When you first learn to windsurf, you will initially get going by clambering onto the board and uphauling the rig. This is not particularly graceful and identifies you as a beginner to everyone around you. Therefore it won't be very long before you want to learn a slightly more elegant way of getting going and your next step will be the beach start.
Beach starting basically involves standing in shallow water with the rig flying and then stepping onto the board and sailing off. Sounds hard but it is actually surprisingly easy once you are used to balancing on the board and it looks so much cooler than uphauling!
So, here are the basic steps to completing your first beach start:
- The perfect depth of water to learn to beach start in is up to your knees so float your board out to this depth. If you have a long fin or daggerboard or if you are short you may need to go a little deeper to stop the fin/daggerboard scraping on the floor.
- Position the board so that it is facing across the direction of the wind, ie. at a right angle to the wind direction.
- Stand on the windward (the side that the wind is coming from) side of the board (so the board is downwind of you) and hold the boom in the way you would when sailing. The boom will end up level with your shoulders/head or slightly higher depending on how tall you are and the depth of the water.
- You will be able to feel the wind in the sail and will be able to control the pull by 'spilling' the wind out of the sail by pushing your back hand away from you.
- Get used to holding the sail and board in this position so that you can feel how much pull there is in the sail when you sheet in (pull the back hand in). This will of course vary depending on the wind strength but you need to get a feel for it so that when you step onto the board you don't either fall back or get pulled straight over the front!
- When you are ready, place your back foot onto the board about a foot or so behind the mast and on the centerline of the board (avoid standing to one side at the moment as this will just cause the board to tilt). Where you actually end up placing your foot depends on the wind strength â€“ the stronger the wind, the further back you need to stand.
- Next sheet in with your rear hand, push the rig forward and step up onto the board. You need to get your balance as quickly as possible and then get yourself into your normal sailing stance.
- If everything went as planned, you should now have completed your beach start and be windsurfing like a professional!
Additional beach start tips
Windsurfing beach starts are all about balance and a bit of wind will help considerably in this respect. Beach starting in a light wind is tough as you have nothing to help pull you up onto the board. With a decent wind behind you, you can literally be pulled out of the water. Just be careful you don't push yourself too far forward or you are likely to loose your balance and go completely over the board. If this does happen, just be happy in the knowledge that you have provided some free of charge entertainment to your colleagues and don't worry, we've all done it!
As with learning to windsurf, it is easier to learn to beach start on a lake rather than a choppy sea, for obvious reasons.
Once you have mastered the beach start, you should learn how to water start.
As with all windsurfing techniques, there is an element of risk involved so I recommend that you always wear appropriate safety equipment including a helmet, life jacket and appropriate clothing including a wetsuit, gloves and boots. Know your limitations and don't try anything which you aren't really ready for.