Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tricktionary & Trickpack

I learned that following Andy Brandt's suggestions about windsurfing is generally a good idea. So when he brought the Tricktionary book to the ABK camp in Cape Cod, it really was just a question of when I'd the book, the DVDs, or both. I ordered both (the "Trickpack") a couple of weeks later as a birthday present for my lovely wife. She had been looking for a windsurf book that showed some of the tricks Andy taught us already. I also remembered having a trick book when I started windsurfing, and having a lot of fun trying the "old school" tricks in it (this was about 20 years before most "new school" tricks were invented).

Well, the birthday is still a couple of months away, about the same time that we probably will stop windsurfing because it will be freezing and snowing. Right now, my wife is really eager to try more stuff - she just got the heli tack last time we went out, and wants more. So I decided to give here her birthday present a bit early (after convincing her that she'd really want it now, not in a couple of months).

So, here's my impression of the Tricktionary II book and DVDs:

The book has about 285 pages. The first 50 pages cover the basics, from equipment to waterstart. They are rather useful for beginners and intermediates. Then, still as part of the "basics", some light wind tricks and pre-exercises are covered - from backwind and clew first sailing to sail-body 360s, heli tack, and front loop pre-exercise.

Each trick is shown with a series of 10-15 pictures, and has a written description. Most tricks also have a short intro and tips, and/or "common problems" and their solutions. I looked at some tricks that I can do reasonably well, and learned a couple of new things. I also looked at tricks that I just started working on, and found the combination of the picture series and the description very useful to understand what the trick is about (check out the sample pages here).

One of the best features is the methodical approach. For each trick, a number of pre-exercises are given. If you can do the pre-exercises, then learning the trick will be pretty straightforward; if you try to skip the pre-exercises and go straight for a complicated trick, you will probably be in for a much longer learning period. I learned this lesson during my ABK camps. In my first camp, I did not understand why I should practice backwind sailing or clew first sailing. But in my third camp, all the practice of basics really paid off - I often was able to do a new (light wind) trick on the first or second try, because I knew all the basic moves it was composed of. Even better, I even managed to put together whole new (for me) tricks: when I practiced boomerangs, and the sail came back to much to the side, I simply stepped around it for a boomerang sail-body 360.

I'm not saying this to claim that I am a great windsurfer (I'm not), but rather to illustrate that learning the basic moves will really help to learn more complicated (and more fun) stuff much quicker.

In its methodical approach, the setup of the Tricktionary book is similar to the way the ABK camps I attended were structured. I mentioned before that I am a great ABK fan (as are most or all other campers); so the structure in the book, which is more obvious, is a big plus. The layout and details in the book are also great. The pictures for a trick are arranged in the same way you sail during the trick - for example a straight line for straight-line tricks like a Vulcan, and a half circle for the Power Jibe.

The book is great, and will certainly be with us on every future windsurf trip. So how about the DVD? In short: also great, and even better in combination with the book.

I have looked at a few trick DVD on Totalvid.com to check them out before buying. One thing I did not like was the lack of organization in the downloads. The first time, I may want to watch the whole video - but mostly, I want to be able to look up a specific trick I am working on. With the Tricktionary DVD, that's easy. That's an impressive feat, since we are talking about 3 DVDs with 400 minutes of contents. Tricks are organized into categories: basics, jibes, tacks, old school, jumps, switch, and extreme (there are also beginner and wave sections). The DVD is organized much more like a web site, with lots of links and "back" buttons to facilitate navigation. For example, each trick has links to the pre-requisites you should have under your belt before trying the trick.

The trick videos themselves are great, too. At first, the entire trick is shown in normal speed. Then, the trick is explained in detail, with slowdowns and highlighting used very nicely to illustrate what you need to do. The wind directions is also indicated by an arrow on the water, which can be very helpful. The highlighting is great to see what's important - if the mast arm needs to be extended, and the clew arm bent, chances are they are highlighted when the verbal instructions mention this.

There is just one thing that might turn off a few viewers: the voice over in the English version was done with a noticeable German accent. It seems the Tricktionary project was done by German-speaking folks; the authors are Austrian, and the video and pictures show some of the best German Pro windsurfers. However, the voice overs are perfectly understandable in the English version. For me, I'll just listen to the German version. Other languages are also available, but I did not check them out.

For windsurfers who have not been to an ABK or similar camp before, the question might arise: "Why should I get a Tricktionary if I'm not interested in tricks?"

The answer, in my eyes, is simple: To get better and have more fun. I tried to perfect my jibe in many private lessons; I must have listened to at least 10 different Vela clinics about jibes, studied jibe videos many times, and read everything I could find about it. I usually surf where ou have to turn every 500 meters, so I also got plenty of practice. But the real breakthrough came after I started playing around with other tricks again in an ABK camp. Practicing things like backwind and clew first sailing, and 7 different light wind jibe variations, gave me a much better feeling for sail and board handling, and probably helped at least as much as the specific pointers Andy and his instructors gave me. Since then, I am looking forward to each jibe - it's as much fun as just going wicked fast, if not more.

Of course, there is also the other big advantage: I don't get skunked anymore. The times of sitting at the beach and waiting for wind are gone - I go out on the water and practice light wind tricks instead. I did that when I started surfing on Lake Konstanz, since high wind day were extremely rare; I'm glad I started it again. We've actually gone surfing on days when the wind forecast was lousy, specifically to practice light wind tricks - and had as much fun as on high wind days.

So: if you windsurf for fun, get Tricktionary and start practicing tricks!

http://worldwinds.net/ - US distributor of Tricktionary

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