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Use Your Head

Oct 20, 2008

Author: Andy Brandt

Windsurfers often worry about what their arms and legs are doing while sailing when they would be better off using, and thinking about, their head. Keeping your head up and looking forward gives better balance, directional awareness and teaches a windsurfer to feel and not look for feedback from their sail.  

Leverage Loss and Gain
Moving your head in or out affects how much leverage you have over the sail. When waterstarting or beachstarting, your head should be tucked in and down toward the board to have less leverage against the sail, allowing it to pull you up easily. Other uses for this head in position include earlier planing through hanging down off the boom and to save your balance during a fall backward (to windward) off the board. The opposite applies when trying to be stronger or have more leverage against the sail. Leaning your head out over the water and to windward maximizes your pull against the sail. Any skill requiring leverage—sailing faster, pivot jibing, flipping the sail, or even hooking into the harness—will go better and dryer with your head leaning toward the wind and away from the sail.

Better Balance
Sometimes it’s better to not do anything with your head at all, but concentrate on keeping it still and steady overtop of your body. This is the secret to almost every carving manoeuvre. For the planing jibe, duck jibe and basically all carving tricks, keep your head still and your chin up. This will prevent you from leaning too far forward into an Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards (ski jumper) posture. All sail-throwing moves, like Duck Tacks and Boomerangs, require balance, especially when you’re not holding onto your sail. Once again, the perfect head-up and still stance will keep you dry and looking good as you perform magic with your sail. While moving around overtop of the board, you always know when you’re off the centreline because you feel the board tip. Keeping your head up will allow you to recover and improve your overall balance and strength.

Improving Angles

Sailing at extreme angles upwind and downwind is difficult. Using your head can give you the advantage of a few extra degrees. Leaning your head forward, to the nose of the board, and out, to windward, is a great trick for pointing upwind higher and maintaining full speed. This places more of your weight on the mast foot, increasing the amount of board in the water and allowing for a better upwind angle. The opposite applies to downwind sailing. Leaning your head back towards the tail and out, for leverage, will let you fly downwind. This is because adding more weight to the back foot decreases the waterline and turns the board off the wind. The more you exaggerate either position, the better it works.

Go to to attend a clinic by owner-instructor Andy Brandt.


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