View Full Version : Shortboard vs longboard technique

7th August 2008, 11:10 PM
I just bought a Rio M with retractable dagger-board. I thought it would be a quantum leap as compared to my very old 310 cm long and much narrower longboard, which I just gave away for a few ...pennies ( so to speak), yet I am very puzzled, because , even with a 6.4 sail the Rio can barely move and even drifts laterally in light winds, while I never had any problems with my Old Bertha ! (I am sure that the Rio M at around 190 lts is quite suited to my 172 lbs weight..)

I have to admit that I am at a quasi-beginners stage, but why a super-light, state-of-the-art and beginners' friendly short board such as the Rio, even with a 6.4 sail, is so difficult to get going, as compared to an old long-board, given the same experience level? True, I never planed with my Old Bertha, but neither did I ever have any problems with it in leisurely cruising around !

For one thing, I suppose the much larger width of the Rio creates a drag , which only relatively higher winds can overcome . But I am also curious to know if navigating with a shortboard requires perhaps an altogether different technique !

What I have been doing all along, based on my previous learning curve, is to tilt the rig backward to go into the wind , while tilting it forward to go off the wind . It always worked !

With the Rio, by doing the same, I do feel the wind powering up the sail, I see the sail inflated and pulling my wishbone away, but even with a fully extended daggerboard, the Rio barely moves forward. It is like accelerating a car with the clutch not engaged ( or, may be, with the brake pedal depressed !)
I guess, I should play with the forward/backward position of the mast, but I would not expect that a few cm up or down the rail could make the difference between moving and not moving ! There must be something else which escapes me !

Can somebody comment on this ? Do I have to re-learn the ABC of windsurfing, with a shortboard ? Any short-board specific tricks ?

Thank you

Franco Vivona

8th August 2008, 03:43 AM
Yep, the wide boards are not so good when not planing. Try heading at a slightly downwind angle to get moving (and later to get planning in a stronger breeze)

8th August 2008, 08:25 AM
Hi Franco,
Which Rio M do you have?
The 2007 model (it's a Start board that's a little lighter and has no roller on the back)
Here's the specifications:
2007 Rio M
205 liters
258 cm lenght
90.0 cm width
62.0 cm OFO
13.9 Kg. weight
2.0-9.5 Sail Range
It looks like this:
Do you have the 2008 model Rio M that's a completely different board?
Here's the specifications:
2008 Rio M
195 liters
275 cm length
80.5 cm width
58.7 cm width OFO
14.3 Kg. weight
2.0-9.55 Sail Range
Here's a link to what the '08 Rio looks like:
How much wind are you sailing in?
Are you using a 6.4 m2 rig that's a current model sail or something older that 'you have used for years on "Bertha"?
You do not have to relearn your longboard skills.
I have the 2008 Rio M (I had the '07 Rio M and a Phantom 305 last year so I know what they were) .
Until you tell us what sort of sail your 6.4 m2 is, and a little about how you are rigging it,
it's very hard to say what your issues might be.
I've sailed the '08 Rio M alot with 4.2 m2 trainer sails (Retro Ripper 3's), with a 5.6 m2
Sailworks Hucker in alot of wind (like 20 knots), and with a 7.5 m2 Retro and 7.2 m2 NXslm Race sail.
The Rio M seems to me to be about the best compromise between a longboard and a shortboard that anyone has ever designed.
My Rio M does all the things that a number of "transition" boards were supposed to do, but never really actually performed that way as there were too many compromises.
So, I suggest that something else is wrong here.
The centerboard in the Rio M works well in sub planing mode, and the board moves nicely for me in almost no wind.
I've sailed it alot doing "A Taste of Windsurfing" and towing beginners around in < 10 knots of wind with a 5.0 m2 Retro Ripper 3 ( a very powerful little sail, for sure, but not nearly as powerful as a well rigged 6.4 m2.
It almost sounds like you are sheeting in too much or too fast (the board is moving sideways to leeward, indicating you are oversheeted beyond where your rig makes good
forward drive and well into the range where all it does is pull sideways, very hard.
If the winds are light, try sheeting in slowly and only enough to get your board moving forward. As it gains speed, you can sheet in more due to the forward movement of the
apparent wind.
Where do you have your mast foot postioned?
Front of the slot.....middle of the slot.....back of the slot?
If you are sailing in sub planing mode, with the centerboard fully down, yes, raking the rig forward moves the CE of the rig forward and will turn you downwind.
Finding the near vertical position where the CE of the rig and the CLR of the fin and centerboard balance, will take you straight ahead.
Raking the rig back so the CE of the rig comes behind the CLR of the fin and centerboard will turn you upwind.
You can also go upwind by standing a little off center to windward and tipping the leed rail down slighty to go upwind (this engages more of the rail and makes the CB a bit more efficient) and conversely you can go downwind by tipping the board windward rail down.
If you raise the CB, then everything works backward (from longboard technique) and you will be sailing a big shortboard.
Upwind rail down to go upwind, lee rail down to turn off the wind. Board should be as flat as possible to go straight.
That's the basics and you can see that the techniques are very different (longboard vs shortboard) but the thing that makes them different is the centerboard.
Hope this helps,

9th August 2008, 05:12 AM
Hi Roger !

