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"THE BEST JIBE TIP I EVER GOT" by Mike Fick

I'm a world-class expert at jibes. Missing them, that is. When I was trying to learn to jibe, none of our regular local sailors could jibe, and extensive travel failed to find good lessons, videos, or magazine tutorials.
Thus I failed what seemed like 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.
Another tip of my own significantly helped 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 carved jibes going at least as fast as I enter them.
It doesn't require memorizing a repertoire of handwork and footwork, because the same simple handwork and footwork work from mundane to monster winds. I have no idea how it works on them there Formuly things, but it works great on the other several hundred boards I've ridden, from 260 to 55 liters, in the past 24 years.

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 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 throwing the mast across your face and into the turn, unhook without disturbing the sail, and set your back foot on the lee 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 and drive your knees further downwind and into your turn, curtsey (you never bow; you CURTSEY, dropping your butt down and forward until your knees are bent at least 90 degrees and you're looking forward from BELOW the booms; in especially rough water I think and do a big "Sit"), aggressively move (or let the sail pull) your weight forward over 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 nearly brushes your back leg (this oversheeting switches the power off), and look at the water well out in front of you where you will exit your jibe (I look at some downwind horizon landmark to gauge my progress in my turn and time my sail jibe). Your weight is riding evenly on the ball of your front foot and your flat back/inside 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 and mast 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 totally and instantly 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 and hand positions. They're cocked as though ready 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 at full extension 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. Rather than simply and subtly shifting weight to my lee/back foot on the inside rail to initiate the carve, I shove 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) for me. 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 and slightly onto the turn but you' re thrusting your hips towards the new direction, it sounds and almost feels like you're trying to surf your board in the opposite direction from where the sail is going. The sail's still heading on the old broad reach but your board is turning towards the new broad reach, so to speak. At some point, of course, you need to jibe the sail and take it along with you.

In fact, I consciously and forcefully focus all my power into my hips and thighs to POWER the board through its carve, then bring the rig with me. Not to worry; my torso and upper extremities will follow where my hips lead them . which is why football defensive backs are taught to watch a receiver'
s hips, not his eyes, when covering him on a pass. After all, if the board doesn't carve the turn, the jibe is not going to happen, and just consciously mashing that foot on the inside rail rather than driving the hips into and through the turn is a very tentative, indirect means of turning the board.

Try this hip swing, 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 GREAT, because you FINALLY 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 turns the board so quickly that part of the problem now becomes jibing the sail before the board completes its jibe. Piece 'o cake, if you do it the following way:

5. Just after you shove your hips into the turn, long before you're pointing downwind, the pressure will leave your sail as your fast swerve off the wind generates an apparent vacuum. NOW fire the arrow [i.e., jibe (flip) the sail].

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

BS! That has a MAJOR, fatal, inherent 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 your speed drops 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 - hence the application of that term to this sport.

The sailor, not the wind, should jibe the sail. We should SPIN that sucker around its natural center 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 and before your board is pointing at that distant downwind landmark (the end zone goalposts, so to speak), 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 very broad reach. This motion of your old front/mast hand is much like throwing a football to a receiver going long into the end zone corner towards which you should exit your jibe. (This is why you inverted the front-hand grip; this second, or mast-hand, throw is much easier and has better follow-through with your palm up. Imagine trying to throw a long pass with your palm on TOP of the football.) 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 began the jibe).

WHEN should we jibe the sail/fire the arrow? Just as the old step jibe technique calls for us to step forward at the same time we release the back hand in the old barn-door jibe technique, this technique works best if we jibe the sail as we thrust the hip. The board will turn so fast with this hip thrust that we'd BETTER fire the sail into the turn that soon or it will get left behind.

With luck and minimal practice, you will switch your feet simultaneously within or immediately after the heartbeat 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 - the fastest point of sail -- and b) you're coasting unpowered for only a second or two. If I haven't spun the sail by the time I'm pointing downwind towards my landmark, 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 dying beam reach before getting that back foot strapped in is begging for a tumble.

Jibing quickly like this doesn't give you TIME to hit three rows of swell, lose speed, get nailed from behind by the true wind, 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, board speed, and two boom-lengths of space while I fight for balance over three rows of chop in a monster tailwind! I must assume this is partly why leading ABK instructors have begun teaching the boom-to-boom approach to jibing.

