Saturday, April 23, 2011

Remko + Andy + Jem = Loop?

It's getting warmer, and the ABK Camp in Corpus Christi is just 5 days away, so it's time to start thinking about the forward loop again. During the ABK freestyle camp in Bonaire in January, 4 or 5 of us went for the loop, but none of us succeeded. A typical attempt would be as follows:
  • a couple of bounces/pops where the board would get out of the water nicely (especially during the first bounce)
  • a third bounce where the board would barely leave the water
  • going for the loop by throwing the rig forward-leeward while the board was going back down towards the water
  • the board sticking to the water, and the surfer being pulled out of the straps and catapulted around the board
On the upside, nobody got hurt, and no equipment got damaged - but I could not shake the feeling that something was missing. A nice regular wave might have helped, but everyone who tried had no problems popping/chop hopping the board so that the fin was totally free, so at least one of us should have been able to waterstart out of a try. Still, I had the impression that my limited jumping/popping skills were a problem. So I was quite happy to see Jem Hall's forward loop video: he first focuses on jumping "with your tail up", and then adds a tail grab with the back hand as a loop pre-exercise. Below, I am taking Jem's suggestions, and combine them with parts of Andy Brandt's  and Remko de Weerd's loop lectures. I'll illustrate some points with frames from Jem's video. This is intended for average (or perhaps slow-learning) windsurfers like myself, who have a primary emphasis on not getting injured while learning new tricks like the loop.

Skill 1: tail-up, small-surfer jumps
The picture below shows what needs to be done:
Note that the tail of the board is higher than the nose, and that Jem has made himself very small; in some of the examples on his video, you can see that he almost hits his chin with his back knee. The front leg is more extended, and pushes the nose downwind.

 Skill 1a: tail grab jumps
While jumping, grab the tail of the board with your back hand:
The only way to grab the tail of your board is my really pulling your back leg up and making yourself small. Without a tail grab, you may be much more extended than you think in the air, but if you can grab the tail, you're fine.

Skill 2: Sail steering / falling in a jibe / Wymaroo
This is an exercise for light winds (non-planing conditions). It's "Step 1" in Remko's 4-step approach, and Andy's first crash. Here's Jem doing this:
The idea is to put the mast very far to windward in a pivot jibe, and to fall to the windward side while constantly pushing the board downwind with the mast foot (look at the mast angle above). In Remko's video, he does this going up a wave, so that the nose of the board is in the air. However, at most places, you won't have a wave that comes up against the wind. What Andy has added here is that you kick the tail of the board to lift the nose up; if you do this right, you can turn all the way around, ready to waterstart again. This is a fun and perfectly harmless exercise.

Skill 3: Putting it together
When you put the first two skills together, you should be very close to a loop. Look at Jem at the start of a loop:

Look how far to windward his mast is tilted. His backhand is all the way back on the boom. The mast foot pressure is starting to push the nose of the board downwind.
This is a fraction of a second later. Jem is getting small, and looking back. The board has already turned about 90 degrees downwind, and by now, the pressure in the sail is catapulting him around.
Close to the end of the loop, it looks like Jem is about to land on his back in the water. He's starting to get taller again, and to push the sail up. I'll be perfectly happy when I land on my back on this position the first time!
I find the progression of the how-to-loop lectures very interesting. The oldest suggestions I have seen are "just do it", and that obviously worked for some gifted folks. But it did not work for everyone, and I know several windsurfers who suffered season-ending injuries when trying things this way. Remko's approach tried to minimize the injury risks, and I think it did - but it does not work well without a perfect wave (I know, I broke the nose of my board trying to go from the non-planing to the planing version in flat water). Andy added the tail kick to Remko's version, which definitely helps keeping the boards intact. His current loop lecture got many more timid windsurfers like me to try the loop. Adding the jump exercises from Jem's video should help a few of us to complete the loop. It's also an exercise that's perfectly suited for the video sessions in ABK Camps - the jumps look cool, and some windsurfers may discover that they have to get a lot smaller still. The shallow water and lack of waves at many ABK Camp locations may make completing the first loop a bit harder, but that's no excuse for not trying...

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