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Peter Hart Up and Riding in a Flash

Getting up and going is not just a ‘tick the box’ skill – it’s one that should be refined and adapted all the way through a windy career. Peter Hart reveals the fundamentals of early planing. 

Right, before we go any further with this subject, lets get the weight issue out of the way. At the very mention of early planing, I wager those of you with fuller figures are throwing your arms in frustration, cursing your genetic disadvantage. I mean it’s simple physics isn’t it? A big thing needs more power to make it move than a little thing.

Hence women, children and scrawny blokes fly around in a fart while you wallow. And so it is you sail like a big person and sit there like a sack of potatoes waiting for the next hurricane gust to shift you. And I should know, because I was (and still am) that big person. 

When I started racing I’d throw the towel in the moment the wind dropped below about 15 knots and watch stick insects like Barrie Edgington twinkle towards the horizon. It wasn’t until I started doing a few World Cup races and witnessed 95 kg. man mountain Bjoern Dunkerbeck turbo boost off the line ahead of the flyweights, that I understood that bulk is just an excuse for poor technique or a lack of effort.

Weight, of course, is a factor (in fact it’s the topic of the back page) but shedding kilos is a long term project. It’s not going to happen overnight. So lets focus on the early planing factors you can influence here and now. For a start we need to define what we mean by ‘early planing.’ It’s not just a contest to get going in the lowest wind strength.  Whatever the wind, force 3-10, whatever the kit, raceboard or 60L wave board, it’s about how quickly you accelerate, how quickly you get into the straps and release; how much sail you need to do it. (And by the way, big people take heart that the flyweights often aren’t as good at early planing as their larger cousins because they don’t have to be. They’re usually sailing bigger boards relative to their weight so can just get in the straps sheet in and get blown along.)

If you cut the time it takes you to plane AND the amount of power you need to plane, ALL aspects of your windsurfing WILL improve

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that early planing is the cornerstone of windsurfing. There are so many reasons to be good at it.

Energy saver. The most tiring place to be is in a state of semi planing in planing winds because there’s so much drag going through body and arms.

More control. If you don’t have to rely on enormous kit to get you planing, you have better control in tacks and gybes.

More practice. Apologies for stating the bleeding obvious, but you can’t practise planing moves unless you’re on the plane. So much of so many sessions are wasted because people aren’t able to make use of every gust.

New Skool. Moving up the scale, freestyle moves, especially those from the new ‘skool’ of derring-do, are only really achievable with sails under 6.0 (and preferably a lot less than that) – and you need to be using that small sail in a relatively light force 4-5 wind. It sounds brutal, but freestyle if off limits to those who can’t get planing with small sails.
The same goes for wavesailing. Big rigs in the surf limit your manoeuvrability and they break.

Better, more frequent jumps. The number one reason for floppy jumps is that people aren’t planing where the ramps are. In typical beach break conditions you need to be up to full speed by the time you meet the first barrage.

Better Racer. Part time or Olympic – acceleration onto the plane is a more potent racing weapon than top speed.

More security, less falls. The most precarious place to be is in ‘mid something.’ Mid tack, mid gybe, mid ‘Kabikuchi’, that’s where you’re going to lose it. It’s same with early planing. The longer you spend not quite planing with the board grinding through the water rocking from edge to edge, the more likely you are to catch a heel on the chop and catapult. And if it’s taking you an age to find the straps, you’ll look down and that will be when you get smacked by the unseen gust.

A badly tuned car uses a lot more gas that a tuned one. Those slow to plane are wasting a lot of energy and hence need more of it in the form of more sail and more volume

To plane, a board – or boat for that matter – has to overtake its own bow wave. Smaller boards – and boards with a steep rocker line – push more water in front of them and so need more power to drive them up and over. A board needs more power to make it plane than it does to keep it on the plane. It’s like an over-laden speed boat. To start off it’s full throttle, props churning a massive wake, passengers running to the front, carbon footprint growing by the second until finally it climbs over the watery wall. But then as it releases and glides effortlessly (although still a bit noisily) you can throttle right back. If you hook into a 120L freeride board with a 7.5 sail across the wind and do nothing, you’ll need about 18 knots of wind to drive it onto the plane. But when you’re on the plane, you’ll only need 10 knots to keep it there. So to get on the plane in less than 18 knots, you have to do something to create an artificial surge of power. Pumping is one way but by no means the only one. As David Brailsford, Olympic cycling coach, famously stated, their multiple successes came from the ‘aggregation of marginal gains.’ It’s the same deal with planing. A lot of small adjustments can amount to a big advantage. But it has to start with the kit. The ramifications of kit choice and tuning are so vast, that I hope you’ll excuse me if I just hone in on a few specific areas that seem to make the biggest difference to the most amount of people.


Early planing tests every aspect of your game. You have to select and tune the kit to an optimum level. You have to read the conditions and coincide your effort with a gust and down slope. It demands a level of fitness. Tight limbs and a solid core are needed to transfer the power directly into the board.  In strong winds especially you have to be committed and bit brave. And of course it’s the ultimate test of your stance, power control and trimming skills.

It seems that this whole conundrum could be sorted with one sentence: “take out a bigger rig.” And for the timorous, that may well be the answer. But it may have the opposite effect, especially if you can’t fully sheet in, or the rig over-powers the board.
On a 12-knot marginal day last week on the beach lay a 125L freerace board with an 8.5 and a similar 120L board with a 7.8. They were both set up well and the carbon content of the hardware was similar. Surprisingly perhaps, the smaller combo planed earlier because board and rig felt a better match. It just slipped onto the plane. Both the 7.8 and the 8.5 rigs fell within their board’s recommended range. However the 8.5 was on the limit for the 130. The ends of the scale are rarely the sizes that work the best.


There are many personal, quirky techniques to help planing like rocking the board from side to side to unstick it, hoofing the fin, shaking the sail to get the air moving etc. Ultimately you’re trying to bounce it onto its planing surface by driving it into the water with rig and foot pressure – and then releasing it. Letting go of the front hand off the boom, as well as being mildly cool, stops you choking the rig and forces you to extend away and drop the hips behind the feet. 


// The toes of the front foot press down on the sweet spot of the board just in front of the entry to the rocker. The friction creates lift. The board pushes back against the foot…


// …so as you release it, it pops up and onto the plane. Because the hips are right back, putting the front foot in the strap is just a case of tucking it under your knee.


The feet will always try and match the hands. If you commit the cardinal sin of placing the front hand at the front of the boom, the front foot will move forward to keep balance and stop you heading up. But he’s now standing directly over his feet so his weight and all the power from the rig is acting down rather than forward. Planing is now a hurricane away. But if he moves the front hand back, the front foot will move back, the nose will rise and the board has a chance of releasing.  


With the 8.5 it felt as if the advantage of the extra power was cancelled out by the extra dead weight, which made the board displace more water and create a bigger bow wave. It was crying out for the support of an extra 10L of volume. Water state also has a big influence. The day before, Irish Ned crawled from the water and declared that his rig, and I’ll quote his own vernacular, ‘felt utter sh**e.’ He was using his 5.7 on his favourite 80L wave board – a combo he loves on his windy, mostly flat, bump and jump patch back home. But in the onshore winds of Scraggane Bay it felt totally different. The relatively big rig was pushing the thin, soft rails deep into the chop and stopped it releasing – and that’s what made the rig feel heavy and ‘sh**e.’ He needed a bigger board. When we’re talking matches, so much depends on the design and, above all, the width of the board and the skill and weight of the sailor. However, in the disciplines where early planing is top of the list, e.g., marginal wind sailing, new school freestyle and wavesailing, a little extra board volume is a more potent weapon than a great tractor of a rig, especially now since bigger boards, of all categories, are so much more controllable. Smaller rigs are also easier to work and pump – more about that shortly.

