Windfoil Zone is proud to introduce a new windsurf coaching channel on Youtube., but this one has a slight difference to the ones you’ve probably seen already. Simon (known as Cookie to everyone) has been windsurfing for more than 15 years and foiling since it came onto the scene a few years back. He has vast coaching experience not just in Windfoiling and Windsurfing, but also many other sports to equally high levels - Kitesurfing, SUP’ing, Wind-winging & sailing on the water in the summer, then changing climates to Skiing & Snowboarding teaching and off-piste guiding in France through the winter months.
Awesome coaching videos with live comments
With some extra time on his hands due to the global Covid situation, Cookie decided to try something a little new; to make coaching videos that are filmed and narrated fully live & onboard whilst sailing. All explanations and demos are filmed with a combination of live on-board cameras and microphones, as well as a few some pre-recorded demos to added in for some clarification.
I must admit I was a bit sceptical at first; it sounded like a concept that without professional crews to support the tech needed it would be destined for failure? Action cameras are everywhere now but most of what you see is shaky camera work, poor editing, and if sound is attempted it muffled and unclear.
Mix this with a sport as complete as windsurfing in the open seas with waves crashing around us and strong winds surly it’s not going to work?!
Not the case at all, and the effort put into making this series makes it well worth a watch. Cookie’s explanations are crisp and clear. The video and sound quality, whist obviously not professional, is perfectly good enough to get the points across that he is making, and edited well with cameras all over the kit to show exactly how he is performing the skills he is explaining. Even the sound quality is good, whist filming many of the sessions in 30 knots plus, it’s easy to hear his coaching points.
And it's also easy that Cookie's videos are useful when reading teh comments and questions on Youtube. Here is a couple of comments written by his "students":
- "As a intermediate windsurfer, in-situ explained tips are quite helpful. Thanks for your effort. Frankly speaking, this channel deserves much more attention from windsurf lovers."
-" So thats what I'm doing wrong!! Finally someone to talk it through while on the board so I can see too!! Witchcraft explained!!!"
About the filming technique and the goal of the windsurf coaching videos
We had the chance to talk to Cookie and here is what he had to say :
Cookie: I wanted to create a series of videos that breaks-down a mixture of skills and techniques, as well as working out why things might be going wrong for some classic mistake and barriers that people hit in their development.
I am not a videographer. I’m not a media or tech specialist. I am a windsurf coach, a teacher, a trainer, somewhat knows how to breakdown and explain skills, motivate people to learn, and most importantly inspire people to have fun!
Breaking down the skills I plan before I film, I know the aim of the session and the key points to get across… but it’s live and I’m riding whist explaining so there are a lot of moments in the filming where I hit waves, gusts or need to take action to give myself space. Keeps me on my toes all the time, whilst always remembering I’m on camera and explaining skills while I’m out there having fun!
Action camera have come on so much in the past decade, but it’s still not as easy as you think to get the right shot! I’ve had some epic sessions with cameras and mics and running, only to find out when it comes to edit that the camera has missed the key part of the skill I’m aiming for, mist on the lenses, droplets of water not running clean - or I just got too excited riding and just waffled a bunch on nonsense that isn’t much help to students!
The mix of OLFI and Go-Pro cameras attached around the kit are all high quality 4k, and I’ve collected, made and adapted a large mix of mounts allow me to get some great angles to show what I’m aiming for, but even with all the preparation it doesn’t take much to mess up a shooting session!
The hardest part I discovered was recording the sound, and I think that’s the big reason people tend to do voice over afters. I wanted the live reaction, and the viewers to really experience and feel what I am experiencing on-board.
Waterproof mics are available, but expensive, they also aren’t necessary any good at recording in 30+ knots of wind! It took a lot of trials (and failures) to get a system the was good enough to block out enough of the wind as possible, but not very muffle my voice - and not look like a huge TV mic you see commentators use on TV at windy spots (that was one of the experiments that works for sound but looked ridiculous whist riding!).
The final mic I used in most of the series captured some pretty good sound, mainly due to a muffler added over it and tucked under my tops, but as soon as I fell in/got too much of a big splash the muffler was sodden and unusable! Made for some fun in the high wind sessions where wanted to get specific shots and explain certain skills- but if I fell in the session was over and I had to head in for a dry sound muffler!
I started filming with some the classic skills and clinics people ask for:
This showed me there was some interest in what I was doing and got some really positive feedback from people finding the channel online. It really motivated me to continue.
