Air Time:

Jumping to looping

by: Marc Lefebvre

Air time is what I consider one of the most fun aspects of this sport, next to going very fast. Once you can jump fairly competent you have entered the world of the advanced windsurfer, no more intermediate for you and its time to learn to loop. Yes! Loop I said! Once you can jump you can loop because it is 99% mental 1% effort. That mental barrier is the biggest challenge for you to attempt your first loop.

Chop Hopping

Well you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run so we will start with the simple chop hop. The chop hop will be your first introduction to air time. Although it will be short you will always remember your first that you get any kind of air off of it.

This first piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you are firmly attached to your board. As in jam your feet into those straps so they will not fly out when you get into the air. One of the scariest situation I have ever been in is when I hit a ramp and got a lot of air and found myself outside my straps and about to land on my gear. I ended up bruising my chins real bad! So make sure your feet are firmly in your straps.

The second piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you are powered up and not in slog mode. You need all the powered you can muster in the sail to get air borne. When you are learning this will help you a lot. So rig a little bigger than you would normally. Once you get the motions down you won't need to do this because you will be more efficient in your jumping.

Now you are ready to go for your first chop hop. You need to locate a nice piece of chop to hop from. Look for chop with a steep face. You'll jump higher off of a steep piece of chop than you will off of a larger but rounder piece of chop.

When the front of you board reaches this piece of chop bend your knees and place your weight on your rear foot, over the center line of back of the board. Compress and extend your rear leg as if you were jumping on land while bending your front knee to lift the nose of your board.

You should now be air borne. Take a look at the view and remember this moment, you are AIR BORNE. Now the landing. This is usually the hard part. Most people can get air but many can't land. You have two options each with their pros and cons; you can go for a nose first landing or a tail first landing. The pros of landing nose first is less chance of spin out, the cons is that you have to time it or you will pearl over the handle bars. The pros of landing tail first is that it is easier and you should be able to maintain speed, the cons are that there is a greater chance of spin out. Either way you should learn both.

To do a nose first landing you extend your front leg first to lower the nose to the water. Upon the nose hitting the water you must straighten your rear leg and then compress on landing. If you are to late in extending your rear leg you will submarine to the bottom and possible get catapulted forward if you have any speed at all. If you are too early in extending your leg you will end up landing flat and that is bad on the knees as well as your board. It may cause the board to get soft under your feet, break in half, or delaminate. So becareful to not land flat!

To do a tail first landing you extend your rear leg first to lower the tail to the water. Upon landing you compress to absorb your momentum and continue on sailing.


Now that you got that chop hop down and you've tasted flight, you want more. Jumping is very similar to chop hopping except for what you do to get that extra bit of air.

Try to get the nose of the board to ride smoothly up the face. Sheet in hard and transfer your weight back a bit. You want to load a lot of pressure on the board under your feet. (For skiers: It's like compressing your skis to pop off of a mogul; except the board doesn't flex.) Let the chop redirect your direction from forward to up and forward.

As you get airborne, lean back more, and pull up your feet to your bottom. I try to remember to push my feet apart to lock them in the straps. A common mistake is to pull the back foot out of the strap by simply pulling it sideways. As you are doing all of this, you want to rotate the sail into the wind slightly and force the nose off the wind slightly. This is important because if you don't push the nose off the wind you will spin out.

If you did everything right, the sail will be nearly horizontal and will give you some lift. For some additional height be sure to raise the windward rail so that the wind can catch the bottom of your board. It's a great feeling! Stay sheeted in until you land. There are only two times to sheet out. Bailing out and when you are landing completely flat.

Finally, execute a nose first or tail first landing of your choice. The shorter the jump the more speed you will come out of the jump with the higher the jump the less. For higher jumps I suggest you do a nose first landing for safety reasons. It will absorb your jump better. Either way, you have completed your first jump. The more you practice the higher you will go in smaller chop. I can now hit jumps of 2-3 feet in no chop and when there is chop I have hit 4-6 footers, and on wave faces 8-12 footers.

Forward Looping

So your ready for a loop, eh? I remember someone saying, "Your mind writes the checks. Your body cashes the checks. Your doctor tells you when insufficient funds were available". The point is safety first. Wear a helmet when you are first trying to loop, it will save you in the end. Also a mini PFD may help you when you are ALMOST getting them and you are splatting on your back. Although this hurts, you are almost there!

First I would like to remove some misconceptions about looping:
  1. It is not hard.
    Once you hit your first loop you will be kicking yourself that you haven't tried sooner. As I have said before it's 99% mental and 1% effort. So go for it!
  2. Speed is more important at first than height.
    You need speed to get the rotation going. At first it will be more of a roll across the water than an endo-loop. Later on you will want height to clear the mast and plus you will have the technique to induce the rotation.
  3. Equipment and body breakage is not as bad as you might imagine.
    BUT safety is always a priority when learning. Where a HELMET, and a wetsuit to protect you from the bumps and bruises you might get.

So, I will start off with the infamous words of Bjorn Dunkerbeck on how he does a loop, "Hit the jump and go for it." Funny, but an element of truth. You must GO FOR IT, period. The steepest part of the learning curve is right here, right now, while you read this. But, you are half way there. You've decided you will loop, now you just have to go for it.

As before you want to look for a steep piece of chop to jump off of, bigger will help but not necessary. Sail along on a reach to get going fast, not out of control fast, but comfortable fast. Move your rear hand back on the boom so that you can sheet in hard. Once you hit the jump sheet in hard pushing the mast forward. Lean forward around the mast looking back over your rear shoulder and pretend to do a situp.

It sounds complicated but it boils down to getting your body small so that you will rotate and be able to sight your landing over your rear shoulder. When you can see the water below you you can start to open up to slow your rotation. If you do this to early you will land on your back, if you do it too late you will start a second rotation and now you are going for a double loop. Good luck. They take mondo rotational speed and height.

Once you site your landing and begin to land open up your stance, stand tall, and sheet out slightly. When you hit the water, (and I mean hit) you will need to compress your knees to absorb the landing.

Well you have hit your first loop. Enjoy, because you may be among the elite at your local sailing site.

Backward Looping

The back loop differs from the forward more than just the rotation. In the forward speed was a key factor, in a back loop height is a key factor. It is also easier in that your body doesn't actually rotate as in the forward but more like a spin movement.

The back loop is broken down into two parts, the launch and the landing.

The Launch The Landing

As you can see the back loop is more of a rotation like a top than a pin wheel. Many of the professionals, including Robby, say that learning the back loop is easier than the forward and that they all learned it first; just to give you some insight on looping. So get out there and practice these techniques and become one of the elite at your surf hole. And in the end you will learn to love Air Time.

Marc A. Lefebvre (