I’m all for detailed rigging instructions, but if you’re to excel, there comes a time when you have to dump the fundamentalist scripture and trust your own feelings and instincts. If it doesn’t feel right and you ‘aint going, change something until you do. At risk of sounding like a train service spokesperson, you may have a lot of power, but it may be the wrong sort of power. You sheet in, the sail fills and pulls. Eskimos have 50 words for snow. Practised windsurfers should have 50 words to describe ‘pull.’ Was it a grunty pull? A draggy pull? A jerky pull – or a soft, springy pull? (Soft and springy is good.) If your chosen rig isn’t quite getting you there and you don’t want to/can’t change up, the received wisdom is to ‘bag it out’ by easing off the outhaul and/or the downhaul. More shape surely equals more power. But bag it too much and the sail turns from a foil to an umbrella. The skill is in tweaking and feeling whether the sail is powering you along or just driving the board under the water. My first adjustment is usually to ease off a centimetre of outhaul, which puts a bit more shape in the battens just above and below the boom, where most of the power is generated. If you let off too much to the point where there’s no tension in the back of the sail, on non-cambered sails particularly, the foil billows onto your back hand. With an unstable centre of effort it’s hard to pump effectively and deliver the power precisely into the board. And on boards with titchy fins the tail will keep breaking out. The downhaul needs to be handled with care. Easing it off a little, you put more shape into the top part of the sail and tighten the leech. That can be good. A tight leech is more reactive when you pump. But ease it off too much and the leech stays closed. The sail traps the wind but doesn’t release it. You sheet in, loads of pull, here we go … no we don’t. The sail keeps on pulling instead of softening and becoming lighter as you accelerate. Unless the wind can escape from the leech, you’ll get all the misery of being over-powered, aching muscles, blisters, but none of the joys – instant acceleration and speed. Brendan was out on his 6.0 yesterday. He was slow to get going despite easing off the downhaul. Actually it was because he eased off the downhaul. Big diagonal creases spread from the leech to the mast end of the battens – a sure sign that the leech is trying to open but can’t. Somehow it seems counter-intuitive to increase downhaul when you’re struggling to plane – but in this case an extra inch transformed the sail.


The surest way to gauge progress is with a stopwatch, real or imagined. In a solid wind, time how long it takes you to get hooked in, strapped in and released fully onto the plane.

If it’s more than 5 seconds, there is work to be done.

A last thought on kit: People ask whether the 100% carbon mast is worth it – or will the cheaper one do? With absolutely no support from the carbon growers association, I have to say it IS worth it, for the early planing alone. Power to plane doesn’t just come from a full belly. It comes from a reactive leech. When you sheet in and pump, the mast flexes and the leech opens and the wind exhausts. The lighter, full carbon mast returns more quickly, which allows you to pump faster and more often.

This won’t last long. Ready. Put the boom up. That’s it. Don’t go silly. It has to be within the range that works, which for planing sailing on 70-cm-wide (ish) board is around nipple to shoulder height – a little higher for wider boards where the straps are further from the mastfoot. With a higher boom, you feel the balance of power shift from feet to mastfoot and the board lighten up. Looking for more power to plane, I put the boom up an inch and release a centimetre of outhaul. Nine times out of ten that does the trick. If it doesn’t, I’ll just hope the pubs are open. And my very last word on the set-up matter before we head to the far more important business of technique, concerns harness lines. The most efficient way to power up the sail and get planing is to use the harness. If the harness lines are short, you’ll drag the rig back as you move to the straps, depower the sail and sink the tail. If the lines are long, the rig stays forward and upright. You’ll power up the mastfoot and the board will stay level – your choice.

The sign of a well-rounded windsurfer is being able to adapt her skill according to the kit, the conditions and the moment. For example, a good gyber will shape the arc of each turn depending on how powered up she is and what’s in front of her. The slick waterstarter employs a different rig recovery method depending how and where the rig is lying. It should be the same with early planing. The sequence and technique changes for different designs of board, light and strong winds, calm or rough seas. An obvious example is where someone moving from a big freeride board to a small waveboard tries to get going by sheeting in across the wind and hoofing against the fin. But for all the many variations, it’s best to approach the challenge with broad concepts and relate it to skills you already have.

What gets you out of the water in the waterstarts is creating a sudden surge of power. To begin with, if it’s windy, you just bear away. Then you learn to bear AND extend from the shoulders to raise the rig. Then you start pumping as you come up and kick the front leg and time the effort with a gust and as a wave lifts you – until finally you’re popping up in a zephyr. It’s exactly the same with getting planing. You need a burst of power to overtake that bow wave and break free. Success comes with co-ordinating all your lift devices – kicking off the wind on a gust, sheeting in, tilting off down a slope, bouncing the board, working the rig – all pretty much at the same time. And back to waterstarting. When it doesn’t work, the thing absolutely not to do is hang there, arms raised high waiting for the next depression to pass through and blow you up. Instead you have to lower the rig again, head back upwind and create another burst. Trying to plane, if you bear away, go for it and it doesn’t happen, don’t tootle off downwind cursing your ill fate. Turn back upwind and look to explode again.

May I crave your indulgence and ask you to imagine you’re water-skiing behind a dodgy, faltering powerboat off the coast of S. Africa. The rope has frayed so you’re being pulled by just one thread. You look behind to see a hungry Great White shark following you with intent. What would you do? Instinctively you would extend the arms, give to the power, come up on your toes, suck your guts up under your ribcage, make no jerky backwards movements against the rope and reduce the drag of the skis by riding them as flat as possible.
That’s early planing – in brief you’re trying to present the board to the water in such a way that it creates the east drag, whilst at the same time maximising the available power. But how do you do that?


A few simple checks on the beach to give you the best chance of getting going with the least effort.

Harty 336 early plane 05

// Set the boom height to the top of the workable range, which for a wave board is around shoulder height.

Harty 336 early plane 06

// Place the board close to the wind and the lines should be long enough that you can hook in with the front foot by the mastfoot. But there’s a feeling of being slightly suspended in the harness with the weight coming off the feet.

Harty 336 early plane 07

// Then, in the straps the ultimate early planing test is that even when you move back into the straps, the set up allows you to stand tall on your toes and hold the rig upright. 

Coaching lower intermediates in the art of early planing I urge them to do less. Aspiring experts I encourage to do more. Less, in this case means keeping it all solid and constant, committing fully to the harness, holding the rig still and bearing away gradually to deliver a calm constantly increasing force into a level board. That opposed to gyrating hither and thither, on and off the power, rig flying all over the shop so the board surges and stops like a learner driver kangarooing down the street. More, means getting more active, in a good way. You keep the power on but add little surges to help unstick a reluctant board. We’re talking pumping. Pumping – sheeting in suddenly and releasing – is a controversial subject in that while it’s potentially the best way of releasing a board, done badly is also a way to make sure the board never planes ever. The way to introduce yourself into the feel and rhythm of pumping is to do it hooked in. Committed to the harness, the board gets a constant flow. Then give little pumps with the back hand. Every pump creates a surge, which you drive into the board with the toes and then release. It’s as you release the pressure that the board bounces up onto its planing surface. I don’t really want to talk about pumping as it’s like trying to describe juggling. It’s all about feel and timing. Other things are far more important.
Of all the important things that are the most important, this is the most important of all. The key to getting going is working within the wind angles that provide the useable power for that wind strength and the amount of sail you’re carrying. It’s bearing away into a gust that is your most effective weapon – but how much? In less wind you need to bear away more. In more wind you bear away less. Perhaps it’s easier to describe the effects of heading off on the wrong tack. In a marginal wind, if you don’t bear away enough, you just don’t generate the power to get going, simple. On a small board with a small fin, if you don’t bear way enough and start pumping, the surges of power are lateral and you’ll slip sideways. To pump effectively on any board, you have to bear away off the wind. Off the wind the pulses of power drive the board forward. In a strong wind, if you bear away too much, you can’t close the sail and get pulled too much over the board. At best the board lurches from edge to edge. At worst you get catapulted.

Crusty windies from another era have been bamboozled by the planing quirks of modern kit. Back in the day boards were up to 4m long and had a constant rocker line. To plane you made the long journey to the tail, via several sets of straps, stopping for tea and Kendall mint cake on the way, as the board gradually lifted out. To move back a moment to soon was to sink the narrow tail and stall immediately. Above all else you stayed forward. Today, many boards will not plane if you stand too far forward. On the shorter, racier models, the entry point, where the board first makes contact with the water, is only just in front of the straps. If you stand in front of it, you push a curved section of board into the water and stop it gliding. It’s a case of, get into the straps in order to plane. On your own board, feel for that entry point by playing around with the front foot position. A inch forward and back is critical to the trim.

