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SuperX – the ultimate windsurfing discipline - Photo JC/PWA


Having marvelled at the thrills and many spills in the snowpark at the Sochi Olympics, Harty mourns the demise of Windsurfing’s Super-X.

One of the reasons I love the Olympics, both winter and summer, is that for a couple of weeks people who day to day are not engaged in sport on any level, suddenly are. 

In the pub last week, Tom the farmer, who normally just sits in a corner bleating about the price of wheat, was pontificating vociferously about the rules of short track speed skating and how Elise Christie’s disqualification was very unfair (the adjectives he actually used were a tad more colourful).

As someone with more than a passing interest in sport, I’m ever interested to hear outsider’s opinions as to what engages them.

The winter Olympics is a tough one. Although over a million Brits slide down snowy mountains every year on various devices, for many it’s just a convenient way of getting from mountain bar to mountain bar.

We’re not a winter sports nation. Most of the disciplines are pretty alien to us. We don’t know our luge from our skeleton, a double axel from a triple Lutz, let alone an inverted Frontside 9 from a Backside Rodeo.

Nor were we awash with medal contenders. So which out of all the sports, demanded the attention of the non-converted?


Some while back I was involved in lobbying the head of ITV sport to air windsurfing on terrestrial TV.

He said, in a ‘man-holding-all-the-cards’ manner, that didn’t invite much debate, that for a sport to be successful on TV, it has to transcend its captive audience in the same way that a lot of people who hate cars still watch Top Gear.

Furthermore, he said you have to care about who wins and that the lead has to change hands. If the outcome is uncertain until the end, people will keep watching and the advertisers will be happy.

He did like windsurfing, although strangely not wave-sailing. It was OK as a one-off spectacle, but as far as he was concerned, judged sports would never find a permanent place in the schedules – too subjective, too wishy-washy, nobody really understands the judging system, sometimes not even the judges apparently.

The result should be immediately clear to all. 

So back to the question. Applying those criteria, which winter Olympic sport had the widest appeal? The downhill skiing and the sliding down the ice tunnel on various high-tech tea trays are crazily impressive.

But when races are won by 1/100th second, it takes an incredibly trained eye to distinguish one performance from another, except when they crash.

As for Ice Hockey, very skilful but personally I can never see the puck. Curling. Were you swept away by it?  (Ouch. Awful. Ed.)

The Brits (Scottish) were in it. It was all about the result but we could have done without the 2.5 hours of sleep-inducing foreplay.

Short-track speed skating? Now we’re getting there. I’d watch that all day. Give them some gloves with spikes on and it’s legalised Rollerball. 

OK at this stage I’d like to add another criteria. I was once asked to help make some programs about high performance rowing.

Our demonstrator was Olympian James Cracknell. I train a bit on an indoor rower and, of all the words I’d use to describe the experience, ‘enjoyment’ is nowhere near the short list.


As an outsider looking in, it seems that at the top level, he or she who coughs up the most blood wins. So I asked James, where’s the fun? I mean given a day off, would he wilfully go into oxygen debt for pleasure?

I explained that, in windsurfing, I’d been in wave contests where in between heats we’ve stayed out and kept ripping because the activity itself is so pleasurable.

He did mention the satisfaction of a crew working together at the peak – but that didn’t really answer the question, which I suspect was ‘no.’

So along with all the other stuff, in which winter Olympic Sport did it look as if they’re having the most fun?

Two surely stood out, head shoulders and waist above all else. How could anyone have not be enthralled and endlessly entertained by both the Boarder and the Skier cross?

It’s a race. First past-the-post wins. It’s over in less than minute. We can spot and follow a favourite. It’s spectacular, skilful, ballsy.

Did the lead change hands? A photo finish that shows 3 out of the 4 wiping out across the line separated by the width of a goggle tells you all you need to know.

And following mid air collisions at 50 mph., did the victims square up to each other, make like a football manager and share head butts?  No. They laughed, hugged, high-fived and went up and did it all again.

Now that is the sort of sport you’d want to be involved in. If only there was a windsurfing discipline like that.

Well there was – and still should be!  Windsurfing Supercross, the brainchild of then JP brand manager Martin Brandner, offered all the same thrills and spirit.

Between 2004 – 06 it was a World Cup discipline. It was slalom with freestyle. There were inflatable sausages to leap over, forward loops and Spocks to complete in between buoys.

With so much scope for messing up, it was never over until the last sausage was negotiated – such a welcome relief from slalom where the good guys had got boringly adept at defending a lead.

And in spots like Fuerte, the action took place by the beach in front of a grandstand. It was made-for-TV action. But by 2007 it had run it course.

The reasons proffered was that it was a bit frivolous – like making Usain Bolt run the 100m on one leg holding an egg and spoon.

With everyone crashing out, it didn’t look professional. The format probably did need tweaking. But as with skiing, SuperX could co-exist happily with traditional slalom.

It opens another door for a more all round freestyler/speedster who has less kit and an even smaller desire to spend all day polishing it.

Could you imagine Super-X on one of the windy days of the 2012 games in Weymouth harbour before an audience of billions? How many parents and kids would be queuing up for taster sessions after that? Now my imagination is barrelling off into areas it has no right to go…    

PH 4th March 2014

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The July 2014 Issue of the world’s only monthly English-language windsurfing magazine is out now!

Subscribe or grab your copy now in either App or Print  versions! (Prices include delivery anywhere globally 10 times a year.)


001 FCWS 337 copy



MOROCCO Update 7 pages

ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER ‘Two riders were approaching – and the wind began to howl’. JC journeyed to Jimi Hendrix country in Morocco for a mystical trip involving slabs, tree-climbing goats – and two of the most radical windsurfers on the planet, Boujmaa Guilloul and Kauli Seadi.



MOMENTS Freestyle sensation Dieter Van Der Eyken shows a different side to Western Australia, shunning the headline-grabbing surf spots and hunting down jaw-dropping flatwater paradises.


WS337 Coast - The Witterings 2

COAST The Motley crew stay in home waters for once with a trip to South Coast hotspot West Wittering.


074 TUSH Final

BOLT FROM THE BLUE JC tells the story on how Tushingham Sails have simplified their range and made gear choice easier with the all-new sail line, The Bolt.


092 COSTA BRAVA 2014

VIVE LA FRANCE John Carter was on-hand to witness a spectacular raid by the French, who darted over the border to Catalunya and claimed the entire podium at the opening PWA Slalom event in Costa Brava.



test b

Seabreeze Sizzlers: (135L Freeride boards.)
Summer fun and entry-level joy – we took the latest toys for a spin.




Ready for Anything: (6.0 X-Over sails.)
Crossover sails have the most demanding ‘want it all’ briefs of the lot. But which ones tick the most boxes?


POINT-7 HF 2G 5.9

SUMMER ACCESSORIES GUIDE Essentials to make the most of your time on the water.


BOUTIQUE BRANDS Purist underground brand Patrik profiled.


080 PeterHart Article HR

The gybe is never really ‘cracked.’ But continual progress comes from gathering more and more tools to help you cope with more and more situations.  Peter Hart has a rummage through your toolbox.

