- The Andy Brandt way. Andy's emphasis is on learning the loop without getting hurt. That's great, and he is responsible for convincing me that I can learn the loop without injuries. His approach is to start with small turns: jump when almost downwind, turn the board through downwind, fall on your back. Then, increase the angle jumped gradually, until starting at a beam reach and completing the loop.
- The Tricktionary way. This is a two-step approach: do a looping pre-exercise in light wind without the board, then do the looping fully powered with the board.
- The Remko de Weerd way. Remko describes his approach on the "7 Sons of Freestyle" DVD. It was available on YouTube for a while, but later removed since it was an unauthorized post. He has 4 steps, starting with a non-planing jibe in the foot straps to land on your back, and then increasing the speed and adding the jump and upward pull with the back leg later.
- positioning the back hand far back
- moving the sail far windward/forward while sheeting in hard
- looking back over your shoulder
- pulling the back leg up
Almost everything written about the speed loop states that this is a technically very easy trick - easier than a planing jibe, which most windsurfers can do when they start learning the speed loop. So why does learning the speed loop often take so long? I think because the things you need to do are exactly the opposite of what you usually do. Instead of looking forward where we are going, we look back over out shoulder, instead of controlling the sail to avoid a catapult, we want to do a catapult with the board. The Tricktionary pre-loop exercise helps to get these counter-intuitive patterns into your muscle memory, and to quiet your brain when it wants to say "But that's wrong!".
As much as I love the pre-exercise - am I ready to fully commit to doing the real thing while fully powered up? I think not... so let's look at the other approaches. Andy Brandt's approach seems to have the focus on avoiding injuries. That's great, since a 50-year old body (a) gets injured more easily, and (b) does not heal as fast as a 20-year old body. But when I watched Brendon's video of his attempts at the speed loop, I was not impressed. Brendon can do tricks that are technically much harder, for example the Spock. Andy's loop approach seems like "underkill" for him. In his video, he goes almost fully downwind before jumping. At this angle, there is very little sail pressure - but according to the Tricktionary, sail steering (i.e. a catapult with the board in the air) is what's really turning the board around in the loop. In other words - this in not really loop practice!
This brings us to Remko's approach that starts with a non-planing jibe in the straps as a "low wind almost loop". Remko also states that avoiding injury is a primary goal, and that's easy to see. The advantage of his approach is that it can be increased gradually by going faster and using chop more and more to jump. Jem Hall also seems to use the low wind jibe-fall in his loop clinics, as can be seen on this video.
The technique section of boardseeker.com has a number of interviews with pros about their experience in learning to loop. The common elements are:
- Fear - most pros found were afraid, too.
- "When you do decide to do it, go for it 100%." Really commit to the move.
- "Never let go of the boom" - none of the pros ever got injured in forward loops unless they let go of the boom (and even then, the injuries were minor).
- At home:
- Watch loop videos. Look at them in slow motion and/or frame-by-frame to see and understand what you need to do.
- Read about the speed loop in the Tricktionary and/or on the web. There are many instruction pages and videos on the various windsurfing magazines sites and on YouTube.
- Imagine doing the loop. You can do dry runs at any room in your house!
- On light wind days (or non-planing with a small sail on high wind days):
- Do the pre-loop exercise from the Tricktionary a number of times to loose fear, and build up some muscle memory (back hand far back, sheet in hard, look back, pull back foot up).
- Do the jibe in the straps - fall on your back exercise (Remko's steps 1 & 2).
- On high wind days:
- Practice chop hops, focusing on pulling the back leg up and staying tucked in. Try one-hand chop hops with board grabs.
- When the conditions are right, go for it 100%. Focus on sheeting in hard with a back hand that's far back on the boom, looking back, pulling the back leg in, and staying tucked in.
Here's an amusing video from el Toro, who learned the forward loop when he was 60. The last loop is one of the most beautiful forwards I've seen: