Don't fear commitment

by: Marc Lefebvre

Jibing is such a fundamentally different skill than any other you will learn in windsurfing, except maybe jumping, and it separates the intermediates from the advanced. Once you tackle this hurdle you are on your way to really standing out in a crowd and enjoying yourself to the max. It is different than other skills because it isn't like riding a bike, once you do it it doesn't come naturally, however, it does get easier with practice. There are just so many external factors that can influence your jibes that the better you are a sailor the better you will be able to handle these factors, and succeed.

It is important that when you are learning to jibe that you can visualize the jibe before you do it. And when you visualize it, feel the sensations in your mind and watch yourself perform a perfectly executed jibe. Believe me, this works!

I have broken down the jibe into three parts that are in any and every kind of carving jibe that you can imagine, the carve, the sail-flip, and the transition. Once you master these parts separately, it is only a matter of changing their order or style to execute the different jibes, fundamentally they are the same.

The carve is the most important step in the whole process and needs your undivided commitment. It can determine the success or failure of your whole jibe. When you initiate the jibe you should be unhooked, powered up going full speed, and in the straps. If any of these are missing, the jibe may not work but go for it, I always say. If you need more speed then bear off the wind slightly, if you need to spill speed then bear into the wind slightly. Quietly remove your rear foot from the rear strap and place it on the leward rail and start giving it steady, ever increasing pressure. While doing this, your front foot should be lifting up in the strap, your heel off the deck of the board and sheet in a little to depower the sail. It is also very important to bend your knees and lean forward and into the turn. The rig should be leaning forward as well. This part of the jibe is all momentum, no sail and should be practiced separately from the other steps. The other steps are meaningless unless you can do this with speed and complete the carve. If you get back winded while practicing this step you are doing it right. This step is the same for every carving jibe you will ever execute.

The next two steps are where your creativity and ability will play a key role. These steps also determine whether you are going to do a slalom jibe, step jibe, laydown jibe, or duck jibe. There are other jibes out there but like I said, you are only limited by your creativity.

For your the slalom jibe you need to do the following. Once you pass the downwind section of the jibe you are going to tilt the rig toward you with your old front hand, and push the back of the boom with your old back hand, thus flipping the sail. Grab the front of the boom with your new front hand and the back of the boom with your new back hand. Now change your feet and bend your knees to absorb the pull from the sail on the new tack.

In the step jibe you actually combine the changing of your feet with the flipping of the sail into one continuous motion, as you step forward with your rear foot you should start the flip. Otherwise follow the steps in a regular jibe.

The laydown jibe is one of the more graceful and fun jibes to perform. It is also a great jibe to round buoys with and when you are way overpowered. Its also much easier to laydown the sail when your angled on a wave face. I think the most important part of the jibe is the initiation. You have to commit yourself to the turn as soon as you begin the jibe. The second most important thing is to pull your clew hand (back hand) up, back and over the tail of the board. Do this as you lean forward and over the booms. If you don't pull the clew up over the board you won't be able to lay it down without the clew hitting the water.

Your front hand needs to push the mast as parallel as possible over the water. At the same time pull the mast back towards the tail as mentioned above. As you carve the board you feel it accelerate through the turn. Quickly step forward with your back foot while pulling the sail up in order to "flip it" or change tacks. Do this before the board turns too much into the wind. If you wait too long you won't be able to pull the sail up without getting back-winded. This last step is much like the end of the step jibe. You step forward to maintain board speed and to flatten the board out of the carve.

This is a very fast jibe and it helps in many ways not only with speed. I find by laying the sail down in strong winds I don't get overpowered or spinout during the jibe. A key thing to remember is the longer the carve the longer you can hold the sail down over the water. In shorter carves you laydown the sail for only a split second. Also, don't hesitate to lean over the rig and push down on the boom. Body position is very important.

Finally the duck jibe is one of the more challenging and fun jibes to perform. Upon the initiation of the jibe is when you want to start to flip the sail. It will seem a bit early but if you wait too long you will not make it. It is important to keep pressure on the leward rail throughout this jibe because you will have a tendency to take pressure off after you flip the sail.

To flip the sail in the duck jibe you will need to grab the rear of the boom with your old front hand and throw the rig forward and then back after you duck under the boom. Then grab the front of the boom with your new front hand and grab the rear of the boom on the new side with your throwing hand. Be sure to bend your knees at the end of the jibe to absorb the pull on the sail once again. You should practice this on land to get comfortable with it. It is harder to master on water, so practice on land and you will get it sooner.

So thats it for these jibes. They probably sound easier than they really are. They take time to master but once you do you will be among the elite and will surely impress your friends. So don't give up and don't be afraid of commitment.

Marc A. Lefebvre (lefebvre@ultranet.com)