WS337 Jem Hall

Light-wind workouts to polish your technique from Super Coach Jem Hall


LATEST & GREATEST Early 2015 gear and more tasty toys to salivate over.

PEOPLE & PLACES The Who’s Who and What’s What of the windsurfing world.


EDITORIAL We can be heroes – when the wind blows.

AFFAIRS OF THE HART No, he’s not gone all evangelistic on us, but Harty definitely feels lucky to live in ‘God’s Pocket’.


Get your copy by App or in Print now!

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The irrepressible duo have just released a new DVD.

They’ve done speed (‘Faster’), Freestyle (‘Showing Off’) and waves (‘Learn to Loop’).

This time it’s windsurfing’s most essential and elusive skill, gybing.

’10 steps …’ (in ten chapters funnily enough) isolates what’s really important.

At 35 minutes long, it’s detailed without being waffly. Slow motion, freezes, neat graphics, even neater demos, a lucid commentary and a great dollop of humour make this eminently watchable and highly informative.

We’ve watched it and can highly recommend the interesting perspectives and simple solutions these two give over some of the typical stumbling blocks.

Even seasoned gybers could do with watching this to refine their style or learn how to cut different arcs and remain reactive to rescuing otherwise dropped turns.

£20 inc p&p by contacting

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Passion, or painful necessity, if you’re to sail with any confidence on the rolling sea, jumping is a skill as essential as beachstarting

Fresh from a winter clinic in Jeri, where getting airborne was at the top of many of his clients’ agendas, Peter Hart offers much advice on how to take your flights to new heights. In a two-part series he starts by laying the foundations. 

“Who’s afraid of flying?
I’m just afraid of crashing.
That’s why my face is whitening
And my teeth are gnashing.”

Loudon Wainwright’s musical ode to the terrors of airplane travel might as well have been dedicated to the windsurfer, keen to and, at the same time, terrified of taking their board and rig to the air. 

Not many kids are afraid of flying. They tend not to dwell on the absurdity of hurtling through the stratosphere in a cigar tube. It’s just a bit of fun and adventure.

Likewise, as they rocket skywards on a windsurfer, they register no immediate threat to their mortality, whatever that is. And if they do hurt themselves, so what? They have no job to lose, no mortgage to pay. They heal in a jiffy and go out and do it again.

This technique feature appeared in the March 2014 issue. To read more features like this first, plus the latest tests and juiciest features, treat yourself a subscription –  go on, you deserve it!


Kids jump naturally, because, blessed with ample layers of plump cartilage to cushion their landings, that’s what they do all day long on trampolines, beds and sofas.

The natural joy of bouncing and going high encourages them do all the right things on a board – like extend, explode upwards and make themselves light.

They immediately get the essential concept that they themselves have to spring and then pull the board up to their height. For adults, part of the key to jumping is to rediscover their carefree inner child.

But the other part is to accept that it’s not a daredevil leap into the unknown – although at first it may feel like that. It’s just a blending of skills, most of which they already possess through carrying the kit, waterstarting, pumping, gybing and just sailing.


Carrying the kit, you balance the rig parallel to the ground and let the wind blow under it to support it. That’s how you soar during a jump. Waterstarting, you position yourself upwind of the windward edge and use the back foot to pull the tail under your backside to bear away and increase power.

That’s also how you control the tail and bear away in mid air. Pumping – you direct a pulse of power from the rig into the board through the toes with straight legs and a tight core and then release it to make it cork up onto its planing surface.

You use the same pump and release action to take off. Gybing. It’s when you learn to bear away and embrace speed – not wash it off – that you stop fighting the rig and everything falls into place.

And it’s when you stop braking at the sight of a ramp, that you take control of your direction and altitude. Just sailing along. As you head up and bear away, you move body forward and back to shift pressure between the feet and mastfoot to trim the board level.

All you’re doing when jumping is sailing the board through the air.


Of course not all adults are cowering, yellow-bellied flop-artists barricaded into a shrinking comfort zone. However, they are burdened with experience. Learning to plane, everyone, bar none, has suffered the trauma of a catapult.

From that moment on, a gland, which evolved to protect us from the woolly Mammoth, secretes heavily to produce self-preservation impulses and avoid a repeat.

And those impulses, squatting, over-committing to the rig etc., while solving an immediate issue, can, if untreated, corrupt your whole game eternally.

With jumping, it only takes an early crash, probably from trying it on the wrong kit in the wrong conditions, to breed instinctive reticence.

At the sight of a juicy ramp, your logical inner self runs a quick cause-and-effect logarithm – and before you can say ‘reach for the sky’, you’re heading up, slowing down, leaning back, buckling at the knees – and doing all in your power to ensure you clear the lip by a maximum of 2 inches before collapsing into wind in a crumpled heap. So what IS the fear cure?


Fear generally stems either from a sudden loss of control or from unfamiliarity, i.e., the unknown. The lack of control might be a basic technique issue, but is more likely down to using unsuitable kit in conditions which are too wild, or just wrong.

As for the unknown, it only takes one foray into the unknown for it not to be unknown anymore. The best advice for debutante jumpers is to do it lots. In benign conditions, leap off every hint of a lump.

Familiarity dilutes terror. When you get to the stage where, as your fin leaves the water, your buttocks do not instinctively clench, then you’re ready to tweak and polish the technique. 

It’s a two-stage strategy. Part one is the preparation phase. The aim, by choosing the right moment of the right day, with the right kit and right basic skill level, is to arrive planing with control and joyful expectation as you mount the ramp.

Part two is about working on your technique options as you leave the water.

! hesitate to go on too much about kit and conditions for risk giving you a sack full of excuses not to go for it. But here’s a small selection of DOs and DON’Ts that will really influence your day out for better or worse.

It’s simple physics. A big thing needs a lot more power and energy to get it off the water than a small thing. And when a big thing comes down, it does so with a much bigger clunk.

Here’s the crux. It’s the wind that gives you wings, not the size of the ramp. If the wind doesn’t have the strength to support the board when you take off a ramp (and you will need a ramp), you tend to plummet Tom and Jerry style into the void with no sensation of floating or flying, but a vivid sensation of spinal jarring. 

So if you’re trying to get airborne with your 140L all-rounder and an 8.5, it suggests that either you’re short on early planing skills, or more likely that you’re short on breeze.

Meaningful jumping really starts in a force 5 (18 knots) where most people can be using a board under 100L and a sail under 6.0. As long as you have the skills to cope, jumping actually gets easier, more enjoyable and potentially less painful on the joints as the wind increases towards 30 knots and you move to ever-smaller kit.

More wind means more height, but also more lift under the rig to cushion the descent.  But much above 30 knots and it all gets a bit frantic and unpredictable. 

A feature of most sails above about 6.5 with a freeride, speedy bent, is a lot of shape in the battens just above and below the boom, which is designed to drive the board onto the water. The open leech helps that fullness stay low and lend control at speed – it’s actually an anti-take-off feature.

The difference with a wave or small crossover sail is that you want to get away with as small a sail as possible. The leech is tighter and the centre of effort therefore is set higher in the sail to help lift the board out of then water – as well as to put the pilot in a taller, more ‘centred’ stance.

