Beginners Perspective – Harness Lines
This is my second post on what I consider to be three critical break through skills needed to advance and expand my windsurfing range.
Once I gained proficiency with basic windsurfing/sailing skills including as discussed in my first break through post the Beach Start the next big step was understanding how to effectively use harness lines. It looks kind of easy, simply hook in and lean back, but I’m afraid not!
Harness lines open up so many options, most importantly the ability to bring a board onto plane and transition from sailing to windsurfing. As with all three break through skills as you learn to effectively engage your harness lines you will learn far more than simply committing to your harness lines and these new skills will carry you to a new level of challenges and most importantly FUN!
Purchasing the right Harness! So many skills needed but it all begins with the right harness and for that you really need to try on and possibly test a number of harnesses. I use an ION waist harness. This is my third harness – 1st was a Dakine, good but I wanted more back support as I progressed. My 2nd was an ION which broke after a few months and my 3rd is a newer ION harness which is very comfortable and really supports my lower back and really makes it much easier to sail in gusty conditions.
Commit! As a beginner we sail by controlling the boom and sail via our hands and arm strength to counter balance the power of the sail and move the board in a straight line but as the wind and your speed increase you don’t have the strength in your arms or hands to manage the power generated by the sail. Harness lines engage the big muscles in your legs, hips and back as well as your weight to manage the power of the sail but you have to commit and that for me and I believe for most beginners is the tricky part.
My first two years in the sport, I primarily used a long board i.e. Kona One. Long boards are very forgiving but also limit your speed and the types of conditions you will probably encounter. (Long boards in choppy conditions aren’t a great deal of fun due to the size and weight of the board.) Long boards are a great platform to learn to use harness lines but these skills don’t exactly transition to a short board. Short boards are far less forgiving and demand greater skills from the sailor. For me the challenge was the increased speed and chop. You want to go faster and have more control but this requires more wind which means chop in most locations and you must, must commit to the harness lines and really limit the use of your hands and arms!
If you are learning to use your harness lines and you find that as your speed and the chop increase you are bouncing out of your harness lines it is due to one simple reason, you aren’t committing to the harness lines!
How do I learn to commit? Time on the water of course but one great resource you can use is to setup a simulator. Last year I was really struggling with my board position and committing to my harness lines when I came across GetWindsurfing‘s simulator videos on YouTube. Phil demonstrates how easy it is to setup a simulator so I gave it a try and oh my was that an eye opening experience. I had it all screwed up!
The simulator made it very clear that I wasn’t using my harness lines correctly, wrong position, too long, etc. but just as importantly after finding a better balanced position I could now hang off the boom via the harness lines and be in a correct windsurfing position. For the first time I could feel what it was like to really commit to the harness lines and let go of the boom. You can feel the mast pressure, test different positions, all while staying committed to your harness lines. That is really hard to do on the water but a simulator provides great feedback and your standing still! Seriously if you are learning to use harness lines or bouncing out of your harness lines setup a simulator. It is easy and really helpful. Thanks Phil and Danielle!
One year later: Now I’ve become comfortable using harness lines and it has become second nature to hook in and use the harness lines to connect with the boom, sail, mast and board. It has to all be in sync but getting to that point requires that one must learn to limit your use of your hands and arms and commit to the harness lines and that is hard, at least it was for me!
I’m now free to test myself in harder and faster conditions. Climbing upwind is so much easier and my time on the water is much more enjoyable due to the fact that I have greater control with much less effort.
What I’ve learned is there is no universal setup. You are always making adjustments depending on conditions, sail size, board and also how you feel that day. It is amazing what a couple of centimeters forward or backwards of the harness lines can do for your setup. I don’t really adjust the length of my harness lines but instead prefer to move the boom up and down for different conditions.
Time on the water of course but don’t be afraid to tweak your setup and try new positions. Setup a simulator and hang from the boom via your harness and let go! You will be amazed how it feels! Good luck and see you on the water!
A beginners perspective on three critical break through skills
At this point in my windsurfing journey I have learned a great many things that have helped me to improve my skills but three skills stand out that I consider to be break through skills on my road to progress. Without proficiency in each I would have been hindered in my advancement to a far greater degree than simply not being able to complete the single skill.
What makes these skills stand out as break through skills is that to gain proficiency I had to learn so much more than the skill itself and the resulting experience and expertise gained pushed me to a new level on my windsurfing journey. This post will focus on the first, the Beach Start.
Step on the board and go, I do it numerous times every time I windsurf but if you can Beach Start and really think about it, before each Beach Start you first gauge the wind both gusts and lulls, water conditions, etc. You probably maneuver your board into the right position using the sail and the mysterious (to a beginner) mast pressure, and once all is lined up you step not just anywhere but onto the center line of the board, not to far forward or back but just right as you let the sail pull you onto the board. (To be successful one needs to develop a single fluid motion which again is quite challenging for a beginner.) As the board moves forward your back foot also steps onto the board again at the right point of balance and you counter balance yourself with the sail or if caught by a gust you sheet out until you hook into your harness lines and once again counter balance as you begin your next run. All this and so much more as the conditions change is simply called a Beach Start.
All windsurfers are sailors first and the skills required/learned and hopefully mastered in the Beach Start have been critical for me as I learned sailing handling, board position, tacks and jibes, etc. and these important skills apply to every new skill I learn in my journey.
Without learning how to Beach Start I probably would have given up on windsurfing long ago and not just because up-hauling isn’t fun but I would have lacked so many critical skills required to move up to a new level and that is why I consider this skill an important break through in my journey.
If you are a beginning Windsurfer and reading this post, please take the time and effort to learn how to Beach Start. Ask for help, take a lesson, practice! You are going to fall, many times but hopefully with each step you will be just a little closer to breaking through on your windsurfing journey.
YouTube – We all do it, search for Windsurfing and watch the many great instructional videos online. I have my favorites like everyone but I always get a laugh out of some of the assumptions in these videos regarding my windsurfing skills or really lack of skills.
At this point in my 4+ year journey I’m obsessed with learning how to carve jibe and I spend most sessions on the water practicing this maneuver. As everyone knows the carve jibe is a many step process (as many as 12) and for this intermediate windsurfer I’ve studied and worked hard to try to master this important maneuver.
If you know how to carve jibe you know the steps – 1. Look around to make sure it is safe to turn – 2. Move your back hand down the boom – 3. Drop out of the harness lines – WAIT, WHAT!? I’m just getting comfortable using my harness lines. I’m going 20+ MPH (flying across the water) and I’m suppose to Let Go! The harness lines are my safety lines and now I’m not only going to let go but (4) get low and (5) take my back foot out of the strap and (6) step across to the leeward side while maintaining all this speed! Yes sir!
I have to laugh because all the videos demonstrate these first critical steps and move right on to the next steps without a seconds thought or mention of how unnerving this action is to someone just learning how to carve jibe. When I chat with fellow intermediate windsurfers this always comes up as probably the most difficult aspect of the carve jibe and for some folks where the carve jibe fails due to the fact that they come off plane to stay in control.
My point in all this is though the instructional videos are great, they have serious limitations and this is a result of my limited abilities not the skills the videos are demonstrating. As Dirty Harry once stated, A Man’s Got to Know his Limitations.
So I will continue to watch the videos, find the instructors that I think are best (my three favorites are GetWindsurfing, Sam Ross, and TWS Tenerife Windsurfing) and have a good laugh every now and again when someone demonstrates a maneuver in three foot irregular chop in winds blowing 20+ knots with perfect form and ends with “now you try it!”
PS After much practice I’ve become comfortable Letting Go! and you can to. Just try it!
Time on the water – A finite and precious resource that must be utilized to the best of our abilities.
I’m on the east coast of Florida this week sailing from the Stuart Causeway. I didn’t anticipate the choppy conditions and unfortunately only brought my flat water (Falcon 159) and light chop (Gecko 133) boards and large Ezzy Cheetahs, so not a very effective use of my ToW. I needed my Dyno 115 and smaller sails but lesson learned not all locations in FL are like Tampa Bay!
This error on my part got me to thinking as I bounced around in the swells … What is my best use of my ToW at this point in my Windsurfing adventure? Flat water freeride is my goto passion but as I see it I have two options to improve my skills but just as importantly upgrade my existing windsurfing quiver.
