your body away from the windward edge. To prevent it make sure you’re right over the tail as you land and the pressure is going downwards not sideways.
I’m a habitual nose-diver
Painful stuff. Sounds like you’re ready for a forward! Take your pick from these:
You’re taking off too broad, a fault on the right side I might add. Off wind, you get pulled onto your front foot and there’s so much M.F.P. that it drives the nose down as soon as it clears the lip.
If you weight your heels and drop the windward edge on take-off, the wind will smack the deck of the board and drive it down.
If your rig is too upright and not tilted to windward, it will just drive the nose down rather than off wind.
Sometimes nosedives arise from doing nothing. If you just sail off a slopey ramp, which isn’t steep enough to direct the nose skywards, you’ll dive into the trough.
Are you a bit of a freestyler? It could be you’re mistaking jumping for freestyle ‘popping.’ In the ‘pop’ you bounce up off the tail but immediately lean forward on the boom to drop the nose and pivot round on it.
In jumping off waves, you first have to get the nose up, then bring the tail to the same height. Talking of which.
I’m honestly not afraid of it but I never get the feeling of soaring and every photo I’ve seen of myself the tail is always down.
The hips and body have dropped back. If you’re sitting on the tail, you can’t pick it up. Anything that throws you onto the back foot stops you soaring.
Heading up and bending the front arm before take-off are the common culprits. In your eagerness to get high, you might be trying to kick the nose up with the front foot, which also throws you backwards.
For the rig to help you soar it has to be parallel with the water. If it’s bolt upright, it’s just dead weight. Make sure you’re not folding on take off and just squatting under the boom.
Remember you have to extend and bring the board up to your height, not drop down to its height. One of the best corrective remedies is to try tail grabs, where you stay hooked in and after take off, release the back hand and grab the tail.
It makes you get your weight forward and pick up the back foot. But the soaring problem could also be an ‘old school’ hangover.
I’ve been doing it for years. I do get pretty high but I fear I’m a bit old school. The big move when I was learning was the ‘tip dip’ where you try get the tip of the mast to touch the water behind you.
I know the move well! It’s a cracker and got the biggest cheer of the day at a recent Ho’okipa wave event. On the earlier wave boards, the mastfoot was much nearer the nose so nose-diving was an ever-present threat.
Hence upside down, nose-up jumps were favourite (table tops etc). With that history, you probably initiate every jump by pulling back on the boom and kicking up the front foot.
You have to change the trigger. Start with your body more between your feet and start the jump by extending the front arm forward rather than back.
I stay hooked in during almost all my jumps. Is this a mistake?
It’s only a mistake if you crash constantly wearing the rig. If not it shows you’re doing a lot right. A common mistake is doing a starfish impression after take off, extending arms and legs and going all loose about the core.
Learning to jump hooked in is a good way to cure all that. Your hips are held high and you stay compact and connected to the rig. It depends what’s in front of you.
Over small waves and going for long jumps, stay hooked in by all means. You save energy and land back in your planing stance.
Confronted by a meaty vertical ramp, hooking out gives you more freedom to move the rig around and to bail out should the need arise.
The heightened summary
With all this wordy explanation and analysis, I haven’t been true to my ideals, which is to think less, feel more and do it lots.
Remember the numbers game – once you start counting your annual flight time in hours rather than seconds, then you know you’re getting there.
Learning to jump well is like sprint training. I leave you with some wise words from Steve Black, rugby star Johnny Wilkinson’s trainer and mentor.
“To learn to run fast, you have to do lots of fast running.”
It’s all about intensity. To learn to jump high, you have to jump high – and as often as you can.
You can get the same words plus actions from the horse’s mouth by joining Peter on one of his internationally acclaimed, game-changing clinics, catering for everyone from planing novice to jumping, riding fanatic. Lots of info about the 2014 schedule on www.peter-hart.com. And get regular updates by liking his Peter Hart Masterclass page.
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