I know, Robby Naish’s famous R.I.P. video from the last millennium showed him flying his slalom kit some 40-ft. above the Pacific. You can do monster jumps on slalom kit if you have a big ramp to redirect the board vertically, at which point the rig falls parallel to the water and acts like a wing.

But three good reasons not to use race-oriented kit as your ‘go to’ jump combo are:

1. Slalom boards are super light and flat-rockered – and so likely to snap on landing, especially if driven to the ground by a huge rig.

2. If you drop a big, cambered sail in the white water, you’ll be lucky to emerge without a broken batten or 6.

3. The footstraps will be mounted outboard – talking of which …


To jump, you have to hit the ramps nose-on, fully planing. So the wind has to be strong all the way to the beach to allow you beachstart and get on the plane – and be blowing at some kind of angle to the wave. But what kind of angle? Some are a lot better than others. 

Side-shore is perfect, if you can find it. You take off across the wind without having to make any adjustments.  But often headlands shelter the wind so they can be gusty right inshore where you need full power. Side-on, preferably with more ‘side’ than ‘on’ is the popular jumping direction.

Blowing off the sea, the wind is usually solid right up to the beach. You have to head up a little to hit the wave at 90º.

Dead-onshore. Some places with shallow-shelving beaches, where the waves are well spaced can be a bit of fun, but generally it’s hard work. You have to head right up into wind to take the wave, which kills your speed and power. It’s like glorified chop-hopping.

Offshore Winds. You can jump in offshore winds, but it’s not the pastime of choice. The more offshore they are, the worse it gets. They tend to be fluffy and unstable and force you to attack the waves on a broad reach, where you have the most speed and the least control.

Hence it’s in offshore winds that you see the most nose-dives and catapults. And as you land, the wave you’ve just jumped shelters the wind and you fall into a hole.

Wind Deflection
Finally on the subject of wind, jumpers need to be aware of how waves – and the shoreline – deflect the wind (it’s all to do with friction). A wave deflects an onshore wind more onshore.

That means as you approach the ramp, you’re suddenly closer to the wind than you once were and need to bear away to stay powered up.

In offshore winds it’s the opposite. As you climb the face, the wind suddenly swings more from behind (more offshore) and accelerates, meaning you have to head up to soften the power. Another reason why you see a lot of catapults in offshore winds. 


Size really is not important  (the best can double loop off a 2-foot chop if they have the wind) but shape and period are. What’s crucial is having a little space between waves in which to crank up the volume.

Waves which are dumping on the beach, or stacking up behind each other with little gap in between, stop you getting settled in the straps and up to speed. Waves that peak and crash suddenly give you little room for timing error.

Tide has a big influence. In the absence of a friendly outer reef or sandbar, conditions are best when the waves run up a shallow shelving part of the beach, where they’ll tend to peak and break gradually giving you wider window to hit a steep bit. 

To get a good jump you must hit an active lip.  It’s when the curling crest smacks the underside of the board and is met with tension from the legs that you go up and up.

You need something to redirect the nose upwards. The shape of the wave determines your flight. A steep, vertical wall will, of course, send the nose straight up. That’s the face off which the practiced look to perform backloops or tabletops – or just get massive air.

The best-shaped ramp for learning is a slopey wave with a little kick at the top. It projects you into a longer flight, so you touch down with forward speed, which in turn takes the sting out of flat landings and is easier on the ankles.

White water dominates the marine scenery in onshore winds. A recently broken wave is a deeply unstable jumping platform. It’s a morass of boiling bubbles.

But the thin layer of white water that sits on top of waves that have reformed can give you a very positive upwards reaction. 

Waves have the most immediate influence on your fragile mental state. The bigger and further away they are from the beach, the more defensive you’ll be.

Those white-coated reform waves are great for learning because they’re small and close to home. If the wave is of a size and nature that you actually want to jump off it, like those kids at the beginning, you’ll instinctively do many of the right things.


The three essential skills for jumping are: a running beachstart, early planing and a relaxed, upright stance. The wind is always messed up around the shore, but if you can get going straight away, your apparent wind carries you through the lulls, over the inside slop and on towards the proper ramps.

Multifin boards help in that you can launch earlier.

The technique is to run behind and upwind of the board pushing it along with the rig and then jump on just off the wind with feet in front of the straps making sure that the shock of your feet landing near the tail is matched with the mastfoot pressure created by you sheeting in.

Even better is to hook into those long lines as you land on the board so you immediately commit to the harness, let the mast drop forward and lower the nose.

If you dive into the straps unhooked and half sheeted-in, the board hunts around on the tail before swinging upwind and stopping. 

Pluck and guts will only take you so far in jumping (as far as A & E at least). They have to be underpinned by solid foundations. Your stance in the air will mirror your regular posture.

I shy away from trying to prescribe a perfect stance – but there are 4 elements of your posture and trim that are crucial to jumping.

1. The head. Looking forward over the front shoulder, you should have a clear view of the road ahead and in the case of jumping, of the landing strip around the mast. If all you can see is armpit hair, you’ve let the head drop and will be sailing and flying blind.

2. Front hand. Keep it back on the boom. Leaving it forward by the mast is the worst of all the defensive measures. It leaves you too close to the rig, sheets you out so any backwards movement of the rig tilts you into wind (commonest jumping error).

3. Hips high (feel the toes). Moving from a low to a tall stance, the pressure shifts from heels to toes. You MUST take off from your toes. 

4. Sail between your feet (get off the tail). Shift the hips forward and try and favour the front foot with little pressure on the fin. You can’t pick the tail up and level the board off if you’re sitting on it. The least satisfying jumps are those where the nose projects up but the tail stays down.

Julien Taboulet (FRA) - Action


Here are the lift devices available to you:

Board Speed.  The faster you’re going, the higher you will go – so long as you can redirect that speed.

The lip hitting the underside of the board. 

The wind blowing under and lifting the board.

YOU pulling the tail up and upwind to level the board off and bear away in the air.

YOU extending knees ankles and toes and
actually jumping.

Sheeting out momentarily to release the nose as you take off

The rig angled over to windward and directing the power upwards.

Those who achieve jumps seemingly disproportionate to the conditions co-ordinate ALL those lift devices in one explosive second. 

That’s the problem – the time available. Hence, at the extremes of the dodgy technique spectrum, you have those who do too little and those who try and do too much. 

The over-active squat and pump and heave as they launch, flying into the air with all the tight control of four bits of cooked spaghetti connected by a lump of jelly. 

The under-active, on the other hand, look as if they’re driving their car off the pier into the sea. Nothing changes.

The ideal approach to begin with is to do as little as possible – but just enough to keep the board online. Then get more active and explosive as you get a feel for what’s going on. 

I leave you this month with one thought as you heads towards a peachy lip … 

Air offers NO support. Think what would happen if you fly off a ramp and do nothing. With the nothing to grip, the fin will shoot off downwind. Are you in a position to take the pressure off the fin and hold the tail online?

With nothing under the nose as it leaves the ramp, the weight of the rig will surely drive it down. Can you instantly depower the rig without losing your shape, or angle it where it lifts the board?

So next month we dig deep, looking at case studies, where it goes right and wrong, how to vary the jumps and go really big.

Harty continues the theme next month.. To find out about his life-changing clinic schedule for 2014 check out . You can email for his newsletter on and get updates by liking his Peter Hart Masterclass  Facebook page.

 PHOTOS: Hart Photography and Red Bull Content Pool.

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Simon Bornhoft


Last Minute places on Sportif Windsurf Clinics to Turkey and Greece

Sportif have a few last-minute places available to Alacati, Turkey and Ialyssos, Greece with Simon Bornhoft and Peter Hart.

Join Simon Bornhoft, in Alacati, Turkey departing Gatwick this Saturday 14 June for intermediate to Advanced windsurfers.


Peter Hart also has a couple of last minute spaces for his Masterclass in northern Rhodes depart next Wednesday 18 June 2014.

Call Sportif on 01273 84919 to book.




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The June 2014 Issue of the world’s only monthly English-language windsurfing magazine is out now!

Subscribe or grab your copy now in either App or Print  versions! (Prices include delivery anywhere globally 10 times a year.)


WS 336 cover




WINDS OF CHANGE New season, fresh start. To mark the new start of a new era in sponsorship, John Carter profiles the ridiculously talented and radical Ricardo Campello.


CApe Verdi

THE GREAT STORM OF HERCULES While many targeted the eye of the storm when Hercules struck in early 2014, Kai Katchdourian joined World Champs Kevin Pritchard and Josh Angulo as they fled the epicentre and closed in on the long-range pulses of swell the heroic son of Zeus sent to Cabo Verde.



BOARD TEST (110L Freerace boards.) If recreational slalom racing, GPS glory or simply being the King of the drag races on the local stretch is your goal, then these friendly-but-fast freeracers will definitely tickle your fancy.



108 SAIL TEST (8.0 Twin-Cam sails.) Free and easy, narrow-luffed blasters or deep and drafty freeracers – which sails will suit you best for summer sea breezes and slaying your competition?





BWA TOUR The 2014 U.K. wave tour kicked off the season in style in North Wales with an awe-inspiring array of double-looping action alongside the largest amateur and most-promising ladies fleets in decades.


Coast - Filey

COAST Yorkshire’s not just a heaven for lovers of gravy and puddings. JC and the Motley Crew joined a gang of the UK’s finest wavesailors as they tucked into a meaty feast of East Coast wind and waves near Filey.



KONA KINGS Big Kahunas Robby Swift and Jason Polakow were the early birds catching the worms as Maui’s bone-crunching left-hander at Lanes turned it on for a rare day of Kona Wind action.




PETER HART MASTERCLASS – LIGHT FEET Defy belief and become an early-planing legend with these top tips from windsurfing’s own Peter Pan. He’s a big fella, so, if it works for him …


JEMhall tech

MOVE ON UP – CRACK THE TACK No, it’s not looping or gybing, but if you want to master those you need to follow Jem’s new series on ‘The Holy Trinity’ of sailing fast, planing early and staying upwind, the latter – and the focus of this month’s feature – being best achieved by using the tack effectively!




POV camera

P.O.V. PRO TIPS Globe-trotting pro Ben Proffitt spills the beans on his favourite line-of-sight and P.O.V devices and mounts. If they’ve survived a single session, let alone a season in Ben’s possession, then they’re surely worth every penny.

SPAIN & CANARIES TRAVEL GUIDE Hola! Get your summer time fix (and sombrero) on with these hot picks for wind and warmth in Spain’s insanely windsurfer – and family – friendly beaches and resorts.

BOUTIQUE BRANDS Our first look into some of the smaller brand names  avoiding the hype and quietly going about their business making quality gear for discerning clients. This time we focus on German sail makers SailLoft Hamburg.


LATEST & GREATEST What’s new, shiny and going to tempt you this month?

PEOPLE & PLACES Stay on the pulse without an internet connection!


EDITORIAL Get off your ass and go sail somewhere else!

AFFAIRS OF THE HART Mr. Phart tackles the contentious subject of weight loss …


Get your copy by App or in Print now!

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Stuck1 PH Featured

Being stuck in your ways, even if they’re happy habits, usually leads to disenchantment. Harty lowers a virtual ladder to those looking for a way out of the deepest ruts.

As I write this, those nice people at Microsoft are continually offering me alternative spelling suggestions. In fact this page is already an explosion of red under-linings. I’m actually not dyslexic. I’m just a terrible typer. How can this be? I’ve been using a keyboard since the early 80s.

10,000, they say is the number of hours needed to master an activity, which equates to 3 hours a day for 10 years. I’ve put in way more than that. In truth my typing hasn’t improved in 30 years. If anything it’s regressed. I used to use two fingers on my right hand, now it’s back to one.

So I’m about to deliver a lecture on how to extricate yourself from a performance rut, whilst I myself lie at the bottom of a veritable chasm. I’m painfully aware of the syndrome. “The body doesn’t know the right technique, it just knows the path most travelled.” It’s a maxim I quote endlessly to windsurfing students desperate to shake a habit.

I didn’t take a typing course but taught myself and so have spent 30 years drilling bad habits. I have 10 fingers, but 8 of them have hardly ever touched a key. That’s like a sprinter choosing to use just one of his two legs to run. I also recognise that I would be better off in my quest to improve right now if I hadn’t ever typed because it’s far harder to UNlearn something than it is to start from scratch.

Every now and then I do make an effort, try to use a few more fingers, and slowly things start to improve. Then inevitably, driven by a deadline, I have to write something fast and in a blink, revert to the old three digit technique and we’re back to square one.

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(This Technique feature originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Windsurf Magazine. Print and digital subscriptions for readers worldwide are available HERE.)

If ever there was an allegory for windsurfing …

Unthreatened in light winds you work on a bad habit, like keeping your hands back on the boom, NOT staring at the mast during every move, lightening your grip, standing tall etc.

Then the wind howls, the sea churns and you instantly revert to the arms-spread, dropped-bottom squat, which you know isn’t right but sort of works and at least avoids a catapult.

As a wetsuit bootie is to smelly bacteria, our sport is the perfect breeding ground for negative routines and bad habits. 

Contemplate the ingredients.

- Most people are self-taught.

-  It’s a balance sport, which involves wiping out in a foreign and threatening environment. Fear is the fuel for defensive, corruptive measures. 

It involves equipment, which if inappropriate and badly tuned, shapes our very being and forces us into dodgy positions.

- There are LOADS of techniques, which are all open to interpretation. You only have to do something incorrect a couple of times, perhaps set your boom at belly button height, to mistake ‘familiar’ for ‘right.’



How many psychoanalysts does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one … but the light bulb has to really wanna change.

It takes a lot of effort to change a behaviour, which is why 93.4% of all diets end up with people putting all the weight back on in a couple of weeks in an orgy of gluttony – because … a plate of dried apricots and cup of squeezed celery juice doesn’t suit their lifestyle. The benefits initially don’t seem to outweigh the misery and inconvenience.

The dyed-in the-wool speedster decides he really should get into wave-sailing. He gets a turny board with a wee fin (or even a cluster of wee fins) and a flat, camber-less sail.

