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TOPIC: Learning Progression

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #1

just curious on anyones initial learning experiences, progression, gear and your views on it no matter what your level is now. Noobs would be good to hear from. I'm sure it would take a trip in the "way back machine" for you pro's out there. I know today's gear is more advanced than back in the day but would still like to hear any horror/humorous stories. I'm assuming everyone had a large board adequate to keep them afloat and stable with a few sails and what sizes? Did you take a few lessons along the way to become more proficient at jibes and tacks in various winds? What was your overall approach at the time? And what would you have done differently? I don't want to cut any corners or waste time focussing on the wrong things. At what point did you take the next step or felt ready to advance to a smaller board? harness, foot straps etc..... If there's a previous string on this please let me know. Thanks!

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #2

I started on old longboard couple years ago, just to start on something and to see if I like it...and I did, so I have now some quiver in garage...
My advice is to get newer type of wide board 165 or 175 lt, possibly with centerboard for easier upwind but not completely necessary.
Longboards are much more difficult to learn, not easy to turn and heavy for transport and handling..I still like them:-) but here is the way to take the shortcut of learning
So get the wide board.
Sails size in Chicago area somewhere 5; 6.2; 7.5 for start
Used equipment is not bad idea for now..
Smaller board comes year or mostly couple years later, depend on how much time on water you have and your skills...You will have enough fun with large board, so do not worry about buying small for now...
First work on your low wind sail handling and stability and try use harness as much as possible...soon you will be planing and than try use straps... Gybing will be fun after..
Courses are great, instructor will adress your mistakes quickly or check theese videos..Nothing works better than practicing on water...
Good instructional windsurfing video/dvd is Jem HAll Beginner to Winner
and for gybing Guy Cribs Intuition Gybing...
Have fun!

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #3

  • Ady
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That's a good tread you started here and I encourage the more progressed windsurfers to share their valuable experience . My own introduction to the sport is rather unique, because it happened many, many full moons ago in a place far, far away. With the help of some local windsurfers and early 80s gear I progressed to the point of sailing back and forth with a slow gybe or tack at the end of the leg. Never got a harness and a short board so I never got planing then. Fast forward to present days after a long hiatus I started 2011 with a brand new BIC 160D , Gaastra Pilot 6.5, HARNESS , wetsuit, theoretical knowledge stolen from Internet and a big ambitions. One of my first light wind sessions with the new equipment , this one on Lake Andrea- April 2011

Unfortunately the mismatch between the big board, small sail and the beginners tendency to weigh the tail heavily didn't allow me to get on the plain in lighter wind and became uncontrollable in stronger one. View months later I finally saw the light after purchasing a 7.5 sail with a proper mast and that's when the fun realy started. By the end of the season I was planing in the footstraps, trying faster gybes and already looking for smaller faster boards.
I started the 2012 season with another brand new board-RRD Firerace 112 /currently for sale/ which was a huge drop in lenght a volume for me then.

That same year I got myself a 93L ! JP FSW aswell. Too small, too soon yes but I learned waterstarting out of necessity on that board.

Some will object, but droping in board sizes that quickly or maybe the diversity was beneficial for me and great experience IMO. My biggest mistake was going up in sail and board size again in a bid to improve my light wind days when a bought a 136L board and 9.0 sail /both currently for sale also/ which were too big for me IMO and the gain in TOW was rather insignificant .

The improving later of my efficiency and the addition of my WindSup made my light and moderate wind days a lot more fun.

Right now my quivers consist of: 9' Converse ; 110L Atomiq and a 86L Kode-all Starboards; sails 7.5;6.5 Retro, 4.2;4.6;5.2 Revo -all Sailworks and 5.8 Ka Kult. My 4 masts are all RDM, but all different brands and 2 of them are not exactly optimal bend for the Sailworks. It pays off to have same brand/same model quivers.
The correlation between riders weight and boards volume/sails size is very important and affects the overall satisfaction, progression and range of equipment. Im currently ~165+lbs and I'm very happy with my boards and sails -completely covered from 0 to 40+ mph wind , flat water to Lake Michigan waves. Of course with progression the equipment needs will change so nothing is final .

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #4

  • Chris
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Ady, that's a quick progression. Impressive!

