Sunday, March 25, 2007

Taking a Beginner's Class (or Why Windsurfing is Easier Than You Think)

A few of the folks that I've tried to convince to come windsurf have tried the sport before but were frustrated to death. The board they tried was hard to balance and didn't float very well. The sail they were loaned was difficult to lift from the water. They became convinced that the sport was incredibly difficult because they started on advanced equipment and didn't get much training.

Don't feel discouraged. You can start sailing on your first day under the right conditions. The beginner's class at Worldwinds involves a big board, a small sail, knee-deep water, and a good teacher. You will probably fall off the board a few times, but you'll spend more time sailing than anything else.

Based on my experience, the beginner's class will teach you how to stand on the board, uphaul the sail (that is, lift it from the water), steer the board, tack (to turn the board by facing it into the wind), and to get the board moving. Once you learn those basics, you're cut loose to practice for a couple of hours.

As long as you're in relatively good health -- you can swim, you can climb a few stairs, you can lift a backpack off the floor -- I think you can take this class. Windsurfing doesn't require above-average strength. This is especially true if you manage to learn the correct posture early. This is why you'll see skinny stick-people, kids, and retirees windsurfing right along with body-builder types.

As you learn more advanced techniques the sport seems to require even less strength. The harness class teaches you how to pull the sail against the wind by hooking it to a harness (basically a fancy belt). The beach start class will teach you one way to lift the sail by using the wind rather than arm strength. With each class I've taken, windsurfing has become easier and more fun.

3 comments:

Jason said...

I completely agree. That first paragraph was mostly written about me, right John? :)

The most frustrating part of learning on your own is that there are LOTS of variables, and you need to figure out how to map all those variable onto the obvious controls: speed up, slow down, turn left, turn right, and all without falling. The beginner class explains the variables that will get you in trouble (i.e. don't stand on the side of the board, don't tilt the sail perpendicular to the board), and the variables you use for steering. And the best part is that the boards are so big, you almost can't fall off of them.

Freddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freddy said...

Jason, I think the cute Russian girl that John was talking to about windsurfing was on his mind when he wrote the first paragraph ::grins::

I definitely agree, though. The beginner and intermediate classes are very well done.

I found that although they mentioned steering in the beginner class, I really sucked at it (everyone else did a fine job of avoiding me).

The intermediate class did a good job of teaching steering and a few other useful skills to really make things fun.

The people at worldwinds say that the classes can be taken back-to-back, which is true if you plan on windsurfing for 5 hours straight (beginner = 1 class hour + 2 hours of board time, intermediate = 1 class hour + 1 hour of board time). I found the practice time after each class was key since it really doesn't sink in until you point the sail in a dumb direction a few (hundred) times.