And so to the body. It is the transmission. It takes the power from the engine and transmits it to the wheels. Ultimately it’s the vital link in the chain. The biggest change occurs though practice and confidence. It’s where people go from being blown on the plane thanks to big kit and a bit of luck with some local weather, to actually driving the board onto the plane. In the first instance, they just stand over their feet and the volume of the board sort of makes sense of the power. In the second, they drop their hips behind their feet, take the power from the sail, through a tight stomach into, the legs and actually slide the board forward.

You can get the same words plus actions from the horse’s mouth by joining Peter on one of his internationally acclaimed, game-changing clinics, catering for everyone from planing novice to jumping, riding fanatic. Lots of info about the 2015 schedule on And get regular updates by liking his Peter Hart Masterclass page.

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Staying fit is one thing but the more basic concerns for most windsurfers are: is our sport threatening to an aging body? And what can I do prolong my windsurfing life? Harty elicits some expert help to answer 

big questions.  

So how long can you really keep doing this?” is an annual enquiry from my wife who is trying to reconcile the increased financial demands of growing children with the earning power of a husband in his mid 50s who does a sport for a living. I don’t really have an answer but, as I pop another painkiller, I state in all honesty that I feel pretty good and still relish the prospect of a ‘big day.’ Yes I have a wonky knee, but I can’t imagine a time when I won’t windsurf.  Lighter, more efficient kit places a lot less strain on the body, so we can keep on kidding ourselves that we’re getting better and more vital. But are we actually kidding ourselves? Is windsurfing bad for the body and should we all be just a little but more sensible and take up aqua-aerobics?

While I was skiing this year I met a friend of a friend who, given the chance, I would have locked in a room and interrogated for hours. David Boyd, from NZ, has a background in skiing as a competitor, coach, instructor and guide. But for the past 30 years his day job has been in the area of musculoskeletal medicine. His company Foot Science International manufactures medical devices for the orthopaedic market, particularly total joint replacement in the area of hips and knees. And so through his work, he’s frequently working with athletes from a huge range of sports and activities. And joy upon joy, he’s also a keen recreational windsurfer, ever in search of the perfect gybe, so if ever there was someone who understood our sport on a physical level…  First of all, he fitted some of his company’s customized footbeds into my ski boots. Apart from alleviating pressure points, their main purpose is to increase prioperception. The more of your foot you have in contact with the boot, the more messages you receive from the ski. I at once made a gybing parallel. One of the main errors is to gybe too much on the toes. The more foot you have in contact with the board as you bank over, the more information you get. David said he had been experimenting using their foam to make footpads for slalom to give the ultimate foot-to-board contact. But because they mould so well, the problem was getting the feet out.
We digress. How does he view windsurfing and windsurfers from a physical standpoint?

 “There seems to be a lot of old buggers, but there is a relatively low incidence of serious injury from windsurfing. But there is a high incidence of injuries or complaints brought into the sport, which windsurfing may aggravate.”

 So assuming we have reasonable technique, is windsurfing bad for the body; and if so, which bits? 

 “In comparing windsurfing to other sports I don’t think that it is particularly hard on the body. Apart from wear and tear on soft, office hands, it does seem to place particular strain on shoulders and the lower back. The shoulder strain is most likely specific to the sport. Our stance places a particularly narrow range of motion on the shoulder joint. Optimally the shoulder joint requires equal strength in about 5 different directions and windsurfing tends to only occupy about 2 of them. Therefore, the more we do, the more imbalanced our shoulder becomes and the more likelihood there is of an overuse injury. 

With regard the lower back problems. There is no doubt that we do, from time to time, damage our backs specifically during windsurfing. But it’s often because we have a relatively sedentary occupation involving computer hours, and that windsurfing is an aggravator rather than the cause. The same goes for hips and knees.”

 But what about those happy folk without a condition, who want to remain that way? 

“In terms of prevention of injury and chronic conditions, my suggestion would be not to underestimate the benefit of good long-term aerobic fitness – it’s what helps you have enough strength and muscle control when you suddenly really need it. In terms of avoiding those soft tissue/shoulder/lower back injuries I would suggest developing a habit of frequent exercises for improving upper body posture and opening and strengthening the upper thoracic/chest. Since 95% of what we do in life tends to be in front of us, our chest muscles are naturally stronger and we develop a hunched over stance that is exasperated by our increasing use of computers,
tablets and cellphone devices. Yoga is probably the best all round activity to get involved in.

This is the Peter Pan generation, determined to redefine every passing decade. 40 is the new 20 etc. etc. Since the 1980s, the over-50s category of the New York Marathon has grown by 78%. 90-year-olds have completed an Ironman. On my wave course in Tiree last year, ages of the candidates ranged from 19 to 65 and the 65-year-old was the fittest. Is this just a stubborn refusal to lie down, or are these just genetic freaks? Apparently it’s up to you.

Epidemiological studies have stated that from the age of 40 we begin an inevitable shuffle towards frailty losing about 1% a year of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and respiratory efficiency. But that was until they realised that all of the volunteers for the study were inactive. When they stuck their probes into habitual sporting folk, the results were very different. For example, 65-year-old runners were found to have the same motor units in their muscles as 25-year-olds.
So the message seems, quite clear, even if it does feel a bit achy – use it or lose it. And then take a pill.

PH 14th April 2014 #335

 The human skeleton – specifically designed to windsurf.

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The October 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 FC Version 2

Ireland, cold but perfect. JC captures the world class waves and all the action and tales from the Mullen brothers and Katie McAnena.

026 Generation
A look inside the minds of windsurfing’s young and old, all the way from Philip Koster to Robby Naish.

They waited a week to battle and finished in near darkness. Upsets, tension and another win for Traversa, JC tells all.

Lights, cameras and a whole lot of action. Warsaw goes wild as Indoor windsurfing goes rock and roll crazy for an extraordinary event.

Neck and neck racing with the world’s Slalom elite. Ross Williams talks us through a PWA heat at Turkey from start to finish.

The UK’s ultimate windsurfing festival. We go behind the scenes with the industry to find out what makes it such a success

We review the people’s favourite size. Which is better for you, 3,4 or 5 batten designs?, read all the results here.

Ezzy Sails Taka                           4.5m
Goya Banzai                                4.7m
Maui Sails Mutant                     4.6m
RRD Vogue                                  4.7m
Sailloft Hamburg Quad            4.7m
Severne Blade                             4.7m
Simmer Style Sails Black Tip   4.7m
Tushingham Sails Rock             4.7m

082 PeterHart340 updated2
Frequently Asked Questions get the Peter Hart, Expertly Answered Treatment.

The most satisfying of all windsurfing’s transitions is well within your reach, Jem Hall breaks it down.

The page we want to have every issue ! An interview with Ben Profitt and Robby Swift, our two PWA podium heroes.

More 2015 gear and John Skye gives his expert view on all the top contenders in the tightest PWA wave title in years.

106-107 WS340 Wetsuits
We round up the latest in winter rubber for review and learn how to take care of our precious suits from an expert in wetsuitology !


One big happy family – the joy of windsurfing is the tie that binds.

Get your copy by App or in Print now!

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“Two weeks into my 5 week clinic tour of the North Atlantic coast and we’ve enjoyed just about every conceivable wind and wave condition.
But so far I’ve just needed 2 boards for the job –  a 103 Kode fsw, a 92 Kode wave. 
I’m constantly shocked and amazed at the versatility of those boards.
Last night I was out on the 92 in proper bog and ride conditions – big crunching surf and 10 knots of wind. Within an hour it was up to 25 knots.
I couldn’t be bothered to trek back to the van so down hauled the Rock 5.7 a bit more and just kept going. Both board and rig have an incredible range.

The confidence you get knowing the board will bottom out from the steepest drops and yet still gets up and goes in the slightest puff, takes you to the next level.” 

Pic – Harty one handed on the Kode 92


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The September 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 339

*WS339 Shipping Forcast2
Our very own camera geek, JC, and Isle of Wight local Scott Gardner became more obsessed than train spotters with their pursuit of the world’s biggest container ships – and the curse of the Marco Polo in the English Channel.