I continued to some really useful clinics I think people need to get to grips with:
Various sections of the gybe:
The more I filmed and the more questions people asked on the channel, the more I wanted to branch out from classic skills or clinics into things people miss out on with their development, and break down how to improve the more “day-2-day” and general riding skills to help people improve and understand how and why we do things…
So, why should you try foiling?
There is something pretty special about foiling compared to windsurfing. Maybe it the feeling you get when you lift up to fly. Maybe it’s the smooth sensations as you fly over the chop below you. Whatever it is, I’m fully hooked and want to pass on my passion to others! I’ve been really enjoying the foiling and seeing how it developed into the windsurfing world over the past few years.
I’ve also seen how it’s got such mixed reviews, classic windsurfers being unsure about the new sport coming to the usual spots. I hoped with these foiling videos it might make a few more people give it a go and incite some new foilers into the water.
Transforming the skills from windsurfers to the foil is really fun and not too technical to begin with- you just need to reserve many of the autonomous reaction you already have! Steering and basic control remain the same, but some of the basic skills and reactions we use daily have to be reversed for foiling.
For example: overpowered on a fin you’d likely drop into your harness and dig you heels - particularly on the back foot. Do this on a foil and you’ll immediately shoot into the air before coming down very quickly! It’s like relearning how to drive a car but with the pedals the other way around!
However, if you’ve not already tried it you have to get a lesson and get on the water now! Everyone I’ve coached has had the same eureka moment pretty early on in their first sessions - no-one will forget first moment you get fight on the foil!
Video 1: First flights
This video covers the basics you need to know to get up onto the foil and flying for the first time. A few different methods and techniques are covered, as well as some basic kit set up to ensure success! Here’s an overview…
Something to note early on for first time foilers is that foils want to fly - your job to begin with is to keep the board down! If we let the board and foil do what they want to, the board will take off and be uncontrollable.
So, key points to think about;
Look for the wind, make sure you have some - but not too much.
Start slightly upwind to ensure this.
Remain unhooked and step into front foot into strap
Back foot out, near the back strap
Give some power, weight back a little.
As you begin flying, head upwind by looking up over your leading shoulder (with your vision), weight transfers gentled onto the front foot.
Simple logic from here to improve and balance on the foil, and most importantly stop the foil breaching the water:
Weight goes back, board takes off. This can be down through moving your hips over the back foot, and by applying more power in the sail.
Weight goes forward the board comes back down again. This can be down through moving your hips over the front foot, easing the sail out pulling down through the front hand.
Finding the sweet spot between forward and backward is the skill you need to feel, refine and discover, and that is how we sustain flight on the foil for longer.
Starting to foil can be daunting - boards have short stubby noses and super wide tails, plus being wrapped up in impact jackets and helmets all adds up to a strange feeling to begin with.
Here is the kit I highly recommend to make it easier (and safer) to begin with:
- Keep the sails you’re using rigged as normal - same tuning, boom height and line set up. There is enough other changes going on, let’s at least keep something our body can recognise and handle!
It’s similar with the normal progression for windsurfing; I wouldn’t have a student go on bigger sail, smaller board and higher winds all at the same time, we’d make the progression in stages - first drop a few litres on the board, then maybe a slightly larger sail, etc…
- A key set up to play with is the position of the UJ (mast foot) in the mast track.
As mentioned already the further back you get on the board the more lift you get. This is magnified with the UJ position. To begin with, have the UJ forward. The aim is not to get lift. Go for a few runs up and down with the UJ here, feel the difference with normal windsurfing and how the board it reacts.
After not too long you can land, move the UJ toward the middle of the track and go again, with the extra control the board may begin to lift a little - as above our aim is to keep the board down, the current UJ position helps this.
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As you begin to get control and possibly small flights, you can then being to play more and more with the UJ position. Bringing it even a few cm’s further back will make a huge difference to the lift created, and how we must react to it. It’s worth noting here that just because you have some foil skills, this does not necessarily mean you have the UJ all the way back, you need to match the foils lift with both the UJ placement and your back foot placement.
- In the First flight video linked here I am encouraging you to stay out of the back foot strap to begin with, as it’ll give you probably too much lift - although you’ll notice I have the UJ placed all the way back as I was slightly underpowered while filming this. If I have more power (windy day or larger sail) I would have done exactly the same, but would have moved the UJ further forward. This point is discussed at 9mins into the video.
