Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Wheelie Stop


The one thing that surprised me most in yesterday's speed session was that Nina had problems getting dialed in, and stopped early when her forearms started hurting too much. Nina has become a better windsurfer than I am. She mostly does freestyle, but we have had several speedsurfing sessions where she has beaten my top speed. So what happened?

One thing I noticed yesterday was that she was staying relatively far away from the shore than I was - check the GPS tracks:
Nina's tracks are red, mine are light blue. With wind around 30 mph and stronger gusts, every mast length away from shore meant a lot more chop. Nina's average distance in the middle of the tracks was about 100 meters (350 ft); mine was closer to 30 meters (100 ft). Being closer to the shore meant not only more speed, but also a lot easier sailing.

I was puzzled why she stayed so far away from shore. Perhaps fear? No, that makes no sense - she is rather fearless when she goes through endless crashes while working on new freestyle moves, and keeps trying them when it's so windy that many windsurfers find jibing scary.

When we looked at our GPS tracks today, things became clear. The easiest way to make it back to the start is by stopping right at the edge of the reed islands, where the water was about hip-deep. But nobody ever taught Nina the Wheelie Stop on a slalom board! Her only way of stopping was to go upwind until she ran out of speed. But on a fast speed board with a cambered sail, that takes a long time - so she stayed far away from shore.

So, let's review the Wheelie Stop. If you're ever on a slalom or speed board, you absolutely should have this way of stopping dialed in; it can also be very useful on freeride (and other) boards. Let's start with a picture:
That's me stopping (probably 2 seconds before my fin hit the only big stone far and wide). I have sheeted out - my front arm is bent, the back arm long. But the cambered sail still keeps a bit of power, and the speedboard would happily coast for a long time, so I also put all my weight on the back foot to sink the tail and raise the nose up - putting the brakes on with a wheelie. The picture is from when I am just starting to brake - usually, the nose goes even higher, and there's more spray flying. But it should be good enough to get the idea.

Here's a short section of the GPS track where I slow down this way:
I want to stop at shore at the end of a 34 knot speed run (the wind is from the top-right). Just opening up the sail a bit got me down to 30 knots, but that's still pretty fast. But 10 seconds later, I have come to a full stop, exactly where I wanted to be. The track shows the third element of the wheelie stop: going upwind as you put on the brakes. With the nose of the board high in the air, the apparent wind from the front helps slowing you down .. a lot. You just may want to be careful using this technique when it's choppy and crazy windy, or you might find yourself jumping onto shore!
If you are a want-to-be-looper, there's and additional reason to practice the Wheelie Stop: Andy Brandt and the Tricktionary teach it as one of the pre-exercises for the front loop. But even if you're not interested in looping, it's a useful stopping technique that should be in every windsurfer's arsenal. Have fun trying it!

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