Doing competitions is one of the best ways for you to have a goal and purpose with your windsurfing. It is something that you can aim your training specifically towards and at the same time it is a great opportunity to push yourself on the water and meet new people. PWA sailor Chris Friis shares his guide to competition, whether you are an event regular or just thinking about heading to your first contest, there is always more to learn.
My preparation for competitions starts months before the event is on. I visualise what I want to do in my heats and start working on the moves that I want to do. Some of the moves I have been perfecting for years, others are new to me and need a lot more attention and training to get consistent enough to do in a heat. My advice for you would be to choose one or two moves and start training them as much as possible when you are on the water. Do them in as varied conditions as possible because you never know exactly what kind of conditions will be thrown at you in the competition. Forward loops, pushloops and tabletops are good moves to start out with because they are easy build up the consistency with and can be done in most conditions.
One of the things I have learned from doing the World Tour is that local knowledge is extremely important. The local windsurfers often perform better at their homespots and if you take guy like Dany Bruch, he always finishes as one of the top sailors in Tenerife, not only because he is a good windsurfer, but also because he has sailed that exact spot for the past 20 years, he knows exactly when and where to be to get the best waves. That gives him a big advantage. Therefore I always arrive weeks or even months before a big event and start getting dialed in to the conditions. Not only should you try and sail the spots where you are going to compete before the competition is on, but you should also try and suck in as much local knowledge as possible about the place, that way you will avoid doing critical mistakes in your heat that may end up costing you the victory.
Good preparation is the key to a calm state of mind during competition. I always make sure that I am organised and have all my equipment, clothing and food ready before I even get to the competition site. That way I leave out a lot of the stress and confusion that comes from not being organised and I can focus solely on my performance on the water. A lot things go on during a windsurfing competition and the last thing you want to be doing is running around confused looking for something that you may have forgotten or cant find.
Make sure to check all the small pieces of equipment like your mastfoot, extension, the boom head and your harness lines because they are quite often the reason of equipment failure in competitions and it is an annoying way to loose your heat.
As one of the most basic and fundamental things to do during a competition I always make sure to get a good night sleep before the first day of competition. You will be using a lot of energy throughout the competition and it is always a good idea to eat a healthy breakfast with a lot of carbonhydrates and keep your energy level up for the rest of the day with fruit and protein bars.
Personally I dont check the weather charts much when I am in a place with trade winds, I sort of just ask around a bit and take it as it goes, but if you are going to compete in a place thats dominated by low pressure systems it is important to keep your self updated on the weather forecast. In big competitions I always rig 3-4 sails depending on the conditions and the forecast, but not everyone has the equipment to do so. If you can have 2-3 sail sizes rigged and ready on the beach this would be ideal.
I always attend the skippers meeting because this is where the head judge will be briefing the competitiors about important information such as the heat length, transition time, heat order and how many moves to count. It is always super important to be on top of what is going on with these factors as it will affect how you have to perform on the water.
Just before my heat is up I try my best to isolate myself from the crowd and start getting focused on what I am going to do on the water, where to place myself in the competition area and consider what sail size to go with. A lot of the sailors in the pro feet have their own set of rituals they do before their heats. Some listen to music, warm up on the beach or go on the water early. Personally I try not to talk with any one for 20 minutes before my heat, then I pee in my wetsuit and go. Try to find a ritual that works well for you.
Once I hit the water and the green flag goes up I always make sure to be most upwind in the competition area so I dont spend the precious minutes of my heat going upwind out back. I try not to look too much at what my opponent is doing and focus solely on my own heat and doing the things that I have trained. Never do anything you are not sure you can pull off unless you have already done all the moves and wave rides you need and still have some time to go.
When my heat is over I always check my score sheets from the judges. This is where you really learn about windsurfing in competitions. You will learn how the judges have broken down your heat and see what you have to do differently to get a higher score in your next heat. Consider what you could have done better and try to do it differently in your next heat. If you lost your first heat you always have the double elimination to fight back in. Whether my heat lead to victory or failure I always try to show good sportsmanship and congratulate my opponent or wish him better luck next time.
After an event is over I always try to analyse how I performed in my heats and break down what my weak points are. That way I will know exactly what I have to work on till the next competition is on. Maybe its the overall strategy and where I place myself in the competition area, maybe its my wave selection or a specific move that needs more work. This is all extremely important. Learn from your experiences and get better!
A little quick tip is to always syncronise your clock to the elimination ladder. Use the heat length plus the transition time. That way your clock will tell you exactly when the heats start and end and you will know exactly how much time there is till your heat is up. The classic big yellow Optimum Time clock is very popular among the pro sailors and I recommend any one who wants to compete to get one.
To sum it all up the key to do well in competitions is to be well prepared and having trained the things you want to do in your heats months before the event even starts. Be on top of any information released from the head judge and try to find a personal ritual to do before your heats to get your mind focused on your performance on the water. Last but not least learn from your experience and take what you have learned from competing and work on your weak points till the next competition is on.
Chris is sponsored by: