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It’s the holiday season. You’re heading to a windy Riviera. Harty muses over the pros and cons, joys and misery of flying with kit.

“I do apologise for the delay”, said the captain. “We seem to have a problem loading the last bag. It’s rather large so they’ve had to call for a fork-lift truck.” His voice oozed frustration.
“That’s your ‘Big Red’ Harty!” chuckled Dave White, my travel companion. “It’s grounded the plane!.” Big Red was my protest vote. On a whim, our favoured airline had suddenly changed their interpretation of a ‘sailboard’ from 3 bags (board, mast and sails), to just one – and there was to be only one sports bag per passenger. How do you fit all your kit for 3 weeks of speed and slalom competition into one bag? You build ‘Big Red’ that’s how. It was less a bag and more a huge, red amorphous, marquee of sack – totally impractical and almost impossible to get a hold of, as the beleaguered baggage folk were discovering.

Fully laden it was over 75kg. I slid my 15kg weight jacket in the top and it was a mere drop in the ocean. Amazingly it arrived in Fuerteventura. Not surprisingly the Canarian handlers refused to even attempt to handle it; but after much bartering we were allowed to drive our hire car into a restricted area and collect it ourselves off the tarmac. That was a pre Health & Safety era when slipped discs were a way of life and check-in staff hadn’t got wise to the old trick of wedging your foot under the scales. And this is now when every gram needs to be accounted and paid for. In many ways it’s more straightforward because although it’s stricter, at least there appear to be rules and protocols. Yet despite hundreds of flights with boards, I always turn up with a sense of foreboding … because someone behind those check-in desks with only a C- in the Excel spread sheet exam has the power to ruin your day.

A week ago I had pre-paid a very reasonable price for 2 bags with Monarch. Before I could even find the receipt and explain what the 2 crocodiles were all about, the nice lady had tagged them and got a bloke to wheel them away, all whilst wishing me a very pleasant flight and extolling the virtues of a twinser over a quad. But a month before that, travelling with another altogether less together airline, and having followed the same pre-paying procedure, I was told the computer definitely said “no.” Where followed one of those conversations where you’ve been dropped back into a less informed Millennium. “What you say it is again? Windsurfers?” Am I seriously the first person who has flown to this windy destination with a board? Managers were called, who called their managers’ managers as if this was the most controversial occurrence in the airline’s history. Meanwhile, the queue behind stood static and tongues clicked – all of which got the trip off to the most stressful start at a time when you should be bursting with joyous anticipation.

Shall I shan’t I take my own?
The two elements that make or break the dedicated windsurfing trip are the wind and the kit. By bringing your own, you have some control of the latter – but is it worth the hassle? It’s a puzzle with more questions than answers but the experience of three different sailors on a Greek beach where I was coaching last week, distils the choices. I should add they were all staying at or near a centre where the kit is famously plentiful and immaculate.

# 1 Nick – doesn’t bring his own
Nick is a competent free-rider of a certain age, coming on courses for the craic as well as to work gently on his nearly planing carve and duck gybes. His kit at home is quite old so enjoys the newness and variety of the rental gear. In terms of tuning, he’s been sailing a while and knows what works for him. Asked about bringing his own, he says his holiday starts at the seafood bar at the airport – and anything that eats into his fun time and offers the potential for backache, is absolutely not worth it.

# 2 Stefan – brings his own
I see Stefan there every year. He brings his 100ltr freestyle wave and a couple of rigs. He always sails with a smile on his face but has a dogged agenda to crack certain carving moves – 360s, push tacks etc – and knows the wind and kit he needs to do it. If it’s less than 15 knots he doesn’t go out or just practices heli-tacks off the plane. As the tricks get trickier success comes to a large degree from intimate knowledge of your board and rig – knowing how deeply you can push the rail; the power application of the sail – so nothing is a surprise. With those variables taken away, he can focus on the technique. Loads of the boards in the centre would do the job but he doesn’t want to waste 2 or 3 days getting used to them. As for the hassle factor, he doesn’t bring much; and he’s German and therefore super-organised.

# 3 George – doesn’t bring his own (but sort of wishes he did)
George is a trickier case. He has a board and rig that he really loves at home and harbours an instant mistrust of other brands. One problem in centres is the assumption that everything is perfectly rigged. It may have been once – but you’re often inheriting the tuning horrors of the last person who used it. That happened to George twice on day one and reinforced his perceived hate of the sail brand in question. We did turn it round as over the week he began to realise how key tuning is to performance – and how impossible it is to perform even if you think the kit isn’t working for you. For most people, a well-stocked centre is the only time people get a chance to try and feel the differences between board and rig categories. But George still loves his own kit and I sympathise. But here’s the thing – he loves it so much that he’s terrified of it being damaged in transit – and that’s a grim reality most of us in the business have confronted all too often.
The compromise I suggested next year, is that he should bring his favourite rig – like a 5.7. That immediate familiarity will make him feel at home and will help him make studied judgements about different boards. A complete rig will weigh about 10-15 kg and will be accepted easily by most airlines. Just having your own boom and lines keeps you in touch with home and gets the positive juices flowing.
The alternative is to take up international snooker …

PH 28th June 2015

PHOTO CAPTION:   Racks full of kit, keen helpers to help you tune it and a hassle-free. flight are three reasons to leave your own kit at home …

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sotavento PH


Harty tells of his love hate, but mostly love, relationship with Fuerteventura.

The front of the virtually brand new jeep lay buried up to its radiator in the river.

“I just told him to keep his foot down” said Dave White strangely confused.

“You told your Essex brother, who inspired the whole concept of ‘boy racer’ to keep his foot down?” I repeated incredulously.

The scene of the crime was the Sotavento speed track in Fuerte, which lies a kilometre from the rigging tent. At the beginning and end of the day you were allowed to drive on the beach to fetch and carry spare rigs. Half way down was a river where the lagoon emptied into the sea. It was just passable in a 4X4. As I’m sure you’re aware dear reader, the way to pass through water in a car is to go slowly and steadily. Above all, do NOT stop or water flows back into the exhaust pipe. That’s sort of what Dave meant – but ‘keep your foot down’ in Essex speak means something altogether more exciting. So it was that Joey wound her up to about 60 and launched into the river like an outtake from the ‘Dukes of Hazard.’

10,000 pesetas later the event tractor dragged us out. After a good hosing we managed to start it but electrics and salt water aren’t great bedfellows and every day from then on something stopped working. Ultimately it was the lights, which flashed on and off at random, which we got away with because everyone including police, assumed it was an emergency vehicle.

Yin and yen
Ah yes – I have such fond memories of Fuerte’, in the same way as a World War 1 veteran has ‘fond memories’ of the Somme. The views are stunning, he made lifelong friends, the action was a bit grim, but he was happy to survive it.

Mention Fuerte’ and a torrent of conflicting images and sensations flood the synapses – I’ve had the best and worst times. It’s not the island’s fault, just interpretation of events.

You only get the chance to make a first impression once and the first trip was a bit grim. November 1982. Rumours on the pre-interweb grapevine were that the Canaries had wind. Four of us smashed piggy banks and headed out for a month. For the first 3 weeks in Lanzarote there wasn’t a breath. We then drove over to Fuerte to enter the first Eurofun Cup. Arriving in Corralejo in the beautiful north, our car was immediately impounded because our insurance didn’t cover both islands (a favourite revenue stream for local police apparently).

With most of our spending money gobbled up in fines, we had a choice of either entering the event or getting a hotel. We entered the event and slept rough – big mistake as the wind never crept anywhere near the 17 knot minimum. Days were idled away staring at the sea (we had no transport) and trying to sneak into a posh hotel’s all-inclusive buffet. It seemed the event organisers had done as much meteorological research as us. Very few places are windy all year – and November in the Canaries is generally one to avoid.

Returning to Heaven
Believing everyone and everything deserves a second chance, the following January I returned with racer Mark Wood and snapper Alex Williams. What a difference. There was still no direct flights to Fuerte so again we came in from Lanzarote – this time the ancient flat bottomed ferry was picking its way between the reefs which were throwing up tubing waves as big as we imagined Hawaii to be (we hadn’t been there yet). This was the real deal. And it was windy every day for a month.

The northern port of Corralejo has since become something of a tourist town but back then it was a classic fisherman’s port with a bar (the Arena) and a pizzeria (Willies) and a lot of long-stay windies keen to bond and share. In that month I was delighted to break every bit of kit I had because I learned SO much in the process. I got totally trashed on the rocks and reefs at the Harbour Wall and the Shooting Gallery (lesson learned, gybe out before you feel the fin hit); and got pounded relentlessly by the Cotillo shorebreak (lesson learned, when the water is yellow and full of sand, best not hang about in it). But then after the beating, we enjoyed one of the best fish meals ever in the village.