054 MAUI updated
With the luxury of a sponsor shoot boat, Klaas Voget scored heavy, pristine, turbo-speed surf at Mauritius’ famed, bone-crunching break.

John Skye sharpened his fins and became a rookie racer at Sotavento. Read his insider view of being a slalom tour newbie.

*WS339 PWA Canary2
There were new contenders, heart-breaking trials and some serious scores to settle in the surf of Gran Canaria and Tenerife this summer. John Carter was on-hand for a first-hand account of all the drama.

030-034 SIAM
Event sponsor Bjoern Dunkerbeck’s ‘Lucky 11’ qualifiers perfected their jet ski slingshots and went into aeriel battle above the Tenerife wave pool.

More controversy and a jaw-dropping standard left the spectators at Sotavento staggered at the level of modern windsurfing.

086-090 POLAND
PWA Pros Phil Soltysiak and Max Matissek took the road less travelled along the Poland’s Baltic coastline.

SAIL TEST updated
5.3 WAVE SAILS – The first 2015 gear was put to the sword against sloppy surf and marginal wind conditions in Tenerife.


072-076 Peter Hart Article

With the technique focus on the age-old carve gybe hurdle, rather than a generic ‘how-to’ guide, Harty focuses on how to exit planing. And we all want that …


Jem brings a step-by-step overview of the critical phases of that elusive carve gybe.


More 2015 gear to salivate over and all the latest toys.

Right place right time. Catch up on all the best events and destinations to visit.


The great indoors – does fan-assisted windsurfing aid the image of the sport – and does the tow-out, arena-based side of sailing need a makeover?

Is it an institution – or just for people that should be housed in institutions? Probably both. Harty assesses the significance of the annual National Watersports Festival.

Get your copy by App or in Print now!

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Peter Hart’s 7th Windsurfing Clinic and Wave Sailing Masterclass to Brazil in 2015 is now open for bookings.

Peter’s 10 day Masterclass clinic in Jericoacoara for entry level wave sailing plus general skills for intermediates-advanced is now open for bookings.


Running from 09-19 January 2015, the time of year offers the perfect introduction to wave-sailing conditions. The waves are bigger, the wind a perfect force 4-5 and the whole place noticeably less crowded and laid-back.

Peter described last year’s clinic by saying “OMG!” doesn’t even come close. “If the pousada of Punta Pedra, where most of my group stay, was any closer to the beach, it would be in the sea.

Over breakfast of the freshest fruit and egg combo of your choice, they watch with open mouths as the wind starts to whip the tops of the waves bending in around the point.”


Clinic Price: £2,449pp 

- 7 days Peter Hart Masterclass.
- Return flights from Heathrow (including 2 x bags allowance).
- 10 nights BB Pousada accommodation on twin share basis.
- Round trip airport transfers & assistance.

Land only price £1,399pp. (Includes above except flight.)
International bookings welcome.


 10 days Board Hire for the price of 5!

To book contact Sportif on:
Tel  +44(0)1273 844919 or email
More information 


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exercise 02


Élite windsurfers are supremely fit. Lesser performers often aren’t. But, at recreational level, is fitness so very important in a sport, which is fundamentally about technique? If it is, what aspects of it are relevant and achievable to the common man or woman?

Peter Hart still has no need for a mobility scooter despite 35 years of windsurfing, so he must be doing something right.

Windsurfers have an interesting, cyclical relationship with fitness. As they start out they are acutely aware of the physical challenge, especially as they move into the pre harness, semi-planing stage. 

“You need the arms of Thor and the palms of a coal miner for this lark”, “I have aches in places I didn’t know I had places” they cry.

Then, as they discover the harness and hook into a fresh breeze for the first time … bliss!

The transformation couldn’t be more stark if they walked from a torture chamber into a Turkish boudoir lined with shapely masseuses holding pots of strawberry yoghurt and wearing nothing but a suggestive grin.

Suddenly windsurfing isn’t such a brutal physical challenge. “Perhaps I can do this and drive a desk for a living after all?” they muse.

“I’m not saying some free-riders are lazy – but some free-riders ARE lazy.”

Modern, well set-up kit allows you to sail fast without too much effort. I don’t mean to be rude.

Of course it does take a degree of strength and commitment but it’s a passive, anaerobic effort, sitting, resisting and generally not moving too much.


The way to move off the blasting/free-riding plateau, you assume, is to engross yourself in the minutiae of technique. With better technique you can upgrade to more specialized equipment that allows you to work on slicker moves in more challenging conditions.

With better kit and more technical tools in the box, your confidence rises and suddenly you’re the real deal. If only … Progress, in my experience, is directly proportional to physical fitness for the job. 

Without it, you’re struggling on so many levels.  It influences every aspect of your performance from decision making, to your state of mind, to your ability to actually function.

In truth most, throughout their journey, register the need for fitness and regret their lack of it. But they still underestimate its importance.

Equipment. The windsurfer, who is, or thinks he or she is, unfit, selects equipment on which to survive rather than excel. If they doubt they have the endurance to keep on waterstarting, they opt for the barge ‘just in case.’

Those high on fat tend to rig too big because they need the extra power and volume to waterstart and get planing. Those short on muscle tend to rig too small for fear they won’t be able to hang on. A lack of fitness forces you onto unsuitable equipment.

Technique. A lack of conditioning corrupts technique. If you don’t have the strength to hold your body weight on your arms, you’ll stumble into tacks and gybes the moment you hook out – and so initiate them off balance with arms bent.

The fitter sailor will hook out and take a moment to balance and let the board settle. Unfit wave-sailors ride waves hooked in. That’s not the way to rip.

To get planing the flabby sailor will resort to the more idle technique of sitting in the harness and hoofing against an over-sized fin, rather than pumping.

Windsurfers who are unfit/stiff/tired tend to work within a very narrow cage of movement over the board because they don’t have the strength or confidence to hold themselves in dynamic positions.

And how many falls do you see where people get trapped in the harness from staying hooked in for too long as they run into a lull?


Skill. It’s that ability to move and balance instinctively and efficiently. Yes it’s partly genetic – some do it innately better than others, but fitness has a large influence. When you’re fit you have better proprioception.

Your muscles contract faster. You balance better. The most effective way to balance is by flexing the feet, ankles and knees. But the legs contain the largest muscles in the body and so use the most energy.

When you tire, you stop flexing them and balance instead by pecking at the waist and dropping the shoulders, which is the quickest way to lose orientation.

And at the higher levels, it’s when you stop flexing the knees and ankles that you lose control of the edge in carved turns. 

Your mind. The suspicion that you might not be fit enough for the job destroys you mentally. If you’re tired, your vision closes in and you just react to what’s in front of you.

If you’re fit, you tend to relax, lift your head, anticipate, make plans and take in the bigger picture.

The unfit person confronting tough conditions for the first time only has survival on their mind, whilst the fit person enjoys the challenge because they know they have the strength and endurance to cope with a crisis.

TRAIN TO BALANCE –  not just to sweat! Windsurfing demands a lot of endurance. Balancing badly requires even more. We should spend at least as much time working on small muscle groups as much as the big ones. The Indo board is marvelous for improving proprioception, posture, staying and learning to balance from the feet up rather than the head down. Photos Dave White// …rather than pecking at the waist. Feel how quickly you lose it when the legs straighten  and the head drops.The next step is trying to hold that form and do a 180º turn as per a tack …And then see if you can do it upside down – Harty doing one from memory.

The tactics
Your level of fitness determines your tactics on the water. Free-riders who sail 4 miles before gybing usually do so because falling and restarting big kit saps all their energy.

De-tuned wave sailors, if they make it out through the break, keep going for a mile because they need to hook in and take a breather.

Hence their wave count is low and their whole performance lacks intensity. The fear of a rinsing and an exhausting swim forewarns them from spending too much time in the crazy zone.

So to improve at windsurfing it absolutely helps to get fitter. But how?

At the end of the very first advanced ‘funboard’ instructor’s course in 1984, I asked the candidates to fill out course feedback forms as per RYA protocol.

The comments were reasonably favourable apart from a collective rant about the pre-breakfast 5km run. “I started the day knackered.