Thank you for your reply ! A lot of good hints, which I am eager to test as soon as this darn rain stops!

To answer your diagnostic questions:

1. Which Rio I have : it is a 2008 Rio of 195 lts, 275 cm long and 80.5 cm wide. I just bought it brand new from Windsurfing-direct. ca in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

2 . Which sail : a NeilPryde RAF Warp Oriented Slalom 6.4 sail, with 4 battens. It is not new, but I do not know the age. I bought it 2nd hand as I just wanted to invest the strictly necessary, this year, to start out, before upgrading next year.

Based on its sharp triangular top ( as compared to new generation with the tapered ( square) top ), it is probably more than 5 years old. When I compare it with newer sails, I notice that even if I tighten the out-haul as much as I can , the sail doesn't stretch flat : it always remains a bit hollow, a sign perhaps that the fabric has become a little stretched with usage and that the sail is therefore a bit spent , but this, I suppose, should play to my advantage in light winds, as the sail has more power this way, as compared to when it is rigged taut and flat.

3. Wind speed : yesterday it was the first time I tried it out. The conditions were not ideal: from no wind at all to a light breeze ( I reckon predominantly between 8-10 knots steady, with somewhat higher gusts ), but I expected the board to move forward, which it didn't !

4. Position of the mast in the track : middle position, perhaps 1 0r 2 cm farther forward, but not full forward. I was thinking, next time, to shift the mast all the way back, as my weight along with that of the rig a bit more backward, might raise the front of the board, thereby reducing the drag ( a sort of " pre-planing" position. ). What do you think ?

5. I was not using the foot-straps( Dakine). Actually, I hadn't even attached them , yet.However I have never used straps before and I did not want to to introduce a new variable, which might complicate things this first time. By the way, I just finished attaching them now, but even by pulling out the velcros and pulling on the strap, I am unable to adjust them. The strap seems to be fixed!

I know it is very difficult to diagnose a problem by e-mail, but I hope that among the many hints I receive by talking to people like you, eventually I'll get the spark which will set me going!

I would feel silly if my problem were the sail ! But I wouldn't think so, because an older sail, seemingly in good condition, shouldn't make the difference between moving and NOT moving AT ALL ! There must be something else, aside from my relative inexperience !

Thank you again


9th August 2008, 08:12 AM
gee i wish i was closer to you! i guess you are from southern ontario. i am up in thunder bay, would be pleased to give a few tips but roger does know his stuff!!!

9th August 2008, 04:18 PM
Hi Franco

I went through a similar experience when i moved from the long board to the short boards with centerboard. I found that sinking the leeward rail was a very big factor.

The longboard roles over without any effort on your part so it doesn't require a special technique. The wide boards like the Rio almost refuse to dip to leeward. this is a fantastic feature for stability so you never fall off but it means that you tend to have more trouble with upwind progress. The other nice thing about that is that it makes it much easier to carry a much larger sail so you can get planing sooner in the light wind.

So you need to everything you can to sink the leeward rail. The more length and thickness of rail you can get under water the better it will go upwind in displacement mode (centerboard down).

Secondly, for more planing time or speed in displacement, look at bigger sails if the budget will allow. I now mostly use a 10.5 or minimum 8.5m while on the old longboard I used to find 6m hard to handle.

10th August 2008, 06:39 AM
Tony, thank you for your hints! I never really expected I might have to go into an 8.5 or larger sail with a short-board, because I fully agree with you : with a long-board, a 6.4 was quite enough, even overpowering and difficult to handle at times! But your suggestion makes sense and I'll see if I can put my hands on an 8.5 or so.

I just wanted to make sure, though, which one is the LEE rail . I know it is the down-wind rail, but since we don't sail facing the wind, rather with the wind coming from behind or laterally, at different angles, the LEE rail would have to be the one opposite to the side you are standing on and I imagine it is a bit ackward to shift your weight to the other side of the board in order to sink that rail ! Were you perhaps thinking of the rail RIGHT UNDER your feet when you are standing on the board( which seems a lot easier to sink, just by leaning outward and pushing your feet against the edge ) or were you really thinking about the opposite one? Please tell me which one you meant, regardless of the name !