The War Years
The summer of 87 really put Fuerte on the map when Pascal Maka smashed the world speed record on the recently discovered Sotavento down in the south of the island. The following year every speedster in the world wanted a bit of the action. The qualification process was brutal. But we made it. Careful what you wish for. That beach was to become my home for 4 weeks every summer for the next 12 years.

The south of Fuerte – it could be a different island. The 10 km beach itself is worth the visit. I asked a hotelier what ‘Sotavento’ meant. The answer he gave depended on whether you were a normal tourist or a windsurfer. ‘’Eeet means, ‘shelter from the wind.’ Oh you weendsurf? It means ‘crazy windy!’’

It is crazy windy. For 3 weeks one July it never dropped below 30 knots. It was like being in the ring with Mike Tyson. You take the first punch but every one after that makes you weaker and weaker until you collapse. By the end it was all we could do to drag ourselves to the rigging tent, let alone sail for 6 hours over-powered with a weight jacket.

The wind – it never stopped even at night. It screeched relentlessly through the Gorriones Hotel sounding like the shower scene from ‘Psycho’ reminding you of the punishment waiting for you the next day.  I’ve just talked to Whitey, my constant travel companion during those years, and asked him of his most abiding memories. “The trips north.” He said without hesitation. At least once a week he’d force us in the Fiat Punto and drive the 90 mins up to Corralejo just so we could get a decent meal in the Mexican restaurant … and get a break from the screeching.

But don’t let me put you off – the seascapes are stunning. If you’re prepared to drive you can get some amazing sailing in and out of waves.

Overall we had more fun than we knew what to do with. .

PH 7th May 2015-05-06

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The October 2015 Issue of the world’s only monthly English-language windsurfing magazine is out now!

Subscribe or grab your copy now in either 

Digital or 

Print  versions!
(Prices include delivery anywhere globally 10 times a year.)

The New sensations issue – 2016 wave mega test – Stubby and 90L wave boards and 5.3 powerhouse wave sails, Pioneering XXL waves at Tasmania’s Pedra Branca, Robby Naish’s best day ever in Fiji, Easter Island eco-exploration, Harty’s wave directory – guiding you on all the wind and wave angles, Discovering Malaysia, Alice Arutkin profile, Back loop + Tweaked pushy technique, West Ireland waves and Skeyboy’s slalom return.

001 FC OCT 350 480

Manu Bouvet explores Easter Island’s exotic windsurfing shores with an eco purpose, highlighting an ancient island under threat from plastic pollution.

JC Main Spread_69T9842
The Motley crew enjoy a stellar day of Irish Atlantic action along with the inevitable Motley mishap and learn what has drawn some of the local crew of windsurfers to make their home out west.

JC MAIN SPREAD_7524_Naish International_Glenn Duffus
When the king of windsurfing, Robby Naish, calls a session his best ever; you know it must be special. King Naish recounts a day when the magic happened.

John Skye reports on his return to PWA slalom at Sotavento and how he achieved his goal of a top 30 result and the lessons learned.

Chris Pressler and Kerstin Reiger travel to the remote beaches of Malaysia’s east coast and discover a land rich in culture, scenery and excellent windsurfing.

JC MAIN SHOT F16_WS_DY10_D2_6442
John Carter interviews the beautiful and talented Alice Arutkin about her love of competition, the art of selfies and all about Alice!

Pedra Branca is one of the world’s gnarliest waves. It’s big, remote and never been windsurfed before, until Alastair McLeod dropped down its face. We get the lowdown on an incredible day.


H IMG_3958-improved
We test the new generation of ‘stubby’ wave boards, is less length more performance?.

FANATIC Stubby 88,
JP Wave Slate 86,
STARBOARD Reactor 87,

The test team put some of the 2016 big boy wave boards under review, is big beautiful?.

FANATIC Tri Wave TE 95,
RRD Wave Cult V6 LTD 90,
STARBOARD Kode Wave 93,
TABOU Pocket 94,
GOYA Custom 94,

2016’s 5.3 powerhouse wave sails tested, the team find out what the latest designs delivered.

NORTH Volt 5.3m,
EZZY Elite 5.3m,
GA SAILS Manic 5.3m,
SAILLOFT Curve 5.3m,


wave directory 9

One day a hero, the next day a clown – Peter Hart describes how different combinations of wind and swell direction alter the nature of the challenge.

Jem Hall breaks down the back loop.

Marcilio Browne teaches us how to tweak the table top into your push loop.


The word on the beach is there is some fresh gear in town, we round up the rumours!

We review the current market with the latest buying trends and a look at some of the brand’s freshest offerings to armour you for winter.


EDITORIAL – NEW SENSATIONS. The editor extols the benefits of shaking it up and why windsurfing keeps us young and interesting.

He doesn’t work for ‘Relate’ but Harty reckons a regular dose of misery is the means by which you keep the passion alive.

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PH Harness Featured3


Words Peter Hart  //  Photos Simon Bassett & Hart Photography

Do you have issues with your harness, the design, the set-up and the technique? Even if you think you don’t, it could probably be better, Harty tells us how.

“Why don’t you try the harness?” Suggested Walter, the owner of the Manor farm windsurfing school on the shores of lake Thun in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland. The date was the 24th June 1980. I know this because I kept a diary. I’m not especially anal but this was my first instructing job at a time when the sport was about to go nuts. Major developments, personal and otherwise, occurred daily. It was crazy not to record them and this day was especially special.

The lake of Thun is not a windy mecca. Force 2 was a good day. However, the surrounding mountains and the heat of summer would produce the odd storm. A good one lasted an hour if you were lucky. The super-organised Swiss had ‘Sturmwarnung’ lights around the shore that started flashing when one was imminent and gave you time to prepare.

My boss Walter was well ahead of the game. As soon as the first wave jumping pictures drifted in from Hawaii he got hold of some custom ‘jump boards’ from Surfline Sylt in Germany. Laying on the glassy calm shore they looked as out of place as a rack of snow skis in the Sahara. However, no sooner had they arrived than we got smacked by three storms in three days. Lessons were cancelled and off we launched into an extraordinary period of trial and discovery.

By the third ‘storm’ (to be fair, it was probably all of 22 knots) my palms looked gorier than a Four Seasons pizza and my forearms were only slightly less knotted than a hundred year old oak tree. It was then that Walter arrived on the shore with a harness. He’d used one before for racing and so knew about the lines and how to set them up … well he knew a couple of knots at least.

I will never forget that first time I hooked in. My diary entry that night was punctuated with more exclamation marks than a teenage schoolgirl describing her first date.

“This was AMAZING!!!!! Praise to the harness!!! NO EFFORT NEEDED!!! My life has changed FOREVER!!!!”

It seemed that this simple garment had instantly opened a door to high performance windsurfing. But actually what I was describing was the ecstasy of temporary pain relief. It wasn’t all good.

Rewind to that windy afternoon and the harness Walter handed me was in fact that of his wife. It was an early shoulder harness (it was also pink). There was no spreader bar just a single hook on a plate. As you hooked in, the plate pulled away from the body and the sides squeezed the last breath out of your aching lungs. A medieval torturer could not have come up with an iller-fitting device.

The ends of the line were about a metre apart and the loop about 4 inches from the boom. The hook rested at about epiglottis height so in sailing mode, my chin was millimetres from the hardware. With no room to react, catapults were a way of life. With the lower back totally unsupported, osteopaths around the world rubbed their hands in anticipation of a new revenue stream.

When the honeymoon period was over I quickly realised I’d swapped one set of pains – granite forearms, ravaged hands – for another – chronic back ache and deep soft tissue bruising. And as a means to help refine technique it was a disaster. I’m not sure I’ve ever been the same since.

Harness May 15 (01b

// A good balanced harness set-up is fundamental to everything you do. Without it, you never have the stable platform from which to either manoeuvre or drive the board to new speeds.

The harness should be so much more than just a hand/arm saving device. The truth is that it takes a lot of strength to get a board planing and stay planing without hooking in, because you have to direct a constant flow of power in the board via your feet and mastfoot. That’s only possible through a straight, taught body. If your midriff is shaky, the power gets absorbed by rolls of wobbling blubber.
The harness is like a pylon under a bridge. It shores up your middle section and effectively keeps your core stiff and gets the power through your legs. A harness should be your primary aid to early planing.

The message of that rambling anecdote, apart from to bathe in the warm treacle of nostalgia, is that the harness set-up has the power to eternally corrupt. The first time you wear a harness you have little concept of good and bad – it’s all alien. The moment you hook in you instinctively develop a host of new reflexes to resist the forces, which are determined by where the harness is (or isn’t) supporting you. Those reflexes will quickly feel familiar and sort of … right.

