STOP COMPLAINING, START PLAINING
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- Being passed sucks, whether you're driving in traffic, standing in a check-out line or, worst of all, while you're slogging on a windsurfer. Do you feel like you're doing the work of an ox, plowing your windsurfer through the water while others glide over the chop like gazelles? If you can relate to this analogy, then it's time to work on planing more efficiently.
Think of a boat. With too many people in the back of a powerboat, the engine has to strain to get the sunken tail of the vessel to come up and plane on top of the water. Move the cooler of beer to the front so some people will move forward, and the boat will flatten out and accelerate with less power .
The same problem with weight distribution can happen when you're windsurfing. If you move your feet back on the board without hanging enough weight on the sail, the tail will sink and the nose will come up. With the board plowing through the water, you'll need a strong arm and a darn big gust to lift that baby onto a plane. I'll boldly assume everyone has his or her booms at least shoulder-high and harness lines about elbow-to-wrist in length.
Next, we'll concentrate on improving technique for effortless planing. The main goal here is to get about half your body weight off your feet and hanging on the rig. There are two ways you can hang your body from the boom. With the mast standing vertical over the board, you can hang your weight down from the boom without much wind power. The other way is to sheet in the sail and hang your weight out away from the boom. But you need a lot of wind to do this. Combining hanging down with hanging out helps distribute body weight evenly, keeping the board flat and ready to accelerate.
How you sheet in the sail has the greatest effect on how you hang your weight and plane. Many sailors sheet in using only their back arm. As the sail powers, they lean back over the tail, pulling the mast back from its powerful vertical position. Also, the sailor's weight ends up sinking the tail rather than hanging on the boom, which plows the board and puts a tremendous work load on only a few muscles in the bent back arm.
Sheeting in by rotating the entire upper body and hanging your weight down and out to the side of the board is a completely different feeling. Try this practice drill to safely feel the power. Sailing sheeted out, unhook and, with both feet forward of the front strap, start sheeting in with the back shoulder, keeping the arm straight. As you sheet in, start trying to look farther and farther around the front of your mast. As the sail powers, hang down and out as much as possible, trying to take the weight off your feet. The board should accelerate more easily than before, and if it's windy, the sail may overpower you. Remember, try this as an unhooked drill.
Once you feel confident powering the sail in this manner, add hooking in smoothly and hanging down and out in the harness to get the weight off your feet. As you move back to the straps, concentrate on keeping weight in the harness and power in the sail. If this doesn't help, try strapping a cooler of beer to the front of the board.