Windsurfing Safety Lesson
Safety is not intuitive it is taught and learned. Windsurfing lessons always begin with the safety briefing. This should include; The wind direction and weather conditions, where it is shallow, where to launch, where to come back to shore, & where not to go, hazards and currents.
Define the sailing area:
The instructor must define the sailing area. Clearly give landmarks of where it is permissible to ride. Students should not go more than 100 meters from shore. And they should endeavor to stay on the eastern half (upwind end) of kooks beach.
The instructor must divide his attention among all the students, and avoid focusing exclusively on only one or two students. In a group situation it is important to give attention to the weakest student first. Then the instructor needs to also challenge the stronger students too. Set them a tougher goal to keep them interested.
When teaching a group of windsurfers, have them all start at the most upwind launch point, at kooks beach it will be right next to the rocks, This is where the beach curves slightly and will give the student an advantage in sailing upwind, and because they are launching beyond the shorebreak.
Low man priority:
When the students are getting blown downwind, get to the most downwind student and bring them to shore. Have them walk back upwind to the upwind launch point.
Going to the low man first saves time, because the stronger sailors will stay upwind longer by themselves. Once the low man is ashore and walking back upwind, you can rejoin the group. And give more attention to the rest of the group.
If you lose control of a student and they get blown far downwind, you have to act quickly. If they are too far offshore to get by foot, you will need to jump on another student’s board and sail out and bring them in. Do not make a big deal out of it, just say to the student “may I borrow your board for a minute?”, then when you get to the blow-away, say “can I give you a push in?” do not say “I AM HERE TO RESCUE YOU” because you will embarrass the student. Keep the mood light and the student calm through your actions, words and demeanor.
Keep your cool:
Even if you are not seeing correct results, or the student is not paying attention, do not lose your cool. Stay positive and give balanced corrections. Say, “you almost got it that time”. Even if you see a potentially risky situation developing, do not scream or yell, because you will cause students to panic. Stay calm and assertive. Remind students that you need their cooperation to maintain the safety of the group.
Communication on water:
In strong wind, the human voice will carry about 20-30 feet from the speaker. If you continue to yell at a student who is out of earshot, you will frustrate them and just waste your energy. Better to use some simple pre-determined hand signals. Like “stop”, “turn around”, and “come here”, and “OK”.
Brief the student before each run, what to do and then let them try on their own. This way they will learn to think for themselves. If you are still yelling at them they will not be thinking for themselves. Let them concentrate on what they are doing, without distraction of your voice. Students learn more by doing. This is called the discovery phase of learning. Let them try to figure it out on their own, and then after their attempts, bring them back to shore and give them some feedback and corrections.
The learning Steps are:
- Instructor Explaining a technique on the land, (what, why, how)
- followed by a short demonstration by the instructor
- then the student attempts on their own,
- then the instructor asks the student how it felt
- Then the instructor gives feedback and correction
- Then student attempts task again.
These are the most common pitfalls that will cause a student to lose interest and retire from windsurfing.
Fear: if students get excessively scared, they will lose their motivation and quit. Fear levels are different for everyone, maybe your student is a weak swimmer, and they will start to get nervous even in shallow water.
Lack of attention: students who are ignored or who feel that are not getting a fair share of the instructor’s attention will lose interest.
Pain: someone who gets bruised knees, bumped by the board, sunburn, a sore back, cut feet, or any other pain will quickly lose motivation. Remember that most students are not used to this much physical exercise and will tire quickly.
Disrespect: many people’s egos get involved in a lesson situation. People don’t like being made to feel stupid. Do not talk down to students. Give them acknowledgement for their knowledge in other sports, and tell them how their life experiences will help them to windsurf. Communication style is important especially when young instructors are addressing older students. Remember that the instructor is there to serve the students.
Impersonal treatment: remember that students are individual people that need to be recognized by name. Try to remember all your students’ first names, and use them often.
Keep in mind the goals of each student and monitor their individual progress. Do not treat the students indifferently, each is unique and is looking to make a personal connection with their instructor.
Technique includes safety tips.