He sets his straps up inboard and instinctively HATES it. And he hates it even more when you suggest that it’s OK to be under-powered, sail around off the plane and even to stop and wait.

Like the person who wants to lose weight without changing his habit of devouring 5 ‘Supersize-Me’ burgers a day, he likes the idea of sailing waves but without sacrificing his ultimate desire to hoof against a huge fin and overtake everyone in sight.

He wants to have his cake and everyone else’s, and eat the lot. To sail waves, ‘he has to really wanna change.’

Multi-pronged approach

Ruts are a bad place. Those defecting to the dark side of string and bladders often cite their stagnation on the ‘not quite gybing’ plateau as the main reason. For most, enjoyment and improvement, or a new experience at least, are inextricably linked.

So what is the secret to swapping an old way for a new one?  The good news it needn’t involve a Teutonic coach with a cattle prod and megaphone forcing you to drill a new technique as many times as you drilled the old one. (Although that is certainly one way.)

I sit here on the island of Tiree at the end of a teaching week with a group of aspiring wave-sailors with ages ranging from 19 to 60 from various backgrounds.

Asked the question as to how they lifted themselves out of various ruts, the answers were varied and often unexpected. Between us we offer the following list of anti-rut treatments.


In the late 70s a mate of mine set up a music shop in London (the Rock Shop in Chalk Farm road if you must know). His major claim to fame was appearing on the Old Grey Whistle Test, the BBC’s flagship late night music program, because he’d taken the brave step of placing a chalkboard outside the shop on which he’d written the tunes people were forbidden from playing as they tried out a guitar.

Top of the list was Stairway to Heaven followed closely by House of the Rising Sun and Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish you Were Here’ – all great tunes but not when you’ve heard them being murdered a hundred times a day.

Anyone vaguely musical will testify that when you pick up your instrument, the fingers automatically go where they’ve been a million times before, unless you give them very firm instructions to do otherwise. Windsurfing is no different.

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The Happy Group – absolutely the best environment in which to find a new windsurfing path. Photo Dave White.

CHANGE THE KIT – or at least borrow some

Visual cues can engrain a behaviour pattern. You pick up a dodgy old tennis racket and your cynical inner voice pipes up: “ah yes, this is the racket I play really badly with.” And so the prophecy fulfils itself. 

You buy a new one and for at least 5 minutes you play a lot better. The negative associations disappear. The new racket may be no better but mentally you extend your normal limits and play with more gusto and confidence.

It sounds like a broadcast on behalf of the retailer’s association. Of course buying a new board and/or rig won’t instinctively heal your technical ills, but it will give you a new feeling and can set you on a new track both mentally and physically. 

But buying new kit can be a bit of a punt especially if you’re investing in a new category. Initially what I encourage people to do is to swap kit, notably with someone who is of a similar stature and who sails to a standard and with a style they aspire to.

There may be something within their choice of kit and set-up that can give them a proper light bulb moment. 

The advantage of a kit swap is that you accept the differences with a little more confidence. The wide inboard footstrap placing, the narrow harness lines, the tiny fin etc. etc., feel really weird but the good guy makes it work so you persevere in the knowledge it’s a viable option.

But inspiration need not always come from a superior sailor.

Some of you may remember the iconic Mistral Screamer. It was my slalom board for a few years. It offered you 3 options for front and back straps.

Being a board with a continuous rocker, the accepted wisdom was that the better you got, the further back you mounted the straps.

As a pro I had no choice but to sail it right from the tail. It was fast, but I struggled to keep it planing around the gybes – but kept ‘schtumm’ as everyone kept saying how wonderful it was.

One winter I got invited to do some coaching on the Caribbean island of Mustique (long story for another time, but it involved rigging up under Mick Jagger’s balcony). My charge had a Screamer too. I had a go on it and immediately gybed it better than I ever had my own.

He was a relative newcomer to planing and so had located the straps in the most forward positions. What a huge difference. After that I worked out that for every inch you set the front straps forward, you engage another four inches of rail in the gybe.

That was the moment I first understood the concept of carving off the front foot and, since then, being long of limb, I always favoured forward footstrap positions.

This is what some of the group had to say about kit.

Di Oliver:“I got a better wetsuit. In the old one I really didn’t want to fall in so I used to stiffen up. Now I don’t care.”

Gerry Coleman: “I went for skinnier booms – changed from 29 down to 26ml – and for the first time I could grip properly. I’ve got small hands so before I was using too much energy just trying to hang on. I feel so much more relaxed.”

Tension through the body often starts through the hands. If you have to grip hard, the elbows lift, the shoulders drop in, you look down, stoop and get tired and defensive.

A similar transformation can occur when you move to skinny masts. In some moves, you can distance yourself from the rig and gain more instant control if you grab the mast in mid transition. If you can’t grab the mast, because it’s too big, you won’t.

Tom Brooks: “Longer lines did it for me. I was really slow to plane before – just moving from 26” to 30” made an instant difference – that plus a higher boom and a waist harness (he actually just undid the leg straps of his old seat harness). Not only that – before I used to hook in after I got planing. Now I do it before, so I use so much less energy (and get less blisters.)”

Tom arrived in Tiree the epitome of the 90s windsurfer –  hook at groin height, lines from elbow to watch strap, boom just under nipple height.

It was the way to lock yourself to ‘draggy’ old rigs. I also re-tuned his sail (a new design it has to be said) with a lot more downhaul. There was so much less strain going through his body that he spent most of the session sailing hands-free, just because he could.

Adam Hurn:“This was the first time I clocked onto using a bigger board and a smaller sail in the waves. (103 board and a 5.0 rig). Before I always thought the idea was to use as small a board as possible because only on a small sinky thing could you really carve on the face. But with the bigger board I stayed upwind and caught so many more waves.”

The wind was 10-15 knots, semi-planing and the bigger board also allowed him to catch them a lot earlier. That’s the biggest failing of debutant wave-sailors.

They catch the waves too late, just as they’re breaking and so have no time to turn or make any tactical decisions, apart from the one of straightening up to avoid a crunching.

By the end Adam was catching the swell, backing off, squeezing upwind on the unbroken face, waiting for it to wall up before kicking off downwind and riding the unbroken lip.

The extra volume allowed him to sail more slowly and more comfortably off the plane and so hold station and pick his moment.

Yes he sacrificed a bit of manoeuvrability, but you can’t be manoeuvrable unless you’re actually on a wave.

Tom and his Mates

“I started windsurfing with a bunch of mates on my local beach. When it was windy we’d get the call and all meet. It was fun on the water as we all pushed each other – in a friendly way.

“Who was going to be the first to gybe, to do the biggest jump etc.? Then I moved house further along the coast. The new beach is great and, as you’d expect, everyone is very friendly, we say hello and ask about sail size, but basically on the water I’m sailing alone.

“It was from that moment on that I got very stuck in my ways. It’s hard to try something new by yourself, especially if it’s a bit risky.

“That’s what I’ve rediscovered on the Tiree week, the joy of feeding off mates, learning from each other and feeling a bit of a wimp if you don’t go for it.”


