Living in Maui, Cape Town or Western Australia with perfect waves on tap maybe the dream for many a wavesailor, but this is rarely a reality, even for the pros. The shores of the UK, the Canaries, Denmark etc may provide slightly less than perfect down the line riding, but they are still the training grounds of some of the best wavesailors around. Speaking with Victor Fernandez, Klaas Voget and Britain’s own Nik Baker, we find out why wavesailing is not all about finding the perfect wave.
(Photos of Nik Baker: Unknown.)
You may think that professional riders have it sussed, spending an endless summer globe trotting in search of the perfect waves, and whilst some may do this, in fact many are not. Like most of the population those working in the windsurfing industry have other commitments that keep them away from much longed for conditions.
Klaas: I’m not actually sailing in down the line conditions very often, the days when it all comes together are rare. Between May and October I hardly catch any perfect days, I’m in Germany and Denmark most of the time, with regular trips to Gran Canaria and Tenerife each year. To catch it cross off in Klitmöller is possible, but most days are cross to cross-onshore, but I still love it!"
It’s not always about the most ideal conditions, in fact there are many other factors that go into making a great day on the water, not just epic wind and waves. If every day was logo high, smooth, cross off shore waves, would you get bored? Well, maybe not, but as they say variety is the spice of life. And it is also variety that will help improve your windsurfing level.
Nik: “In cross on, mushy conditions you really have to learn how to ride and make the most of the wave. To ride well in onshore you have to learn to use the wave and wind together, as this is the only way to ride well in these slow conditions. When you then apply this to a good, fast moving wave you should generate a lot more speed which help with all wave riding."
But what specifically could, and should, you be practicing? With riding, body position is really important, you have to be able to really open up the clew of the sail as you approach the top turn, this comes from bringing a lot of rotation through the body.
Nik: “If you can learn to rotate the upper body from the waist, like a spring, through the bottom turn and then use this spring like twist as you cut back, it will give you maximum power off the top turn."
Plus, believe it or not, it is actually a lot easier to take your first steps into wave tricks in small waves. As the power of the waves goes down, so does the fear factor; in smaller waves you will probably feel a lot more comfortable and when you feel relaxed, it is a lot easier to learn new things.
Klaas: “A lot of moves and jumps are much easier to learn in cross-on conditions than in cross-off. Plus mushy waves are more forgiving, and usually less painful than a logo high plus wave if you fall. A perfect wave usually comes with a good, punchy lip that can smack you pretty hard; not so good for trying the Taka for the first time! Whereas these conditions are great for trying moves like the Taka, plus front and backside 360s, and they make sailing shitty conditions look pretty good too!"
Whilst these aren’t moves that can be nailed in a day, if you are competent riding and want to push your style more they are definitely worth going for. The taka in particular, which is a effectively an upwind 360 off the top of the wave, is within the reach of many. And even if you don’t manage to land a trick or two “trying new moves will open up your windsurfing skills a lot more".
Your new found skills, and what you have learnt on the on shore days, can then be taken forward into the sessions when you are lucky enough to be in wavesailing heaven. This is what will truly make you a great all round wavesailor.
Klaas: “If you go to a place with constant cross off waveriding conditions, you mostly see the locals with a good waveriding level, but they don’t jump or do tricks on the wave much. With a good mix of conditions you get the best progress in your sailing and if you have a look at the top guys in the world tour, hardly any of them grew up in a perfect down the line spot."
But do they enjoy it? Surely any rider would rather be in down the line perfection given the choice? Victor makes the Canaries his home and believes it is the ultimate spot for not only learning moves, but for having fun.
Victor: “I do really enjoy windsurfing in these conditions, especially at home because I can try all kinds of moves. In more down the line conditions I focus more on pure waveriding and some wave moves, but I don´t jump because the wind tends to be offshore and light. I always like to sail different spots, different tacks to get better in all conditions. This really is the key to becoming the best overall wavesailor you can be."
Fun is also the most important thing to Nik now, although he has always enjoyed windsurfing in all conditions.
Nik: “I love it here. I have always loved sailing in mushy onshore conditions as it really varies from frontside to back side riding, plus lots of jumping. It is generally a really fun time on the water, and not so intense!"
So to all of you that imagine wavesailing as Ho’okipa, One Eye or Jaws at it’s best, yes this is part of this adrenaline filled side of our sport. However in reality all of us, from pro to amateur and instructor to office worker, spend most of our wavesailing time at our local break in less than perfect conditions. But that does not mean that we cannot enjoy ourselves and progress immensely, or that these conditions should be looked down upon. In fact, the small, mushy days the true champions shine through.
Check out the Boardseeker travel guides to find what locations you could head to both home and away. Boardseeker Travel Features