Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Flaka entry

We have 50 days of windsurfing everyday on Maui coming up soon - so it's time to think about things to learn. A recent blog post by the Canadian Guy certainly encourages thinking a lot about moves before trying them. He got his first Vulcan in 155 attempts, compared to more typical counts in the 300-1000+ range. He studied plenty of how-to-articles as well as blog and forum posts to prepare for the move. Understanding and visualizing the move probably helped him cut out a few hundred tries.

One move I'd like to try during the next 2 months is the Flaka. Some windsurfers have a hard time learning the Flaka, but others think it's easier to learn than the Vulcan. A few things that I find attractive about it are:

  1. I've seen Flaka being completed after a tiny little 45-90 degree jump.
  2. Compared to the Vulcan, there's a lot less to do - the hands remain on the boom the entire time.
  3. The Flaka is a natural progression from the upwind 360s, which can be learned in light wind and then practiced in high wind. The only things to add are the initial jump, and the slide.
However, I have one big problem with the Flaka theory: I do not believe the explanation that my favorite windsurfing teacher gives about the mechanics of the move. I think his "quadrant" theories are great for the spin loop and the Vulcan. However, if my memory serves me right, he also thinks that the initial sail throw for the Flaka is into the forward-leeward quadrant, and that mast base pressure makes the board turn upwind. 

I looked at the Tricktionary videos, and at least 15 other videos of Flakas in many variations - regular, one-handed, air flakas, and double flakas (mostly at continentseven.com). In all of the videos I looked at, the initial sail throw is to the windward side, typical into the forward quadrant. Here are screen shots from 4 of these videos:
The videos are showing Daida MorenoSarah-Quita OffringaDavy Scheffers, and Piotr Konkel just as the boards are about to leave the water. In each case, the mast is tilted to the windward side, not to the leeward side. The mast remains there while the board is starting to turn, and the nose is coming down:

Note that between the first and second pictures, the boards have turned about 45-90 degrees. This turn cannot be caused by mast base pressure - any mast base pressure would turn the board the other way, away from the wind. Instead, what appears to be causing the board rotation is the "unwinding" of the body, from the shoulder down to the hips and eventually to the feet:

In the third series of pictures, the boards have rotated 180 degrees, and the back legs that were bent in the middle picture are straight again. Now, backwinded sail steering is taking over to push the nose of the board around the rest of the way.

Here's an animated picture series from Daida's Flaka, where the initial oversheeting to (a) depower the sail, and (b) pre-wind the body, can be seen nicely. After the oversheet, watch her body twist the other way, from the hands down to the hips and finally the feet:
So, according to this analysis, the Flaka is a two-part move: in the first part, the board is turned by twisting the body, with the sail basically being neutral; in the second part, the board is steered around the rest of the turn with backwinded sail pressure. This switch, together with the considerable commitment required for the first part, may explain why the Flaka can be hard to learn (especially if you have not done your light-wind homework :).


  1. In my opinion (as someone who has done both the flaka and the vulcan), the vulcan is an easier move. It takes more attempts typically because it's the first freestyle move most people try. For me, the flaka did build on an awful lot of lessons I learned doing the vulcan and spock. There is still power being generated from your hips and controlling a rotating backwards slide is very similar to the spock exit.

    The vulcan took from the beginning of the season until April 23rd (about 36 sessions) to learn last year. The flaka took over 60 sessions, as I landed my first on June 20th and that was as a sailor with far better popping and sliding skills as the year previous.

    Just some food for thought.

  2. Great post! And congrats on getting them btw Aaron.

    Vulcans took me a few years. Flakas are about 6yrs and still climbing... but admittedly, I have very little time on the water, and its only getting less.

  3. Thanks for the empirical data :) Aaron, did you have the upwind 360 dialed when you started on the Flaka? In light wind and high winds? Just curious.
    My issue with the Vulcan is that I cannot picture it in my head, or do it dry in my kitchen, even after listening to Andy Brandt's lecture several times. The Flaka seems much easier, I can fully picture it. Perhaps learning the Vulcan first makes learning the Flaka harder? There are some shared skills, but the mechanism to get the board rotating is about as different as the rotation direction.

  4. I think I had a pretty good upwind 360 when I started learning the flaka, but I don't think it would matter that much for my first 2 months of attempting them. Why? Because the upwind 360 is the easier part of the move. For sure by the time I was anywhere close to being in position to make one I had a good upwind 360.

    I don't think knowing the vulcan will make learning any other moves anything but easier. I think the timing of popping and getting the nose down has some similarity between the two moves. Also, I spock on starboard, which is the same rotational direction as the port flaka.

    I don't mean to discourage you, you should go for the moves you really want to learn!

    I do have a friend who is an extremely talented sponsored rider who took 2 years to make a proper flaka. 2 years sailing 150 sessions at least per year and he's a very technique oriented sailor who -- for sure -- had the upwind 3 done in his sleep. I got lucky -- all the other 10 people who I'm trying them with in our "beer pool" bet haven't cracked it.