Helpful Windsurfing Hints

Cape Hatteras can be a very forgiving place to windsurf, but like anywhere else, if you’re unprepared you can find yourself in a bit of trouble.  Here are a few helpful hints to keep you having more fun and less stress:  (don’t forget to check out the videos at the bottom of page, too)

General Windsurfing Hints:

  • 1st- Bring everything, or be prepared to rent something that you forgot (You’ll need a credit card and driver’s license).  We get some wildly fluctuating conditions out here, which is part of the draw of Hatteras- You never know what to expect!
  • Check your stuff!!  Inspect UJs and lines before every session, and replace items that look worn.
  • Dress for a long swim in case something breaks.  The air may be 75 degrees, but if the water is only 50 degrees and you somehow end up stranded, you’ll get dangerously cold very quickly.
  • SAIL WITH A BUDDY!  Most of the problems encountered by being unprepared for the above issues can be drastically mitigated by simply sailing with a friend.

General Soundside Sailing Hints:

  • Use a weed fin- That water can be very shallow, and a weed fin gives you a bit of warning when you touch bottom, instead of just instantly chucking you over the handlebars.  Oh, and it’s weedy, too.
  • Speaking of shallow water- Take it easy on your first few runs of every day, and scout out the water depth before you let the throttle wide open.  Depending on wind directions and tidal shifts, the spot that was waist deep yesterday might only be ankle deep today!
  • If the wind changes a bit, don’t re-rig.  Just do a bit of tuning.  Test the limits of your gear- it’s so forgiving to sail in the sound that you can often find yourself on a sail size a meter above or below all of your friends.  It’s a great place to work on efficiency when underpowered, and control when overpowered.  And getting your rig dialed in over a broad range of conditions will make you a better sailor.

Oceanside Windsurfing Hints:

  • Use a bigger board than you think you need- you WILL schlog, even when it’s blowing 40.  Plus, a bigger board helps get you up and running earlier, so it’ll be easier to make your way through the white water to get off the beach.
  • Use Reduced Diameter Masts- even waist high waves can give your gear a thrashing, and RDMs can take substantially more abuse than Standard Diameter masts.
  • Use wave sails.  Save the cambered sails and hollow tube battens for the flatwater side.  If you don’t know what kind of battens you have in your sail, take one out and look at it.  If it looks like it has 2 or 3 different sections of various diameter, chances are the wider part in the middle is hollow (read: TOO FRAGILE for use in the surf).  Performance wise, wave sails are generally designed for maneuverability and control instead of raw speed.  Don’t worry, they’re fast enough to be fun, and the increased maneuverability will come in very handy when negotiating the wave break!
  • Talk to other sailors, although anything they tell you is their personal preference and should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Pick your launch!!  Look at the wave setup before just jumping in.  If there are no waves breaking 25-50 yards off the beach, but there’s massive shorebreak, you should probably just move on and try to find a better sandbar.  Those offshore sandbars do a few things- first, they cut down on the amount of wave energy in the shorebreak, which is always good.  Second, the waves are more fun to ride because there’s usually cleaner wind way out there in the middle of the ocean.  Third, you can build up speed before you enter the wave zone, which will make it much easier to get through the dreaded “Impact Zone.”
  • When in doubt, don’t go out!  If you don’t think you can comfortably swim in the waves, winds, and crazy ocean currents that you’ll encounter, then you really shouldn’t be out there.
  • Speaking of swimming- Don’t sail out further than you would want to swim back in.  It never fails, your mast will unexpectedly break on the only whale watching reach you take, leaving you stranded way out in the middle of the ocean.  That’s bad news, so stay close to shore and try not to tempt that prankster Murphy.

Harness Line Length from Andy McKinney on Vimeo.

Threading The Downhaul Line from Andy McKinney on Vimeo.