Video 2: Developing foil control
Once riders begin to foil, the tendency is to then want speed and gybes - but there is a key step that is needed in order to reach these goals: slow speed foiling control.
It’s a key skill to not just controlling the foil in a straight line, but essential for refining up- and downwind control, and leads into fully foiling gybes. It’s about general all-round foil control and skill, knowing how the board will react to you changes of foot position and power control.
The easiest way to understand its importance is when things go wrong; not everything is smooth flying the whole time. When it is, then you won’t need this skill, but when things start to go a little wrong this skill comes into play and will keep you flying. It’s like tripping whilst walking down a street, if you don’t know how to correct it you’ll fall; if you know a slight adjustment in your balance, flow, rhythm isn’t a problem you’ll stay standing and continue to walk. Same when you “trip” on the foil.
The simple aim is to slightly change the angle of attack (the trim of the board from nose to tail) bringing the nose slightly up, with only just enough power to keep the board flying, not fully breach the water. The way we do this is;
Back foot position - not black and white answerer as to where exactly is goes, but it needs to be far enough back to create lift but not so far back the foil breaches the water. It’s a great exercise to foiling gybes as the same subtle placement is needed with the back foot.
Enough, but not too much power. Similar to above with the refinement of the skills - finding the right place where you have enough power to foil, but not so much to breach. A good idea with power control is the front hand placement, getting it far enough back really helps with the power control and stops you over-powering up with the back hand.
Video 3: Foiling gybes
Gybing on the foil to being with will feel strange as you’re not used to gybing with the board off the water, but the key elements aren’t completely different to a windsurfing gybe, it just takes a few subtle changes and adaptions.
Use the foundations of “normal” gybes and build from what you can already do.
You’ll start with a semi-foiling gybe (weather you mean to or not!), landing part way through but hopefully maintaining speed and control. This is a solid base to then refine and stay flying throughout.
Foot change is the key and most important change from a windsurf gybe to a foil gybe. The inside/carving back foot will change to become the new front foot. As this change happens this foot must go directly into the front strap. This is important for two reasons:
You never want to be foiling without a foot in the strap. It’s essential to maintaining control, consistency and stability on the foil .
By stepping the new front foot into its usual place directly it should leaves your back foot in a good place to manage the height of the foil through its placement, or movement and adjustments. As with foiling normally - if you are dropping of the foil/slowing down as the foot change approaches you can keep the back foot far back. If you have lots of height and speed and need to keep the board down the new back foot goes further forward.
Check out also those blog posts about foiling jibe:
Other key points summarised through this video for the fully foiling gybe:
Back foot out upwind, stabilise before bearing away.
Use "creepy back foot" movements to set the height on the foil - aim lower than usual.
Rig moves consistently to the outside of the turn as you come around. (just like a non-planing gybe rig movement).
Foot change - unique for a foil gybe as outlined above. Also worth noting the foot change is easier to do before the rig flip. (But you can also consider the other option: Flipping the sail first, continue switched stance, and eventually do your foot change).
"Step gybe" style is preferred generally. It can be discussed that if you prefer a strap-2-strap style for your windsurf gybes then it’s like you’ll find this successful on the foil too, however in my experience I’ve had more success with students that learn the non-planing step gybe then take this onto the foil than trying to stick to the S-2-S style. A discussion for another blog post I think!
Rig flip is slow and calm - much like the ”Disco gybe” exit. Don’t rush to get the power back on quickly, instead use you weight management to stay on the foil and progressively bring the sail back to its position.
Videos mentions in reference to this:
I’ve got many more plans for films and coaching clips to be made next summer, both on the foil and windsurfing. For now though the summer season is over in Greece and I’ll be making my way back to the French Alpes where I work as a guide and ski & Snowboard instructor through the winter months. I’ll likely continue filming and uploading videos from the Alpes with some gear reviews and guided views around my favourite spots in Alpe d’Huez.
Thank you Cookie for the awesome videos and tips!
Looking at those videos and hearing his tips and comments, Cookie’s unique coaching style, personality, passion for the sport is evident. He is clearly an experienced and skilled coach that really shines throughout the series!
The final nice touch added to the series is the personal reply to the questions and comments on each video. He wants to see others succeed and love the sport as much as he does!
We have linked to many of his videos on this blog post, and will probably post some more in the future, so stay tune. In the meantime, check out his youtube channel and subscribe now to get his latest updates.