Beachstarts / Waterstarts
Learn to Windsurf
Beachstarts / Waterstarts

Beach Starts

by Marc Lefebvre

If I had to decide on what is the most tiring part of windsurfing for the beginner, intermediate and advanced windsurfer, it would be uphauling the sail. If you are on a shortboard and have a fully cambered sail in choppy surf this compounds the problem. It can be downright exhausting trying to get the sail out of the water. Well, this is why the beachstart and the waterstart were invented. You don't have to install sheet rock for a living to have the strength to beachstart or waterstart. It actually can be quite effortless when you know what you are doing and there is enough wind. Below I will outline how to beachstart and then progress into a waterstart because they are very much related.

  • Start in enough water to clear the fin.
  • Point the board away from the beach on a slightly broad reach.
  • Holding the boom near the mast, the clew should be down wind.
  • Grasp the boom with your other hand. You should feel the sail trying to pull you.
  • Place your back foot between the back and front foot strap. Do not step on the board just place it there.
  • Sheet in with your rear hand by bending your elbow, keep your front arm straight while tilting the rig forward. The sail should be REALLY pulling now. This applies mast foot pressure (MFP).
  • While sheeting in, step forward, putting your weight on your back foot and push off with your front foot.
  • Once you're up, sheet out so as to not catapult and now your moving.
  • I can't get pulled up onto the board.

    This is caused either by not enough wind to get going or you haven't powering the sail up enough. Remember, to power up the sail means to sheet in by bending your rear elbow, keeping your front arm straight, and tilting the rig forward. Also, you may need to position yourself closer to the board so that when you fully extend your arms the sail will be flying higher and therefore pulling you more.

  • I keep sinking the tail of the board.

    You need to not step with your weight early on. Let the sail pull you up, committing your weight then, using mast foot pressure to balance.

  • Once I get on the board I fall back on my butt.

    You are committing too much weight to the rig too soon. If you are under powered, bend your knees more when you are on the board rather than leaning out over the water.

  • I keep rounding up into the wind.

    To avoid this, lean the rig forward and power up a bit. Do not stand straight up or lean toward the rig, ever!! Falling in backwards is OK. Falling in on the downwind side is inexcusable. Never do it!

When you fall (which you will do relatively soon) swim or walk the board back to shallow water and repeat the beach start until you feel comfortable with it. Once you have this down you are ready to learn the waterstart.

Beach Starts for Really Big Rigs

Tinho's Beach Start

I called this quite a few years ago the Calema Beach Start. I live in a place where sailing big sails and long fins expands my sailing opportunity. But big fins are a pain to beach start. So let me show you a more graceful way of not only preserving your fin, but also the ability to avoid running aground as soon as you sheet in. Basically you set up as a normal beach start, but go between the board and the rig, instead of being to windward of the board.

This way you can push the board away where the water is deeper.

Keep the mast perpendicular to the board's centerline, the clew directly downwind of it, so the wind is not pushing or pulling on the sail.

Then place your back heel on the board's centerline, leg extended. Place the back end of the boom on the bottom so the rig anchors the board away from the shallower water. Keep one hand on the mast to steady the mast and to keep it pointing directly into the wind.

Tinho's Beach Start can be found with photos at: