When you first learn to windsurf, you will normally get going by uphauling the rig (at least when you are deep water). In other words, you will climb onto the board and pull the rig out of the water and then set off. This can be very tiring, especially in strong winds and also doesn't look particularly cool! As you start to build up your confidence and once you have mastered the beach start, you should learn how to do a water start.

A water start is exactly as the name suggests, a start from the water. No climbing onto the board and no uphauling – yippee! Done correctly, it looks good too.

Here are a few pointers to get you on your way:

  1. To practise water starts, I would recommend a wind speed of at least Force 4 – maybe even a bit more depending upon your weight/strength. Remember you are going to use the power of the wind to pull yourself out of the water so if the wind isn't strong enough, you will just be making problems for yourself. Of course, a wind that is too strong will also make things difficult so try to stick to a maximum of a Force 5 wind when learning.

  2. Probably the hardest part of carrying out a water start is getting yourself and your board/rig in the right position. Basically you want to be set up as you would be for a beach start but floating in the water. This is much harder than setting up for a beach start as you will usually be out of your depth. Use the power of the wind to help move the rig into the correct position. You are aiming to get yourself on the windward side of the board, pointing in the direction you want to go with the board at roughly right angles to the direction of the wind. You should have the rig flying above your head whilst holding onto the boom with both hands. You can control the pull created by the wind by 'spilling' it out of the sail – just push your back hand away from you.

  3. While you float around in the above position, the board will try to turn into the wind. You can control this and direct the board by steering the board around the mast foot – just apply pressure onto the mast foot through the boom.

  4. When you are ready to give it a go, place your back foot on the back of the board roughly 18-24 inches from the end. Exactly where you end up putting your foot will depend on a number of factors including board length, wind speed, your height and so on.

  5. Sheet in with your back hand (pull your back hand towards you to fill the sail with wind and power it up) and roll forwards whilst pushing the rig up into the air. At the same time kick your front leg to help provide lift.

  6. Keep the sail sheeted in and you should find yourself lifted out of the water by wind power!

  7. It is important to control the amount of power in the sail at this point to avoid being catapulted right over the board. When you are on the board, quickly adopt your normal sailing stance and get the board back on track direction-wise (it will probably have turned into the wind).

  8. Hook into your harness and pat yourself on the back, you have just completed a water start!

Hints and tips which will help you to learn how to water start

  • As with most things in windsurfing, you will find it easier to learn to water start on a flat lake rather than the sea. Waves and tidal currents are not helpful especially when you are trying to get the rig/board into the correct position.

  • The hardest part of carrying out a successful water start is usually getting everything in the right place to start with. As your technique improves, you will find that you start thinking ahead when you know you are about to fall in the water and will try to throw or position the rig in the correct position as you fall off the board. This sounds crazy but if you know you are going to fall in, throwing the rig to the downwind side of the board is actually very easy and will be more beneficial than hanging onto the boom until the last minute (which only serves to put the rig on the wrong side of the board for a water start).

If you are using a harness, be careful not to accidentally hook into it whilst floating around in the water. Otherwise if you get over-powered mid-water start and decide to bail out, you may get a surprise when you let go but are still attached via your harness lines.

Once you have learnt how to water start, why not try a carve gybe?

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.