Saturday, March 14, 2015

Backwind Jumps

The title of this post is misleading. This post is really an illustration how careful one has to be about what one writes on the internet. You never know what kind of ideas you put in peoples heads!

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have not posted my typical crazy theories about freestyle moves this winter. Some may even have hoped that they'd make it through this winter without being exposed to yet-another freestyle theory that is obviously completely wrong. Hah - zu früh gefreut! Here is my new theory:
  • For some freestylers, the first "new school" freestyle move should be not be a Vulcan, Grubby, or Flaka, but rather a backwinded move: a Shaka, Switch Kono, or Funnel. 
A few of my back-and-forth-sailing friends may now wonder what the hell I am talking about, so let me show you a video of a Funnel:

How could I possibly think that's the first new school move to learn? I'll blame tim319. On a thread about learning the Flaka on the British windsurfing forum, he posted this:
"I think I'm gonna crack funnells in much less time.
Apparently as soon as you start to get them you make the majority."
Interesting enough to prompt a few Google searches. Very quickly, they turned up this statement by Flo Söhnchen, a top German freestyler:
"Der Funnel ist eigentlich relativ einfach" (The Funnel is actually relatively simple)
That is quite a contrast about what he writes about one of my previous favorites, the Flaka:
"Durchhalten! Irgendwann klappt das verdammte Ding! :)" (Keep at it - you'll get the damn move eventually!)
And about the Grubby:
"Irgendwie find ich es recht schwierig, den Move richtig konstant hinzubekommen" (Somehow, I find it quite difficult to make this move really consistently)
Now back to what Flo says about the Funnel:
"Was den Move schwierig macht, ist das Duck-Schiften des Segels in der Switch-Stance-Position vor dem Absprung." (What makes the move difficult is ducking the sail from switch stance before the pop)
So, if you already know how to duck the sail while planing switch, the move should be easy! Admittedly, this is a difficult skill - I have read that it is more difficult than learning the Vulcan. But I know at least two women who learned the planing Duck Tack before the Vulcan - my lovely wife Nina, and Marji from Bonaire. There are a couple good reasons to learn the planing Duck Tack before starting with new school tricks. One is that is has a light-wind counterpart, which can be quite helpful to learn the sail handling (which is, indeed, non-trivial); the other one is that the crashes look a lot less dramatic than Vulcan crashes. The light-wind Duck Tack is also a move that can be done in almost-planing conditions, and with a high success rate once you learned it - two things that install confidence.

So, if we assume a windsurfer can do the planing Duck Tack, and that she can plane switch in the straps, is the Funnel really a good move to try? That still seems highly questionable for the following reason:
  • Looking at just the board movements, the Funnel is the equivalent of a Spock 540: the nose is jumped downwind to turn the board 180 degrees into a backwards slide, followed by an additional 360 turn while sliding
  • The Spock 540 is the trick you learn after the Spock, which you learn after the Vulcan; many who have learned them all say that it takes just as many tries to learn the Spock as it took to learn the Vulcan.

It it wasn't rainy and cold outside, I might just stop here, and ignore what tim319 and Floh said (and perhaps remember that so far, I have had quite limited success planing switch, and never even tried a planing Duck Tack, although I have the non-planing version down). But it is rainy, so we'll continue by carving the moves into little pieces, and comparing them.

1. Preparation

For the Spock 540, there is not much to do - get over the board for a pop, instead of staying more out like you would for a chop hop. Easy enough to do.
For the Funnel, you have to go switch stance, and then duck the sail, without loosing to much speed. Definitely much harder!

2. Take off

In the Spock, the sail is upright and depowered. That's quite different from chop hops, where the sail is to windward and powered. 
In the Funnel, the sail is backwinded and slightly forward. The pressure in the backwinded sail helps to get air. If you don't jump, the backwinded sail will throw you backwards - but if you've worked on 360s, you know that these crashes are harmless and often even fun.

3. In the air 

In the Spock 540, we have to let go of the backhand, and switch hands to the other side of the boom. We also want to push the nose down to create a rotation point. That's a lot of things at the same time, while the board is in the air - one of the things that make learning the Vulcan (the first phase of the Spock) hard.
In the Funnel, we have held on the the boom the entire time - not so hard.

