The Best Jibe tip I ever got by Mike Fick


I'm a world-class expert at jibes. Missing them, that is. I
failed 10,392 carving jibe attempts (i.e., planing all the
way from one beam reach to the next) before a friend gave
me THE jibing tip that became crucial to my jibing and thus
changed my life. I added another tip of my own that
significantly helps my board carve and sail jibe timing.
Both are in this jibe procedure that works for me in every
type of carved (planing) jibe and even in many subplaning
jibes. Done right, this sequence lets me exit a carved jibe
going at least as fast as I entered it. It doesn't require
memorizing a repertoire of handwork and footwork, because
the same simple handwork and footwork works from mundane to
monster winds.

1. Sail "faster than you've ever sailed", 'til your eyes
bleed, you pee your pants, and your shadow is two seconds
behind you. (If you don't at least feel like you're going
that fast, you don't have time to bobble and recover before
you coast to a halt. Recovering from bobbles to complete a
jibe is a good sign that you're developing a feel for
jibes, rather than just memorizing the steps.)

2. Bear off, still sheeted in, to gain even more speed and
to steer from a beam reach into a very broad reach. (A jibe
is a 90-degree turn; you SAIL through the first and last
45-degree segments of the total 180-degree turn.)

3. Move your back hand about a foot farther back on the
boom, switch your front grip to palm-up to greatly aid the
second THROW you?ll see below, unhook without disturbing
the sail, and set your back foot on the rail behind the
front strap. You are still sheeted in, sailing in a broad
reach with your sail foot near the back of your board.
(Some expert jibers bear
off still hooked in, letting the harness pull them forward
into the correct weight-forward position. The few times
I?ve tried it felt good and worked well, but it has obvious
hazards.)

4. Now all in the space of about one or two heartbeats --
virtually simultaneously when possible -- point your knees
and chest further downwind and into your turn, curtsey (you
never bow; you CURTSEY, dropping your butt towards your
toes until your knees are bent 90 degrees and you're
looking forward from BELOW the booms), aggressively move
(or let the sail pull) your
weight forward towards your toes, thrust and lock your
front elbow out straight as though you were stiff-arming a
tackler, tip that front hand (and the mast) downwind as you
bend your back elbow hard to sheet in until your sail foot
hits your back leg (this is oversheeting, to switch the
power off), look at the water maybe 50-100 feet out in
front of you where you will exit your jibe (I look at some
distant landmark downwind to gauge my progress in my turn
and time my sail jibe), and lift your front heel to force
its arch into its strap. Your weight is riding evenly on
the ball of your front foot and your flat back foot, so
you?re not carving the turn yet. You're still on a broad
reach, ready to jibe your board, sail, and feet to the new
tack).

If you were unable to oversheet because of too much
backhand sail pressure, you (a) waited too late to
oversheet and/or (b) did not thrust the front hand forward
and into the turn. To correct this error, straighten that
front elbow and tip the mast into the turn dramatically at
the same time you oversheet. This shuts off the power in
the sail like a kill switch and puts you back in control.
The only time you don't want to oversheet is when you're
not planing and need to use the sail to push your board
through the turn.

So far this is all just normal, textbook, powered-up carved
jibing. But here is where my friend's tip and my own
addition helped my jibing in several ways.

FREEZE FRAME: Notice your arm'n'hand position; they're
cocked as though to fire a bow and arrow at a target
downwind of your present path (inside your turn). Your back
hand is cocked near your downwind shoulder as though it
were holding the bowstring and arrow feathers, your front
hand is way out there holding your bow and supporting the
arrow. Both arms are cocked to fire the arrow (spin the
sail), but ? WHEN should we jibe the sail?

My own modification helped me time the sail jibe. I began
shoving my hips sideways into the turn HARD -- as though
trying to bump the car door closed while standing beside it
with my arms full. This carves a very tight, smooth turn
and puts my body into an excellent position to exit the
turn with full power on the new broad reach, maybe even
automatically hooked and sheeted in if everything falls
into place well. This hip swing weights the leeward rail to
initiate and maintain the carve, and times the sail jibe
(flip). Your body should be arced into a pronounced C, with
your hips leading the convex side of the C into the turn.

