Beachstarts / Waterstarts
Learn to Windsurf
Beachstarts / Waterstarts


- "sweet spot" - start pretty much with sail flat to the water, but fiind the balance spot -where you are able to hold the sail up, so it is balanced in the wind, not pushing/pulling - just practice this first - on land and in water. standing in water.

- "flying the sail" - lift sail up higher and feel it begin to lift you - lean into sail - if it starts to get away, pull back down - can start with one hand on the mast and one hand on the boom.

- two ways to put your feet - both feet on the board - back foot on the centre line of the board, knees bent, pulling back of the board towards you, front foot near the mast, pushing board - or have back foot on the board, drag your front foot in the water - stay close to board. with both feet on the board, you can practice "body dragging".

- if board rounds upwind walk towards the board (in a beach start) and press down into the universal. In a water start, push with your forward hand pushing the mast down into the universal. if putting both feet on the board, pull with your back foot, and push with your front foot.

- setting up the sail - start by holding sail by the mast, further away from the board, walk/swim into the wind, this allows the water to drain off the sail, and lightens it. then mast directly into the wind.

- "fly the sail", wait til it starts to lift, then lean forward, press down on the hand closer to the mast, - to push into the universal, let the wind lift you up - keep your knees bent until you are standing on the board.

- two suggestions - one to keep board crossways to the wind, the other to start straight downwind. mostly seems to be crossways.

Water Starts

by Marc Lefebvre

The waterstart is very much like a beachstart. The best way to learn to waterstart is to beachstart in a place that gradually gets deeper than knee deep. As you get better, just make your starts from deeper and deeper water until you are making them in water which is chest deep. From this point, learning to waterstart is really easy. Someone once gave me advice that helped a whole lot, they said, 'Waterstarting is like pulling a sheet over your head, you have get really under the boom...'. Think about this when you are at the stage of getting out of the water.

The first thing to do in a waterstart is to get your rig oriented properly. To this day, the one thing that takes the most energy for me is getting my rig into position for a waterstart.

The rig needs to be positioned with the mast perpendicular to the wind and the clew downwind. The board should be facing slightly downwind on a broad reach and the rear facing you with your back to the wind. This may seem easy to the untrained eye but it can be quite a pain. Here are some tricks to make it easier and always remember to let the wind do the work, not you.

  • mast is pointing upwind. Swim the rig so that the rig is perpendicular to the wind. Always swim away from your clew not towards it. Otherwise you will sink the rig.
  • clew is upwind. If the clew is upwind, you have to swim around to the clew and lift it. The wind will catch the sail and flip it over so that the clew is downwind.
  • board is pointing upwind. To get the board to point down wind grab the nose of the board and while holding the boom by the mast, push down on the nose and up on the boom. You can use your feet to finish the job by pushing the nose away from you.

Now your board should be in perfect position and ready to start:

  • clear the sail by lifting the boom and place it on the stern of the board so that the mast/boom connection will be resting on the rear of the board. If it doesn't make it then lower booms and/or move your mast track forward.
  • fly the sail by lifting up on the rig above the boom connection and pushing down on the rear of the board for leverage, so that the wind will catch the sail and fly it. Then grab the rear of the boom with your other hand and move your front hand to the boom. Fly the sail overhead, keeping the board on a beam reach and keeping the mast perpendicular to the wind.
  • place your rear foot on the board in front of the rear strap and use your front foot to swim against the drift of the board. This will provide more lifting force for you to get on the board.
  • while powering up the sail bend your knee so that you are closer to the board and the rig is flying higher. You should be moving a bit now. This applies mast foot pressure (MFP) and helps the board bear off.
  • with your front foot kick like you are swimming and place more weight on your front arm as the sail pulls you out of the water and forward. You actually swing your weight forward, toward the mast base.
  • once you are up sheet out and you are on your way.

Here are a few helpful tips to remember:

  • Lower booms make waterstarting easier (shorter lever arm) but sailing more difficult. You may want to lower your booms a bit after you know how to sail pretty well and are just working on waterstarts. After you have waterstarts down, start moving them back.
  • A life vest makes sail handling in the water less tiring.
  • Flat water makes EVERYTHING much easier.
  • Rig with LOTS of downhaul to lock the draft forward in your sail. A poorly balanced rig can make all of the steps much more difficult.
  • Rig to be overpowered, it will accelerate the whole learning process.
  • Also, the trouble shooting tips for beachstarts also apply to the waterstart.

So now you think you know how to waterstart. Well each time you waterstart it will be different because of wind, the waves, or the sail you have rigged, so keep practicing in varied conditions and don't give up. And don't be too quick to throw away that uphaul line once you have learned to waterstart, when there isn't enough wind to waterstart you're going to need it to get home!