4. Sliding backwards

We have turned the board 180 degrees, so our stance has switched: in the Spock, we are now switch stance, while in the Funnel, we are regular stance.  If you stop the Spock here, you have a Vulcan. You could stop the Funnel here, too, but nobody seems to do that. If you did, you could sail away in a regular stance, rather than from a switch stance as in the Vulcan. The sail now needs to go towards the nose of the board to continue the rotation. This seems easier in the Funnel, where we are in normal stance, and more difficult in the Spock 540, where we are switch stance.

5. After turning 360 degrees

We are backwinded and sliding. In the Spock 540, the body is twisted up - relative to the regular backwinded stance, we are in switch stance. In the Funnel, the stance is almost identical to the stance before takeoff, except that the sail is still more forward to push the nose around for the final half-turn.

6. Exit
In the Spock 540, the sailor exits in switch stance; in the Funnel, the exit is in normal stance.

In summary, the Funnel does seem quite a bit easier after the initial preparation, since we do not have to switch hands on the boom mid-air, and are in a normal stance through the entire rest of the move. So perhaps we can believe tim319 and Floh!

I am not claiming that the Funnel is much easier to learn than the Spock 540. It's possible that it is actually more difficult; after all, the Tricktionary 2 still had it listed in the "Extreme" section. However, it appears that the hardest part of the Funnel happens before takeoff. This part can be learned without any jumping or popping! Since the crazy crashes that we see when guys try to learn Vulcans and Spocks are eliminated, the fear factor is greatly reduced.

Additional motivation to learn the planing Duck Tack and the switch duck in the straps is that it leads to the Switch Kono. If you've ever seen Kiri Thode or Tonky Frans throw a sky-high Kono on perfectly flat water in Bonaire, you'll agree that this is a very cool looking move. Perhaps more importantly, it is the only new-school move that does not scare me at all, for a very simple reason; when working on Carve 360s in the straps, I got thrown backwards by the backwinded sail many, many times. Some of those times, most of the board was in the air, and I got the nose turned enough to get a bit of wind into the sail again from the right side. In the worst case, those falls were harmless; typically, they were a lot of fun, even if it was windy enough that I'd stop doing duck jibes.

So, I got two tricks I'd love to try, the Switch Kono and the Funnel. To get there, I'll probably first need to catch up with Nina a bit, and finally work on the planing Duck Tack. So that gives a couple of high wind goals for the upcoming ABK camp in Hatteras: 
  1. Planing switch in the straps
  2. Ducking the sail while planing switch
There. I said it. Now I have to do it. Then we'll see what that leads to. Maybe I'll throw in a few Shove It/Shaka tries while we're down there - after all, they are backwinded jumps, too. 


  1. The hardest part of the vulcan is sliding backwards after popping 180.The spock was trying to keep my balance through another 180 turn. I would pop and rotate almost 270 before sliding. Here is a clew view moment of my second ever spock.

  2. Oh and now you want to try doing it switched, good luck with that :)

    1. You got that backwards, Pete! I do not want to slide backwards switch, which is why I want to go switch before jumping the board.

      I think one reason why the Vulcan is hard because you are sliding backwards switch. The Funnel lets you slide backward in regular stance, and lets you hold on to the boom in the air.

      The other thing that's hard about the Vulcan is that you have to switch hands in the air. It took me years just to get all the things you are supposed to do sorted out in my head. It would probably take me many more years to sort out how to actually do them on the water.

      One of the big attractions is that you can work on the hard part of a move without having to commit to crazy crashes. There will, of course, be crashes, but they are similar to what happens in "pesky" wind duck tacks and Carve 360s.

    2. Most of the crashing comes from not being able to balance out the board, too much weight on the back or too much forward.The sail switch is the easiest part of the move. Popping and spinning is the hardest part to control. So unless you feel comfortable sailing switched and backside on a full plane it just open another can of worms, that's why most freestyle moves score more switched and backside because it is harder .

    3. Pete, my answer got a bit long, so I simply added yet another post about this topic :-)