Thank you


10th August 2008, 08:02 AM
Hi Franco,
He means the "lee" rail which is the one across from where you would normally stand.
So...... you need to get your feet so that your heels are maybe on the centerline.
Or... you can place your back foot against the centerboard knob and sometimes "tip" the board lee rail down (the lee rail is the side opposite where the wind is coming from.
At your skill level, you may have never found out that tipping "Bertha" to the lee side would make her "come alive" and go upwind on lift from the centerboard.
That's really what you are trying to do here. Tip the centerboard so it is inclined to the point that the tip of the CB is well upwind of the "root" of the CB.
This gives you alot more upwind "lift" and also gives you a little bit of "upward" lift so the board goes much faster and higher upwind.
Tony is correct, for the wind range you suggest.... for very light winds (i.e. < 8 knots steady) you need a larger rig! An 8.5 m2 would be good. Give one a try.
Something you stated in your earlier reply has caught my attention........?
Why would you ever want your sail to be nearly flat?
ALL salls (from miniscule < 4.0 m2 high wind sails all the way to 12.5 m2 Formula sails) depend on the "draft" (your term was " a bit hollow") to give them power, and the larger the sail, the more draft/shape it's likely to have.
If you have been pulling on the outhaul alot, you have been making your "NeilPryde RAF Warp Oriented Slalom 6.4 sail, with 4 battens" as "non"-powerful as is possible.
Try this next time:
Downhaul your sail until the crease at the front of the luff sleeve is about 45 deg. pulled around the mast ( for the max. distance from top to bottm possible).
Then just add a touch of outhaul.
If your boom has the normal couple of pulleys in the back end, run the outhaul line from the boom end through clew grommet on the sail, then back through the pulley, then back through the clew grommet, then back to the cleat on the boom end.
Grab the outhaul line between your thumb and first finger (adjacent to your thumb) and pull straight back from the end of the boom. When the line slips between your thumb and finger, you are at "neutral" outhaul.
From there you can pull about one additional inch to give your sail a little "positive" outhaul. You do not need more than this for winds < 20 knots on a 6.4 m2 rig.
Sounds like you are not downhauling nearly enough to bend the mast so it has a curve that matches your sail.
Also sounds like you are pulling "bend" (or at least trying to anyway) into the mast with the outhaul.
This is not how modern sails work.
All the "mast bending" and shaping of the luff sleeve is done with the downhaul.
Here's a simple way to figure this out.....
Lay your sail (without the mast inserted) out on smooth wet sand, or perhaps on your driveway.
Take a stick (if you are on smooth wet sand) or a piece of chalk (if using smooth concrete or asphalt) and draw the curve that's sewn into the luff sleeve (in other word, draw the curve of the front of the luff sleeve as it lays flat.
Then move your sail away from the curve you have drawn, and put the mast in.
Then downhaul your sail. Keep moving back to the curve you drew and adding more downhaul until the mast is bent to that same curvature.
This should bring the crease at the front of the luff sleeve around to about 45 deg. from the front or side (45 deg. being halfway between 0 deg. and 90 deg.) for most of the length of the luff sleeve (except perhaps right at the top and bottom where the mast comes out of the luff sleeve and engages the tack fittings and the head fittings.
This will demonstrate to you how much you need to bend the mast.
Then, with the correct downhaul to bend the mast, you can think about putting on the boom and adding a little outhaul to lock the draft/shape into the sail.
Maybe part of the problem you are having is that you are "stretching" all the draft out of the sail. If you do this, you may as well use a piece of plywood, which won't get your board moving any better than a stretched out sail.
Hope this helps,

10th August 2008, 10:55 PM
As Roger Said, I do mean the far rail, not the one on the side you stand on. It is awkward but do the best you can and you will see the result.

Even the fact that you take the weight off the windward rail will help to sink the leeward rail

10th August 2008, 11:25 PM
Thank you Roger for your hints.

Could you or somebody else also comment on the recommended mast position on the slot?

If I understand correctly ( but I might be wrong!) the more backward it is, ( compatibly with the size of the sail, of course, because larger sails would require a forward compensation, from what I understand) the easier will be the glide forward: the weight being more towards the rear, the front part will raise and reduce the contact of the widest part of the board with the water, thus decreasing the drag ... What are your suggestions on this?