Oh, yeah -- the feet. My foots is too far from my brain to access and analyze all them komplykated textbook footwork options, let alone access a menu and select and implement a footwork method in mid-jibe. The classic step jibe, for example, requires we pull the front foot mostly out of its strap, twist its heel across the board centerline, shift weight from the back foot on the rail to the front heel across the centerline to maintain the carve, and step forward with the back foot to avoid sinking the tail, all while we do equally complicated 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 quarter-second I'm not steering with 'em. 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, during any instant I'm not footsteering. If I'm barely planing, I slip my new front foot further forward on the board, 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 feels natural; no thinking required. In the GOOD'uns the rig is spinning untouched in mid-air at the same time I'm spinning in mid-air untouched, and we all meet again in the new broad reach, at top speed and ready to strap and hook in. In the very best ones the line and one foot enter the hook and strap automatically.
(Once again, and vital, this approach helped me learn to jibe, rather than being an advanced technique, but then useful lessons and videos were nearly non-existent back then.)

When this all comes together properly, as it did consistently before I lost an inner ear, and when I'm powered up at full speed, my jibes may go like
this: In a beam reach on any terrain, I'll unhook, plant my downwind foot behind the front strap, stiffarm and tip the mast forward and downwind with my front hand, oversheet and bend my knees dramatically, throw my hips into the turn (at this instant I'm almost bowing in the direction of my old beam reach, with my front arm and shoulder following the sail but my hips and thighs already driving towards the new broad reach), throw the mast at the downwind end zone towards the new broad reach, lift my feet from the board and spin my hands, body and feet while the sail spins - I'm touching nothin'
but air for that heartbeat or so - and when my hands and feet come back in contact with board and boom again I'm sheeted in on the new broad reach still at top speed . all within a heartbeat or three from one beam reach to the new broad reach. This, of course, presumes a responsive board and sails in the 6.x or smaller range.

If I'm truly powered and wide open, I'll often dispense with all that bearing-off, setting-up business and just jibe from the beam reach. Just Bend Zee Knees, throw the hips, throw the rig, engage the new interfaces, and sail away, and you can jibe from beam-to-beam about as fast as you can say this sentence.

Now that you've got that mastered and are blazing all the way from the old beam reach to the new beam reach with no loss of speed more often than not, add this to the scenario: way, WAY too much power. You're fighting hard yet barely able to stay on the board, way too petrified to even think about bearing off into a jibe . yet the shoreline is approaching and the gust is still building.

My solution is to very quickly, from a beam reach:
1. Swerve sharply upwind to dump enough speed to regain control and ease back hand pressure, then even more quickly - before the board has time to regain uncontrollable speed or slow down enough that the wind catches me from behind - I 2. Exaggerate almost every throw and force described above because the Wind Monster is waiting to pounce if I waste two whole seconds lollygagging through my jibe, 3. Get myself jibed to the new side of the rig and board by the time the board points downwind, and 4. SAIL through the rest of the jibe before I slow down and the wind catches up.

What all this does is:
1. Scrub off the excess, uncontrollable, rag-doll, bouncing-out-of-control speed to regain board and rig control, 2. Jibe the equipment as I slash through a VERY brief broad reach in a very brief "apparent vacuum", 3. Put me back in control by putting me on the new side of the boom and board, maybe even hooked in and in one or both straps by about the time the nose of the board slashes through downwind, before the apparent vacuum is filled by the wind monster. In these conditions, where not even the clumsiest sailor on the tiniest sinker is gonna sink the tail, the first foot engaged will usually be my back foot, for both control and instep safety. These steps 4. Allow me to WINDSURF, rather than wrestle with alligators, as I sail back up from the new broad reach to the new beam reach to encounter the full glory, maybe fury, of the wind again.

On my bad days, for several reasons, I might still miss many jibes. Here are my more common errors:
* A face-plant inside the turn because I bent at the waist -- bowed rather than curtseyed -- into my turn. (I can't perceive that error until too late since losing one 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 downwind and spinning the sail simultaneously with the hip thrust prevents 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 huge chop because I didn't bend my knees drastically, as though sitting on a milk crate.
* 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 (this shuts off the power instantly) as I oversheet, or foot-swerve back to a beam reach, oversheet, then resume the jibe, all in one quick S-shaped 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 at my downwind landmark. 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 to steer your car? Of course not; you look where you want the car to go. I get my best results looking at that spot on the horizon downwind.
* Burying the downwind rail with too much rail pressure when inadequate board speed will not support a weighted rail.
* Missing the board when I jump too high during the foot switch. The cure:
laughter. It happens once a day in the roughest terrain I can find BECAUSE I 'm in rough terrain.
* 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 a) involve more steps, b) swing the sail through twice the space, and c) require greater coasting (unpowered) time and space. A magazine reported that 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.

 

 

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