How to get in foot straps and start planing in windsurfing

Planing in windsurfing is what most of us would like to experience. We would not want to miss the speed and adrenaline because that brings about the most fun!

I’ve been crashing, flipping and catapulting countless times, it’s easy to give up trying. There’s too much effort involved and why suffer getting hit by wave after wave and risk having to walk back in shame.

Thank goodness I have a supportive community here in Singapore, friends and coaches have been urging me to get over this hurdle. They have been through this stage and they know that once we overcome this struggle, we will be able to have a great time windsurfing and planing all we want.

I finally had my first taste of planing this year. Although this gave me a boost in confidence to hit the water regularly, it did not come easy. With that experience, I thought it may help you if I leave some of the mistakes and lessons learned here. In time to come, you can start planing too!

Why I keep swerving upwind when trying to put my foot in the front foot strap

  • Bending back arm too much when there’s a lull
  • Wind power is not enough, conditions are not right for planing
  • Front hand-holding too far forward on the boom, this brings me upwind
  • Banking the heel too much when wind power is not enough
  • Standing too upright
  • Leaving too much body weight on my back foot and that pushes the back of the board down too much, it turns upwind fast
  • Harness is set too long, it unhooks on it’s own when waves are choppy, putting too much work in the arms and make me tire easily, forcing me to press back foot down, turning board into the wind
  • Sheeting in with my back hand
  • Not adding enough pressure on the mass foot to drive it forward

All the above contribute to the board turning into the wind too abruptly. These cause it to slow down too much, you don’t get any chance to keep your foot in the front foot strap.

What should I do to get both feet in foot straps and start planing

  • Adjust harness lines as short as you can go to be able to hook on and off in strong winds. As the wind gets stronger and water gets choppier, your harness lines unhook easily. That’s not what you want because this makes your arms work more to hang on to the boom and sail.
  • Don’t worry about finding it hard to unhook, because when winds are strong with power, it’s easier to unhook.
  • Straighten both arms more and anticipate end of gust to stand upright and remove feet from straps to try again
  • I’ve had an issue of straightening my arms try as I might, and that’s because my harness lines were too long. Once I shorten them, I am forced to sit a bit more on the harness and that helped to straighten my arms naturally
  • Front hand to move back nearer to harness line
  • Don’t edge board, but add weight to front toes
  • Bend back knee (but not putting weight on it), straighten front leg, pull back body and stay low out of the board
  • Weight of body to extend out of the board, back and down. Don’t let weight hover over the stern or back of the board, shift bum out and forward towards mast, leave back foot light
  • Let harness be the one to help you pull in the sail. Don’t use backhand to sheet in, keep your arms close to being straight out.
  • Let harness close the sail when wind is strong enough to pull me up without me needing to use back arm to sheet in

7 steps to start planing when natural conditions are ideal

With the above lists of mistakes and things I should have done to get planing in windsurfing, here are 7 steps you can follow to get your feet into the straps successfully without questioning yourself if they will work or not.

Step 1: Commit to your harness

Before hitting the water, adjust your harness line lengths. They should be short enough to be hard to hook on in light winds.

I’m 1.56m tall at 52kg and my harness lines are at 28 to 29 inches. At these specifications, I feel that I can still shorten my lines.

In this step, don’t rush to put your feet into the foot straps first. With the wind power hitting your sail and you feel your speed picking up, it can be tempting, but keep your feet on the board for now.

The first thing will be to hook on to your harness, then half sit, or bend both knees just slightly. You will now start to feel yourself going faster.

Test the wind condition and how much weight you can add to your harness by removing your hands from the boom. The sail should be able to stay upright while you commit your weight to the harness.

Otherwise, adjust anything to be able to do this, things like harness line lengths, placement of harness on the boom, are they too far back or too far front?…etc…

Step 2: Shift your feet back

Next, move your feet back away from the mast foot such that your front foot is slowly shifted to the front of the foot strap. Your back foot can be just in front of the back strap, slightly to the centre of the board to keep it balanced.

Don’t shift by stepping down hard, but do this in light, small and sliding movements.

Next, slowly sit more on your harness and have your feet help you push your body away from the board.

