Issue 324 - APRIL 2013
DOWN-THE-LINE DESIRE Part 2
PETER HART TECHNIQUE Harty off the top one handed, part showing off, part good exercise for handling the rig.
Words PETER HART / Photos Hart Photography
PETER HART MASTERCLASS DOWN-THE-LINE DESIRE Part 2 Last month it was the tactics. Now he’s got you in position, Harty highlights technique points, which have made the biggest difference to the average man’s joy in the wave-riding department.
THE TIGHT AND FAST
In the slow waves of Jeri (and almost everywhere else) a tight bottom turn is mandatory if you’re to avoid outrunning the waves. People assume the only way to turn tight is to lean back and drive in the tail. That’s a slam gybe. You’ll turn tight but you’ll stop. To turn tight and fast you do a tight radius carve, where you bank the board over more and turn more around the back section of rail. It’s not a ‘leaning back, pivoting’ turn. You are still in contact with the front foot and mastfoot. The front arm bangs the rig out forward and you take up an extreme position to the inside. The only thing that’s ‘back’ is the back foot pressure which you balance with sheeting in hard, which is impossible unless you drop the back hand right back. Even though the turn is tight, you are still carving and accelerating. Dropping the back hand right back is key to sheeting in and holding those steep angles.
Front side techniques
Board Choice – the freestyle wave conundrum
The story so far is that back in January I led a troupe of die-hards into the waves of Jeri in Brazil. Conditions were so good and consistent and their commitment so full-on that they delved into areas of performance they had no right to go in such a short time.
If someone is slow on the water, they blame the kit. But if they blow a gybe, they blame themselves. It’s similar in the waves. If they can’t get going or end up downwind, it’s definitely the board; but if they mess up a wave ride, well that must be their own fault. It may be but often it isn’t. Here are some instances where kit played a key role.
In the last issue I honed in on the tactical epiphanies, which quadrupled their wave count and turned them from sailors bombing in and out around the waves into surfy types, who with heads lifted and eyes open, were tacking, gybing, slowing down and generally doing what was necessary to manoeuvre into tasty positions. Being such an open, fluid environment, there are few absolutes in wave-riding. Every situation demands a different approach. However, these were the technical points, which made the biggest difference. Oh yes – and there was the kit …
Volume – a false friend
Having a choice of kit is a wonderful thing – so long as you make the right one. Faced with an extensive rack of various models, you can be like that overenthusiastic fox in a chicken coop, taking a bite out of everything and eating nothing. Those who had the best time honed in on a suitable model early and stuck with it.
Dave is about 60kg dripping wet. For the first few days, in 20 knots of wind and using a 5.0, he selected a 95L FSW. He hadn’t sailed for a few weeks and the volume absorbed a little imprecision and helped him get out and stay upwind. Sure enough, he was lining up and catching more waves than most but on the way back in, there wasn’t a whole lot-a-rippin’ going on. I pointed out we were on the same size board despite a 30kg weight difference. For riding, he was grossly over-volumed. 20 of those litres were just a psychological safety blanket and not helping in any way. When you’re carrying too much board (and sail for that matter) you don’t have the weight to hold an edge, so you instinctively sit back onto the tail where the rails are thinner, and ‘flare’ it round like on a long board. His bottom turns weren’t so much about turning towards the wave, as sailing parallel to it, slowing down and waiting for the wave to catch up. I bullied him into dropping to an 80ltr wave board. I told him I wanted to see the logo on the underside of his board as he bottom turned. What a difference. When you drop the tail you brake – but when you drop the whole rail, you accelerate in another direction.
Wave vs. Freestyle Wave The ‘FSW’ tag has a similar psychological boost as a bit of extra volume. Most of the group went straight for freestyle wave boards on day one because … well no one gave me a definitive answer except to say it’s what they
It’s more of a slam than a carve. The back hand has stayed forward. He can’t twist the rig and sheet in, so he pulls on both arms. With the rig back and in the way, the only option is to lean back and sit on the tail.