For years after my first harness experience, as soon as I felt the power I would arch my back and throw my shoulders back and spread my arms (because that crude chest harness only supported the shoulders). Those are chronic instincts if the harness supports your waist or buttocks (which it soon did). I spread the hands to be ready to sheet out and unhook before the catapult. The habits cultured through a bad harness set-up can last a lifetime.

Harness May 15 (02

// The on-beach set up check. Can you release the front hand and hook in with the front foot by the mastfoot? 

This is my standard free-ride, free-everything set-up. The boom is shoulder high because the 120 freemove board at 80.5 cm is quite wide. The key thing is that the harness should be your primary planing tool. For that to happen the lines must be just long enough for you to hook in standing forward of the straps AND hold the rig upright. You feel a little suspended with the weight off your feet (good) and line pulling up a little on the harness, but all will feel well when you take a step back. 

Lets not get too dramatic – there are not too many people out there anymore sailing like Quasimodo playing ‘Twister’ but there are plenty who are sticking with a harness set-up just because it feels familiar, even though it doesn’t play to their strengths or help them excel in their desired area of performance.

Joy comes from getting a good start and then experimenting.

No matter the beauty of your natural posture, if your harness set-up is awry, there’s nothing you can do to prevent your ‘super 7’ stance from becoming a ‘twisted 3.’

The question is often asked, when is the best time to start using a harness?

“As soon as possible,” is a popular answer amongst centres keen to give their charges the thrill of effortless planing as soon as possible and so ‘hook’ them into the sport – and perhaps trick the frailer ones into believing that windsurfing doesn’t involve strength.

If the instructor involved is savvy and sets everyone up right, it can all be very positive. By committing to the harness they automatically find themselves in a good stance with the hips at the right height to drive the power at the right angle into the board. But it can also encourage sloth, immobility and defensive habits.

In general my advice would be not to rush it – and that’s not just sour grapes from someone who sailed for 3 years before using a harness and wants everyone to suffer in the same way.

By getting to the ‘almost planing’ stage without a harness, for a start you acquire some specific strength and fitness. You also develop a natural feel for trim and power.

Keen to reduce the effort, you’ll automatically move the hands to places on the boom where they’re equally loaded and get a sense of the sail’s power point – essential when setting up the lines.

You’ll discover that sailing with extended arms is far more efficient than bending them; that having them shoulder width apart is less stressing than spreading them; and that by hanging away you divert the load to the stronger ‘lats’ and back muscles.

On extended arms holding a powered sail, you’ll also discover that it’s easier to sheet in and out by turning the hips rather than pushing and pulling with the arms.

Most importantly, UN-trussed up, you have the freedom to develop naturally the stance that suits your shape and strength, tall if you’re long of limb, lower if you’re more compact etc…

With that level of skill, and it doesn’t take very long, the harness is a totally natural progression.  The challenge then is to go for a set up which compliments that natural stance so that you look pretty much the same hooked in and hooked out.

(That sounded like advice for the first timer. However, reconnecting with your unhooked self and sailing out of the harness for short periods, is an excellent exercise for anyone who feels stuck in their harness ways.)

Harness May 15 (03

// With your elbow in the loop, just being able to grab the boom represents a good allround line length. For the average male adult, that will be about 30-32’’. For ladies it’s around 28-30’’.

Harness May 15 (04

// A 7 metre sail? It’s 7 hand widths to the front harness line from the front of the boom. 

Harness May 15 (05

// Where you can pick the rig up and balance it in one hand is the balance point – put the line equidistant either side. 

Harness May 15 (06


Backwind the sail and where you can balance it with one hand is the position for the front end of the line – not such a good method in a gale. 

If the lines “never feel right” it very rarely is you. It’s almost certainly down to a badly rigged sail, e.g. not enough downhaul or too much outhaul that is allowing the centre of effort to wander. It can also be down to an unstable, ‘flicky’ wind. Otherwise, setting the lines should be a doddle so long as you trust what you’re feeling. There are many methods, some are noted below, which are just starting points. The final tweaks come when you get out there and sense where the sail is pulling from and how it’s loading your body.

You need a reliable starting point. The following is absolutely NOT cast in stone. But if someone came to me looking for a rebuild, this is how I’d set them up for all round free-riding. I’ll then look at all the elements and show how changing each one can influence different areas of performance.

The following is for recreational blasting and manoeuvring on a free-ride or freestyle wave board, where you want the harness to help with early planing and offer comfort on all points of sailing.

Type of harness. I’m assuming at this stage a waist harness just because that’s what most have (more about that later)

Boom height.  One or two inches under shoulder when you’re standing next to the mastfoot. Up to shoulder if the board is wide (75cm +).

Line length. With your elbow in the loop, you should just be able to grab the boom. For an average sized male that means lines around 30” – for ladies around 28”.

Line spacing. The ends of the line about fist width apart.

Line placement. Hooked in off the plane you should be able to drop front or back hand. As you get up to full planing speed, you’ll feel a little back hand pressure.

Stance check. Off the plane with the front foot against the mastfoot and the back foot just behind the front straps, you should just be able to hook in. You’ll feel a little suspended, swinging under the boom with little weight on your feet. But as you step back into the straps it becomes more comfortable. Standing tall, your arms are roughly parallel with the water and the line is coming out at right angles to the harness, so the force is directed straight into your lumbar.

Let’s look at the options within that set up. We can surely go no further without addressing the issue of design – seat or waist? I salute the editor, who in the March issue of this magazine devoted a piece to the seat harness, which remains a totally viable option but which is in danger of sinking out of sight in a mire of waist-driven fashion. Currently waist harnesses outsell seats by about 30:1. Why? Mostly fashion but not entirely. Improved design is also a factor. Elsewhere in this piece you will find comments about the seat vs. waist question from all corners but here are a few points to consider.

Don’t worry … It’s no longer such a big issue. Waist harnesses are far better than they used to be and don’t ride up as much. And seat harnesses have higher hooks so the line/boom height set-up is only marginally different. Yes they promote a slightly different stance and attitude but look at a good sailor wearing both and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.  Don’t over-agonise about it!

Worry … But DO agonise over it if you’re in agony. Those with narrow waists often have problems. The harness doesn’t fit under their ribcage but crushes it, squeezes the air out of them and makes them claustrophobic.

Nick Dempsey (Olympic Silver medal London 2012)
“I use a seat harness on the RSX. I find that anything I need to drive off the fin with, the seat is better. A fully powered up slalom board I’d still use a waist harness for more control. The entire RSX fleet use a seat harness.”

Technique issues
An instructor friend of mine in New Jersey USA stated unequivocally that the waist harness was responsible for killing the sport in that area. Her reasoning was that people were getting to the level of putting a front foot in the strap, and that was it, because the waist harness, with its high hook, didn’t allow them to transfer enough power to the board to fully release it. I feel she slightly over-stated the point. However it is often the case with women. Their higher waists and lower centre of gravity mean that they often fair far better in seat harnesses. In a waist harness the hook is too far from their bottoms. But when they hook into a seat, they connect instantly with the power.

The problem is often body image – a seat harness makes you look like a bumble bee. It’s the opposite with blokes. There are many ‘sit and go’ merchants for whom the seat harness is an armchair that allows them to use their bulk to hold down a big sail and go for miles without moving. The leg straps also plump up their jewels into a most flattering package. In a waist they have to be more proactive – using the legs to drive the power into the harness – and it does encourage them to move.

Harness May 15 (07

// low boom, short lines, high hips, rock solid with “you shall not pass” tattooed on the forehead. Photo

Mark Kasprowicz 1994 

Harness May 15 (08

// 2015 – equally fast but the longer line set-up making it a lot less frantic. 

There is no right and wrong in this game. Lots of things work, some better than others. The changes over the years, you might argue, have been prompted by fashion. Perhaps a bit. On the whole, however, things have moved on greatly. The pics below represent a jump from 1994 – 2015. In both I’m blasting on off-the-shelf kit. In the 90s we were obsessed with speed. Most sails over 5.5 had cambers. The mantra was “don’t move, lock yourself to the rig – to move is to lose power.” So wearing a seat harness with a chest high boom and 26 lines, we locked ourselves to the rig with high hips and a straight, immobile body and pushed all the power straight into the rails. Move on 21 years (can you tell the difference?), and it’s all a lot more relaxed. A higher boom, longer lines and waist harness allow a lot more movement within the harness and put you in a far better position over the board from which to pounce. 

Boom height
I’m not budging too much on this one. The current trend of really high booms, mouth and above, started by freestylers, is giving people real problems. It makes the lines feel short. Standing below the boom, you can’t help but pull the rig down to windward as you sheet in, thereby rocking back on the heels and losing power. It’s hard to balance the rig and so you have to use your arms. It’s very tiring. Yes with huge sails and wide boards, and in record breaking, off the wind, speed runs, the boom does go up – but that’s because you’re standing a long way from the rig.