This time, you can feel your feet moving nearer to the edge of the board. If you feel the board tilting towards you, this may mean the wind power is not enough. In this case, leave your front foot as it is and shift your back foot slightly towards the middle line again, just in front of the back strap.

But as assumed here, if the condition is ideal you should be able to shift your feet off the middle line and nearer to the edge.

Step 3: Pick up speed

Then, with your back knee slightly bent, straighten your front foot and intentionally add force to your front toes.

With this, you will naturally add pressure to the mast foot area of the board and also straighten your arms more.

Next, make sure your harness lines are only a thumb length away from both front and back hand, one on each side.

As you add a bit more force on the front toes and keeping your arms straight, make sure you intentionally avoid bending your arms or pulling the sail to you with your arms.

Consciously remind yourself to push the sail out and down onto the board while your body weight is committed to your harness.

Then, while doing all that acrobatic stunt above, slightly have your front arm bring the boom and sail in front of you. This position is also called “bearing away”.

Your board will now point slightly away from the wind, and you will start to pick up a lot more speed.

Step 4: Adjust sail slightly to gain control

At this point, your speed will be so fast, a small movement of your sail to bear away more can cause you to lose control and catapult. You will feel your feet getting so light, they start to slide around the board, flying all over the place.

I’ve fallen so many times in this way that the nose of my board cracked to its end 🙁 The good news is, nailing this step gets you in the foot strap, so hang in there.

One reminder here is, not to rush to put your foot into the strap when you feel out of control.

The next thing to do is to shift your sail very slightly away from the wind so that you are not bearing away too much, but going upwind just a bit.

Step 5: Get your front foot into the foot strap

You are still going fast, but not feeling out of control anymore.

Don’t stop there. Next, sit on your harness such that you are able to feel that your harness is carrying you and that you can lift both feet up.

Not that you are actually going to lift both feet up, you are still putting your front foot down with more force than your back foot.

But you have to rely on your harness because before getting your foot into the front foot strap, you have to lift it up. Technically, that means you are removing force from the front, and balancing on your back foot.

That’s not good, because balancing on your back foot leaves more force on the back of the board. Doing this is the cause of swerving the board upwind and stopping the board and your chance of planing.

So where do you shift your force to when you lift your front foot to slip into the foot strap for that split second?

The answer is on your harness.

Make sure most of your weight is off both the front and back feet, shifting it over onto your harness.

Once you feel that is good, go ahead to bring your front foot slightly out of the board, sidestep back towards the strap and slip it into the strap. Do this with full control in your harness together with your hands adding some pressure on the boom down into the board.

If you can do these, your foot will stay in the strap as you go blasting away.

Step 6: Slide your back foot to the edge

Usually, when I am slipping my front foot into the foot strap, I have the habit of moving my back foot closer to my front foot. This could be my instinctive fear of accidentally adding too much weight to the back of the board if I keep my back foot too far back.

After getting the front foot in, I tend to realise my back foot is a bit too far front, somewhere in between the front and back foot straps.

So once I get my front foot in the strap, I will slowly slide my back foot to the back strap until my little toe touches the strap.

Next, I will shift it slightly out of the board so that my back foot is wrapping the edge.

Step 7: Get your back foot into the foot strap

Similar to Step 5, if you want to get your back foot in the strap, this means you have to lift it up and your weight has to go somewhere to maintain balance.

The only way is to distribute it to your front foot and the harness.

You would also want the board to slowly point upwind and feel you are in control before trying to get your back foot in.

You don’t want to be going at top speed before slipping the back foot in because, at that point, you may not be able to balance or distribute your weight well on one foot and harness.

Once you get your control with your arms pressing the boom down and away from you, not at full speed but fast enough to keep it going, you add more of your weight onto your harness.

The weight on your harness helps to “sheet in” the sail and also add force to drive the board forward faster. Maintain your arms straight as always and don’t sheet in with your arms.

Balancing on both the harness and your front foot, next, swiftly without hesitation, slip your back foot out a bit, quickly sidestep to the strap and slot it into the foot strap.

Congratulations, you are now successfully planing with both feet in the straps!


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