Because your front hand is as far in front of you as you
can reach, yet you? re thrusting your hips towards the new
direction, you will feel like you?re trying to surf your
board in the opposite direction from where the sail is
going. The sail?s still heading west but your board is
starting to head east, so to speak. The cure, of course, is
to jibe the sail and take it
along with you.

Try it, but be forewarned; before you even have time to
THINK about jibing the sail, you will whip through the full
180 degrees in two heartbeats, get backwinded, and crash.
That's a big improvement, because at least now you carved
(jibed) the board all the way through the turn. Now all you
have to do is jibe (flip) your sail and jibe (switch) your
feet within that same
couple of heartbeats, and you're jibin'! This is partly an
issue of timing the sail jibe somewhere within the board
jibe.

Piece 'o cake:

5. Back to our sequence: at the same time you shove your
hips into the turn, before you're pointing downwind, the
pressure will leave your sail. NOW fire the arrow [i.e.,
jibe (flip) the sail]. Just as the step jibe technique
calls for us to step forward at the same time we release
the back hand, this technique works best if we jibe the
sail as we thrust the hip.

Right here is where millions of carved jibe attempts fail.
The magazines once told us to release the back hand, grasp
the mast, let the wind blow the sail around the mast like a
barn door blowing around its hinges as you coast to a slog,
and when the sail wanders around far enough you take the
new side of the boom and sail away.

BS!

That has a MAJOR, fatal, flaw: If you outrun the true wind
throughout your jibe, as you should, there won't BE any
tailwind to push the sail around. You feel tailwind only
after you drop below the true wind speed, well on your way
to dropping off a plane, at which point you're standing
there at zero speed holding a fully powered-up sail. In the
15th century this position was known as a loaded catapult.

The sailor, not the wind, should jibe the sail. We should
SPIN that sucker around its center of gravity like a top,
not wait until we slow down so much the tailwind pushes the
sail around the mast like a $1,500 barn door. A jibe is a
very aggressive mindset and process which WE, not the wind,
should control.

This is where Monte changed my life, when he said, "THROW,
THROW, GRAB, and GO!"

Only the sailor can spin the sail inside its boom length;
the wind?s surely not going to do it. At the hip thrust,
just as you feel you and the sail are heading in opposite
directions, you THROW the back of the boom away like a hot
shot-putt. A millisecond later -- way before you complete
that first THROW -- you THROW the front of the boom way
across your face and past your downwind ear, right into the
new broad reach. Your mast hand motion is much like
throwing a pass to a receiver running right along your new
broad reach (your jibe exit path). (This is why you
inverted the front-hand grip; this
second throw is much easier with your palm up.) The sail
spins untouched before your heart beats again, leaving the
new side of the boom floating in the air in front of you.
GRAB it with both hands and GO (i.e., sheet in and sail
away on a screaming broad reach, often sailing faster that
you were going before you jibed). With luck and practice,
you will switch your feet
simultaneously within or immediately after the second in
which the sail rotates, and will exit accelerating hard in
the new broad reach. You should lose no perceptible speed
in the whole process because a) it?s all off the wind and
b) you?re coasting unpowered for only a second or two.

As soon as or before I shove my hip into the turn, I stare
at a spot on the horizon just past downwind. If I haven?t
spun the sail by then, I?m late and must stop the carve and
spin the sail NOW, or I?m going to be on the new beam reach
before I?ve jibed the sail, and grabbing a sail at full
power on a beam reach before getting that back foot
strapped in is asking for a catapult.

Jibing quickly like this doesn?t give you TIME to lose
speed, hit three rows of swell, and lose your balance or
crash. I don't think my sail flip, from throwing the back
hand away to sheeting in on the new tack, takes a full
second when I do it right. The whole Throw/Throw/Grab/Go
business is just one continuous, fluid two-handed sweep of
my hands and forearms, as much
like a Kung Fu move as I can make it. The same process
works for 3.0s and for 6.8s; the 6.8 just takes harder
THROWS and takes two heartbeats rather than one.

The first one of those I tried was the greatest revelation
and revolution in my windsurfing life. No more barn doors
eating up precious seconds, mph, and two boom-lengths of
space while I fight for balance over three row of chop!
This is partly why leading ABK instructors have begun
teaching this boom-to-boom approach to jibing.