used at home. The general perception is that they’re wave boards for the common man with all the difficult, quirky edges knocked off – in a word, easier. In some respects they are. I generalise but the rocker is a bit straighter and so there’s more board in the water, which causes more friction, which creates more lift which, along with a grunty single fin, helps you onto the plane earlier and stay upwind. But it’s very marginal. Actually a good guy will plane just as early on a wave board by bearing off a bit more. The difference is that you can get a FSW going with a bit less finesse and that’s an advantage as you’re finding your feet. Improving your riding fundamentally involves doing tighter turns on the steepest part of the wave. As waves steepen they also get more curved. This is where the FSW can be found wanting. It doesn’t turn so well on a curved surface. The most ‘popular’ fall was catching the heelside rail as they got more adventurous and looked to ‘snap’ off the top. It only takes a few of those to persuade you to hop in the back seat and favour safer areas on the wave. The immediate reaction of those after their first rides on a proper wave board was for “it feels like cheating!” It not only conforms to, and turns better on, the curved wall, it also provides you with a ‘get out of jail’ card. In situations where you’d expect to pearl or trip, the board magically appears to keep on pushing through and you end up swooshing through the turn to cries of “bloody hell, I knew I was good!” Such an experience injects your whole system with the carefree confidence drug. It’s when you believe your equipment is really helping rather than hindering, that you get on the front foot both literally and figuratively and seek out crazier situations.
PETER HART TECHNIQUE THE CLEW CATCH CLAN – open up!
It’s surely the number one down-the-line technique mystery. You bear away and as you turn towards the wave, your rig is between you and the face. So how do you stop the end of the boom catching the wave face and getting ripped from your grasp? It’s the rig angle and how you approach the wave. The aim is to hold the end of the boom above the lip. You do that by staying high on the wave and by holding the rig forward and sheeting out. Then don’t get caught parallel to the wave as it’s pitching. Give yourself room to bottom turn by coming out in front. If you approach it nose first, the end of the boom is clear. It’s a great wave and he’s in a fine position. But the boom is perilously close to the face. He needs to climb the wave and sheet out.
The end of the boom catches, sheets the sail in and it gets ripped from his hands. Getting caught parallel to a breaking wave is a messy business.
It’s the same for so many equipment led activities that the better you get, the more you appreciate and benefit from the specialised tool.
Speed is a multi- layered issue. In fact all the technical tips coming up relate to speed, how to control it but mostly how to increase it through using the wave, turning in the right place, through maximising the power from the rig and through trimming the board and turning it without braking, These were just some of the points.
Belief and the Multi-finned boards
A big change in people’s game – especially of terminal free-riders for whom sheeting out is a cardinal sin - is when you see them heading up and slowing down to let a swell catch up and then sheeting in and out to balance themselves at the top of the wave and wait until it steepens. Good so far but the mistake they then make is to try bottom and top turning almost stationary. If you drop straight down a small wave, there isn’t enough slope to get you going, so your first bottom turn is a squirt on the tail off the plane, which doesn’t get the ride off to the most dynamic start. The clear message is, get speed first, then ride. Different situations call for different approaches.
As people approached the racks in the morning, they would lean on me for advice. “I fancy trying a twinser but I hear they’re a bit skatey.” I won’t mention brands but over the trip I tried a twinser which was really directional, an incredibly fast Quad and a really slow and sticky tri-fin – all of which flies in the face of popular propaganda. The fact is that the fins are the icing on a very big and complicated cake. The majority of a board’s performance is determined by the interminably subtle blending of outline, rocker and rail shape. My advice to the team was to try different boards and believe in their own experiences. One guy came in disappointed with that tri-fin because he couldn’t get going, which was strange because he’d read (probably in the brochure) that this model planed early. I suggested he was right and the brochure was wrong. He swapped it for another brand’s Quad and off he shot. In Jeri the beach shelves very gradually and the waves reform and break in shallow water. The one quality of multi-fin boards which everyone agreed on was they could launch earlier and so hit the inside waves planing; and that they weren’t afraid to do the last big hero top turn just as the wave did its final yahoo in about 6 inches of water. Short fin(s) are a big bonus around many breaks.
Big sail small board
Stay high on the wave and sheet out and the clew is clear. Jeremy can now bank off the top; or to do a full bottom turn, he needs to give himself room by moving out onto the flat.
Speed then ride
If the wave is big, you can drop straight down the slope to get your speed. If you’ve gybed onto it, you’ll carry speed out of the turn and can start riding immediately. But most often, and this is usually the case in small, slow waves that roll up most shorelines, you generate speed by firing straight downwind. Heading upwind along the wave as it’s walling, pivot the board at the top of the wave through about 100º so you’re facing downwind along it. This ‘pivot’ (aka ‘squirt turn’) is a bit of mystery to those who by-passed big boards and light wind ‘flare’ gybes. With feet in both straps, throw the rig to windward, sheet in and drop onto the back foot. The mastfoot pressure pushes the nose downwind. Then open up the sail, drop onto the front foot to level the board out then gun it straight down the line along the face. Keep off the flat! How long you ‘gun it’ for depends on what’s in front of you; but so long as you stay high on the slope, after just a couple of seconds you’ll be flying. The concept to grasp is that the riding path is NOT straight in and out towards the beach but along and in.