By day three my hamstrings were so tight I couldn’t waterstart.” Wrote a youthful Simon Bassett. “I took up windsurfing because I hate running. What was the point?”

In retrospect, it wasn’t well conceived. The run was too strenuous and too early before the sailing session to be a useful warm up.

And as a general attempt to make everyone fitter for windsurfing, it was a very blunt instrument. For those who didn’t run as a way to keep fit, it was way too brutal.

For those who did (and there were a couple) it barely changed their heart rate. 

In my defence the general aim of the run was to serve as a wake-up call to basic instructors who spent a large portion of their working day sitting in a boat wrapped in a duffle coat, with a cup o’ tea and loud hailer bellowing at beginners to keep their bums in.

Windsurfing, and coaching, at the more advanced levels is physically very demanding. It’s a daily triathlon of sailing, swimming and sprinting around the beach.

Get fit or go home … but not necessarily by pounding the streets of Cowes. Training, the volume, intensity and type, has to be relevant to the individual and what they want to achieve. 

The fitness world is a commercial jungle. Exercise gurus with a magic product may claim to be able to give you perfect abs in 6 weeks (and produce a study and a ‘Doctorate of Ab-ology’ to back it up). But they can’t.

For a start that study didn’t include you did it? And what sort of fitness are they selling? Pert glutes and plump pecs may be desirable, but will they help you plane earlier? 

So perhaps the best starting point is to consult expert windsurfers? They might not have the right letters after their name to be able to offer the definitive windsurfing work out, which doesn’t exist anyway, but they will have anecdotal experience of what has worked for them.

“ What the true experts seem to agree on more recently is that the body is a far more complex instrument that many give credit for and that we all respond to exercise in very different ways. The trick is that, without ignoring every scientific principle, listen to your body and discover what really works for you”

I was sat last week at a conference with a handful of icons of the sport past and present, including Ross Williams, Nik Baker and Dave White, who have reached various pinnacles with very different body types and attitudes to training.

The following may seem as logical as getting Hitler to deliver a sermon on racial harmony, but I’m going to give the first word on fitness and training to speed phenomenon Dave White. 

Whitey, for those who haven’t had the pleasure, has the dancing feet of Nureyev, but the physique of Mr. Blobby. That’s unfair.

He just has a classic endomorph body – solid, heavy boned, strong but prone to putting on kg. easily (and then reluctant to get rid of them). He’s waged a long and bitter war with his weight, which currently he seems to be winning.

Having indulged in a myriad of diets, from Atkins to protein shakes – and exercise regimes – he has this to say about conditioning.

“The answer I’m expected to give is ‘get fitter, lose weight and your windsurfing will improve.’ It’s very good advice. But imagine standing outside a divorce court and saying to every bloke who came out: ‘you should have treated your wife better.’

That’s good advice too (although a bit late). But the answer they’re likely to give is: “If I was enjoying my marriage I might have.”

There lays my problem – no not my marriage – I didn’t enjoy the training I was doing and so I didn’t carry on.

Right now I’m on the fitness path, not from outside pressure, but as the result of some great sailing on the right size and style of equipment that fills my every waking moment with thoughts of windsurfing.

No, that’s not sort of subconscious RRD advertising, I’m just suggesting you ask yourselves, do you have the right gear to make the most of where you live?”

If someone puts you on a diet of llama’s intestine and boiled swede, however much weight you may lose initially (probably through retching), you are very unlikely to make such a regime part of your life because you’ll dread meal times and will surely revert and regrow.

It’s the same with exercise. In some perverse way you have to look forward to it.

The Laidback Waterman
Back at the conference and I’m about to have a chat with Ross Williams when Amy Carter (coach and herself a Crossfit fanatic) enquires incredulously “you’re going to talk to Ross about physical training…?” inferring, I guess, that he doesn’t do much.

I have a lot of time for Ross. If the PWA still offered an overall crown he’d be favourite. He rips in the waves but is perhaps best known as a slalom and Formula racer.

Have you ever hung on to dedicated slalom kit in race conditions? You should try it once. The forces going through every cell of the body are brutal.

Ross is built – but he doesn’t look like a gym monkey. If the symptoms of someone on steroids are short-tempered, aggressive, border-line psychotic with veins bulging from parchment skin, well Ross is definitely clean.

Smiley and laidback to the point of collapse, his approach to the fitness question is that of a waterman.

“Whenever I get the chance, I surf – and I will do it because I enjoy it and from a fitness point of view it’s harder than windsurfing!

But for me I relate my performance entirely to the time I spend windsurfing. It’s all about muscle memory and developing the right muscles.

Yes I know not everyone can get out there when the wind blows so from personal experience I would say:  don’t be totally unfit – any activity is better than none. 

Don’t do just one thing – vary the exercise to keep your drive. And don’t forget to stretch – strength is one thing but you have to be able to move.”

“Whenever I feel like exercising I lie down until the feeling passes.”Anon

especially when it’s very light. STRETCHING the POINT Flexibility for the average windsurfer, or lack of it, has the greatest influence during the waterstart.  The more they can bend their legs, the more compact they can make themselves, the higher they can throw their shoulders and the more they can bend at the waist, the more power they produce and the smaller their arc of movement. Here’s the bad news. To a large extent it’s genetic. You can stretch to maintain flexibility, but if you’re trying to increase it, you have a job on your hands. When you stretch and appear to be getting more limber, you’re actually just developing a tolerance for the discomfort. In order to change the structure of the tissue you’d have to train for hours every day for months (some yogis do just that). For most sports the experts say that stretching is over-rated. It’s possible to be too supple to the point where the joints become unstable. And recent studies have revealed that static stretching before the activity actually weakens the muscle. Most people are flexible enough for what they want to do.  Photos Dave White

Lessons from the Hart
From the age of 10 to 16 ½ I trained seriously as a gymnast. Lucky for me my coach, Bert Dooley, was something of a visionary.

Bert believed that all strength and conditioning training had to be directly relevant to the sport and what we wanted to achieve.

Heaving dumbbells around, he said, would just build big, irrelevant muscle. All his conditioning exercises, therefore, used the apparatus and your own body.

For example we’d do sets of swinging dips on the parallel bars, (with ankle weights if he was feeling mean), push-ups from head to handstand.

Leg circles on the pommel horse. We’d do shuttle sprints, but at the end of each have to do a vault or a tumble – and many more.

Each exercise was designed to target a muscle group but because it was part of a balance movement, you were working all the smaller muscle groups as well.

And everything had to be done with a tight stomach. Tension is key in gymnastics, and indeed anything acrobatic or dynamic.

You’ve probably seen the TV bloopers, where a gymnast loses that tension in mid-move, they fall from the sky like a dying spider.

Basically we were doing high-performance Pilates before it was called that.

It was hard but somehow fun because. …

a) He introduced an element of competition.

b) We were actually doing the sport, not just grunting.

c) There was a technical incentive. If you held balance and form, the repetitions were a lot easier.

He also kept the exercise bursts to around 90 seconds, just a bit longer than the length of a competition routine, which these days is called, ‘training above race pace.’ Gymnastic is an intense, explosive sport, so our conditioning training was explosive and intense.

I’ve carried those messages with me into my windsurfing. In all my training (and there really isn’t too much these days) I try to replicate the sport. Keep as close to the water as I can. So in order of preference:

1. If it’s windy – go windsurfing!
Set aside part of the session, perhaps the end, to conditioning. Intensify the session. Get planing without hooking in. Try stepping straight into the straps and pumping from there. Count the pumps.

Try sailing out of the harness for longer and longer periods holding the hips high and the stomach as tight as possible.

Do a series of  ‘pops’ or chop hops without hooking in, on each tack. 

If you’re sailing in waves, sail in the waves! Imagine you’re in a 20-minute heat and have to complete 5 jumps and 5 rides and stay in the same spot. You’ll crawl up the beach.

The All Black rugby team draw the difference between ‘man strength’ and ‘gym strength’.

Man strength is the natural strength you develop over years from continuously performing a physical chore like chucking sheep into the back of a truck.

Gym strength is just the ability to lift a weight and grow a muscle.

2. Don’t be a WINDGURU SLAVE.
In light winds, still go windsurfing. It’s the same exercise, same techniques but, without a solid counterbalance, it’s potentially even more demanding, if you make it so.