Some eminent trainers believe that the one thing that people bring from one sport to another is … baggage. If you’re an elite yachtsman giving windsurfing a go, you might be moving and thinking as if you’re in a boat rather than feeling and responding instinctively.

But in many cases, the practising of a different, and yet similar, sport can help you see a certain technique from a new perspective – or more simply help overcome a fear.

Sideways Carving

Windsurfing, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding – they’re all ‘sideways on’ balance sports so there have to be similarities in the way you move the weight, engage the rail and initiate carving turns.

In windsurfing the rig is often a sorry distraction. In turns, people’s first instinct is to resist it, which usually places them in the back seat from where they can’t use or control all the edge.

In an effort to get people carving better, I tend to get them to focus on the front knee. If you can start the turn so the ankle bends and knee drops in front of the foot towards the sail, you’re moving the right way.

Once your hips are in front of your feet and anticipating the change of direction, you can really drive the edge without sinking the tail.

In this regard snowboarding has been a particular help to people. In snowboarding, if you initiate the turn by pushing on the back foot, you go into a terminal tailspin, usually ending in an edge-trip-slam.

Instead, you initiate off the front foot to ‘lay the edge’ and then through the turn make a gradual shift from front to back foot to steer out.

That’s the exact pressure shift that should happen in a gybe or a bottom turn. For Norfolk Nick, a big farmer who couldn’t get off his tail, it was the ‘front knee punch’ that he’d learned in snowboarding, that totally changed his style.

For Gerry snowboarding taught him the importance of bending his knees. Straight legs deliver shocks to the edge and out you skid. Only with soft joints can you can keep a constant pressure on the edge.

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The best way to get stuck in your ways is to sail alone. The best way to inspire someone is gybe round them or jump over them. Harty leading the charge in Tiree. Photo Richard Whitson

The Fear Factor

As you take your windsurfing into wilder conditions, fear is often the big inhibitor, especially if white water is involved. The fear is that of being held down by something you don’t have total control of. So one solution is to isolate the environment issue. Di Oliver.

“I was learning to kayak and was getting spooked by the white water and ending up upside down. So I took up boogie boarding and got totally comfortable in and under the waves. And now on my windsurfer I feel so much more comfortable in the surf.”

When I’m teaching wavesailing, those with a little surfing background I worry about the least.

There’s one other parallel, which I hesitate to mention for fear of having my house torched by fundamentalists – but a lot of people get stuck in their way of doing squishy, star-fishy, floppy, altogether not very high jumps.

It’s a simple fear of dropping like a stone from a great height and tweaking their frail joints. 

They never get happy at altitude because … they never spend any time at altitude. As soon as the opportunity for a big jump arises, trepidation makes them throttle back and prematurely drop the landing carriage.

A few, have improved by taking up kiting, where you can spend a lot of time very easily at a great height.  Because you’re suspended from above, the landings are gentler (so long as performed over water and not the car park).

For the same reason, it’s a good way to practise backloops – but lets stop it there.


The gybing rig change is a graveyard of broken dreams. Planing winds are no place to practise it. The window of error is too small and mistakes lead to reactive, defensive measures. Photo Hart Photography


I don’t have the figures to hand but I’m guessing 90% of you need your chosen online forecaster to be showing a minimum of 15 knots to entice you away from delightful domestic chores.

Wind is both our fuel and our poison. It gets you going but then, in the wrong hands, stops you moving on. 

The greatest misapprehension is that you need a lot of wind to improve. If you’re a speed-sailor after a world record, indeed you do. But in all other areas it’s as false as false can be.

The skill set needed to blast is completely different to that needed to trick and turn. In fact terminal blasting, and I apologise for being a killjoy, actually makes you overall less skilful.

You’re immobile for long periods. Using a big sail you can over-commit to the rig and get away with it. There’s lots of reserve power to compensate for clumsiness, to the point where you never have to trim or balance. Basically you don’t have to move.

Every year for the past 10 I’ve been involved in a multisport event in France.  One of my fellow competitors is a pro skier from Canada – a super-fit, mountain bike triathlete type.

But here’s the thing, despite his superior condition, I managed to beat him overall the first time because he was a rubbish swimmer. He’d taken it up late in life, had been taught the mechanics of crawl but was a study of inefficiency.

If you chucked your dirty linen in the pool as he thrashed by, it would have got a darn good wash and tumble.  He had all this stamina and muscle but in water had NO idea what to do with it.

He returned last year a lot better. I asked him what inspired the improvement. He said the coach just told him to go and play in the water.

Swimming is so much more than just kicking and pulling. You have to feel how the water flows across your body and hold yourself at angles where it supports you, causes the least resistance and where you can exploit pressure waves.

It’s something both fish and people who grew up swimming do quite naturally.

And that’s the way to improve your windsurfing – go and play with a big board and small sail. Take away the power and you have to balance. Heli-tacks, push tacks, duck tacks, all force you to put the sail in unusual positions and then react to a completely different set of pressures.

Unthreatened by wind and chop, you can re-evaluate the way you balance. You have time to straighten out, lift the head and shoulders, stand over your feet and stop pecking at the waist.

You can learn to hold the sail at angles in mid move where it doesn’t fight back. Learning to de-power quickly and efficiently, so you’re not a slave to the rig, is the absolute key to improving planing moves.

In a half hour light wind session you’ll do a hundred more rig changes than you would in a day’s blasting.

SUPs with sails and 7 knots of breeze have lifted more people out of performance ruts than anything. Point proven m’lud.


All the cute boom handling skills are best learned with a small sail on a big board in a light breeze – and maybe even on a small wave. It’s all about having the time and freedom to loosen the grip, put the rig in positions where it balances itself and where YOU are the master.  Photo Hart Photography

Billy’s Belly

If asked what the best way is to move off a plateau, in a in a straight-talking world I would say “get fitter and lose some weight.” You can have immaculate technique but if you’re wobbly and/or unfit you won’t have the skill to use those techniques.

To move your body you need a good strength-to-weight ratio and it takes a lot less effort to lose weight than to gain strength.  For big blokes especially bad things happen around the 100 kg mark.

Boards aren’t made with them in mind so they have to take out models that haven’t been designed for the conditions. E.g., an 130-litre freeride in thumping waves, because that’s the only thing that floats them through the lulls.

Bill, an offshore worker and an accomplished windsurfer of some years, came on this Tiree week a good 5 kg lighter than he was the year before – and a lot fitter.

For a start he was out there a lot more (not resting). Immediately I saw small and yet significant changes in his technique. Before he rode waves with his back foot out of the strap to stop him stalling on the tail.

But without an anchor point he could only do a hesitant, drifty top turn. The weight loss allowed the board to release earlier and for him to put the back foot in. Huge difference.

With control of the tail he could burst the lip, pull it back online and do all that spray-throwing stuff. But the biggest advantage was that he was planing earlier on smaller kit and so had greater opportunity to practise.


A certain Dave White joined is on the last two days of the course and, sure enough, he had something to say about getting out of ruts. His advice for forward looping is just to go higher and bigger to give yourself more time to get round. It’s perfectly logical but demands a certain ‘screw loose’ mentality. On a more general note, he had this to say.