The best swell arrived as the wind dropped from 25 down to 15 knots. Some looked to load 90L wave boards with sails of 6.2 plus. Big sails can destroy a wave board’s performance. The extra power as you sheet in upsets the trim, drives the nose down, sinks the rail too deep and makes it catch and stick especially on a wave face. If there’s not enough wind to plane and jump on THE WHITE WATER TRAP – the way out, lighten your load. On pure riding going elliptical days, you’ll never see even a chunky pro using bigger than a 5.8, usually less. Off the plane, the A common mystery in early surfing and wave riding careers is how you only seem to be riding dead weight of the bigger rig sinks the board white water rather than the unbroken face. and makes ‘bogging out’ trickier. Choosing a bad wave (one that’s folding rather than peeling) and/or catching it too late are TECHNIQUE ADJUSTMENTS the common problems. But if the wave can’t be – The need for SPEED! blamed, it’s pilot error - dropping straight down What separates the pro from the average wave rider is how much more speed the former gener- the wave, whereupon it just closes behind you, ates on the wave and how much they carry into rather than angling along it to stay in front of the peak. If it’s still not working, it’s a speed isand out of their turns. The faster you’re going, sue – not travelling along the wave fast enough the deeper you can gouge and more spray you to stay in front of the peeling section. can throw, which is, after all, what it’s all about.
RELEASE the NOSE – don’t grunt it!
Over-sheeting as you initiate the top turn is a common failing. As you drop down the face it’s so tempting to heave on the back hand to support yourself and pull the board around. But if you sheet in too soon, you drive the rail too deep into the face and stop it turning. And because you’re downwind, you’re liable to over-sheet, especially if you’ve left your back hand back on the boom. Counter-intuitive though it may be, sheet right out to release the nose so the wave can bang it round. The time to sheet in and throw some spray is when you’re across the wind facing down the slope. Coming up to the top of the wave Dan is sheeted right out, moving onto the front foot and looking down the hill in anticipation. It’s looking very good but …
GOUGING, RIPPING, SLASHING – the next level With confidence gained from catching more good waves came the desire to up the stakes, gouge harder, ‘burst the lip,’ ‘get in the pocket’ and other surfy argot. The inescapable reality of explosive wave performance is that it only happens when you confront the most active, exciting, scary part of the wave, where the room for error is smallest and where the consequences of failure are most severe. Happily in Jeri thanks to a sandy bottom and soft, warm lips even the worst consequences weren’t that bad. It starts with speed and a good bottom turn.
“Short, fat wave boards allow us to bounce off the lip and look good at quite slow speeds. But all that’s spectacular is born out of a good bottom turn. Do a fast, clean one and the top turn will look after itself.” Off the top and nose-dive
... he sheets in too soon (downwind), over-sheets, stalls the rail and trips.
Much much better. He’s released the nose, stays sheeted out, lets the wave redirect it down the face and pumps the sail as he turns across the wind to get that final ‘whooosh!’
When the big swell came in and the bolder members really attacked the steep sections (well over head high) the familiar outcome from top turning off the throwing lip, was a nose-dive as they dropped vertically back down the face. Imagine you’re on a bike heading towards a man made ramp. If (like I did once much the amusement of my niece) you brake at the top of the ramp believing it somehow might be safer to take off more slowly, the front wheel drops vertically down into the void and you fly over the handlebars. But if you keep your speed up, you fly out forwards, land with speed on both wheels with little shock. It’s the same if you top turn with little or no speed on a steep wave. The lip lifts the tail, throws it forward, drives the nose down and – bye bye. But if you’ve carried speed up the face, a faster top turn projects the nose forward and out in front of the wave and you land, if not out on the flat, then on the shallow slope at the bottom.
The fast and TIGHT bottom turn. The waves in Jeri are slow, as they are around most of our ‘real world’ sailing venues. There’s a conundrum. The bottom turn is closely related to the gybe. For a planing gybe you favour the front foot and lengthen the arc. For a tight gybe, don’t you sink the tail, slash round at the expense of a lot of speed? So how do you do a tight bottom turn (essential on slow
waves if you’re to avoid shooting out in front of it) AND maintain speed? First understand the difference between a slam gybe and a tight radius carve gybe. The slam gybe is a stationary pivot turn (similar to above mentioned ‘squirt’ turn), performed by sinking a flat tail (NOT on a edge). The tight radius carve is a planing turn performed on the inside edge. You narrow the arc by banking more steeply and, if you want to really snap it round, by engaging less rail and turning more off the back third of the board where’s there’s more curve in the outline. The mistake many were making as they attempted a tight bottom turn, was to just push on the tail (= a brake) and not put it on an edge. They also assumed that to engage more edge, you had to lean back …
Weight forward, pressure back It’s a simple as this. Whatever the shape of turn you’re going for, wide or tight, start on the front foot. Then if you want to tighten the arc, apply more back foot pressure to bank more steeply but don’t lean back. All the way through the turn stay in contact with both the mastfoot and the front foot. If you start by leaning back and pulling the rig back, the board shoots round throwing you even further back. You’ll then initiate the top turn with your hips behind the tail and will most likely drop off the back of the wave.