Gary, for what it's worth, I started in 2008 by taking lessons at the Northwestern Sailing Center in Evanston. Learned the basics on a Bic 293 OD board. The great thing about NUSC is that they have lots of beginner boards and sails already rigged, so I just used their gear for the first few years. I learned the basics of planing, harness, and footstraps on three of their boards: the Bic 293s, an old Starboard "Friendship" board (probably around 180l), and a soft-top Bic Nova board (170L). (I happen be selling a non-decked version of this board at present.) Anyway, it was hit or miss for me for those first few years, since I didn't always know what size sail I should be using and some sails were easier to manage than others. But when the gear was all working right, boy did I have a good time! These positive experiences led me to invest in my own gear. Started with (and still love) my 145L RRD Fireride, which for me (@175 lbs), worked especially well with 6, 7, and 8.5 Ezzy sails. The following season, I bought a used 108L RRD Freestyle Wave board. The first time I stepped on to that board was tough! I was so used to putting weight on my back foot that I kept turning upwind. With time, I've gotten better on this size board, and my hope is to use this particular board lot more this season. That's my goal, at least.

One thing that helped me a lot was traveling to windy locales (specifically, Corpus Christi), where it is easy to waterstart and where the wind is consistent. I also took an ABT clinic with Andy Brandt there, which opened up a whole new side of windsurfing for me.... (lightwind) freestyle. Because we have so many marginal days here in Chicago, I realized that I could still go out on 7-12 mph days and do some freestyle, which really aids in sail handling in general. I also purchased the Bic Formula board I mentioned above and paired it with a 9.5 sail, which allowed me to sail in the 11-12 mph range.

Biggest tips? 1) If you can, take trips to user-friendly places like Corpus or Bonaire where you can learn planing, waterstarting, and jibes (both of these places have chest-high water), 2) if you can, take a clinic with ABT or at least take a lesson or two wherever you go. (I took a jibe lesson in Bonaire when I was there in January, and it helped tremendously), 3) here in Chicago, use gear that will make your learning curve easy. For most of us, easy at the beginning stages = wide board with enough volume + manageable sail sizes. Much easier to throw around a 5.0 sail as compared to an 8.5 And last, 4) have fun and welcome to the club! This is a demanding sport that requires loads of determination and grit. But if you stick with it, how rewarding it can be. Great to see the passion that you have as you begin your journey. Enjoy!

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #5

  • Otto
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  • Strong Breeze
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I second Richard's recommendation of Jem Hall's 'Beginner to Winner'. it used to be available online - I think there are still clips. If I were beginning now, I would purchase the retail version. Money well spent.

As far as progression timeframe; that's going to depend largely on how frequently you can make it out to the water, as well as whether you may be able to make any trips to places with conditions more conducive to learning.

Someone told me: "Once you start planing and can hook-in, try to make a trip to someplace with reliable steady winds". I think that was good advice. I'd even take it one step further. Make a trip as soon as you can to a place with steady reliable winds - regardless of where you are in your progression. Not only is it easier to learn with steady winds, but the same locations will also have the best quality lessons/ coaching.

When you're learning there ARE SO MANY things happening, and it's very difficult to sort out what's going on. Steady wind really simplifies things. Sure, you'll have to come back to the gusty conditions, but you'll have had a chance to get the feel for whatever goal you're working on (planing, foot-straps, whatever). Once you've gotten the feel for whatever skill your learning under ideal conditions, it'll make recreating your success in less-than ideal conditions much easier. Such locations are also likely to have good instruction.

That being said, the best way to learn is to get out as often as possible, ideal conditions or not. Don't let a marginal forecast keep you from trying to get out. Make sure you can proceed safely, but don't get stopped by not quite enough wind, or a little colder air temp than you'd like, or a bit of (no-lighting) rain. Don't sail in lightning, but also don't dismiss the entire day just because there's a chance of lighting or thunderstorms. Spend some time learning about weather and weather patterns. It's fine to just check out the wind forecast, but learning more about pressure systems, fronts and how to understand more comprehensive forecasts will help you get more good sessions in safely.

