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Dirt Windsurfing
- or what happens when you attach a windsurfing rig to a BluEarth Mountain board
	Rob one handed switch stance gybe with Krafty & Rich in background
So, I eventually decided to invalidate the warranty on my mountain board by drilling a hole in it, hoping to gain some extra time practicing skills when for one reason or another a session on the water wasn't possible. Having taken the plunge and engineered the deck plate fitment (read drilled a hole), the initial testing was done on the open grassy fields that previously played host to us at Eastbourne Extreme.

Initial outings were surprisingly successful, opting for 5.0m Combat as the optimum size, it proved possible to travel propelled by the wind in a similar fashion to windsurfing itself. Indeed it is thanks to this dry land simulation of our sport of windsurfing that I can claim to have made not only successful 'dry' duck gybes, but also 'dry' switch stance duck gybes. Feeling confident that this was going to help my own windsurfing, I saw fit to share this with a few of my mate just as the windsurfing media had got hold of the concept from over the water in France with some very talented players, and they had a name for this dry land alternative to windsurfing, they'd called it Dirt Windsurfing..
 Tim avoiding jump ramp
Admittedly the tricks that Nico was shown to perform were a little more advanced than my duck gybing but this only serves to up the ante. Using the grassy banks around the field as drop ins and also to simulate riding up and down the face of a wave provided further entertainment, however I needed to get my mates along to play too.

Camber Sands at low tide offers up a flat sandy playing field ideal for Dirt Windsurfing, and with a little arm bending the Camber posse were spending cash on Blue Earth mountain boards and immediately invalidating any warranty by drilling holes to mount their deck plates.

Sunday 23rd October was decided on as the date we all got together as the tides were right and typically the weekend was offering up two days of really light wind in between a friday and monday onwards with plenty of wind. The initial idea was simple, just get together, rig up 5.0m sails and plug them into the mountain boards and see how we got on. Having seen the tricks the top guys are already doing in France, we were not going to settle for just going back and forth.

 Tim avoiding jump ramp
A trip to Argos and £25.00 later and we had some collapsible cones to set up a downwind slalom type course and a jump ramp to make the finish that bit more spectacular, adopting elements of super-X perhaps. We rigged up and then set up a pretty short course clearly identifying our area of the beach to the kiters. The winds were really light, registering approximately 4-5 knots, however we could just about get going with our 5.0m rigs, though any upwind or uphill action was pretty marginal.

It wasn't long before Rob & myself were going over the ramp with reasonable success. Lining up the approach was critical, a bit like the indoors jump ramp must have been I thought to myself, and subsequently put a wheel over one edge but survived intact. Rob has a little more talent on the water than myself, being a pretty accomplished wave sailor as well as having a respectable freestyle armoury, however his biggest asset had to be his considerably lighter frame. Rob on his 5.0m Zone was zipping about the beach where us more heavily built riders opted to walk back upwind. Rob was pretty soon clearing the ramp comfortably, and then switched his focus to nailing vulcans, switch stance vulcans and then one-handed switch stance vulcans.

Having the footstraps fitted means you can only face the one way, and because of this switch stance manouvres were more out of necessity than out of being flash. Personally I made switch stance duck gybes and switch stance jumps okay, as well as one near miss at a switch stance vulcan where I just didn't get the board around far enough. Regular stance carving duck gybes have to be really good practice for those looking to sort out their on the water carve gybes. Committing to the turn is essential or these boards just squirrel back the other way as soon as your balance sways towards the outside of the turn.

 Tim avoiding jump ramp
Rich decided that he wasn't going to put his footstraps on his board for his debut outing, using the excuse that his missus, Anita, wanted to have a go but wasn't happy with the idea of footstraps fixing her to the board. Rich had different experiences, taking up more traditional windsurfing stances, and avoiding the jump ramp due to the lack of straps. This also meant he couldn't try vulcans and had no grip to try any switch stance stuff, however Rich had opted for a 5.4m Combat and was enjoying the gybing practice.

Tim took a little time to get into things at first, but within 20-30 minutes he was gunning for the ramp too. Tim had fitted his footstraps so he too was discovering switch stance windurfing, and sure enough scored switch stance jumps & gybes in his first session.

The tide coming in was always going to cut the session short, and as it did the wind picked up enough to get a couple of guys twitching that they may get in some proper windsurfing, but the occassional 10mph lucky gusts weren't turning into proper substantial wind. Sean had rigged a 7.4m and his S-Type and ran excitedly to the water's edge, and in all fairness was soon planing off downwind, but the ride back in towards the beach was not such a speedy affair. It was proper marginal.

 Tim avoiding jump ramp
The guys had underestimated the workout value from dirt windsurfing. After 2-3 hours pretty much non-stop dirt windsurfing we were all worked right out. I can honestly say that I've never seen so many smiling windsurfer faces at a beach when there hadn't been enough wind for even formula windsurfing. It was that light that only one or two kiters even tried, yet we'd all had a really good laugh doing something really similar to proper windsurfing.

Was this session a successful day at the beach, well that's a difficult one to answer. As a windsurfer wanting to go windsurfing, then possibly not as action on the water was pretty unlikely. As a windsurfer requiring some form of windsurfing fix in spite of the lack of actual wind, then I have to say this was an excellent alternative and also seemingly very relevant to windsurfing itself. Proof will be in the pudding though, so lets see if I can make any moves on the water that I've managed on the beach. I guess I'm one step up from dreaming I can do such tricks, and if muscle memory really does work then perhaps they will become reality.

 Tim avoiding jump ramp
Does it hurt when you fall off ? I had a few instances where terra ferma and my butt formed close relationships, but the sand didn't inflict any damage. Feet getting stuck in the straps is a consideration, however I resolved this by wearing skate trainers loose enough that under severe load my feet would leave the trainers and my ankles would not suffer. Obviously I had them tight enough that when I jumped, my feet didn't leave their shoes at a crucial moment. Nobody suffered any injuries, however there will be aches and pains from the workout. For all those who adhere to the 'only way to train to windsurf is to windsurf' rule of exercise, dirt windsurfing ticks the boxes. No windsurfers were hurt in the taking of any of the pictures, though a few faces may ache from the intense smiling witnessed.
 Tim avoiding jump ramp
One real positive aspect I feel, is that dirt windsurfing is so accessible. It is possible to dirt windsurf anywhere there is an open space and clean winds. The equipment costs are pretty minimal too, many people have older 5.0m wave sails / rigs and the Blue Earth mountain boards we were using have a RRP of just over £100. Hopefully this accessibility will encourage landlocked board riders to try to harness the power of a sail to propel themselves along, ultimately giving them some core skills and confidence to try out the sport for real, tasting blue juice for themselves windsurfing.
 Tim avoiding jump ramp
A big thanks to Jenny Wilson for taking the pictures for us, and putting it all into perspective saying - 'there is something very wrong about a bunch of thirty-something guys playing on oversize skateboards .... ' - and she spent the rest of the session laughing when we fell, taking pictures when were got too close, and explaining to passers by that we were not actually insane, and that given proper wind we would be on the water, just how they thought it should be given any sense of normality.
 Tim avoiding jump ramp
Next time you see a low tide prediction with a light wind forecast, consider dirt windsurfing as a valid way to fill the 'waiting for real wind' period.

Thanks go to

Ian Kraft - GBR154
TEAM SURFKRAFT
www.surfkraft.com

Pictures : Jenny Wilson
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