Gybe or tack continuously so you have little time to hook in and relax. Light wind sailing in the waves on a floaty thing can be the most aerobic of all.

3. Little wind  – on the beach.
So there’s barely enough wind to windsurf. But you can lay an old fin-less board on the beach, fit it with a small sail and get twiddling.

See how many tacks or rig changes you can do in a minute – you’re working the right muscles and drilling a technique.

4. No wind and the SUP.
The SUP has transformed many a windsurfer. Learning to balance and turn without a counterbalance is brilliant exercise for windsurfers who often use the rig like a drunkard uses a lamppost.

And when it comes to cardiovascular training, if you get it as a by-product of doing a sport you enjoy, rather than grinding it out on a static pain machine, you’re far more likely to persevere. 

And finally, if the water is not available through weather or lack of general proximity then you do have to find something else to do. 

For aerobic training everyone has their own favourite tools, running shoes, a bike, a swimming pool. Personally mine is the Concept 2 indoor rower.

I say ‘favourite’ – I hate the bloody thing, but being a supported exercise it’s easier on my dodgy knee and I have yet to find anything that better mirrors the act of windsurfing. 

But whatever tool you’re on, think windsurfing and replicate its rhythm and intensity.  It’s periods of relative calm (hooked in reaching) followed by short explosive bursts (a gybe, a jump, a tack, gouging bottom turn).

So if you’re on your step machine, program in hills.  If you’re on your bike, find hills. If you’re running, look for a hill or put in the odd sprint.

That sudden intense effort is you fighting to keep head and rig above water in the shorebreak and waterstart before the next dumper. And does it have to hurt? Probably…

There is a very basic stretch test. If you try and put your chest on your thighs and  can touch your toes, you’re plenty  supple enough. If you can’t get anywhere near your toes to the point where your back is pointing backwards, then you should think of doing something about it!

Once, after 2 months of heavy gym training I flew to Barbados for a regatta. On the first morning I met up with fellow racer Mike Burt. He too had been on the weights. We compared pecs – it was official, we were both ripped.

We went out into the waves – we came back in 5 minutes later both totally knackered and feeling like we never windsurfed before.

Some regimes, notably heaving big weights around, can actually be counter-productive in a sport that is primarily about balance.

Overload – the one true fitness principle
According to the well respected Journal of Applied Physiology “overload is the one overriding truth in physiology.” You go the gym and do the same old circuit, it may have general health benefits, but you’re not getting any fitter.

To get fitter you have to push yourself and ‘overload’ the system and actually damage the muscles and connecting tissues. You’re no doubt familiar with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

That soreness is not lactic acid but tiny muscle tears that have brought an inflammatory response. The tissues then repair themselves and become stronger and more pliable – but only if they’re allowed to – which is why rest and recovery is so important. It is the foundation of fitness.

My body reacts far better to high intensity, interval training (HIIT in the trade) than it does to lower intensity volume training.

I’d also rather dive into a freezing swimming pool than edge in inch-by-inch – and pull off the Elastoplast in one rip.

Get it over with I say. I’d rather hurt a lot for a short time, than a hurt a little for a long time. 

But overload does not have to imply a ‘sprint ‘til you vomit’ approach. It can simply mean gradually increasing the frequency, length and/or intensity of your workouts. 

Are you a  ‘Non responder’?
As mentioned in the beginning, people respond differently to the exercise. A recent study in Finland put 175 people through the same aerobic and strength program.

After 21 weeks some had improved by as much as 42%, others, not one iota.

Some of you may have seen last year’s BBC Horizon program ‘the truth about exercise’ where the presenter sought an exercise regime to reverse the descent towards ill health, notably diabetes, that had been the fate of his ancestors.

The researchers identified him as a ‘non responder’ to exercise. That is to say he could run or cycle as much as he liked and he wouldn’t change his VO2max – his ability to process oxygen.

However, by obeying a shockingly brief daily routine of 3 X 20 second full sprint bursts on a static bike, he altered positively many of his health markers including his sensitivity to insulin.

The ‘non responder’ label provoked a bit of a backlash in the physiological circles – namely Louisiana State University

“People do respond differently and it appears to be in the genes. But motivation plays a huge role. We have people who come in four times a week but they are not pushing themselves. But there are no ‘non responders!’

Everyone will get fitter and healthier following the right exercise approach, which should be relative to their goals and appropriate to their current level of fitness.”

I do encounter people on courses who love their windsurfing, but who have thrown in the exercise towel claiming that nothing seems to make any difference.

But I’m afraid if you are such a person it is probably that you’re just not trying hard enough in the right way … sorry!  Your gym, fearful of litigation, may be to blame.

With notices like: “if you feel tired or hot or short of breath immediately stop, go home, have a little lie down and call a doctor” plastered on every machine, no surprise people remain a little too comfortable.

Mr. Motivator
When all is said, motivation is often the elusive ingredient. And it’s the same for the elite sportsman as it is for the amateur. Hence the pro usually trains with a view to peaking at a certain time – like a 3-year plan leading up to the Olympics for example.

The amateur can do the same – just shorten the lead time and swap ‘Olympics’ for ‘holiday.’ It should be a massive incentive.

It’s tragic how many holiday sessions have been wasted because the perpetrator went nuts on the first morning and by day 3 hadn’t got a functioning cell left in the system.

But on the subject of motivation I leave the last word to Mr. Motivator himself – Whitey:

“For me it’s the possibility of maximizing the conditions when they finally arrive that keeps my thoughts positive as I pass (without stopping) yet another McDonalds or when my heart feels like bursting through my chest on a run…. Yes, I did say “run”.

P.S. If you’re interested in the latest fitness science in layman’s language may I suggest you read ‘The First 20 Minutes’ by Gretchen Reynolds.

Harty continues the physical theme in this month’s Affairs of the Hart’ on the back page. Next month he hits the technique looking at the Freemove phenomenon. Many of his life-enhancing clinics are full this year but a few spaces remain. Check them out soon by going to, or by liking his Peter Hart Masterclass Facebook page.

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In the second instalment of his jumping guide, Harty goes deeper into the technique of sail-powered flight, describes how to take it to the highest level and tackles the common failings.

One of my favourite reads is ‘Freakonomics.’ One of the authors, Steven Levitt, is an economist who addresses a variety of hitherto unproven questions like ‘why did the crime rate drop so suddenly in the US in the late 90s?’, ‘Why do most drug dealers live with their mothers?’  And, interesting as a parent, ‘what factors really influence your child’s development?’


The difference with Levitt’s approach (and he is, by his own admission, a little weird) is that he can only see the world in terms of numbers. He seeks the solution to every puzzle in hard statistics, not in highfalutin theories.

It sounds a little dry, but the results are astonishing, fascinating and turn received wisdom on its head.  Here’s one example from the book. Mr Smith from the USA has a daughter. S

he has 2 local friends but he won’t allow her to visit one of them because he knows her father keeps a loaded gun in the house. But he’s happy to let her play with her other friend who has a swimming pool. Sounds entirely reasonable – except that private pools cause over a 1000 times more child deaths than loaded guns.

Raw statistics so often contradict our instincts. It’s interesting to apply the same numbers game to windsurfing. Ask someone why their gybes are a little lacklustre and typically they’ll focus on a technical detail. “I bend my arms/approach too slowly/lean back etc.”

But the real reason may just be down to statistics – like the amount of practice minutes and the nature of that practice. Take the plight of a weekend freerider.

This technique feature originally appeared in the April 2014 issue. This and other premium content is available first in print and app versions.


Say he (but it could be a she) gets 25 planing days a year and sails for about 3 hours each day. Being a blaster with horizon issues (he’s magnetically attracted to them), he only puts in a gybe every 5 minutes.

Each gybe, taking into account a few premature endings, lasts on average 5 seconds.

Let me help you with the maths – the total time spent actually gybing in one year is just 1 hour 15 minutes. That is not the amount of practice time needed to change behaviour.

On top of that, it’s bad practice. The gybes are too far apart. Imagine you were getting a lesson from a tennis coach who only hit a ball to you every 5 minutes.