TIMING - knocking off a few seconds Out of all the gybing tips, of which there are a gazillion, the best is simply to speed up the tempo, tighten the arc and initiate both rig and foot change earlier when the board is planing fastest and is most buoyant. It’s the same with wave riding. The longer the time between top and bottom turns, the more you’re going to slow down. I’ve just studied a sequence of Jason Polakow riding JAWS. On the absolute biggest wave (40ft +), from dropping down and bottom turning to starting the top turn was 5 seconds. Most of the time it was 4 or less. So on a small 3ft wave, if you’re on the same edge for more than 2 seconds, the arc is too wide and slow.
Sink and release The best way to slow a board down is to sink the tail and hold it sunk. But if you drive the rail or the tail down and then immediately release it when you’re planing, it corks back up. It’s what you do to pop the board into a jump or trick. It’s the same for a tight gybe or bottom turn. If you sheet in hard to drive the rail in and then immediately release it as you climb the face, you feel board accelerate as the tail pushes back up.
PETER HART TECHNIQUE THE ONE HANDED TOP TURN – best practice
When wave-riding is unfamiliar territory, it’s tempting to use the rig for support and generally let it get in the way and pull you out of shape. Think more like a surfer, let the body move freely from edge to edge and only use the rig to lend a bit of snap at the beginning and end of turns. To those who are beginning to get it, I introduce the one handed top turn early. It appears advanced and spectacular. However, on a small wave it isn’t that hard. And like the old one handed carve gybe, encourages you to move the hips more, use the rig less and take up dynamic positions. Moving the back hand to the front harness head as you come off the top, effectively parks the rig, lets it open and stops you over-sheeting.
Getting Vertical, staying orientated You’re not in a contest out there – but just say you were, you’d be judged, amongst other things, on how vertical you approach the wave after your bottom turn. in a side-shore wind the improver turns parallel with the wave and stops. To turn further means passing through the wind and sailing switch foot clew first at which point the forces and body and rig angles change dramatically. Photos are worth a million words in this instance but with the Jeri group this is what helped it click. 1. Clew above the wave. In a wave ride, the rig should
Drop at speed onto the flat to give yourself room to bottom turn. Note the back hand is down, the rig upright and the hips on the wave side of the board.
Approaching the wave nose first, level the board out and slide the back hand forward …
… to just in front of the harness lines. Turn the head to look at the beach, twist the upper body away from the rig, pull the board onto the upwind edge and start to favour the front foot.
The glory moment. Try and touch the water upwind of you with the spare front hand. The rig sheets itself in as you come round. And because of that extra space between front shoulder and boom, you naturally power up the heel edge more and make the most of a small wave.
stay in the same plane and the board turn under it. To keep that same angle you have to constantly sheet out and push the clew above the wave. 2. Hips in. To keep turning, your hips have to be between the board and wave. Effectively you’re pushing your back hip towards your back hand. 3. Look and project. It all makes perfect sense if from the moment you start the ride, you eyeball the point of the wave you want to smack. And then, as you go for the top turn, throw the head over the front shoulder to look at the beach.
Making Room – drawing different lines Boom ends getting stuck in wave faces was a common occurrence. Sometimes it was from over-sheeting and pulling the rig back, but usually it was from just getting caught parallel with the wave at the bottom and not giving themselves enough room to complete the bottom turn. They had to think about their lines and draw different ones depending what the wave was doing and how hard and vertical they wanted to hit it. Here’s a classic ride. You have a long wall to work with downwind of you.
In wave contests you are marked on how vertically you approach the wave and therefore how many degrees you turn the board through on the wave itself. It’s technically challenging in that you have to turn the board through the wind and approach the lip switch foot and sheeted right out clew first. It demands a degree of flexibility about the hips. Jeri was an excellent place to practise as the wind was slightly offshore and there were big friendly flats in front of the wave to give you room to bottom turn all the way round. When you start approaching waves nose first after the bottom turn, you know your riding is reaching the next level and you’ll be able to try going down-the-line in the good ol’ onshore winds of home. Jeremy gives himself room to bottom turn and ap- proaches a white water wall nose first. The only problem is that he’s sheeted in almost to the point of being back-winded. 84
The wave bangs the nose round but the boom is blocking him. Because he’s pulling on the back hand, he can’t help but power up the back foot and so spins out in the white water.