Line Length
This is the most interesting adjustment of all. It determines the height of your hips and the angle your feet make contact with the board. Note the technique of course racers looking for the perfect trim up and downwind. They will have adjustable lines going from about 28 – 34 inches. Off the wind the sheeting angle is open so they need the longest line to distance themselves from the rig and hold the hips outboard. Turning onto the beat, the sheeting angle closes. That same long line would drop the hips to water level. It would be hard to sheet in and with the legs parallel with the water they wouldn’t be able to control the angle of the windward edge. By shortening the lines they lift and engage the hips. The higher stance over the edge allows them both to drive the fin and control the lift.

So back on the free-ride kit, if you went for a shorter line, you would engage the power immediately and find it more efficient cranking upwind with the sail closed. The trade off would be that getting planing, going broad and doing any hooked in moves, you’d feel uncomfortably close to the rig.

Lengthening the lines to say 32” or longer – the instant bonus is early planing because you can hook in and move back while leaving the rig upright where it creates the most power. Freestylers and wave sailors go long because it’s all about getting going and then having the maximum freedom of movement within the harness. Those beautiful no-handed, arched-backed back loops by luminaries such as Alex Mussolini are only possible with huge lines. But they don’t suit all because you find a lot of load on your arms and it’s easy to hook out by mistake

Line spacing
My dear friend and fellow coach, Colin Whippy Dixon, borrowed my kit for a spin in Jeri this year. When he came back in, he’d adjusted the ends of the lines so they were an inch apart. “You should try them like that Harty,” he said, “much better! You can really work the sail in the harness and get going quicker.”

I shot him a glance which said: “do you really think I haven’t thought of that?!”

It’s a classic personal preference thing. Colin is always on the smallest sail possible to facilitate the trickiest tricks. 4.2 most of the time despite being a chunky lad, so he’s always pumping in the harness. I on the other hand like to sail more powered up. I like the ends further apart (all of three inches more) because that stabilises the rig a little more.

Line Positioning
The eternal conundrum. Every coach in the land will offer the irrefutable advice: “place the lines so they are perfectly balanced and the apex of the loop lines up with the sail’s power point.” Yes, yes yes – but when exactly? Even on the best rigs, the power will move back as you power up and accelerate. The question is, at which point do you want the lines to feel perfect? My personal view is that over-sheeting is the biggest trim sin, so I like always to feel the back hand when sailing fast, so I’m better placed to hold the sail open in a lull. But it really is very personal. Many speedsters feel the opposite and want to be best trimmed for the biggest gusts.

If the lines never feel right, then it’s a rigging issue. The sail’s effort is wandering and I wager now that you have probably over tensioned the outhaul.

Harness May 15 (09

// The moment you hook into a good set up you should be comfortable and able to put a good distance between your front shoulder and the mast.

Harness May15 11

// Then releasing onto plane, nothing moves apart from lifting your front foot under your knee into the strap.

Back in the day when harnesses emerged from torture chambers and rigs were anything but stable, you developed a hooked in and a hooked out stance. In the former you looked vaguely normal with extended arms and dropped hips; in the latter you looked like a chicken trussed for the oven – all tied up and very worried. The sign of a good modern set-up is that if you isolate someone’s upper body you shouldn’t be able to tell if they’re hooked in or out or on or off the plane.

Is the Stance Working?
I urge you to beware of obeying systems too stringently. As you see in the pics, there are ways to check lines on the beach, but these, along with measuring tapes and booms resting on tails, are just starting points.

This whole game is about FEEL! There’s a simple objective. Look at your harness and see where it’s supporting you. Then as you’re sailing, bend and stretch the legs, twist the hips this way and that and find the position where you’re lining the sail’s power up with that spot of maximum support.

Keep feeling where the sail is pulling from and where the load is on the harness.

For example in a waist harness, if the hook is always pointing up and the load is on your ribs and the harness keeps riding up, you need to stop squatting and stand taller. If that still isn’t working, lower the boom.

If the one side of the harness is overloaded, even across the wind, the line is too far back or forward.

As you play with a new set-up, be aware of the position of your hook relative to your feet. In manoeuvre based sailing on boards with tiny fins, you need to sail off your front foot – so most of the time the harness hook should be over that foot – and vice versa if you’re sailing a speedy board off the fin.

Harness May15 12

//  Should the spreader be able to slide up and down the webbing? I think, especially upwind, it eases the load on the back and allows you to project forward more. I’m afraid again, it’s one of those ‘personal preference issues.’

The way to go fast is to sail between your feet and limit your movement – in which case you want the harness set-up to hold you rock solid.

But if you wish to turn, carve and generally change direction in imaginative ways, then you want the harness set-up that allows the maximum fore aft and windward leeward movement.


// It might be an over-powered, over-full, under out-hauled sail, but if your back hand has to move back to sheet in, then you need to move the lines back. Primary rule – move the lines towards the aching arm.



Stuck in the short-lined 80s and 90s, you may be used to throwing the shoulders back and holding the hips high to power up – in which case the more modern, long lines feel way too long and you keep hooking out. Just learn to drop the hips and drive the legs. 


// Balanced joy! For its size this 120 has a relatively small (40 cm) fin, so it’s more comfortable to line the power up with the front foot. Sailing on the front foot, you’re always in better shape to gybe.

The mast mount reveals exactly how you’re lining up with the power and loading hands and feet; and therefore what adjustments need to be made. It’s always interesting to note the position of the harness hook relative to the feet.


//  Simon Basset practising what he preaches out in Maui.

With his school based in the clear winds and flat water of West Wittering, Simon Bassett of 2XS is better placed than many to introduce people to the joys of the harness. “We put most people into waist harnesses – it’s a better ergonomic fit better and puts them in more of a freeride stance, over the board, not driving so much against a single fin. We have seat harnesses and they’re a good option for big sails and big fins. The downside is the restriction around the legs and you lose movement in the hips. And  warning!, my friend Sean McGinnis had a moment where a leg strap came loose, he catapulted and got a knacker crushed – never wore one again! Classic mistakes? Mostly boom too high and lines too short – so the stance is bolt upright and too close to the boom. And don’t be in a hurry, my daughter Daisy, aged 12, has developed really good power control and technique by sailing around, almost on the plane on a SUP without footstraps – just like the good ol’ days! ”

Harness May15 17

//  Whitey and Mini Me (his son Reece) both looking very comfortable in a waist harness. But it wasn’t always like that.

I once had to sail Whitey’s speed gear back up the course (he’d injured himself again) and it nearly broke my legs. Our set-ups in the 90’s were poles apart but then so were our styles and shapes. But today, although his speedy bent makes him the prime candidate for a seat harness, he now favours a waist and our styles are no longer so very different. He describes the transition. “Moving from Seat to Waist was a nightmare, tried several times but just couldn’t get any mast foot pressure. I also found the harness rode up and gave up thinking it was down to my body shape (far too good looking). I don’t remember when I finally made the change but it was a few years after their return to popularity, but they had improved in both comfort and grip. I wear the harness low and the hook isn’t much higher than the hook on a seat harness. The one thing that did keep annoying me was having to do the wiggle to lower the harness every few runs or after a poor forward landing where the water pushed it up. While grip is universally good, shape is where your attention should be. We all have different back shapes, most brands will make harnesses with dodgy stances in mind so make sure you try them on. Does that mean the seat harness is dead to me? No, though it only comes out on special occasions, like when it’s windy as hell and speed sailing. Due to the way I wear my waist harness it doesn’t feel like I change stance. So why change back at all you may ask? In reality I probably don’t need to but when the going gets tough I do everything to get my mind in the right spot, just putting the seat harness on gives a sense of security and power to sit on any gust. Apart from those extreme moments, I prefer the waist harness for manoeuvrability, comfort and most of all it doesn’t package my nether region like a valentines advert”.


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The September 2015 Issue of the world’s only monthly English-language windsurfing magazine is out now!

Subscribe or grab your copy now in either 

Digital or 

Print  versions!
(Prices include delivery anywhere globally 10 times a year.)


The Mad men issue; we report on the best PWA Pozo comp ever. Interview Philip Koester on triple loops and more!. Ricardo Campello writes on life as a pro. Cross the Atlantic with an eco purpose with Flo Jung. Interview speed queen Zara Davis. Freeride round UK landmark Old Harry, with Andy Chambers; Antigua trip; Air taka how to; Waterstart technique; curing bad habits with Harty and winter travel guide.




Triple loops, meeting David Cameron and his love of pizza – a must read interview with the greatest jumper in the world.

Nuking winds, insane jumps and the best ever competition at Pozo, Finn Mullen reports from the beach.