Oh, yeah -- the feet. My feet are too far from my brain to
access all them complicated textbook footwork options, let
alone select a method in mid-jibe. The step jibe, for
example, requires we pull the front foot out of its strap
until its heel crosses the board centerline, maintain
inside rail pressure with that front heel, and step forward
with the back foot while we do several OTHER things with
our hands. That footwork was too demanding for me. Besides,
the step jibe's purpose is to get our weight forward to
avoid sinking the tail after we slow down, and we want to
accelerate, not slow down, in our jibes

6. I find it simpler to just take my weight off both feet
and switch 'em simultaneously during any old half-second
I'm not steering with them. That works at any speed, in any
chop or swell, overpowered or underpowered, planing or
slogging, Sunday or Wednesday, before or after the sail
jibe, in any instant I'm not footsteering. If I'm barely
planing, I slip my new front foot further forward into the
step jibe position before reapplying weight to it.
Unweighing my feet and jibing them simultaneously sent my
jibe success rate way up. It ranges from merely sliding
both feet across the deck on smoother water to hopping a
foot off the deck in huge chop. I'll jibe my feet before,
during or (usually) immediately after jibing the sail --
whenever it seems natural; no thinking required.

On my bad days I might still miss half my jibes. Here are
my more common errors:
* A face-plant inside the turn because I bent at the waist
? bowing rather than curtseying into my turn. (I can't
perceive that error until too late since losing an inner
ear to surgery.)
* Getting overpowered and pulled forward, maybe even
launched, when coming out of my jibe if I jibe the sail too
late and/or carved back up to the new beam reach before
sheeting in. Fixing my eyes on that landmark just past
downwind and spinning the sail simultaneously with the hip
thrust stops that.
* Getting bounced around and unbalanced and losing my carve
in very rough water because I failed to get that front hand
WAY out in front of me and tipped into the turn. Now that
we have the front hand palm-up, straight-arming the rig
like this is how we get our weight forward onto the front
of the board to stop bouncing.
* Getting tossed in big chop because I didn't bend my knees
DRASTICALLY.
* Being unable to oversheet because I bore off the wind too
far before trying to oversheet. The save? Shove the mast
WAY forward and inward as I oversheet (this shuts off the
power instantly), or foot-swerve back to a beam reach,
oversheet, then resume the jibe all in one quick slash.
* Losing track of where I was in the turn because I watched
my gear or the water right in front of my board rather than
looking where I was going. You must look where you intend
to go, rather than where you are, because our boards (and
cars and mountain bikes) follow our gaze. Do you look at
your dashboard or far ahead into the turn to steer your
car? I get my best
results looking at that spot on the horizon just past
downwind.
* Sinking the downwind rail with too much rail pressure for
inadequate board speed.
* Thinking too much. I have my best successes when I get
PISTOFF and JUSTDOIT rather than engaging my brain. My
brain apparently hasn?t the capacity to think real time
about the dozen or so steps required in a tight carved jibe
on a small board. A bigger board and sail slow the process
sufficiently that I can think it through.

Textbook footwork and all that boom-to-mast-to-boom
handwork works for millions of people. But 1) I couldn't
make them work; 2) they leave other millions losing their
plane before completing their jibe; and 3) they are not as
inherently fast and tight because they involve more steps,
they swing the sail through twice the space, and they
require greater coasting
(unpowered) time and space. Sarah James, a leading ABK
instructor, now teaches boom-to-boom jibing instead of the
old, more complicated, cumbersome, slower boom-mast-boom
method.

The boom-to-boom sail jibe helps cure the following aborted
carved jibe that I see every five seconds at the amateur
end of the Gorge?s Hatchery: They enter the jibe fast,
DELIBERATELY sail off the wind until the board stops
planing and the sail yanks their back hand, release the
back hand, let the sail take its own sweet time blowing
around the mast as the board coasts to a standstill, then
grab the new side of the boom and try to get planing again.
While that is a jibe, it is NOT a carved, or planing, jibe,
by definition. And it?s tough to do in big chop.

Aggression and commitment are virtually required to carve
planing jibes. The wind has already done its job in getting
us up to speed; the actual jibe is OUR responsibility,
AFTER which the wind comes back into play.

Try this. It sure made my decade.