So either way I’m going to spend some money but I think today I made up my mind. I believe it will be more fun to fly over the chop so Foiling is my next big adventure! This idea of flying over chop suits me best as I really don’t enjoy choppy conditions and try to avoid it whenever possible and I believe foiling will open all kinds of new options and locations for my windsurfing adventures. I have much to learn but I’m excited to take this next step.
As part of this new adventure I will soon be adding a new Foiling section to tbwindsuring.com with a focus on Foil friendly locations in and around Tampa Bay.
Longboards and Andy Brandt
Four years ago I began my windsurfing journey. I’ve decided to start a new blog series to chronicle my adventures, experiences and the wonderful and very positive impact that windsurfing and all the great people in our sport have had on my life.
I’m going to start with my most recent day on the water working with one of the premier windsurfing instructors in the world. I’m speaking about Andy Brandt and ABK Board Sports. Andy is normally in Bonaire this time of year working with World Champions, (past, present and future) but due to Covid we in Florida have the great fortune to learn from him this year. No matter where you are in the sport, Andy will take you to the next level! Check out his website and sign up for his next sessions! I know I will be part of his next sessions and I look forward to working with him in Bonaire in 2022!
Back to my blog: I just turned 60 and the picture above shows me on my Kona One long board in Sarasota on one of my first days on the water. I made a number of mistakes early in my journey but one great choice I made was the purchase of a Kona One long board. I still own this board and though I now own three short boards, the Kona One was my foundation for learning to sail and windsurf. I’m not selling Kona Ones in this post because there are a number of great long boards on the market but if you are beginning your windsurfing journey, seriously consider a long board as a first option.
The reason is simple, at least it was for me. Windsurfers are sailors first and before you can windsurf you first have to learn to sail. My Kona provided me with a stable, forgiving platform which allowed me to progress at my own pace. I learned to sail, use harness lines, get into foot straps and then one wonderful day I felt the exhilaration as the board came up onto a plane and I was windsurfing. I still love that feeling!
As mentioned I now own three short boards but I sold my first short board, a JP 135 shortly after purchasing it early in year two of my journey. The JP was simply too much board for me at that early point in my process and I really struggled and almost quit windsurfing. Short boards can do wonderful things but they will also highlight your flaws if you aren’t ready for one and I wasn’t ready and it really shook my confidence. Fortunately I still had my Kona and with it I rebuilt my confidence and sharpened my abilities so that when I purchased my second short board (a Gecko 133) I was ready for the challenge.
I still take my Kona out on occasion and it is a great board. It is great fun to drop the dagger and rail on a light wind day or practice non-planning sail and board control. I might sell it some day but if I do I hope the next person enjoys it as much as I have.
Tampa Bay are my home waters. I can say many positive things about the area and conditions but the best thing about Tampa Bay is the windsurfing community! We have many wonderful windsurfers as well as newbies like myself and we also connect regularly with the great folks in the Clearwater. We have a great time staying connected and chasing the wind and if you visit Tampa Bay please reach out to our community as we always enjoy meeting and windsurfing with new folks. A great place to start is North Beach Windsurfing.
Like much of Florida, fall and winter are the windy season with a bit of carry over into spring. Cold fronts bring strong northerly winds and sometimes weaker cold fronts help to pull strong winds from the south. In summer we hope for good east winds in the mornings and of course summer storms in the Gulf of Mexico can produce spectacular opportunities.
Tampa Bay offers a great number of windsurfing options with flat water free riding being the most popular but foiling has become very popular over the past couple of years and the right conditions send the experts into the Gulf to wave windsurf. The one item that is must have in Tampa Bay is a weed fin or two! Shallow water is a great option especially for beginners but you don’t want to drag a fin especially on plane unless of course you wish to practice catapulting!
The Locations link on the website will direct you to many of the great spots we take advantage of but I can say our favorite is the Scenic Skyway (anything East). We also enjoy Tierra Verde (S or SE) but due to construction this location is closed to us for most of 2019. Northwest locations are many and probably provide the greatest number of windsurfing options. Two of my favorites are 75¢ near Ft. DeSoto and Emerson Park, great flat water windsurfing.
Great community, great water, warm weather and beautiful locations make a visit to Tampa Bay one of your best options for Florida windsurfing. Hope to see you soon!