Boat trip
Florian Jung makes an epic voyage of discovery and purpose across the Atlantic to highlight conservation of our ocean playgrounds in the company of Boujmaa Guilol and Camille Juban.

Ricardo Campello talks candidly about life as a pro and an insight into the ups and downs of travelling the world, listing windsurfing as your occupation.

Sean cook
We caught up with Shaun Cook to learn more about his new found talent for racing and experiences as a first timer on the BSA slalom circuit, leading the amateur series.

Beautiful Azure waters and truly a ‘Caribbean Dream’, JC brings us the lowdown on Antigua, a freeride destination to take your breath away.

John Carter and Andy Chambers take a trip to showcase a jewel of the Jurassic Coast – the chalk stacks of Old Harry.

Kevin Pritchard talks us through the air taka and how to spin it to win it.

zera davis
The fastest women windsurfer in the world and Queen of speed tells us all about her gift for sailing fast.

our guides to winter sunny shores from the short haul favourites of the Canary Islands through to the exotic seas of Borocay, Bonaire, Hurghada and Argentina.

Ezzy travel
Graham Ezzy explores the nature of windsurfing travel, reflecting on why we sail on distant seas.


ARE YOU GETTING WORSE? Peter Hart investigates how and why bugs get in the system and what you can do about it.

IGNITE YOUR WATERSTART Waterstarts are key to windsurfing progress, Jem Hall shows us how.

LATEST & GREATEST The finest, freshest, not oldest but newest news on the windsurfing world.


Mad Men. The editor celebrates the madness of windsurfers but wonders if it’s the rest of the world that’s really mad?

TO RACE or NOT TO RACE …As the competition season returns from its summer holiday, Harty addresses the subject of competitiveness and competitions.


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In Praise of the BOLT

When I’m based at a centre doing a clinic, my over-riding priority is to get everyone set up well on the right kit – because nothing good will happen on the technique front unless you’re balanced, comfortable and confident. Many centres have a wide choice of designs. Marvellous … but too much choice can be a burden. You get used to a rig; then the next day the wind has changed and/or someone has nicked the one you tuned so finely. You’re forced to take another design, which is good … but different – and so you waste an hour tweaking and getting used to it. In Vassiliki this year the place looked like a ‘Bolt-fest!’ Neilson and Ocean Elements are just two of the centres, which have majored on Bolts. Why?

1. Because they are so easy to rig, tune and use
2. And because they eliminate the burden of decision.

I was based at the Neilson centre. Over the week we were blessed with winds ranging from 12-25 knots. As my clients asked me for sail advice on day one I basically said, “follow the Bolts, and all will be well.”


Neilson racks full of Bolts

People agonise over sail type a they change sizes – “do I need cams?” “Do I need a free-ride/freestyle or wave sail?” The Bolts make that decision for you, gradually mutating and getting more manoeuvre-oriented as they get smaller but still maintaining the same easy feel.



When you change up or down size, you just want to feel that someone has turned the power up or down – you do NOT want to have to totally readjust to a new design. The Bolts offer consistency and familiarity across the whole range  from the 9.5 down to the 4.0.

Smaller sizes
The area of most confusion currently lies in the sizes of 5.7 and under. How many battens? Where do you want the effort? How full? What feeling – crisp or soft? And the answer you get depends on whether you ask a freestyler or a wave sailor or a speed merchant.
One situation last month in Vass illustrated the glory of the Bolts perfectly. In 18 knots of wind Tim (88 kg) was hammering up and down on an Atom 120 and twin cam 7.8 Bolt – and next to him and holding her own was Kirsty (60kg) on a 103 Kode and a Bolt 5.0. Kirsty, as with many improving free-riders, was still on a relatively big board for her weight (in case the waterstarts didn’t work out) but was getting planing easily and screeching along thanks to a small sail that is both light but still enough low end power to drive a big board.



PH mid duck gybe with 6.5 Bolt

But before you cast it is as just an easy entry-level tractor, on the same stretch of water we had Max, a Neilson instructor, busting out every new skool trick in the book on the same Bolt 5.0. He ‘d just rigged it with a little more outhaul to tighten up the back end and make it neutralise more easily.

Not surprisingly, 3 of the people on the Vass course went out and immediately bought a selection of Bolts the moment they got home. 


PH standing with 5.8 Bolt with James Neilson centre manager


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The August 2015 Issue of the world’s only monthly English-language windsurfing magazine is out now!

Subscribe or grab your copy now in either 

Digital or 

Print  versions!
(Prices include delivery anywhere globally 10 times a year.)

Another super summer issue; we look at all things windsup with a buyers guide, Peter Hart windsup technique special  & the art of windsup travel with Starboard’s Franz Orsi ; UK road tripping on perfect Cornish waves at Harlyn bay, Antoine Albeau, Robby Naish, Josh Angulo all interviewed, Kevin Pritchard’s training tips, Dunkerbeck’s speed challenge, Fanatic photoshoot, Rhodes travel, waist harness buyer’s guide and footstrap/early planing technique with Jem Hall.

COVER copy lr


Opening spread F16_WS_DY4_D1_6138

”Wanted: Photographer to shoot a team of windsurfing die hard Fanatics!”. Sound like your dream job? John Carter exposes the reality of a photo shoot for two of the world’s biggest brands.

Opening Spread TIMO Mullen
The motley crew score crazy Kernow kegs at Harlyn, a thumping beach break that pirated a heavy Cornish bounty of masts and egos, JC tells the tale.

John Carter shadows world champion Antoine Albeau during the PWA Costa Brava event to diary the champion at work and learn how he has made the podium his home.

Josh Angulo has a history of being the man with first place or the first person pioneer, but what about the other firsts in his life?, the questionable questioning of ‘the first time’ finds out.

John Skye tells all about his bid for glory down the Sotavento strip in his first ever GPS speed competition, while Bjorn Dunkerbeck gives an insight into his unique pro/am event.

With summer upon us and peak windsup season open for business, we take a look at the market with an overview of the offerings from the brands and some expert advice from the industry.

Life, business and his own search for freedom, the king of windsurfing sits down for a revealing interview and tells all about a new action sports movie he stars in.

Kevin Pritchard continues to perform at the peak of the sport. What keeps him at the top is a constant drive to improve. Kevin reflects on his latest program to do just that.

Franz Orsi takes us on a very personal journey of discovery in North-East Brazil, spending time with local communities and reflecting on the simplicity of windsup sailing.

The town of Ialyssos in Rhodes is a windsurfing paradise. Peter Hart explains the attractions and Juergen Niens and Bertrand Crausaz give the local lowdown.


CB15_ls_CV1_0267 copy
Harty reckons WindSUPing is best thing that has happened to windsurfing in ages. Let him help you choose one, set it up and tweak your technique to sail it.

Perhaps the most important skill in windsurfing, Jem provides tips for planing early and getting in the footstraps efficiently.


Want to see all the new gear, the trick bits and rad rides – look here, it’s all fresh!

Investment in a good waist harness can be one of the most important bits of kit you buy. We take a look at the latest offerings and Robby Swift gives us his expert advice.

Starboard have released a range of fully-planing inflatable freeride boards, aptly titled the ‘Starboard AirPlane’. We interview their designer Tiesda You for the lowdown.

Corky Kirkham is one of the most colourful UK windsurfers, with new sponsors and a surfari business launching this year. We caught up with K212 to hear about his ventures, old and new.



Breaking barriers The Editor invites you to meet his windsurfing hero, Craig Wood, a soldier, windsurfer, triple amputee survivor and inspiration to break barriers in windsurfing and life.

It’s the holiday season. You’re heading to a windy Riviera. Harty muses over the pros and cons, joys and misery of flying with kit.

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wave kit 01


The only thing more daunting than confronting a meaty Swell for the first time, is trying to choose kit for the job. The options appear overwhelming. Fresh from his 5 week wave clinic tour of the North Atlantic, Harty helps you prioritise and explain what’s most likely to help or hinder.


We looked at each other with all the mutual understanding of a Chinaman and a Frenchman discussing the value of a good forward defensive cricket stroke. “How much tuck do you want in these rails? How much tail kick? Wings or squash tail? Where do want the entry point?” “Er …I just want it to go round corners.” The year was 1981. The place was Crantock Street in Newquay, Cornwall and the man standing in front of me with a saw, a block of foam and all the ridiculous questions, was Tad Ciastula of Vitamin Sea Surfboards.

Along with 3 friends, I’d booked a trip to Lanzarote with the sole objective of learning to sail a ‘sinker’ – the moniker given to boards in that era that didn’t support your weight when stationary. We had just seen a video clip from Hawaii of Mike Waltze sailing waves on what looked like a modified surfboard and wanted a piece of that action. They didn’t exist in production form so we had to get them made. Someone had put us onto Tad because he was skilled, personable and open to new ideas. But he didn’t windsurf; so had to be given at least a germ of an idea of what was needed before he could start having new ones.

