My first attempts to sail in logo high waves, all ended with broken masts. After a few days I talked to an ex-pro. Together we watched a video of me struggling in the shortbreak. The tips he gave me, based on the video footage, accelerated my learning. Here is what I learned about speeding up your windsurf improvement ever since..
How do you improve your skills faster? First, set small objective and measurable goals. Then find knowledge about how to perform each task. Select a method of training and at least one feedback instrument. Start your feedback loop:
- Visualise your execution based on the knowledge you found
- Analysing film/ feedback
- Visualise the adapted execution
- Execute again etc..
Many windsurfers try to improve their skills without a method or plan. That’s fine. But if you want to become much better, even if you sail no more than 20 times per year. There are e few simple tips that can be surprisingly effective. What do you want to learn this season?
Accelerating Learning and Increasing Fun
My first goal, in the story above, was getting through the big waves. That was not helping me since it was a far to large goal. The ex pro told me to watch the waves first. Study their patterns. My goal became: learning to determine the perfect moment to start.
Once I knew how to do that, my new goal was to jump over the first wave in a controlled way. This was needed since big waves came in sets of 6. An uncontrolled jump over wave one, set me up for an uncontrolled landing. That meant that I was not planning again fast enough. So the second wave got me. And so forth.
I had learned to break my big goal down in manageable, smaller goals that I could get comprehendible chunks of helping feedback on. I could also find helpful information on the how to much faster.
All of this might seem more work, but actually it is not! Because you are learning more efficient. You are able to pinpoint the next obstacle (that becomes your new lesson) faster. So you can train the next solution faster.
“Can you help me learn to find the best moment to start in this swell?” might give far better and faster answers than: “Please help, I can’t get through the big waves”. The last one can have a thousand possible solutions. Maybe your fin is to short, maybe you are not going downwind enough the first 30 meters, etc.
Once you know what your next manageable chuck in your learning process is, you can start finding the “How To?”. I have always found other windsurfers a great source of information. If I wanted to know something, I could always find someone to help. This actually inspired me to share the knowledge I have gained over the years via these blogs.
Another valuable source of info is YouTube. I have found lots of instruction video’s on many things. Perhaps the easiest way to learn is to make a lesson for yourself. This lesson can be used for the next step, visualisation, afterwards. Watching several YouTube videos on one subject, gibing for example, can give you a broader idea. What am I already doing right (important to know this too!)? What can I improve? Off all these things, which are the three that I can focus on in my next session. Three that are within my reach and will add most to my improvement.
Personally I try not to focus on more than 2 ore 3 things at a time. ‘Keep it small and simple and enjoy the progression in every step’ is my motto.
Now it’s time to visualise. Good news is that all these things so far can be without having to travel to the water. No wind is needed for this training. Visualisation is a technique for making a mental image of the thought or movement pattern that you want to execute. You are actually training you brain and muscles to do it.
This can be done sitting still, ore actually moving. A nice example of that can be the Youtube video I on forward loops. At time 2:10 and further the guy explains the importance of ‘to have it in your head’ and shows how to practice your muscle memory on the beach with a broomstick in your hand.
Once you have visualised your steps it’s time to get on your board and do it. If you have the luxury of a friend filming you that is a great help. On film you can compare the ‘film’ of your moves in your head with what really happened. Was your hand as far back on the boom as you thought? Did you push your weight more forward during the gibe?
From here on my recipe is: learn from experience, enjoy the process, celebrate success and set new goals.
How Can I Learn Faster Without Somebody Filming Me?
If you don’t have the luxury of your personal film crew there is good news from GoPro. They sell camera’s that can be attached to your mast or boom. I have seen rental stations where you could actually rent a camera for a couple of hours to film yourself. I also tried the GoPro on my helmet to sail behind a friend. The images where surprisingly steady and by just quickly giving the helmet to him he could film me. Learned a lot that day.
You can buy a GoPro at Amazon. They also sell a special kit with all kind of adjustment tools to attach the GoPro to helmets, wrist, and booms (diameter max 1.4inch / 3.5 cm) etc..
A little more Info on Visualisation
When learning I have noticed that my brain sometimes pays less attention to things that I have no experience with. The same might happen to you when talking about visualisation. Here are two blogs about the subject in case you find that helpful. The Power of Visualisation and Visualization Techniques for Athletes .
What if Progression Stops?
The techniques in this blog helped me to learn more and faster. That doesn’t mean they will alway’s work well for anybody. Sometimes it’s just easier to take a few good lessons if you want to learn something. Or maybe a combination of a few lessons alternated with these techniques works best for you. Everybody is different and people have different learning styles. Finding out the best way for you might help improve your windsurfing skills faster.
- Use gear and conditions that are appropriate for what you want to learn
- Find out how the move should be done (YouTube has many examples and tips)
- Visualise before you try
- Try your new techniques and catch them on video
- Compare the video you made with the ‘video’ in your memory. Learn from the differences
- Enjoy the process, celebrate success and go to step one for further improvement
Windsurfing Lessons. It’s best to find lessons that are given by certified, experienced and well trained instructors. Instructors being familiar with local conditions is a pre. People learn the basics of windsurfing faster in water that allows them to stand on the bottom and climb back on the board easily. Wind speeds between 8 and 15 knots are ideal for learning the basics. Special beginner boards with a daggerboard and lots of volume are recommended. The same goes for easy to handle sails, with a relative small size. For more advanced lessons matching gear and stronger winds are useful.
I wrote a separate blog on windsurfing lessons. Especially on how to find the best lesson for you.