This is a list of some of the most common mistakes I see at our local sailing site. I have personally made every mistake myself, so I am a real expert in this area.

  1. Improper rigging. Rigging is probably the most confusing aspect of this sport. I alone have seen at least 3 different methods for rigging and tuning one of my own sails. An improperly rigged sail can be problematic in light wind, and become a nightmare in high gusty winds. The most common problem I see is not enough downhaul. It takes an enormous amount of effort to properly downhaul a sail, especially if your extensions' sheaves are binding or there just isn't much mechanical advantage. Make sure an expert on your brand of equipment shows you how to rig your sail. Have them show you how to rig it for underpowered, powered up and over powered conditions. Make sure YOU can do it as well as they can. Note how much boom length and mast extension was used.

  2. Sailing equipment too small or too racey-wavey for your ability. One of the things that will keep you from progressing is sailing difficult equipment. It may look cool to sail that sexy short board that your expert buddy or the pro in the magazine sails, but don't be tempted. I see a lot of this equipment at swap meets. Avoid this stuff like the plague. It is much easier to learn proper technique if you're not always falling off your equipment. Techniques such as waterstarting and carve jibing can all be learned just as easily on a recreational long board or giant short board. Get your technique down pat and THEN buy that new little short board. Don't worry about being passed. If your technique and tuning ability is good, you will still be able to embarrass all but the most racy sailors at your site whilst sailing your big recreational equipment.

  3. Ignoring rules of right of way. I used to be real guilty of this one and still sometimes press it too the limit. It's guaranteed to get a dirty look from someone. Don't jibe out of the way 2 seconds before a collision, even in light wind. It can be real intimidating to beginners. Always assume the other guy doesn't know the rules.

  4. Boom height too high. A high boom can make waterstarting a nightmare. I've seen some pro's put their booms way up high, but this is not a good idea for beginner/intermediate sailors. Putting the boom somewhere between chest and shoulder height is good starting point. It may not be fast, but I personally like my booms a little lower in light winds as it doesn't wear my arms out. Watch out for the flip side of this problem, boom height too low. Sometimes if the boom is not attached tightly enough to the mast, it can steadily creep downward. Once, while sailing with the boom low and subsequently sailing with my body low to the water, had the very unpleasant experience of ramming my body into a couple feet of swell while going at a pretty good clip.

  5. Everyone sailing in same stretch of water. I don't know why this happens, but it seems everyone likes to sail in the same 2 foot wide channel of water. There's PLENTY of water out there. Sail upwind or downwind before practicing that new jibe. BE VERY CAREFUL SAILING CLOSE TO OTHERS. I was almost killed when I spun out and fell off my board, and then someone behind me sailed by about two inches from my head.

  6. Improper harness line length and/or positioning. I see a lot of people with their butt hanging out 2 inches above the water. It's impossible to achieve a good comfortable sailing stance with long harness lines. Harness line length will change with conditions, your body geometry, and personal preferences, but something around 18" seems to be the going length from my own experience and looking at others. If you are a beginner, you will want to start out with lines that are much longer. Though once your through the falling spread eagle on your sail and getting launched phase of harness line use, start to shorten them up bit by bit.

  7. Pushing too hard. It's very easy for this sport not to be fun. In my first year of windsurfing I was so intent on cracking that jibe that I stopped having fun. Keep in mind why you are doing this sport. Take some time out and help that struggling beginner.

  8. Not looking before jibing. Even if there are only a few people out sailing with you, ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS look in back of you and leeward downwind before bearing off. I have tried to make it a habit of looking back at the same time I move my back hand back on the boom.

  9. Not properly equipped for conditions. No or not enough wetsuit. Improper fin and/or sail combination. No helmet and PFD. Don't assume that just because the pro's sail around naked that you can too. Even 85 degree water can suck the heat right out of your body and leave you prematurely exhausted. If your abilities or equipment failure leave you stranded, hypothermia can set in and you may be toast. You may have to buy a new fin to go with that new sail. Too large a fin can lead to tail walking, too small a fin can lead to spin out. When sailing in 25 knots or better, or just sailing in conditions that are a step above your abilities; I have come to the conclusion the a helmet and PFD is a not a bad idea. Obviously this doesn't apply to wave sailors. There have been some good discussions on the pro's and con's of PFD's and helmets in the rec.windsurfing newsgroup.

  10. Two foot waterstarts. Trying to do a two foot waterstart in marginal winds is an exercise in futility. I had a lot of fun my first season of windsurfing sailing around with my butt in the water and waiting for a gust of wind to haul me up onto the board. The two foot waterstart technique can easily leave you stranded when the wind unexpectedly dies down. The only time a two foot waterstart is advantageous is when the wind is howling, the water is rough, forcing you to waterstart in the straps. However, if you can do a one foot waterstart, you can also do a two foot waterstart when you have too. The flip side is not true.

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