I had been thrust forward to discuss because I surfed. Well I had a surfboard and could stand up but I was no Kelly Slater. I didn’t speak a word of ‘shaper-ese’ and had not one meaningful syllable to offer him. But there began a fertile relationship. We backed away from the foam, sat around a table and tried to address the real objectives, not the fantasy. “How much time will you really spend with your edges in contact with a wave face?” Not that much. “What kind of conditions are you likely to confront (not the ones you want to confront)?” Mush.

Tad grasped the ‘blasting about joyfully but meaninglessly’ aspect of windsurfing and could see that what we were after primarily were boards that afforded us a little more speed and control in wild winds and rough seas … but which at least gave us the option of riding waves – i.e. not a surfboard with a mastfoot but a smaller windsurfer with a few more surfy bits. What today would be called a ‘freestyle wave.’

We copied footstrap and mastfoot positions from existing boards but added a 12” Malibu fin box as a mast-track to gives us greater trimming options. As for fins, we went for a three fin ‘thruster’ arrangement (sound familiar?) – purportedly to add more grip and drive in steeply banked turns (whatever they were) but in reality to offer a bit more resistance and reduce the spin out, which was a way of life in that era. Tri-fins were also the current trend in surfboards – we weren’t immune to trends even back then.

As for size, in a rare moment of clarity I shared the lesson I’d learned with surfing which was that you don’t get to ride a wave unless you make it through the break and can paddle fast enough into a wave to catch it early, for which big is beautiful. So we didn’t go too small, 270 cm and about 100 ltrs in today’s money (which actually felt really small for the time.) It was important, we decided, that we could actually sail the things.Tad suggested that as soon as we reached that position where we were catching wave after wave and genuinely felt we were being held back by the design, not by incompetence, then he would make some tweaks.

And did these boards work? Absolutely. Well three of them did. One of our band, Aussie Phil, had ideas way above his station. In his deluded mind he was already ripping Hawaiian reef breaks and kept asking Tad what would make the board ‘snappier’ and more manoeuvrable. “Tail kick you say? Well give me a load more of that mate!” And so Phil ended up with an undersized stick shaped like a court-jester’s slipper, which pushed so much water that he planed just once during the whole six weeks we were in the Canaries; and that was during a Scirocco gale.

The last we heard of Phil, he was back in Oz farming bamboo. Anyway, the reason for that rambling anecdote is that the questions asked and lessons learned during that pioneering encounter, are pretty much the same today as you ponder kit for the waves. What do you really want this board to do? Ride, jump or blast?

What sea state do you mostly encounter? Swell or wind blown waves?

What kit are you used to? What’s your style? Do you have a style? Do you want one? Do you care?

The way to approach this is to explain the fundamental concepts of wave kit – and then look at the current frills. It’s a bit like buying a car in that first you have to decide on the basic requirements such as size, horsepower, seats for kids and space for dog, kit, partner etc; and then agonise over the details of traction control, size of subwoofer, number of cup holders etc. The approach starts with the self.

When it comes to selecting wave kit do not fall prey to ‘me-no-good, can’t-tell-the-difference’ syndrome.

Confidence Crisis
Self-deprecation is the windsurfer’s worst enemy. “It doesn’t matter what kit I get because I’m useless and wont be able to tell the difference” are words frequently uttered by the novice deciding to cobble together some dusty bits gleaned from a garage sale.  Hopefully someone plucks them from the jaws of eternal stagnation by providing them with a combo designed specifically for their level. Thereafter they do associate progress with equipment and set-up. They realise that planing and getting into the straps was only possible when rig matched board; and straps, harness lines and boom height were all configured so that they could line themselves up directly with the power and deliver a constant force into the board via feet and mastfoot without crouching, twisting, straining or popping discs. That attitude to kit should then follow them all the way up through the levels – especially into wave sailing.

The harder the discipline, the narrower the appropriate kit window – if you’re fighting the wave kit and struggling just to sail in a straight line, what chance have you when you throw waves into the mix?  Wave kit may be different but it should not be difficult. The easier it is to sail, the more you lift your head, relax and sail tactically. Don’t think that just because you have no experience you wont be able to tell the difference between good and not so good wave equipment. You will.

Yesterday was a better place
Yesterday at East Wittering I counted 50 mostly recreation-al sailors out on the water (but it was a Tuesday – so obviously without jobs). It was brutal. The wind was gusting from 15-50 knots and the sea was a mess with a vicious cross chop atop a lazy, intermittent swell. Yet these people weren’t just out, they were doing stuff. Popping big jumps, lining up on waves, screaming off down the line, smacking lips. Ten years ago on the same patch, perhaps 5-10 would have braved such conditions of which a couple with lots of logos on their sails, would have been actually doing something. So what has happened in those 10 years? Basically vastly improved wave kit has brought the upper levels within reach. But how?

The participants of my recent wave clinic in Tiree stand before their favourite sticks. No one was hamstrung by their equipment. Their choices were sound and worked even though some seemed surprising – like 30 year old ripping Mike going for a single fin and 50yr old, lake-dwelling Viki favouring a quad. There’s gigabytes of information out there so it’s interesting to hear what informed their decisions.

088 Peter Hart Article Updated

// (1) Ruth is a relative newcomer to waves and living in Cumbria doesn’t get to the coast that often. Her chosen boards are 103 and 78 freewaves.
“I had rubbish boards before, got advice from a clinic and did what I was told (well done Jem!). I didn’t go for a full on wave boards because at this stage I think I need more allround designs to nail the basics.”
// (2) Mike is in his early 30s and having taken a couple of years off to travel and windsurf, he’s very good. His board of choice is 76 Real Wave single fin.
“I broke my board in Perth. The Real Wave was available for a good price. I reckoned the single fin would work best both in the chop of Perth and the mushy waves of home where you need speed to do anything. I think it’s beginning to hold my riding back. I tend to spin out a lot when I try and crank it which is making me draw out my turns so I’m in the market for a multi fin.”
// (3) Rob loves his kit and has improved hugely in the waves since buying a SUP. He’s holding a Quad 92. He has an 82 as well. It wasn’t something he planned: “I was actually after a twin but there was a 6 month wait so I went for the Quad and love it. I had an 86 fsw but in the waves I just found it too fast and lively. I’m not aware of having to change my style that much but my coach said the Quad has forced me to use my front foot more, which is nice to know.”

// (4) Viki, despite doing most of her sailing on a lake running a T15 squad, has perhaps the most dedicated wave board, a 75 Quattro Quad, but loves it.“When I first came on these wave clinics I had rubbish old kit, which felt very technical to sail. For me the big thing is still getting out through the waves. I liked the look of the Quad. I find it really easy to sail and what helps more than anything is that the small fins and wide tail allow me to launch early and get straight into the straps. And for some reason I find I stay upwind.”

Don’t make do! The game has changed.
Before you plump for that classic model, a snip at fifty quid though it may be, understand how the overall wave sailing game has changed. In the past a wave board’s manoeuvrability was linked primarily to its size and amount of rocker. Fewer litres meant thinner ‘grippier’ edges, which held in at speed. More rocker – the curve nose to tail but especially in the tail – helped the board to sit in the water and ‘snap’ round. But both those features made it slow to plane. Wave sailing for most was therefore a windy pursuit, 20-25 knots plus. To keep us afloat, we would load little boards with relatively big sails. Big wave boards did exist but they bounced and skipped the moment the going got tough. The problem was that sticking to a relatively long (250 ish) and narrow outline, the only way to build in volume was to thicken the edges.

It was a decade ago that the outlines suddenly changed. Short wide boards weren’t an immediate success, but it set us on a right track. They had more curve in the plan shape so you could engage the whole rail in the turn without tripping  – like a surfboard. But you had adopt a more surfy style, standing in the middle of the board (more about that shortly)

Thanks to squillions of R and D hours experimenting with minute adjustments of volume distribution and various blends of rail shape and rocker, they have improved immeasurably. We are now in the happy place today where bigger boards work so much better. The difference in outline between a modern 75 ltr and 90 ltr board is not so different. The extra volume has been cleverly hidden in places that aid the float but detract minimally from the performance. This has changed our relationship with power. Sitting higher in the water, bigger boards need less grunt to push them along on and off the plane. Riding hanging onto a lot of power, you can’t take up wild angles because you’re always resisting the rig. Typically good sailors are using 0.5 sq m less than they were a few years back. Using a smaller rig widens your cage of movement. It’s easier to hide and depower the sail allowing you drop deeper into turns, drive the board like a surfer. Whereas once you were judged by how small a board you used in the waves, now it’s by how small a rig you can get away with. But away from the glory of eye-popping off-the-lips, it’s the most basic considerations that have the biggest influence. Back to yesterday’s gale – as the tide turned, the current inshore started ripping downwind at about 4 knots, yet the majority were managing to hold station. That would never have happened before. Do the modern boards point higher? Not necessarily – but they plane earlier and longer. If you drop off the plane where the current is running (often around the impact zone), for every second you are off the plane, you’re losing about a metre downwind. The newer, wider, designs help you get through those rips and fluffy patches. Whether you’re learning to carve gybe or sail waves, it’s the ability to stay upwind that has arguably the greatest influence on your progress.