You wouldn’t learn a thing. It’s only when he repeatedly drops the ball in the same spot, time after time that you can begin to drill the stroke, learn from the last shot, adjust your sights, tweak the skill and discover a little flow.

With jumping the practice scenario is even direr. Most jumps, from take-off to landing, last less than 2 seconds and, thanks to the vagaries of the environment, opportunities are even scarcer.

Last year in Ireland I came across a guy I knew from home. He was complaining about his jumps. It was the wrong tack for him. During a sandwich break I watched him.

It was a cracking day, side-on wind, and head-high breaking waves. In the space of one hour, he attempted 6 jumps. That equates to maybe 10 seconds jumping practice.

What the hell can you learn in 10 seconds! “Any thoughts?” he said when he came in. “Absolutely,” I replied, trying not to be glib. “Do some more!” Jumping is primarily a numbers game.

The Session
In the last issue I tried to lay solid jumping foundations suggesting which kit in which combination of wind and waves and with what basic skills would be most likely to bear fruit.

This month we look more deeply into the technique. But I have to start by asking you a question. As someone striving for higher, better or just safer jumps, have you ever had a concentrated jumping session? 

My friend in Ireland was not having a jumping session as such, he was just sailing around in waves hoping that he might improve them by osmosis. There was a palpable lack of intensity. 

That’s the problem with jumping. It is intense. Faced with a whole day’s sailing, people might back off the jumps to start with because it’s a bit risky.

They might fall where waves are breaking, get washed around, lose ground, break kit, break themselves. Unwilling to ruin the day before it’s started, they vow to give them a lash at the end by which time they’re too knackered to do them properly.

Without an intense focus, they perform as half-heartedly as the intermittent horizon gybed. My first and most potent tip of the month, more potent than any technique related golden nugget, is to create a proper jumping session – where jumping is the sole focus.

Some jumping windies are so biased to one tack that they’ll choose their holiday destinations according to the prevailing wind direction. “Why can’t I jump on the other tack?” They bleat.

Because you never do it on the other tack! Just like if you’re right handed, you won’t magically learn to write with your left hand unless you actually do it.

I have yet to find any reason why physically people should favour a jumping side (unlike wave-riding where people naturally surf left or right foot forward). It’s purely a numbers game.

Windies of the UK south coast where the wind prevails from the right, if you want to get better at port jumping, go on holiday many times to Pozo where it blows from the left!


The least satisfying of all jumps is where you project the nose high but never get that feeling of floating. Instead you seem to stall and then drop vertically out of the sky, tail-first like a stone. It’s down to letting yourself rotate upwind on take-off, so the sail depowers and your body drops back over the tail, so you can’t pick it up.

Indoor imitation
In Jeri this past month, we had wind and waves every day, but it was during a golden half hour where the group made the most dynamic jumping progress. We created a session. These are the special ingredients.

Ideal conditions. We’d waited for a couple of days until the strongest wind of the day (12-2pm) coincided with low tide. In Jeri that means the wind blows over the inside waves unhindered and the waves themselves are small, but well spaced.

Conditions have to inspire the right performance, suck you in, place you on the right side of the terrified/adrenalised frontier, make you want to spring. Crucially, the best jump-able waves were close to the beach, in full view of the crowd, in waist deep water, where the ‘what happens if?’ factor was negligible.

Best launch spot. There’s a spot in the middle of the beach where a channel pushes in, allowing you to launch early in flat water and hit the first waves motoring.

Good company. We were a group. There was banter, a little competition and a lot of mutual support.

Happy Pressure. It’s all about creating the right sort of pressure. There were the peers. There was also a video camera. Being observed, recorded and cajoled can make you go the extra yard.

Basically we’d imitated an indoor windsurfing arena. Indoor windsurfing and, especially, jumping off the metal ramp, is the closest our sport gets to being a ‘closed’ skill, where, like gymnastics, the apparatus is fixed and you can replicate the same action time and time again. 

During our golden session, like the indoor set-up, the team formed an orderly queue and went one at a time. This had extra benefits.

* They didn’t want to waste a turn. So they studied the wave patterns and began to time their launches as the sea opened up between sets. And they really worked to get going. The rest between gos meant they were re-charged. However cute your skill, it takes energy to plane early and to spring.

* Thanks to the shallow-shelving beach, the waves peaked gradually, meaning that, if their timing was right, they’d hit perhaps 5 jump-able waves in one run. Knowing they were soon to get a rest, they’d go for the lot. It’s when you get a series of ramps that you can find some rhythm, start correcting things as you go, relax into it, stop thinking too hard and react instinctively and even lift the head to admire the view.

* The ‘how many jumps can you get on one run?’ challenge is a strong incentive. If you mess up the first ones over the smaller inside waves, land too tail heavy or into wind, you lose all your speed and miss out on the peachy bigger ones. The desire to land on the plane encourages the right spirit and the right technique.

And one more key element of such a session is brevity. After half an hour, we were done. Conditions were still good but, as soon as I felt the intensity drop and performances falter, we called a halt. With the right arena comes genuine desire. Like the kids I mentioned last month, when they genuinely wanted to go high, they instinctively discovered the best techniques. Create the right arena on the right part of the right day with the right mates and the jumping bit will take care of itself … almost.

The Jeri team started getting some decent jumps. But when you start getting a little air, you want more. Then you want a lot more. Euphoria is gently replaced by frustration as you see the video or photo and realise that the jump that felt like 5 metres was more like one and a bit.

Yes you took off. The fin was clear … but you came straight down. Too many times you lost all your speed on landing. You absolutely didn’t soar. You’ve seen the good guys do it where they seem to get that secondary lift.

Inside the head, arms and feet of the high flyer.
So what’s happening when the average jump height of Geoffrey Holiday-Maker is just a couple of feet, yet the little (but actually not always so little) chap who does it for a living is frequently peaking at 30 foot or more?

It’s the same day, same wind, similar kit, same breakfast and probably the same volume of Caipirinhas the night before. Well it’s not one thing, it’s lots of little things perfectly combining into one perfectly crafted moment.

Lets dissect what’s going on and then perhaps you can estimate which elements of his performance you’re failing to imitate. First understand that the pro, despite tendons like hawsers, cannot jump 30 ft every time.

He too needs the special environmental moment. But he’s totally clued into the spot, knows the frequency of the sets and exactly where the best waves peak – so is very good at finding those moments.

He’s not just eyeballing what’s in front of him but clocks the distant scene. Tacking on the inside, his peripheral vision picks up a swell some 200m away. Like a slalom sailor timing his run to the line, he knows how long it’ll take him to get there, except that this line is moving towards him, which makes the timing even trickier.

He steps straight into the straps and gets planing immediately by working the sail, holding it right forward hooked into long lines. That takes strength, energy and fitness.

It’s a position from which he can best negotiate the inside waves. Taking those inside waves at full tilt is a hidden skill. Every one demands a different tactic. The unbroken small lumps he’ll squash just by lifting the knees to keep board water contact.

The next one is a bigger reform wave with a little white water on top. It’s impossible to absorb without sheeting out and slowing down.

So he goes for a long jump. He seems to do nothing but stay hooked in, sheet in and pick the tail up. But if he just did that, the nose would stick into the white water or drop straight into the trough on the other side. 

So, almost imperceptibly, just before the nose hits the wave, he sheets out by pulling in the front hand. That releases the mast-foot pressure (M.F.P.) so the wave bumps the nose up a little.

He can then pick up the tail and level out without nose-diving. He lands slightly off wind, over the board on his toes, favouring the front foot being especially careful not to:

a) overload the fin and spin out.

b) Fall back against the rig and oversheet.

A few yards ahead there’s an inside wave which is folding over – a mini dumper which could break on the nose and kill all his speed.

So he pre-jumps it, doing a little chop hop to bounce onto the white water rather than crash into it. Through the mush he bears away for maximum speed.

Speed remains the high jumper’s biggest weapon. Knowing where the wave will peak is not an exact science but the more speed he has, the more scope he has to veer up and down wind to hit the sweet spot.

As he bears away, the rig pulls his hips upright and forward so he’s balanced between his feet (not sitting on the back foot). The pressure moves from his heels to his toes.

