When the wind is strong and gusty, especially in lakes or in areas where the air is disturbed by surrounding obstacles, handling a sail can be quite challenging. Here are some survival tips for when the gusts really get going.
First, don’t use your arms to deal with the sudden pressure changes.
Instead, while looking ahead and to windward slightly — where you can see the puffs and holes in the wind by reading the water — extend your arms and bend your knees deeply. It is called “hanging on the booms like a monkey.” It’s a great control position in overwhelming conditions. Practice adjusting your center of gravity, which is situated around your hips, by swinging your butt inward or outward relative to the centerline of the board.
When the pressure suddenly builds from a puff, stick your hips way out. When the pressure suddenly subsides, throw your hips in and down toward the centerline of the board. Not only are these movements strong counters to the sail’s sudden pull during a gust or loss of power during a lull, but they also facilitate balance.
A particularly useful situation for the technique is when you’re caught in excessively strong winds or if the wind comes up out of nowhere and you find yourself caught way overpowered, the best way to get home is to survival sail: Forget the harness lines and hang like a monkey.