The Completely Safe Way to Learn Forwards

So you want to learn to forward and you think you may be ready for them - if you have read my Brainswitch article in the 1995 August Windsurf you will hopefully have the motivation and confidence to go for this revered manoeuvre. As I promised back in that article (read it if you haven't yet, soon it will be up here) here is... my "Completely Safe Way to Learn Forwards"!! So cancel the ambulance, call off the coast guard, chuck away the bottle of aspirin that Mark Angulo once said you would need to learn forwards... because, contrary to popular belief there is a perfectly safe way to learn forwards! Read on....this is crucial reading too.


There are some physical and mental requirements that you need. I wouldn't tell my Mum there is a safe way for her to learn forwards.. she would put her back out... so are YOU are ready for them?....
Well, literally anybody who has good sail control and is fit enough to take some landings on their back can try. By good sail control I mean people who can confidently land high floaty jumps and be able to do a few tricks consistently; e.g; Heli tack, nose sink tack, or duck tack. Any of those will do. This is just a rough guide as there are people who can do forwards who can hardly gybe, however I would recommend that you learn the tricks first as you can only go so far with the forwards and the other rad manoeuvres if you do not have a good foundation in the sail control department. Also once on the road to learning forwards you will probably be having so much fun that it will be a long time before you go back to the tricks!

How Does a Forward Work?

It's important to have an understanding of how forwards actually work so, in the words of my girlfriend late the other night, "lets get technical". (No, not sexual - she wants to learn to forward too! Disapointing, I know!)
In simple terms : When sailing on flat water the sail is generating power from one point - the Centre of Effort (C of E). This force is pulling directly on the weight of the sailor's body through his arms and harness lines. (He then transfers that force to the board to create forward motion by pushing with his feet.) During a forward the same C of E is created, by sheeting in, however now the sailor moves his body back to the clew, rather than staying in line with the force. (Try and imagine it.) Thus the sail is pulled downwind and the sailor follows in a rotatory fashion. By holding that position the system of sailor and rig will keep rotating until he brings the C of E force back in line with his body, (or he hits the water). The rotation is fully controllable and can be sped up by the sailor by curling his body up tight near the clew, or it can even be stopped completely by him opening out his body and sheeting out. (or HER, girls can do it just as well as guys). Now,.. getting height and speed, and sheeting in, AND staying in that position is hard to do straight off because of the fear factor. The trick is to reduce the fear factor. It doesn't HAVE to be all or nothing... there is a way to learn gradually and safely....


The principle behind my safe learning technique is that you can do it slow and low (thus with less fear and danger), but still create the same rotation by cheating a bit. To do this the sailor has to bear off downwind, chop hop and then stick the nose of the board into the area of water downwind (on the otherside) of the mast base/ mast track. (Picture it) The same pull is created by the nose of the board stopping on contact with the water as during a normal loop, and the sailor is flicked onto his back. If he has beared down wind enough beforehand he will probably be able to waterstart away. This is the key to learning to forward. After this it is just a case of doing it faster, more aggressively and off bigger chop or swell when you feel comfortable and ready. Later you often cannot tell whether or not the nose of the board hit as the rotation feels identical. Wait!.. before you rush out and try this, read the extra details that you need to know, click "Conditions and Equipment" below.

Conditions and Equipment
To the Lesson, read "Conditions and Equipment first!"

Created by Cyber Chris K48
Copyright © 1997, Chris Calthrop, Last Updated - 01/01/01 04:00:08