Speed surfing with professional windsurfer Erik Loots
by Erik Loots
About speed surfing
Speed surfing is a windsurfing discipline. It is about going as fast as possible on water, only wind driving you forward. The feeling is great to fly over the water, hanging in your harness just a few inches above the water surface, as it feels like going 200km/h in a car. I have found that even when you loose control of the windsurf the crashing in the water is not very dangerous for your body or your health. Sure there are safety considerations you must be aware of and keep in mind, to make the experience safer and very enjoyable which I will cover later. Today, speed surfers can reach a speed between 30kn (55km/h) and 50kn (92.6km/h). Very often is challenging to get a speed of 30kn in a 15kn wind to win a day ranking or even chase records at 50kn with more than 50kn wind.
With the advantages of using a GPS on your arm it is possible to check and record your speed after every run. I have found, in time by learning little tricks and making adjustments it is possible to improve reach greater speeds. For everybody it is possible to participate in fun-events and perhaps even win prices at these events. On the other hand, for the most serious and die-hard speed surfers there is a record ranking and aspeed world cup achievement.
After learning the windsurfing basics such as gliding, gybing, etc., you can then move on to start speed surfing. There are many windsurf schools in which you can learn windsurfing basics in a few lessons (anywhere between 5 to 20 lessons depending on your skills). You can even learn going out and turning in as little as one hour! Your first part of learning how to windsurf will be slow, so be patient. But I’ll guarantee that after your first gliding experience you will be hooked for life. Get some experience on free ride gear with gliding, and then you can start with the first speed surfing steps.
A Little History
*Speed surfing competition and the records started in 1977 with Derk Thijs (a dutchman) with the first record on the windglider (19.09kn/ 35.37km/h). Until 2004 the speeds were measured over a length of distance 100m/250m/500m/1852m, and by using video timing the speed was able to be calculated. Since 2004 advances in technology such as using a handheld GPS’s are being used, and since 2009 there is a possibility to now claim speed records using 2 handheld GPS devices. For more information on these speed you can visit GPS-speedsurfing.com which is a place were over 3,000 members regularly post their recorded speed of the day.
The current windsurfing speed record is held by French windsurfer Antoine Albeau, with an average speed of 49.09kn over 500m (using video timing). The record holder by using a GPS device is held by Australian Tony Wynhoven with a speed of 47.88kn over 10 seconds.
*Source: Stanciu, U. (1986). Speed: tuning, frühgleiten, Speedboards, schnelle Segel, nie mehr Spin Out, scheller als andere, Hochgeschwindigkeit. Bielefeld : Delius Klasing.
Windsurfing has many educational programs, ranging from beginners to more advance skills like learning how to jump save and even do forward loops with equipment. For speed surfing however there is very little educational programs available, maybe due to the fact that the sport is still young (as started to really grow from 2004 when integrating the use of GPS devices). There are several places on the internet to find more information about safety, and how to go faster. On part II of my upcoming article I will cover more information about water safety and how to prevent accidents while windsurfing.
Windsurfing schools in the Netherlands
There are about 70 windsurfing schools in the Netherlands, and most of the schools will provide equipment for beginners to learn the basics. Also theory is a part of the training and there is a possibility to get a few diplomas for both theory and skills in the water. This could be very useful as some surf centers and places where you can rent surf equipment will verify, as they want to make sure you don’t go out alone or not having any direction, specially at places located where tidal flow and offshore wind do exists.
Some of these schools also have a program for advanced windsurfers, where you can learn new tricks such as duckgybe, faster, jump, backloop, etc. As for me, I learned windsurfing on my own just like many other windsurfers I know. I recommend learning you basic skills at a windsurf school if you have the opportunity as you will also learn about safety. I was fortunate enough to go through a “survival at sea” course program related to a previous job employment I had, which I ended up learning a lot about water safety. This training gave me a new perspective and appreciation for being in and around the water and be mindful about water safety when I go out windsurfing on big open water. Therefore, educate yourself well and be aware of the risks involved when participating in water activities. and never go sailing alone in open water. Thank you for reading Speed surfing with professional windsurfer Erik Loots.