The Windsurfing Beach Start – How To Guide
The beach start is one of the most fun manoeuvres to learn on your windsurfer. It is a quick way to get onto your board in shallow water, more rewarding than up hauling and looks very cool!
However it can prove challenging.
At Flying Fish we believe the key to learning these skills is to break them down into their individual key parts.
Many people go out in strong wind and try to learn the beach start in one complete movement. This gives you the feeling much like wrestling with a bear!
In this article we will show you how to break down the the beach start.
Steps to learning how to beach start
1. The beach start kit recovery
This is an important skill to master, so take your time. Start with the water at a depth just over the knee.
You need to work out where the wind is coming from and how strong it is. Flip the board the right way up and orientate it to point into the wind. Take care to position the mast across the wind with the sail on the surface of the water.
You may want to try a lower boom for your first attempts.
2. The slice and shake
Don’t make the mistake of trying to push the sail straight up and therefore lifting about a cubic tonne of water! The key is to slice the sail directly into the wind, using it to free the sail for you.
The shake is to allow the clew of the sail to begin flying free. The front hand (the one closest to the nose of the board) should end up above your head.
The Beach start is more fun and less tiring than up hauling, so keep practising!
3. Practice changing direction
The rig flip is a key skill in itself and one that people neglect to master. It follows on from kit recovery and is the perfect way to build up rig control.
Place your front hand on the mast shoulder width above the boom and place your back hand further down the boom than normal.
Keeping the rig low push the mast over the nose of the board until the mast is across the wind on the other side.
Only then can you release the back hand and release the power felt in the rig.
Ideally placing that hand straight on the mast with the old mast hand to the boom on the new side. he aim is to keep the rig flying and out of the water for the whole manoeuvre.
Challenge yourself by seeing how many times you can change direction in a minute.
4. Steering the board before the beach start
This can be an element of the beach start that many people find frustrating. Possibly because they have not spent time practising the skill in isolation.
However taking the time to manoeuvre your equipment will help with many other things in the future such as the water start.
This can bring many of us to ask the mythical question – what is mast foot pressure?
Mast Foot Pressure is the down force created buy pulling down on the boom and sending pressure through the center of the board. If that pressure is even it will stick the board to the water. However by changing the the pressure on either hand (with a wide grip on the boom) it is possible to steer the board without touching it.
So, to practice moving the board in a circle in both directions without touching it, first take a wide grip on the boom.
Its important to keep the sail neutral to the wind as you do not actually want any power from the rig, this can very often make things more difficult.
Steering the board is technique of pushing and pulling with the hands. For example push with the front hand and pull with the backhand to steer the board away from the wind. Then pull with the front hand a push out with the back hand to steer the board towards the wind.
Please note that the hand is pushing on the boom towards the mast foot.
5. Master the leg drag
The front leg drag is an isolated skill which involves evenly spreading weight down through the boom to the mast foot and through the back leg.
This is a dynamic skill which makes up the end part of a successful beach start. Its important to practice this on its own before putting it all together so you have muscle memory ready.
When sailing along spread your hands wide on the boom, place the back foot on the centre line and bring you head down and forward over the Mast foot. You should then be able to drag your front let in the water. Start by just dipping the toe then challenge yourself to see how deep you can go.
In medium wind conditions you should be able to dip your leg to well above the knee.
6. Back foot positioning
The back foot MUST go onto the centre line of the board. If it is placed too close to the windward rail then when pressure goes onto that foot then the board will turn into the wind and kill all the power.
If the back foot is placed across too far then this will make the technique very difficult and mean you are more likely to get pulled over once you get up.
In light wind the back foot should be placed further forward towards the front straps to trim the board flat.
Try the technique of placing your foot on its side directly on the centre line. Placing the inside of your foot on the board will make you lean further forward and trim the board correctly all in one go. You can do the beach start without the sail to train this aspect (see video 2.50)
How to beach start in high winds
If its really blowing you may want to adjust your technique slightly to make yourself more successful.
The key to a high wind beach start is to take your time and orientate the kit correctly to the wind. When positioning hands on the boom place the back hand much further down than normal.
Generally the idea is to make yourself heavier and do everything more slowly. Its actually easier in stronger winds but you must stay low with your head below the boom for as long as possible.
“Once you get your kit and yourself in the position the sail must go forward and across towards the wind. Its not a pull up, you need to place the sail forward to gain more power and then slowly drag you up. Stay low and look upwind. “
Beach Start Top Tips
- Break it down and practice the individual parts first
- Practice on a shallow sand bar.
- Practice in BOTH directions.
- Take a Break and go for a windsurf
- Work together with a friend
Watch our 1 minute Summary just before you go out and practice.
Once you have mastered the beach start check out our How to Water Start video.
Stick with it and keep practicing, it will be worth it!