If you're confident you'll stick with the sport, then think ahead about gear acquisition. Even if you're not, make sure that whatever gear you buy is self-compatible (mast and sails). Even good shops have been known to sell a mast- sail combination that isn't really a good match (I've had this experience). There's no substitute for understanding this stuff for yourself - some folks might say it's intimidating or overkill to get into this sort of thing - I personally couldn't learn enough when I was getting started. Check out . Read all the info under 'masts' and 'rig support'. check out the videos too.

Before you buy any gear or any more gear, make sure you understand, MCS or IMCS (gross stiffness), AND different bend curves (t's best to deal with bend curves in terms of stats (1/4 and 3/4 flex points expressed as a percentage - basically these numbers just tell you how flexible the bottom of the mast is relative to the top). People will sometimes talk about the bend curves in terms of "constant curve" or "progressive flex" or "Stiff top". Those are three general categories, but they are imprecise, and as such, only make the issue more confusing. Insist on dealing with numbers, and things will stay much simpler. Don't rely on a salesperson to make sure the mast and sail you're buying is compatible - they don't always know, and until you're more experienced with how a sail should rig, you won't know either. If you're not up for learning about this stuff at this point; ask folks on the forum. If you go to a shop and they tell you 'it doesn't really matter, or "that's only important for OPTIMAL tuning, you'll still get 99% performance" Don't buy it. If they can't give you information on what type of mast the sail is designed for (length, IMSC or MSC, and bend curve (expressed as two percentages) or if they can't tell you the same info for the mast…. I would't buy it. It's okay if they have to look things up… but don't let anyone tell you these things don't matter. Windsurfing is challenging enough without having gear that can't be set-up properly.

I recommend the Ezzy website as a concise source for understanding basic sail theory even if you don't buy Ezzy sails or masts (though you could do much worse, but maybe not better). I'd also seriously consider buying sails and masts of all one brand (or different sail brands that design around similar mast curves (I'd recommend Ezzy, but there are other great sails too). This will simplify things as far as making sure your masts are compatible with your sails.

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #6

Wow!! Each of you have helped answer some of the questions that have been bouncing around in my head. I can also see into my progression with some of your comments and where I need to focus. I can see the advantages of the steady wind for planing as well as jibe/tacks. Fom the lessons that I've experienced here, some of the points you've made about the learning curve are right on the money. The winds here can be a bit gusty at times so it has been a real challenge off shore with tacks and jibes as well as coping with the waves. Although the conditions did help to get some sea legs on a 180 (Naish Kailua, guessing 2008/10 vintage, 2.6 sail) I tended to tack off shore to try to stay upwind and jibe closer to shore. Last Friday I had a lesson in the morning with high tide, gusty at times w/waves. Worked on jibe for the most part and the conditions brought on more of a challenge. My wife had a lesson in the afternoon but was not up for it so I took it. Almost a blessing she couldn't make it, more wind and waves than the morning. Not gonna lie, it was tough, no brutal but a great learning experience. Put a real wipin on me! I like all your views regarding lessons (here and far), video assistance, understanding the sails and weather conditions. I was actually surprised about the harness. I thought this would be a little further down the line but it does make sense to start getting a feel for it. Chris, did you rent on a daily or monthly basis from NUSC? I'm thinking of a lesson or 2 back in Chicago to be evaluated on where I stand regarding a board. In the mean time I need to hit some of the links you guys have posted. Can't thank you all enough!

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #7

  • Ady
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At this point more lessons probably will not be very benefitial. You just need more TOW untill you feel ready for the next phase-planing in the footstraps. Having your own equipment now will make more sense financially and will allow you more flexibility to sail whenever/wherever you want.
Compared to the difficult conditions that you describe /much like the Big Lake/, Wolf or Lake Andrea will be like walk in the park-flat water and lighter wind will make your progression easier and faster /at least that's how I felt /.

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #8

Thats kind of what I was thinking about or debating in my mind about buy or rent the equipment as well as being able to get out on the water. Those are the 2 lakes I was thinking about. I need to educate myself on the sails and boards. Do most of you find that you ware out or use up the life of your sails? what's the life span or hours you've put on some of your sails? I'm sure if you find good ones to your liking you own it from cradle to grave, that about right?