“Go for unrealistic challenges. Enter a slalom or a wave event, even if you know you’re going to lose. But, guaranteed, the experience will make you perform to a new level.”

People get stuck in their ways because their sessions lack intensity. A bit of competition provides that in spades. But another more accessible way of upping the stakes is to try a more difficult skill as a way to help you crack an easier one.

For example, if you’re struggling to plane out of a carve gybe, try a duck gybe, where you’re forced to go for the rig change earlier and fully planing  – which you should be doing in the carve gybe.

Your jumps are sketchy? Try doing hooked in jumps and going for ‘grabs’ – dropping your front or back hand to touch a rail or tail. They force you to lift the board up and stay small and compact in the air.

In summary – finding the Golden Moments

Looking back through your own career you may remember a special session or even just part of a session where it all came together. Why? It usually involves a perfect storm of ingredients. You’re feeling fit. You’re in the company of good mates who are going for the same stuff. Someone is videoing. This day maybe follows one where conditions were crazy so it feel comfortable and unthreatened. The sun is shining and you’re not cold. That happened to us yesterday and it was magic.

Harty continues to lead you on the path to technical brilliance in the next issue. His new clinic schedule for 2014 is up on both his website  and his Peter Hart Masterclass facebook page. Email him on  for his monthly newsletter.

The post STUCK IN YOUR WAYS? appeared first on Windsurf Magazine.

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(This Technique feature originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Windsurf Magazine. Print and digital subscriptions for readers worldwide are available HERE.)

The summer ‘staycation’ could be the perfect time to introduce the young ones to windsurfing. But is it something you could or should attempt yourself? Peter Hart, who has a couple of ‘little issues’ himself, shares his recent experiences.

Words Peter Hart // Photos Hart Photography

2012-07-29 11.24.26

I read an article a few years ago, which explored the question as to why so few offspring of professional surfers take up surfing. All top sporting folk are monomaniacs but surfers, it seems, take it to another level. Their fanaticism is all encompassing. They are locked inextricably and eternally to the ocean. If a good swell rolls into their local beach and they’re not on it, they suffer a systems breakdown and have to book themselves into the nearest anger-management clinic.

Surfing determines where they live, their moods, their daily time-table. So when junior arrives on the scene, it’s a given that he or she will surf. Before they can walk, they are hurled into the shore-break and ordered to rip. “We surf, so you’ll surf. It’s what we do kid. It’s in the genes. You WILL love it.”

And so an irresistible, non-negotiable force permeates the poor child’s life from birth. And guess what? They don’t like it. Most tantrums are about trying to wrestle back a little control of their lives. And one of the ways to do that is to say ‘no!’ to compulsive activities, even if they do look like fun.

Well for ‘surfers’ read windsurfers. How many times have I seen a bullish Dad charging down to the water’s edge dragging a brand new kiddie rig in one hand and a very reluctant shivering 5 year old Cynthia in the other, who you know within minutes will sprinting back up the beach vowing between sobs, never to go near one of those ‘windysuffers’ again? But it needn’t be like that.

I have a couple of kids, 8 and 6. They both now do a bit of windsurfing. I know – you think I’m being modest and that thanks to heritage and opportunity, they can both spock and loop in a force 8. Honestly they can’t. They just pootle around in very light winds. It’s been a gradual process. I nearly blew it on a few occasions, but now they genuinely now seem to enjoy it, as they do a number of other sports.

The trouble with this topic compared to your average technique conundrum is that a new and gargantuan variable has entered the mix – and that’s the people involved.

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A coach/pupil relationship can be tricky enough but when they share the same blood, the potential for conflict quadruples. Whether or not your kids are ready to windsurf and whether or not you’re the right person to teach them depends entirely on the relationship you have with them.

Are you their mate or a matriarch? Do you have the patience? Only you can answer that. All I can do is share my journey, reveal what worked and what didn’t and try and answer the commonest questions. The most common of which is …

The Right Age?

I gave both of mine a go when one was 4 and the other 5. It was too young. It’s not that they hated it. It just didn’t mean anything. I ask them about it now and they don’t actually remember doing it. The problem was that it was all my idea.  I wanted them to do it and before I knew was being that uber-annoying dad trying to be artificially joyful on everyone’s behalf. “Ooh that was good … well done …isn’t this SO much fun?” which kids see through in a microsecond.

I figured out that for this to work properly, the motivation has to come from them and they somehow have to feel it’s their idea.

So I left it a year and that winter we went skiing. Skiing is my wife and I’s recreational passion and for it to continue our kids had to like it. So I hatched a plan so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox – as Baldric might say. We went to France, not to go skiing but to ‘stay with friends’ who happen to live near, but not right in, a ski resort. But here’s the devilishly clever bit. Out friends have a son who was just a bit older than our 2, who being a naturalised local, skis like the wind and is pretty cool.

For a couple of days we mucked about in the chalet. Finn, the cool lad, would come back from his ski club dressed in all the gear and sure enough our 2 begged to have a go.

“Are you sure? It’s pretty fast and dangerous? Maybe you’re too small?” Note the wicked child psychology there, which absolutely sealed the deal. The next day we drove up to a very small resort – the type where you just pull off the road, park on the snow and there’s a baby lift in front of you. We taught them ourselves and the rule was that the moment we sensed resistance and misery, we would head back down and get on with our friend-visiting holiday. As a result, they wanted to do it all day and every day and the crying only came when we had to stop.

It was perfect and inspired a new approach to the windsurfing project. Kids are motivated by their peers. Starboard have been clever with their kids’ sponsorship strategy, realising that they are most influenced by those just a little bit older. The 8 year olds will look to the 11 year olds; the 11 year olds to the teenagers etc. Watching adults means very little. We’re from a totally different planet.

The environment was unthreatening and did I mention it was warm and sunny? Kids can’t regulate their own temperature very well. Their core temperature can drop suddenly and that’s when the tears and fighting start. Weather has strong influence on the outcome – good and bad. There was no pressure. They were in charge and could stop whenever they wanted to. And of course the counter argument to that, which I’m sure has worked in some instances, is that, for kids, windsurfing is like learning a musical instrument. The beginning stages can be slow and heavy going but it gets more and more enjoyable the better you get. So there has to be a level of coercion. Make them do it. Then suddenly it’ll click, they’ll get the ‘whoosh’ and be hooked for life.” But I still haven’t really answered the ‘right age?’ question.

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The May 2014 Issue of the world’s only monthly English-language windsurfing magazine is out now! Subscribe or grab your copy now in either App or Print  versions! (Prices include delivery anywhere globally 10 times a year.)






DRIVE John Carter profiles his arch-enemy Scott McKercher and finds out what life’s been like since he quit the tour and headed-up Starboard’s waveboard R&D program.

windsurf Norway

THE KINGDOM OF NORWAY  – With a premiere deadline looming, Below the Surface Producer, the late André Paskowski, despatched PWA pro Klaas Voget on a Tolkien voyage to find – and film – waves among the fjords.


coast windsurf

COAST Finn and Timo Mullen summoned JC on a classified mission to North West Ireland. With a top-secret point break firing, high security was paramount. Apart from the pictures and story that we garnered from Carter in a brutal interrogation debrief that is. (He buckled and spilt the beans on sight of a bacon sandwich and a bag of crisps.)


