How to ride the new wide-style boards;
They’re very similar in most respects to any other shortboard — even performing better than their narrower counterparts at the extreme angles of attack — but you ride them with your feet closer to the rail (and in some cases, right on the rail of the board). Note how different this foot placement is from high-wind recreational sailing and wave sailing, where your feet are inset near the centerline of the board. Keeping your feet close to the rails does feel different, but it allows for better control and more top-end speed.
There are more differences too. Check out some of the common problems sailors have relayed to me over the last few months and the solutions I’ve suggested just below them.
PROBLEM: The foot straps are set so far out near the rail that it’s difficult to get into them. The foot pressure alone can aggressively alter the direction of the board, and the heel pressure feels like it’s going to kill you.
SOLUTION: Keep your mast in its normal position. Until you reach top speed, the mast remains slightly forward (keeping the gap open) and slightly windward (or vertical). Your body weight remains in the harness or on the boom, depending on whether you hook in before you get into the straps. Once you’re in the straps, your foot pressure pushes laterally against the board (not vertically down onto the board). At speed, the harder you push laterally, the faster you’ll go.
PROBLEM: Wide boards are definitely less responsive to foot steering than the traditional narrower boards.
SOLUTION: These boards are not meant for radical maneuvers. They plane extremely early, sail the extreme angles well, are great on a beam reach and can handle chop well. While it’s true that high-end sailors can make these boards do just about anything, for the average guy, they’re meant to be sailed fast and help you get planing early.
SOLUTION: Bend the knees! You’re supposed to, anyway, but it’s especially important on a wide board because the step over to the leeward rail is a long one compared to the move on a narrower board. Once you get that down, these boards jibe and jibe well. At more than 12 mph, you’ll probably maintain more speed than you ever have before. In 6 to 11 mph, you may find that exiting the jibe requires slightly more rig control than you’re used to. Focusing only on rail pressure and board attitude will decrease your speed at the end of the turn; however, in time, you’ll be ripping your jibes.