Saturday, February 6, 2010

How to jump in flat water

The best places for freestyle have totally flat water, like Bonaire. That does not keep freestylers from jumping, as Tonky illustrates here with a speed loop:

How does he get the board out of the water?
 That's an important question for me, considering (a) my grand plans for the year (speed  loop, Grubbys, ...), and (b) my distinctive lack of success in chop hopping so far.

Ok, I do have tons of excuses - my love for big boards and flat water, years of practicing to keep the board in the water under all conditions, and so on. But excuses don't help getting better. However, having plenty of time in the winter can help (or so I hope), if you use the time to study the Tricktionary and videos, and to think about things. After many hours, I have come up with a theory of how flat water jumps work.

Maybe it's because of my scientific training, but I usually have to have a theory how and why things work to learn something new. There is a problem with that: if the theory is wrong, the chances of success are rather slim. Case in point: my initial attempt at chop hops and pops. Below, I'll refer to chop hops and pops as jumping, but I usually mean jumping a board of very small waves or flat water.

Theory 1: Jumping a windsurf board is like jumping on land.
Very simple idea: go down by bending both knees, then straighten both legs rapidly. Will result in a nice jump on land. On a windsurf board, can be useful to get out of harness lines that are way too short, as long as you are not in the foot straps. Do the same thing in the straps and... nothing happens.
What going on? As I propel myself upwards, the board is pushed down into the water. Since we are connected by the foot straps, the downward momentum of the board pretty much cancels my upward momentum. Ok, maybe not quite, but there's also some extra force I'd need to tear the board over it's entire length out of the water. Pretty soon afterwards, the board will want to pop up again - but by then, I'm not moving up anymore.

Theory 2: Time the board pop.
What if I can time it so that I go up when the board comes up again, too? I can't think of a way to do this with just one up-down movement, but by doing this a few times in a row, I can push the board under water, and have it come back up a bit more everytime. This is more promising - at least something is moving. No high jumps this way, though, something is missing.

Theory 3: I need a ramp.
When the chop gets big, I'll jump all the time, unless I focus on keeping the board flat and using my legs as shock absorbers. Maybe a wave is needed for jumps? Sounds plausible - most trick instructions start with "look for a step piece of chop", or similar. But looking at Tonky in the movie above doing a speed loop in perfectly flat water, that can't be it.

Theory 4: Pop up your own ramp!
If we can jump with a ramp, why not make our own, and use it together with the "pop" of the board to get air? Here are some shots from the movie above to illustrate the idea.
This is before the jump. Normal sailing stance, the legs are bend just a bit. The next image is from a second later:
Notice how the front leg is straight, but the back leg is bent at almost 90 degrees.

A second later, the back leg is straight, and the front leg is bent. The board is just about to leave the water. Here's a sharper screen shot from the Tricktionary DVD:
You can see that the tail of the board has been pushed down into the water, and the front leg is bent, pulling up in the strap. As a result, the board is now going up a ramp! As soon as it reaches the end of the ramp, it's airborne. Then, pulling up on the back leg and getting small gets the tail higher into the air:
we can't really see it, but I think we can assume that the board's pop in response to getting pushed under the water also helps it to get higher.
Bottom line: a flat water jump is not at all like a jump on land. A better way of looking at it is  that we use our legs to create a ramp by pushing the tail underwater, and pulling up with the front leg. Then, to get the tail higher above the water, we pull up with the back leg. Jem Hall describes this motion quite nicely in his chop hop video. He also has another video that explains the differences when popping the board.

So - why does all this matter? A month from now, I will have Andy Brandt yelling at me, telling me exactly what I need to do to hop and pop. I won't really need any theoretical understanding then, that can come later. But until then, I'll be doing plenty of chop hops, pops, and speed loops in my head. I usually fall asleep visualizing windsurf moves. That's fun and makes me go to sleep with a smile on my face - but it may also help to learn the tricks faster (wouldn't it be great to make progress on the speed loop and the Grubby within one week?).

The idea to of "mental practice" is not a new one; many high level athletes use it. I got motivated to use it after reading the book "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge (great book). He describes an interesting experiment teaching piano to people who never played before. One group practiced piano for 2 hours a day; a second group, the "mental practice" group, instead just imagined playing while sitting in front of a keyboard, for the same amount of time. After 5 days, the group that actually practiced with a piano was better - but the "mental practice" group caught up after just one two-hour session with a piano! Maybe I'm an optimist, but I hope that all my mental practice (and hours of watching Tricktionary videos over and over) will pay off when I finally hit the water.

Mental practice is not everything, physical fitness also help a lot. During ABK classes, we often get to sail for 4-5 hours per day - that can be pretty tiring after a winter break. This year's break is substantially shorter than last year's, which should help. But in addition, I have set up a winter fitness program which kicked into high gear a couple of weeks ago:
  1. Karate. I usually go just once a week for one hour. The Kettlebell exercises in the first half of the class can be pretty intense.
  2. The gym. I go to a local gym once or twice a week, for about 90 minutes. The time is split about evenly between cardio and weight machines (higher rep numbers, switching machines instead of sitting around lazily between sets). Besides the obvious benetfits, both weight machines and the rowing machine help to build up the skin on the hands to reduce the amount of blisters.
  3. Yoga. 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes, using the Wii Fit Plus. I like the feedback about balance - it think it trains better than doing poses or stretching without the board.
  4. EA Active More Workouts, using the Wii and the balance board, 4 times per week for 30-40 minutes. On the "hard" setting, I usually work up a sweat within a few minutes. The first few times I used it, I was rather sore the next day. Great game, great fitness tool (just switch the resistance band against a stronger one).
I 've done the first three things the entire winter, and added EA Active Sports just a couple of weeks ago. Made a big difference, though. Working out three times a week was just about good enough to keep the fitness level constant; now, at six times per week, I see some marked improvements. Can't wait to be on the water again!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you a lot for this post. A have speend some time trying to choop hope, whithout sucess. I was trying exaclty what you describe in theory1 and after theory2. I guess, I will make it now with the right technique. At least, now I can see it happen mentaly. :)