This is the approach position – hips to the inside and sail sheeted fully out clew first. With the sail open, you can depower as you come round, project onto the front foot and avoid the spin out.
PETER HART TECHNIQUE THE SLOW BOTTOM TURN – into nose-dive
When the waves got bigger and steepened, the top turn into nose-dive trick became ever more popular. The cure seems to be to lean back as you take the drop but that’s a reactive, defensive solution to a bigger problem. If the bottom turn is slow, you reach the top of the wave almost stationary. As you drift into a top turn, the pitching lip picks the tail up, throws it forward and drops the nose. But if you carry speed to the top of the wave and top turn with speed, you project out onto a sloppier, safer area.
You kick off down the line to get speed. With speed you lean gently from edge to make ‘wiggle turns’ which gives more speed. 10 metres ahead you see the lip about to throw so you go for the big hero smack by dropping down onto the flat perhaps four or five metres in front of the wave to give yourself the room to turn all the way through the wind so you approach the wave nose first and sheeted right out with the clew above the wave.
USING the RIG – power control.
Great wave but slow bottom turn. The front arm is bent and choking the power so the board turns on the tail and is braking all the way.
The steep wave then picks the tail up and drives the nose down and permanently in.
GET OUT OF JAIL with a WAVE BOARD
As you turn on the gnarliest sections of bigger waves, speed and technique are tested but it’s also where the curvier outline, rails and rocker of the pure wave board come to the rescue and provide a safe ticket home. Coming off the top, where the rails of a FSW might stick into the curved wave surface, those of a wave board push on through. Once you feel those design qualities helping you, your confidence goes through the roof as does the desire to attack harder and faster.
Coming off the top with all the upwind edge buried, is a sign that you’re committing in the right direction. It’s also at this moment where a true wave board comes into its own and a straighter, free-ride of FSW can catch and let you down.
START BACK, FINISH OFF THE BACK
Because the top turn appears to be a tighter, slashier turn, people assume it’s done by leaning back and driving off the back foot, a la slam gybe. It absolutely isn’t. It’s done off the front foot and like the bottom turn, you just use back foot pressure to tighten it when needed. Back seat top turns are usually the devil children of back seat bottom turns. If you arrive at the top of the wave sitting on the back foot, the sudden change of direction is going to throw you even further back.
Nose in the air may look spectacular but a back foot bottom turn followed by and even ‘back-footier’ top turn means he’s about to exit the wave from the rear 86
In a dynamic top turn, you project forward onto your front foot and the mastfoot and use the back foot to control the banking angle and lend a bit of snap when the need arises.
One of the main differences between free-riding and wave-sailing is how you use power. Free-riding, going fast and doing planing gybes, is about keeping the power on as much as possible. In wave riding it’s about using the power in explosive bursts and, crucially, about depowering at critical moments to release the nose and allow the wave to wreak its magic. The commonest of the common mistakes among the group was over-sheeting and using the boom as a support on the top turn. As you come off the lip and look to re-direct body, rig and board (in that order) back down the hill, instinct tells you to pull on the boom and grind the board around with rig power. But being dead downwind, you WILL over-sheet and stall. Counter-intuitive it may be, but the complete opposite is true. As you approach the lip, sheet OUT to release the nose and keep the sail open, drop onto the heel of the front foot and let the wave push the nose round. The time to pump the sail is as you turn across the wind and direct that burst of power into the tail to throw some spray.
Mobile hands It’s a bare fact that you can’t make proper use of the rig unless you have a mobile back hand. If you don’t move the back hand back as you bottom turn, it’s hard to sheet in and the board will bounce. And if you don’t move it forward as you go for the top turn, you can’t open the sail enough and are liable to over-sheet. Our group developed mobile hands. The only danger was of being mechanical. “When exactly do you move the hands?” is a common question. There is no set time. The hand movements just help you widen your sheeting angles. For example, coming up to the lip in a side-off wind, you may get a monster gust. In which case you could leave the back hand back and deliberately over-sheet to kill power. By contrast you may need to do a very long bottom turn to outrun a white water section. In that case you’d leave the hand forward to keep the sail open for more downwind speed. Horses for courses as those Findus food people might say. More technique nous from our top guru in the next issue. Many of Peter’s 2013 clinics are already full. Check out spaces available on www.peter-hart.com. There are few guaranteed ways to improve your windsurfing but a Harty course is one of them.