Pros eye view pt 2 JOHN SKYE on fins and battens
Listening to those on the cutting edge of the wave scene is interesting because they take the kit to its limits and really can identify the differences.

wave kit 03
// I mostly use twin or quad. All my boards are quad, but depending on the conditions I alternate the set up. Twin makes the board a bit more free and pivot better, so I tend to choose this set up when its very light winds (e.g., 5.7 and 92 setup) or when its very small and junky onshore surf. As a quad the boards have more grip and more drive, and the front fins pull the board into the water which also aids control. If the waves are better I find the quad set up can give me more speed through the turns. I haven’t played around too much with the Thruster set up, but I feel this give a bit more directional stability and maybe makes the board more settled. But I still need to play with this more and now we have 5 boxes in our boards it allows me to do that.
For me the less battens you have the more reactive the sail becomes. That means more feedback for the rider, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you are looking for. So in general a 3 batten sail will change shape a lot more as you ride. When you sheet the sail in, typically it will create a lot more power and drive instantly and the same when you sheet out with the power leaving the sail more quickly. In riding this can be a big advantage if you want to use the sail to power you through turns and then release the power at the top. On the other side you have 5 battens. These are less reactive, which can be a positive. If a gust hits, the sail will stay more in control and the rider can forget the sail more and focus on riding. They also tend to offer a more consistent power for jumping. The 4 batten sits somewhere in the middle and is my personal preference, offering a reactive feel when riding, and good control for jumping. It is important to also consider that it is not just the number of battens that effect these things, but also the designed usage of the sail. RRD for example have the Four and the Vogue which both feature 4 battens. However the Four is more reactive and with more power, whilst the Vogue is more controllable and settled.


Volume – the key factor
“Shall I get an 85 or a 95?” The general rule is that the bigger the board, given the general lack of storms, the more use you’ll get out of it. As little as 5 years ago I would have said the ‘go to …’  wave board is your weight in litres.
Today I add 7-10 litres to that. At 85(ish) kg my most used board is my 92 which I use with a 5.7, 5.2 an sometimes even 4.7.But it does depend, of course, on your ability and what you plan to do with it. Some choose wave boards primarily as high wind blasters specifically for use with sails under 5.0. In which case go smaller.

The main consideration is whether you truly intend to ride proper waves. The reality is that on the best riding days, from Cornwall, to Tahiti, in side or side off conditions, the wind is gusty and often light.
The deciding factor is what board do you need to punch through white water and how much volume do you need to bog around comfortably off the plane and perhaps even uphaul? For an 80 kg bloke, it’s about 90 ltrs but add another 10 or 15 to that if you’re challenged in the general trimming and balance departments.

STYLE – how much can you change?
My friend Filippo, who has a van full of the very latest Quads, commented that he doesn’t know many sports like windsurfing (and wave sailing in particular) where the amateur aspires to use exactly the same kit as the pros. It’s an interesting point – and maybe they shouldn’t. Modern wave designs have been developed mostly by young people whose style has been shaped through surfing, freestyle and wave-sailing, which means they’ve never really used a fin. They stand over the board and sail and turn off the front foot.

Most recreational sailors, on the other hand, come from a free-ride background. They sail off the leech and drive all the power through the back foot against the rail and into that powerful fin, which they use like a safety blanket. The two styles couldn’t be more different. A lot are happy to make the transition, but an equal amount struggle. The question is how far are you prepared to bend towards the new way? It depends on how many hours you can put in to adapt – but also on your DNA. I am lucky enough to have access to all the new stuff. I’ve moved with the changes  and embrace the front foot, big board, small sail surfing style … almost.

However I spent a big chunk of my formative years competing in slalom where the gybe is all about a massive sheet in and driving that power into a long sharp edge and feeling it bite. The thing is, I still like that feeling in my wave sailing and so probably use a slightly bigger sail than is hip, and hence tend to ‘fin up’ my boards a little more. There may be an old dog and new tricks issue, but I prefer the word ‘heritage.’ I can’t get over it, I quite like the feeling of a little extra power.

The message is to adapt, but not move so far from what you know that you can’t function. If, try as you might, you can’t help but give the back foot the odd reassuring hoof, then don’t be afraid to invest in big fins, err towards a single fin or maybe a freestyle wave board. Now there’s a can brimming with wrigglers

“I borrowed a quad off Chris ‘Muzza’ Murray, new school to the core, and when I swapped the 13cm fins for 16s, so incredulous was he that I might as well have poured lemonade into his real ale. But it worked for me”


The modern board and rig combo in action in what is now called ‘real world’ conditions – identifiable waves but nothing bone-crunching. One major advantage of the multi-fin design is how the fins pull them into the water allowing you to do tight full rail turns at relatively slow speed – and therefore stay on the wave face and not outrun it.  Note how the set and design of the sail naturally pull you up onto the front foot.

wave kit 05

// Above It may not feel comfortable for blasting but getting used to widely spaced, open, inboard straps that leave your feet right on the centre-line, is the biggest step you’ll make towards controlled riding. Photo Danielle of GetWindsurfing


When it comes to explaining the wave vs freestyle wave board option, I value the opinion of a man who actually designs them. Tiesda Yo of Starboard.“If you’re asking yourself this question, the answer is probably FreeWave. A Kode 81, 86 or 94, it’s like buying a BMW M3. It’s got four doors, it’ll commute to work and it’ll rip on the track. FreeWaves are the choice for high-wind blasting, jumping and wave riding. But if most of your windsurfing is carving up peeling walls of water, then go for the dedicated wave board and forget the BMW.” It’s the versatility of the fsw that you’re buying into. The choice of strap positions allow you to adapt your style gradually, moving them inboard, opening them up millimeter by millimeter as well as reducing fin size (and on the latest designs, adding some thrusters). The set up, learning to sail upright, leaning forward with both feet on or across the centerline, has at least as much influence on your ability to perform in waves, as the design.When you’re good enough to feel that point where the fsw is hampering your riding ambitions, you can trust your own decisions about the next step.

Pro’s eye view pt 1. Jamie Hancock and the fin question.
Jamie is one of our great home-grown talents. At 68kg he’s at the lighter end of the scale – and the smallest board he uses these days is a round 68 ltr (used to 60ltr). He has this to say about the fin question. “For me it is simply a question of what best compliments my board. My Tabou boards come with 5 fin slots so there is an option for any set up. Last year I used quads for added grip and switched to twins for added speed in onshore conditions on the same board. This year I’m using tri fins as they have a winged tail (steps in the tail). That is what is best for this board. I find thrusters are a kind of compromise between quads and twins and work really well. So the number of fins really depend on what gets the most out of your board – I don’t have a favourite. Fin sizes are a whole new story …!”

Fin Multiplicity – How many and where???
I often start my wave clinics by showing people some footage I took of Josh Angulo sailing his crunching home break of Punta Preta in the Cap Verdes. To this day you will not see a more impressive display of down-the-line (downwind) wave-riding with full power bottom turns, cranking, vertical, one handed cut-backs under the lip with rail engaged right up to the nose logo, as well as massive aerials. It was 6 years ago and he was using a bog standard, production, 88 ltr board he grabbed from the racks of his hire centre with a 22cm single fin. The message is you have to get into some wildly extreme situations before you will be held back by classic, good, no frills wave kit – and even then probably not – assuming it’s the right size for you and the conditions and matched by a well-set rig.

The year before  at the 2007 inaugural and now legendary PWA wave event at that very same spot, Kauli Seadi kicked off the multi-fin rush by tucking his new quad fin design into some super tight pockets and drawing lines that no one had seen before. It’s also possible he performed thus because he’s brave and incredibly skilful and that other aspects of his new board design were more influential (the outline, the rocker etc) than the cluster of fins. But it’s also worth noting that Josh won that event on that same 88 ltr single fin.

My advice is not to get too distracted by the question of how many fins. Fins, of course, are very very important but they’re the icing on a big and very complicated cake. If you’re looking to compartmentalise you can say:

Quads – powerful turns.

Tri-fin (thurster) – powerful turns but more directional

Twins – loose, surfy, skatey.

Single fin – yet more directional, secure, predictable.