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #9

  • Chris
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Gary, Northwestern offers month-to-month or season memberships, but I'm fairly certain that you could also pay for just a day or two if you wanted to the equipment there a try. Their membership page is here. When I say I took lessons from them, these were their beginning-from-scratch lessons. It sounds like you have enough familiarity with the sport that you wouldn't really need much of a lesson beyond their basic program. If you sail with any of the folks on this forum, I'm sure you can get some pretty good advice on how to progress in/to the intermediate stage. IMHO, learning the basics of sail handling and board steering, and then planing and footstraps, mostly requires lots of TOW. Now that being said, I do recommend taking lessons (or clinics) in places with very consistent wind, esp. when it comes to more technical key moves like waterstarting or jibes (incidently, when you feel like you're ready for it, I recommend Dasher's _Basics to Waterstarting_, Dasher's _12 Step Jibe_ or Guy Cribb's _Intuition_ video for jibing). NUSC was a good for me as an entry point because 1) I got to try different kinds of boards and sails, 2) everything was already rigged, and 3) it was close to home for me. But if you end up getting your own gear this season and sailing lakes like Andrea or Wolf, you'll have the advantage of 1) having your equipment tuned to your size and ability, and 2) not having to battle as much with waves on Lake Michigan, depending on the wind direction.

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #10

Thanks to everyone for your opinions, experiences, knowledge and overall views on the basic fundamentals to enter and progress into the sport. This really gives me a comprehensive overall view to start formulating a game plan. Equipment, videos, weather conditions, TOW ..........

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #11

  • Ady
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Ahh Gary, I really hope that you have an idea what you are getting yourself into...and your wife! All the time, money and effort we invest ...
Anyway, arguably there are 2 directions equipment wise that you can head to at this point. The "die hard" or the "take it easy" one :) The "die hard" one is the fastest way to reach the Holy Grail of windsurfing -planing in the footstraps-but it's also the toughest one and requires commitment . Simply put -you take a relatively big short-board ,something like140- 180L of volume that can carry a big fin and has few different footstrap positions-daggerboard is not mandatory /I never found an use for it on my first boards, it was more of a distraction and hurdle for me/. You can start with a ~6.0 sail and everything that comes with it to assemble a rig. Once you get comfortable with it -hooking yourself in and out; turning; uphauling; sailing upwind/downwind/across etc , you can switch to a bigger sail/ 1.0 meter to 1.5 bigger/ and push yourself to get planing in stronger wind untill you get there.
The " take it easy one" /my favorite / is to start with a WindSup~10' long and at least 30" wide-from the allaround variety with some wave bias preferebly. Those usually come with flat, padded deck, without footstraps and daggerboard and with a small fin or 3 . The best sail sizes to play with on it are: 5.5-6.0 /I like 5.7;5.8 a lot/. The advantage of the WindSup is its versatility -you can windsurf , paddle, surf. And most importantly you can play with it in the Lake Michigan break in light wind. Catching and riding small waves is incredible workout and practice of early planing skills without actualy planing-it's like cheating. The disadvantages are: cost, weight and storage and transportation. Soon or a later you'll want a planing short-board also. Another advantage of the Windsup is that in case your wife never falls in love with the shortboards , she still may have fun with the Windsup.
There is a 3rd way actually, a middle one. It's called Kona One. If you start asking the same questions on IWindsurf you'll soon realize that there is a big, vocal group of Kona One fans. These board combines shortboard , longboard and even SUP characteristics in one hull-which is why exactly I don't like it. All in one and too many compromises . Many people /espatially those who sail in wind starved areas -like Seattle think otherwise though/.
Now you have a LOT of thinking to do right :lol:

Learning Progression 2 years 9 months ago #12

Ady, those are 2 good approaches. I think other family members might want to give it a go. My ambition is to head towards the HG as you call it (sound of dramatic music in background!). I don't see my wife as dedicated to work her way into a short board at this time but you never know. I know it's not going to be easy as my experience here has proven. You guys just make it look so easy! But I know you've all paid your dues in many ways and it is a true talent. So I can see a future of 2 boards in this household as well as a ........... what's the acronym LS (land surfer) BTB (black top buster) FCE (future cop encounter) that might be something my stepsons will be interested in as well as myself. I really liked the videos. I can see this as a good tool to hone ones wind sail abilities. I talked to Jackie here and a key to success is having good solid basic fundamentals that will help in the future. She has a huge cornucopia of knowledge of the sport and I know I'll be asking her for future advice. Yep! Lots to think about.
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