BOARDS windsurf

BOARD TEST (115L Slalom boards.) Have you got what it takes to sail full-on race gear? Why should you be getting into it? If you want

a buzz like sailing big surf gives you – all the time – then you need to re-think and get stuck into this …




windsurf Sails

SAIL TEST (7.8 Slalom sails.) Okay. So we’ve sold it to you right? Now which is fastest? Raw, unadulterated power, or smooth and energy-efficient control?


POINT-7 7.8 AC-1


windsurf Wetsuits

SUMMER WETSUITS BUYERS’ GUIDE Slim and supple rubber and the latest technologies to extend your precious time on the water.


fin windsurf

SLALOM FINS BUYERS’ GUIDE No. Good fins don’t just bring incremental gains – they’re the difference between sailing in a straight line – or not! Read this and get in-the-know.




capefear windsurf

CAPE TOWN SPOT GUIDE British Champion Phil Horrocks considers South Africa his winter ‘home-from-home’. So who better to get an inside view from on the best spots around the Cape of Good Hope and some handy travelling tips?



windsurf PeterHart

PETER HART MASTERCLASS Are you fit enough? How do you train smart? We’re usually shy of contentious fitness features, but, as Harty’s been windsurfing for at least three centuries, you should definitely listen to what he has to say.


windsurf Jem Hall

MOVE ON UP The second in Jem Hall’s new series focuses on effective stance – the foundation for EVERYTHING else we want to – or still need to – master. Whatever your level, you’re simply in denial if there’s not something enlightening in this guide for you.


LATEST & GREATEST He who dies with the most toys wins.

PEOPLE & PLACES What’s up and what’s going down.



EDITORIAL Why does beer taste so good after windsurfing?

AFFAIRS OF THE HART Let’s get physical. As the owner of at least one good knee, Harty’s the chairman of the self-preservation society.


Get your copy by App or in Print now!


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When it came to measuring wind, the old boys knew a thing or two. 

People of a certain vintage (old) can’t discuss technology without finding themselves with a boot firmly planted in both camps. I had to buy a new headlight recently. Shouldn’t be hard to fit … but it is when your mechanical skills are limited to changing the spark plugs on a Morris Minor.

I googled and, lo and behold, a bloke had posted a video on YouTube. It wasn’t just a generic ‘top ten headlight-fitting tips’ but for reasons best known only to himself, he had taken the time and trouble to assemble a 5 minute step-by-step program specifically on how to change the unit on the passenger side of a 2004 VW Passat Estate – and for no charge I could pluck this information from the ether. It’s beyond amazing.

On the other hand, how long will it be before we’re incapable of doing anything without the aid of a digital device? Just think of how many skills have been gently eroded by technology in our recent lifetime. Some, like long division, I admit we could do without. But what about map reading?

There was a time when I could balance a London A to Z on the steering wheel while negotiating Hyde Park Corner. Now Stephen Fry just tells me where to go. Guitar tuning, handwriting and parallel parking are all going the same way. Yes it’s all fantastically convenient.

People can actually read what you say. The guitar sounds a lot better and you won’t reverse into that knee-high bollard but we’re gradually becoming over-reliant and a bit useless.

Worst of all windsurfers are becoming less and less able to estimate the wind’s strength without resorting to an anemometer or the internet. When I’m down at our beach, someone will ask what the wind is doing. I’ll point to the large wavelets, breaking crests and scattered whitecaps and suggest that according to

Beaufort Scale it’s a force 4.

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“Get a life Nelson” they mutter as they reach for the smartphone, dial into the channel buoy and reveal it’s 18 knots (force 5). Well it may be two miles out to sea, but it isn’t right here and so they go off and under-rig by half a square metre.

I’m a big fan of the Beaufort scale. My dad was in the navy and so I was force fed it from the cradle. Devised by Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort in 1805, it’s elegant, simple and yet astonishingly profound.

It does away with the need for instrumentation, but the reason it survives today is that it approaches the whole subject of wind energy in a very modern way. It isn’t just a quaint old seafarer’s way of describing wind speeds. Wind speeds were only added to the scale much later (e.g., force 4 is 11-16 knots) to satisfy gadget-crazy sailors.

The anemometer is a useful but limited device, simply measuring how fast the air is moving at a particular point in space and time. What really matters to a ship (or a windsurfer) is the total effect of the wind and the sea-state on a whole system and its ability to make way or manoeuvre.

For Sir Francis each step in force marked a point at which something happened to – and had to be done to – the ship, in this case, an English frigate. Force 1 meant barely having steerage. Force 2 saw the sails begin to full. In a force 3 it could sail close-hauled with all 22 sails up.

By force 4 the ship was listing and by force 5 it would heel too far to be a stable fighting-machine and the captain had to think about reefing the sails.

The most interesting aspect of the scale is how it accurately reflects the increase in wind pressure, which is absolutely NOT proportional to the increase in wind speed. As a result, the Beaufort steps remain as relevant to the windsurfer estimating what gear to use and what he might be able to achieve, as they did to the 19th century sea captain.

For example, if you’re striving to plane in a force 2, forget it. You’ll need a 30 sq m sail. But in a force 3 it is possible because a force 3 actually generates 3 times as much pressure as a force 2. And why back in the day did we strive to leap over the ‘force 4 barrier?’

It only represents a 20% increase in wind speed but actually generates over twice as much pressure as a force 3 – enough to transform the old rigs into a bag of creases and completely alter the challenge of sailing the original Windsurfer.

Force 5 is the dream windsurfing wind because it generates twice as much pressure again as a force 4 and so is the point at which pretty much everything planes. Looking to rationalise your sail quiver, it explains why you could happily drop from 8.5 all the way down to 5.7.

In the late 80s a Frenchman called Pascal Maka totally dominated the speed scene. In one interview he was asked to divulge his secret to going fast. “I feel ze wind” he said. “I feel eet in my hair, over my body. I move wiz ze wind – it ees part of me.”

How we took the piss. In retrospect we should have paid more heed. If you close your eyes and just sense the wind on your body you can tell its density, whether it’s dropping and tumbling from the sky (a typical trait of our U.K. easterlies).

Those traits also reveal themselves on the water surface. Yesterday here in Mauritius everyone messed up the sail size because they hadn’t spotted the surface current running at about 4 knots downwind.

That’s half a force gone right there. The chop was also strangely random, often the sign of a flicky, unstable wind – all things which point to a bigger size – which not even the most intelligent device will tell you about.

Elsewhere in this issue I made passing mention of a seafaring tribe who navigated using their testicles. Among the Santa Cruz islands of Melanesia there are 3 distinct swells.

So in tune are they with the ocean that by standing astride the centre line the islanders can detect which swell is running the swell from the motion of the boat and the angle of dangle (even a residual swell beneath wind chop) – and then steer accordingly.

Yes windy meters are a help but eyes, ears and other even more sensitive parts will tell you more…  

PH 28th November 2013

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