Your PLYWOOD metaphor makes your point very well and this is where I did go wrong, as I was outhauling the sail real tight, but sure there be must lots of windsurfers in the lumber trade, because when I look around I see a lot of those superflat sails, as taut as a violin string ! Some people must do windsurfing with the overwhelming consideration that the flatter the sail is , the easier it is to uphaul it from the water, because if they were to tune the sail with more draft , they fear they would have to break their back uphauling a 5 ft diam ,water filled and water-tight ...container each time ! Of course I am exaggerating, but I am curious to know how it feels to uphaul a 10.5 with a sizeable draft in it ! There must be enough water inside to trap a dolphin !

As usual, your comments will be appreciated


Montreal, Canada

11th August 2008, 11:37 AM
Franco- Short, wide boards will turn upwind and stall quickly if you aren't careful with your sail handling. Perhaps this is what is happening to you.

One way to avoid that is make sure that you bring the sail up in front of you (almost so that you can look at the nose of the board through the window of the sail) before you grab the sail with your back hand and sheet in. That will prevent you from stalling and sideslipping. Also, make sure that you don't "oversheet" the sail, i.e. never pull the clue of the sail past the centerline of the board or upwind of the mast.

You might want to check out these guidelines for "how to teach windsurfing" and the links therein. It includes some information on how to avoid the problems you're having.


PS- Yes, short wide boards ARE slower than long narrow boards in non-planing winds, but with the right technique and a properly-rigged, appropriately-sized sail, they can do ok.

11th August 2008, 09:09 PM
Hi Franco,
Somehow I did a nice reply here and it never posted.
I'll try again...........

"Could you or somebody else also comment on the recommended mast position on the slot? "
For you, at your 172 lbs./78 Kg., and at your skill level, I'd start out with the mast foot in the center or slightly behind center for general sailing.
Check out this link where Tiesda You gives some tuning tips for the Rio:
It explains the different suggested mast foot positions and shows the markings on your

"If I understand correctly ( but I might be wrong!) the more backward it is, ( compatibly with the size of the sail, of course, because larger sails would require a forward compensation, from what I understand) the easier will be the glide forward: the weight being more towards the rear, the front part will raise and reduce the contact of the widest part of the board with the water, thus decreasing the drag ... What are your suggestions on this?"
Not necessarily so!
Bigger sails do not mean further ahead mast foot positions most of the time.
There are 2 "real world" situations where you find the mast foot all the way forward.
Formula racers put their mast foot nearly all the way forward because they get better upwind performance with their huge 9.5-12.5 m2 rigs this way.
Longboard racers (with an on the fly adjustable mast track) move the mast foot all the way forward when racing in light to moderate winds to get the maximum waterline length and maximum lee rail engagement to help their upwind performance.
For recreational sailors (not racers) putting the mast foot all the way forward is nearly always a bad idea unless you are a super heavyweight.

"Your PLYWOOD metaphor makes your point very well and this is where I did go wrong, as I was outhauling the sail real tight, but sure there be must lots of windsurfers in the lumber trade, because when I look around I see a lot of those superflat sails, as taut as a violin string ! Some people must do windsurfing with the overwhelming consideration that the flatter the sail is , the easier it is to uphaul it from the water, because if they were to tune the sail with more draft , they fear they would have to break their back uphauling a 5 ft diam ,water filled and water-tight ...container each time ! Of course I am exaggerating, but I am curious to know how it feels to uphaul a 10.5 with a sizeable draft in it ! There must be enough water inside to trap a dolphin !"

Next time you go sailing, watch as you uphaul your sail.
There is no "5 ft diam ,water filled and water-tight ...container" because as you begin to pull the mast out of the water, all the water in the sail runs off the leech, and all the water in the luff sleeve runs out the top and bottom of the sleeve.
Our sails are now made completely from "non-absorbing" plastic materials so a sail really gains almost no weight when wet.
Double luff racing sails have large "drains" at the top and bottom of the sleeve, (Aeroforce Designs actually had little flapper valves to let the water out along the back of the sleeve).
Use an "Easy Uphaul" to allow you to put the weight of the rig on your harness until you get most of it clear of the water.
So, not the problem that you were thinking it was.
Hope this helps,