The first twin I tried about 5 years ago, I hated. I would have more secure going down the fast lane of the M6 on a wet Friday night on a shopping trolley. It would go in any direction but straight. But I love my new one – it’s fast, directional but loose in the right areas. It’s not about the fins, the basic design has simply improved.

Many of the latest models are coming with 5 fin boxes. It seems like a choice you can do without but it’s the best solution. If the board is good it will work with every set-up. Having the options allows you to tune it for different conditions (see the comments of Jamie Hancock and John Skye), onshore or sideshore, riding or jumping – or just settle on a feel that suits your style. And everyone has a style even thought they don’t recognise it as such.

The new kid on the block is the supersize wave board, some now weighing in at 120 litres – an unthinkable design as little as 3 or 4 years ago. From recent experience I can affirm the one I tried was amazing. But the mistake I have seen some make already is to think they’ll double up nicely as chunky allrounders. No, they are wave boards. The volume around the mastfoot is there to help you drift out in very light winds where you might normally only be able to use a SUP. But the rocker line that makes them so maneuverable on a wave, and the wide stance, does not make for particularly early planing or a comfortable speed stance. If you want the option of blasting and speedy gybing, go for a freestyle wave.

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// Despite weighing in at a shade over 60 kg Phil Richards loved the 120 wave board for no wind wave riding.
Photo Danielle of GetWindsurfing

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// The outline and straighter rocker of the fsw makes it the more versatile option. Photo Simon Bassett

WAVE RIGS – and the batten question
If you’ve been in this sport long enough, you will get the odd déjà vu. I happened recently upon some correspondence I had with Roger Tushingham while testing sails in Barbados in the late 80s. It was all to do with the ‘soft’ (sail with leech battens) vs hard (sail with full length battens) wave sail debate. He had sent me the first batch of fully battened prototypes. I didn’t like them. I couldn’t feel what was going on. They were heavier. When you sheeted out they still pulled. The argument was that they were more stable. In the end we reached a compromise and the new sails arrived with the option of either full or
half battens.

And that’s pretty much where we are now with the 5,4, or 3 batten sail debate. At the NWF I was discussing the issue with Sam Ross and we decided only half jokingly that we seem to be in the throes of
redesigning the training sail. As a beginner a batten-less sail gives you more feel as well as visual clues (flapping) as to its state of trim. It also bags out to give you a lot of power for its size. But it’s all good, if just a little confusing. Lets us dodge the batten issue for a second, and as with boards, focus on basics.

Match a wave board with a wave sail. It’ll be more robust and likely to stay the course. But the key design features are a flatter foil, which goes neutral and depowers as you sheet out, and a centre of effort which is higher and more forward and lifts you up, inboard and onto your front foot into that ‘ready to surf’ position. A tighter leech and that high centre of effort lifts the board out of the water and allows you to get away with a smaller sail. Compare that to a more speed oriented sail which has more shape in the bottom battens, pushes the board onto the water and encourages a hunkered down, fin-driving, speed stance. When it comes to battens, the less you have, the more information you get from the sail, (good for tricky wave riding situations), the more low end power it produces (good for multi fin boards where you’re trying to get away with a small sail); but also the less stable it is – not so good for powered up jumping.

Currently I have a mix of 4 and 5 battens. I currently favour 5 because, as I mentioned, I like to be a little more powered up than perhaps is strictly necessary and also gives a bigger wind range – a definite bonus when I’m coaching and the van is a long way from the waves.

Harty returns with yet more words of technique wisdom in the next issue.  In the meantime check his website for details of the 2014/15 clinic schedule (and how to buy a copy of his new gybing DVD) or email him to get his monthly newsletter –

The post PETER HART TOOLING UP FOR THE SWELL appeared first on Windsurf Magazine.

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The July 2015 Issue of the world’s only monthly English-language windsurfing magazine is out now!





Subscribe or grab your copy now in either 

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(Prices include delivery anywhere globally 10 times a year.)



Plucky Brit, Peter Crosby, reports first hand on the windiest Defi ever while organiser Francky Roguet recounts the crazy carnage of the biggest startline in windsurfing.

John Carter lays bare Maui’s lesser known West side with its stunning scenery and range of sick sailing spots.

Learn all about this famed South Devon wave spot from local Dave Ewer as JC and Timo Mullen take a road trip to Bigbury.

Ben Profitt
John Carter breaks down the Rhosneigr ripper’s inner demons in the pound store psychology of ‘The first time….’

Five heroic windsurfers brave the treacherous seas of the Jurassic Coast for a jolly good downwinder. What could possibly go right!, JC reports.

How does a young woman from Norway become Vice World Champion, we sit down with Oda to find out.

We quiz Taty Frans on his secrets for going fast as a lighter rider and being one of the most well rounded sailors in the world, competing in Slalom & Freestyle.

We quiz some of the finest windsurfing selfie shooters on the planet for their tips, tales and tricks of the trade in using point of view cameras.



The large freeride board was the principal domain of the intermediate rider, but is there a little more to the large freeride hull now? Our team investigates.

Fanatic Gecko 133
JP Magic Ride 132
RRD Firemove 130
Starboard Atom 130
Tabou Rocket Wide 128

Camless freeride sails are ever popular, so what of the camber inducer? Has it become solely the domain of the amateur and professional racer? The team investigate.

Attitude Hornet 7.8
Ezzy Lion 7.5
GA Sails Phantom 7.8
North S-Type 7.8
Severne Overdrive 7.8
Simmer 2XC 7.8
RRD Firewing MKIII 7.8
Tushingham Bolt 7.8


How many? What’s the best gap between sizes? Cams or no cams? Should you mix the brands? Peter Hart helps you amass the bespoke quiver.

Jem Hall breaks down the perfect introductory move to intermediate freestyle.


The golden glint of shiny new kit glows brightly in these pages; read, drool, repeat.

It’s summer, yay! time to tan and kick back with a Cornetto. Read on for our guide to the best in summer accessories!


The Editor champions the act of going downwind, why the windsurfer rules this point of sail and why we don’t do it more?

Harty dons his hippy hat to explain why Fungie, the resident dolphin of Dingle Harbour, has such a special place in his heart of Hart’s !


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Bjorn Dunkerbeck has dominated modern windsurfing and his mere name defined winning. So when he announced his retirement we needed to know more, but all of us in the office were too scared to ask. Decades of domination were built on his icy reputation. Having decided unanimously amongst the team that we were all cowards, we rigged the short straws so JC had to go face to face with the Terminator and left him with strict instructions not to look him in the eyes otherwise he’d probably die. Many biscuits were bitten and teas nervously drunk before he returned but thankfully he did, bringing back a must read interview with the most successful windsurfer in the world and his retirement plans for anything but pipe and slippers.

Words & Photos JOHN CARTER

(This feature originally appeared in the March 2015 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!)

Some say he should have quit while he was ahead as PWA Slalom world champion back in 2011 but the simple truth of the matter is that Bjorn Dunkerbeck just loves to windsurf and the thrill of competition is in his blood and something that was always going to be tough to let go. The last two years have been a rocky road for Bjorn on tour, the sweet smell of victory has evaporated to a certain extent with 13th and 14th places in the overall rankings; tough results to handle after years of domination! Bjorn has been publicly critical of light wind slalom, a major factor in his decision to announce the final curtain on his thirty year PWA career would be drawn at the end of the 2104 season.

So when Bjorn held his press conference in Sylt delivering this shockwave to the windsurfing world, I sensed an interview with this icon of windsurfing was imminent. The big question was when and where? My initial thoughts were to plan it right after his last race in Noumea but what if he wasn’t in the mood or he had a bad race. If he did not cooperate then I could blow the whole thing! I could have snagged him down straight away during Sylt or in La Torche but it just did not seem right to interview him until his PWA career was officially terminated. So I decided to take my chances and leave it until Noumea, in my books it had to be done right after the last race after 30 years on tour. That’s when the emotions would be flowing, the quiver bags finally packed and the moment he would start focusing his legendary status, skills and passion in a new direction. Come the final morning of the last day of Noumea, I knew it was going to be a hectic day. Albeau and Moussilmani were locked in battle for the title, plus there was a prize giving ceremony after the racing and the usual bag packing frenzy that goes down after an event.

Unfortunately for Dunky he made an uncharacteristic mistake in his final ever round of PWA slalom and sailed the wrong heat but surprisingly when I tracked him down in his pit area after the racing he was in a upbeat mood and was more than happy to sit down for an interview to reflect on his thirty years of professional competition. Far from being the end of the road for Bjorn, his piercing eyes still looked hungry for more glory as he answered my questions about the past, present and future. It proved to be a story not just about the end of a  journey but also the start of another chapter in the life of living legend, Bjorn Dunkerbeck!

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