A few metres before the ramp he unhooks, heads up so he’s across the wind and bends the knees but stays on his toes. Rewind a few frames and a little way back he will have sized up the shape of the ramp, gauged out how much power he has and worked out which jump will be best.

For the purposes of demonstration, he’s nicely powered, the wave is steep with a curling lip and he’s just going for maximum height. This is where it gets complicated. Get your notebook ready.

As he starts to climb the face he sheets out by bending the front arm. As with the little jump, this releases the nose and stops it sticking into the face.

He climbs the face and as the lip hits the underside of the board, he pumps the back hand and straightens the legs (jumps!), pushing off his toes, tightening his core and lifting everything up.

He favours the back foot so there’s a feeling of driving off the tail and then releasing it (but without leaning back). He does the same with the rig. No sooner has he pumped than he opens out again to release the power and the nose.

All the time his shoulders have stayed upwind of the windward edge. His momentum combined with the collision with the lip and the wind getting under the board, projects him skywards.

He now gets as compact as possible, pulling the rig down parallel with the water to turn it into a wing, bending the knees to pull the board right into his body.

To get the board to soar and not just drop back on the tail, he levels the board out nose-to-tail, by easing the hips forward to lean on the mastfoot and pulling the tail up. The wind now supports the board.

When the rig is parallel to the water, he pumps it to get an extra bit of lift and delay the drop. He doesn’t want to bear away any more or the M.F.P. will send him into a nose dive/forward loop.

From a high jump he’s coming down with little forward speed. To avoid a flat landing, he lets the board drift into wind by dropping the rig back and sheeting out a tad. The tail drops first, sinks and cushions the impact.

So much happens in such a short time – the cognitive computing of all that info is impossible but let me try and distil the essence of the technique.

The best jumps feel explosive but effortless. It sounds a bit nebulous, but don’t fight the forces. Let the wind and the wave do the work.

Make yourself and the kit suddenly light by powering and then releasing it. Still, I’m sure you have some questions. Ok, you at the back …

Case study 1 – Paul
“The first challenge was getting on the right kit. Going for a ‘gruntier’ sail made a lot of difference. In the end I preferred jumping with a single fin over the multi-fins because I felt I had more to push against on take-off. From a technique point, the problem for me is that I’d spent 20 years trying NOT to airborne and catapulted. To begin with I just needed to concentrate on the core skills. Thinking of it like a waterstart helped, staying upwind so you can pull the tail upwind.

“I feel unstable as I run towards the wave.”
As a precaution, people hook out too early. It takes a lot of core strength to sail fast and steady hooked out. As people unhook, they tend open out (sheet out), squat to hold the power, go a bit floppy around the midriff and drop onto their back foot, which is the worst take-off stance. As they lose speed and M.F.P., the nose starts to lift and they start the jump leaning back. The trick is to stay hooked right up to the last moment (and maybe even as you fly – more about that later) 


Case study 2 CHRIS – TAIL to NOSE
“For me it was all about the take-off. I was taking off into wind – that’s the road to ruin. The best tip for me was about pulling the tail to where the nose was. That’s when  I started landing on the plane.”

Case study 2 – Alex  (the victim)
I actually do have the statistics to hand and can reveal that jumping is far from being the most dangerous windsurfing pursuit. According to A and E reports the biggest culprit is running aground, followed by ramming another craft.

Jumping, at a reasonable altitude, is no less risky than entering a speedy gybe – and far LESS risky than most new school tricks which involve delivering shock loads to twisted and vulnerably-loaded joints.

However, nothing is 100% safe. “It wasn’t even a very big jump – but I committed the cardinal sin of sitting on my heels and dropping the windward edge.

The board went into a nosedive. I got thrown forward, the back foot came out and I landed just with the front foot in the strap. I see now that my straps were too small.” Happily Alex just tweaked a medial ligament and was able to get back on the horse 2 days later.

I always land into wind and usually spin out.
You and a thousand others … it’s the most popular ending. I refer you to the answer above. It usually starts with a dodgy approach. If you take off on your heels, leaning back heading towards the wind, into wind is where you’ll to end up.

Take off more downwind and hold the hips outboard so you have room to pull the tail upwind under your backside and bear away. And look at the rig angle. It has to be tilted to windward if you’re to use bear the nose away.

Landing into wind is bad if you want to maintain speed after a long, fast jump but fine if you’re dropping from a height. But spin-out is never good.

It comes from delivering a lateral hoof to the fin from landing with your body away from the windward edge. To prevent it make sure you’re right over the tail as you land and the pressure is going downwards not sideways.

I’m a habitual nose-diver
Painful stuff. Sounds like you’re ready for a forward! Take your pick from these:

You’re taking off too broad, a fault on the right side I might add. Off wind, you get pulled onto your front foot and there’s so much M.F.P. that it drives the nose down as soon as it clears the lip.

If you weight your heels and drop the windward edge on take-off, the wind will smack the deck of the board and drive it down.
If your rig is too upright and not tilted to windward, it will just drive the nose down rather than off wind.

Sometimes nosedives arise from doing nothing. If you just sail off a slopey ramp, which isn’t steep enough to direct the nose skywards, you’ll dive into the trough.

Are you a bit of a freestyler? It could be you’re mistaking jumping for freestyle ‘popping.’ In the ‘pop’ you bounce up off the tail but immediately lean forward on the boom to drop the nose and pivot round on it.

In jumping off waves, you first have to get the nose up, then bring the tail to the same height. Talking of which.

I’m honestly not afraid of it but I never get the feeling of soaring and every photo I’ve seen of myself the tail is always down.

The hips and body have dropped back. If you’re sitting on the tail, you can’t pick it up. Anything that throws you onto the back foot stops you soaring.

Heading up and bending the front arm before take-off are the common culprits. In your eagerness to get high, you might be trying to kick the nose up with the front foot, which also throws you backwards.

For the rig to help you soar it has to be parallel with the water. If it’s bolt upright, it’s just dead weight. Make sure you’re not folding on take off and just squatting under the boom.

Remember you have to extend and bring the board up to your height, not drop down to its height.  One of the best corrective remedies is to try tail grabs, where you stay hooked in and after take off, release the back hand and grab the tail.

It makes you get your weight forward and pick up the back foot. But the soaring problem could also be an ‘old school’ hangover.

I’ve been doing it for years. I do get pretty high but I fear I’m a bit old school. The big move when I was learning was the ‘tip dip’ where you try get the tip of the mast to touch the water behind you.

I know the move well! It’s a cracker and got the biggest cheer of the day at a recent Ho’okipa wave event.  On the earlier wave boards, the mastfoot was much nearer the nose so nose-diving was an ever-present threat.

Hence upside down, nose-up jumps were favourite (table tops etc). With that history, you probably initiate every jump by pulling back on the boom and kicking up the front foot.

You have to change the trigger. Start with your body more between your feet and start the jump by extending the front arm forward rather than back.

I stay hooked in during almost all my jumps. Is this a mistake?

It’s only a mistake if you crash constantly wearing the rig. If not it shows you’re doing a lot right. A common mistake is doing a starfish impression after take off, extending arms and legs and going all loose about the core.

Learning to jump hooked in is a good way to cure all that. Your hips are held high and you stay compact and connected to the rig. It depends what’s in front of you.

Over small waves and going for long jumps, stay hooked in by all means. You save energy and land back in your planing stance.

Confronted by a meaty vertical ramp, hooking out gives you more freedom to move the rig around and to bail out should the need arise.

The heightened summary
With all this wordy explanation and analysis, I haven’t been true to my ideals, which is to think less, feel more and do it lots.

Remember the numbers game – once you start counting your annual flight time in hours rather than seconds, then you know you’re getting there.

Learning to jump well is like sprint training. I leave you with some wise words from Steve Black, rugby star Johnny Wilkinson’s trainer and mentor.

“To learn to run fast, you have to do lots of fast running.”
It’s all about intensity. To learn to jump high, you have to jump high – and as often as you can.

You can get the same words plus actions from the horse’s mouth by joining Peter on one of his internationally acclaimed, game-changing clinics, catering for everyone from planing novice to jumping, riding fanatic. Lots of info about the 2014 schedule on And get regular updates by liking his Peter Hart Masterclass page.

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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’.


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