In January my wife and I enjoyed a week in Bonaire. Bonaire is best known as one of the best locations in the Caribbean for Scuba and Snorkeling but on the east side of the island is a small bay that is a paradise for windsurfers. Consistent strong wind, beautiful water, a couple of great rental shops and the bay is protected by a reef that creates ideal flat water conditions for ripping.
That is my ad for Bonaire but I went to Bonaire to test out short boards, specifically Fanatic Geckos. I needed to do this because in the spring of last year I purchased a used 2006 JP short board which turned out to be quite a mistake. I really struggled with this board as it was too hot for me and as a result I lost confidence and ended up selling the board. Fortunately I was able to return to my Kona and was able to regain my confidence and continue to build on my skills.
For non-windsurfers, short boards dominate the sport and can be used for a wide variety of conditions. The advantage, speed and maneuverability but as you can imagine they are more challenging to master.
So by November, my confidence was returning and it was time to start testing short boards again but I thought it might be fun to accelerate this process so off to Bonaire for a week of windsurfing in ideal conditions or so I thought. My first day in 20+ MPH winds was challenging to say the least but by Day 2 I was making progress and continued to improve. I played with a few boards, had a great lesson and ended up really enjoying the experience.
Long story short, I’m the owner of Gecko and I’m having a great deal of fun gaining new skills and a couple of weeks ago set a new personal speed record of 29 MPH and hopefully will master the carve gybe (fast downwind turn) with a bit more time on the water.
So my lesson, progress comes in small steps.
This weekend I took advantage of the beautiful weather and light winds and went sailboarding around Shell Key and Fort DeSoto near St. Pete Beach. (Windsurfers are sailors first and only when the wind picks up do we advance to surfing or windsurfing.)
Florida has so many beautiful islands, bays and a wide variety of water access that you just have to get on the water and enjoy these wonderful locations. Paddleboarding is a great option but when the winds pick up a bit (8 – 12 MPH) I like to switch to sailing. The key is you need the right equipment and I’m fortunate to have a Kona One one of most popular all-in-one boards in the world and perfect for sailing in light winds.
One real advantage to sailboarding is this is a great option for beginners to our sport. A person with good lessons and the right equipment can be sailing in a weekend. (I’ve seen Northbeach Windsurfing students enjoy the pleasures of sailing in a weekend even in pretty strong wind.)
Sailboarding allows you to move quickly and easily around the inland waterways, which are typically shallow here on Florida’s west coast. One can enjoy the beautiful views and see more in the water and stop as you like to explore or just take a break. The speed is moderate and you have a great deal of control so what are you waiting for – Get out and Sail!
Check out the Resources page for where to take lessons with the right equipment in your favorite FL location.
It isn’t everyday one gets to windsurf with an Olympic Gold Medalist but more importantly Bruce Kendall is a wonderful “dude” and we had a great week at the WSA (World Sailing Association) and sailing in Clearwater. Thanks Bruce!
I’m a big fan of an all-in-one board and I wish Bruce and team great success with the Glide 2990. My hope is that this category of boards will be commercially successful and continue to be great options for all levels of windsurfers.
Jonny, Eric and I had the pleasure of checking out the Glide 2990 at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center along with the all the great folks at CCSC (Thanks Justin!).
I’m not very good but I enjoyed sailing the Glide 2990. It was easy to sail, very responsive and though the wind wasn’t strong enough for me to get up on plane it was obvious the board wanted to jump up and go. Bruce had no issues getting the board on plane and showing what it was capable of and it was impressive.
My time on the board was short but I hope to get more time on the board this summer if I can make it up to the Cape Hatteras area where I believe the board will be sold in the US market. (I hope to report on that option later this year.)
Exciting news for the Sarasota/Tampa Bay region. Olympic Gold and Bronze medalist, Bruce Kendall is going to be in town for the World Sailing Annual Conference.
Bruce is in town to demo and advocate for the Glide 2990 to be the race board for the 2024 Olympics in Paris! Wishing him great success but what is really exciting is Bruce is bringing one of the first Glide 2990s to Sarasota!
If you haven’t heard about the Glide 2990 check out the website. This is a really exciting design and I can’t wait to see it up close and personal and maybe even take it for a spin!
We are planning to setup some demos and possibly a meet and greet with Bruce in the Tampa Bay area while he is in town. I will post updates and additional information on Facebook pages so stay tuned for more news.