Students should be made aware of the common risks in windsurfing. Let them know that getting hit by their own gear is the most common cause of problems. Students should be shown how to fall, and how to protect themselves from the gear. Covering their heads, when the rig falls, and protecting their faces when the board flies up.
Injuries happen when students:
- Get hit by the board,
To avoid, always hold onto the board, don’t let go close to other windsurfers,
Do not let a loose board get between you and wave.
- Get hit by the mast, have the students protect their head from falling masts and
Tell them to stay at lest one mast length away from other windsurfers.
- hit the sea floor, step off in shallow water,
Always wear booties, bending the knees when stepping off or falling feet first.
- hurt their necks,
Tell the students to never dive head-first off their boards, they should protect their necks and heads with their arms.
- run into each other (T-bone),
do not let the students go when another person is in their path.
- instructor runs into student,
Always control you board.
- or they get hit by a loose board.
Always hold your board, and be aware of their surroundings, & other students.
- Fall onto another board, keep students spaced so they do not fall onto a nearby board. If they are too close they can sit down on their boards until they separate.
It is vital that instructors’ control the Windsurfing traffic, and keep the students separated enough to avoid running into each other. Instructors should spread the group out, and adjust the timing so avoid students bunching up.
With a group it is important to inform them of the Windsurfing pattern, that keeps them separated, but still remain in the sailing practice area.
Inform the students that “The shorebreak is to be avoided. And they should step off the board before it runs aground.
On the water:
- The first skill a student learns is launching the board from the beach into the water by dragging it by the mast tip and the board’s nose. They should enter the water perpendicular to the waves and get quickly through the shorebreak.
- Second Skill is to teach the student how to safely walk the board upwind in the water. The student MUST be positioned on the ocean side of the board to avoid being hit by the board when the wave comes. The rig should be balanced on the board’s tail or by on the downwind side. Keeping the sail on the downwind side prevents the sail flipping over and hitting the student.
- The third skill is positioning the board crosswind and mounting the board correctly.
- The fourth skill is uphauling the sail and sail-steering using the uphaul rope.
- The fifth skill is the rope turn. Then the student learns the rope turn jibe, by dragging the sail over the board’s nose.
- The sixth skill is the dismount, where the student lowers the sail, then sits on the board, then slides off the board to the upwind and offshore side of the board.
- the student then walks the board back to the starting place (at the upwind corner of the beach
The instructor is responsible for keeping the lesson safe for the students, and for protecting the equipment from damage and theft.
What if the instructor cannot ensure safety?:
Large surf: the instructor should stop the lesson and reschedule it.
Any significant injury: (or suspected injury to head neck, fainting, loss of consciousness, chest pains, and breathing difficulties) we stop the lesson and direct the student to seek immediate medical attention. Instructors should give first aid to students if necessary. Instructors should know the location of Maui Memorial hospital and Kihei Emergency care. Or dial 911 if necessary. Lifeguards are also connected to the 911 system.
Arrive early for the lesson. Instructors are to wear their rash-guard shirts at all times. Instructors can wear a wetsuit under their instructor rashguard if they need to. Always wear a shirt at the beginning of the lesson. Arrive clean, shaven, hair brushed, showered, deodorized, and wide awake. Wear surf shorts, (not street shorts). Shorts should be in good condition (no holes/stains). Always be polite (even with difficult students). Handle complaints and criticisms professionally, and direct any serious complaints to the office. Direct any financial problems to the office. Do not solicit for tips. Do not offer any non-Action Sports Maui services to students. Like photos or buying your used gear etc.
References and self study:
- Instructors should log onto the “Safe Windsurfing handbook” on our read online bookstore. http://220.127.116.11/books/kidswindbook/kids-wind-book_index.html Follow the links to the “Oldies Version”
- Instructors should have current CPR and FirstAid. (3hrs each)
- Instructors should watch the RYA training Videos by Peter Hart.
- Instructors should get Lifeguard certification (40hours course with Red Cross)
- Instructors must be competent longboard windsurfers.
- Instructors should practice their own Windsurfing and be able to teach: harness, Footstraps, jibes, Waterstarts, Jumping, wavesailing and looping.
Copyright David Dorn © 2006-2008