13th August 2008, 05:25 AM
Hi James :

the problem I have is exactly the opposite : I can't go upwind with my Rio ! If I could do it, I would be the happiest person on earth, so to speak! To day I drove to my favorite practising spot to practice some of the tips I received from the volks on the Forum, mainly the leeward rail sinking trick. I started out at first with my usual 6.4, tuned according to Roger's instructions , i.e. strong down-haul for a good mast curvature and relatively little out-haul. My progression is very incremental, but it is there , because I noticed the leeward rail tilt definitely slowed down the drifting, at least so it looked ! For a few moments the board looked like it was ready to bite into the wind, albeit very hesitatingly, but at that point the wind abated and the board started drifting again to shore.... I was about to pull in and rig my 7.6, because I thought the wind might have been too light for a 6.4 , but, unfortunately, by the time I started de-rigging the 6.4, a powerful storm kicked in .
I kept working on the rig under the rain for about half an hour with the...wet wet-suit on ( excuse for the pun !) and becoming even wetter ( this is what it is made for, anyway, right?) hoping that the storm would clear soon, but it got worse, instead, so I decided to call it a day! I'll resume tomorrow, but it is not without some frustration that I am learning that the variables of the weather are many indeed and unpredictable, because by the time you think you have it, mother nature fools you , kicking in another weather- changing variable and you have to start the trial and error process all over again ! But I haven't given in to the temptation to take up golf, yet !

Talk to you soon


13th August 2008, 07:36 AM
Hi Franco,
If what I'm hearing from your above post is correct, there's something else missing from your repertiore.......
You need to do all the basic steps to uphaul and get underway, then when your board is moving nicely, THEN you worry about heading upwind.
Do you....
1/ Uphaul with your feet straddling the mast (one in front one behind) and the arches of your feet right over the fore and aft centerline of the board?
2/ When you have the rig fully uphauled, are you holding the mast with your front hand
(or both hands)?
3/ Do you then step back on the board so your front foot is facing nearly forward and your toes are behind the mast foot?
Is your rear foot back about a shoulders width behind the front foot, facing slightly forward with your heel on the boards fore/aft centerline (James's beginner technique drawing is quite good except that where his drawing has you placing your feet you are too far forward (the mast and your front leg are in contention for the same space) and the back foot has the arch on the centerline which will tip the board upwind and cause you to "round up".
4/ Do you then bring the rig across in front of your shoulder until it balances (it becomes pretty much weightless which is a very nice thing).
Only after you have the mast well upwind (beyond the boards fore/aft centerline) so that it truly balances can you begin to sheet the sail in.
5/ Do you only use one or two fingers on your back hand to sheet the sail in?
6/ Do you only sheet the sail in until the board moves. (Sheeting in more just destroys the forward drive and then you will drift sideways for sure).
7/ When your board is sailing along on a beam reach with a bit of speed
THEN you can rake the rig back a little and apply some lee rail pressure to get it to sail upwind.
I'll bet you are leaving several of the "easiest way to windsurf" steps out of your program and this is what causes you to drift sideways.
Hope this helps,

14th August 2008, 09:37 AM
Hi Roger !

1. Yes, I uphaul with the feet positioned as you said.

2. After uphauling , I hold the boom with the front hand only, while the sail flaps idle downwind.

3. I am not too sure if I step back precisely as you indicate, but, overall, I think my feet position is correct, because I align the front and back feet with the direction of the footstraps: the front one is diagonally oriented, so the foot is at an angle in relation to the centerline, while the rear strap is parallel to the center line, so the rear foot is perpendicular to it. I am not too sure, though, on which side of the centerline it is ( windward or leeward side, or perhaps straddling it..)

4. I am not sure if I am pulling the rig across the board when I sheet in in order to set the board in movement, but I noticed I have a tendency not to keep the mast upright once the board moves . I noticed that if I do so, things go a lot better.

5. No, I sheet in with a full grasp of the back hand on the boom, not just the two fingers. How could I use only two fingers? The pull of the wind on the sail is so strong at times,that it takes a full grasp to sheet in ( at least until you hook up the harness !)

6.Perhaps I am not too clear about why I should sheet in only until the board moves, because even after the board is in movement, the wind, at least here in our Canadian lakes, is so ever changing, at times gusty, that I couldn't help constantly correcting by sheeting in or out, as smoothly as possible though.

7. I definitely was not aware that I have to get underway (on a reach ?) before attempting to go upwind . The way I do it , I walk the board off shore until the water depth allows the extension of the CB, I position the board perpendicular to the wind, with me facing downwind and with the rig floating downwind, I get on, I push down the CB , I uphaul and then I immediately start to gear up for upwind , by tilting the sail backward, while weighing on the leeward rail. Today, for the first time, it worked, so I must have been doing something right !

This prompts me to ask the following questions :

a. Does the REACH point of sail require the CB down ?

b. Is the leeward rail sinking technique recommended, or even necessary, to start the REACH motion and prevent the down-wind drifting, in the same way that it is necessary to go upwind?

c. When you invert the direction of the board from upwind to downwind, in order to return to shore, should the CB be raised ? I know it definitely must be raised if you are on a RUN, but if you are sailing downwind on a broad reach, can you ( or should you )still keep it fully or partially extended down ?

d. I hear that , when the CB is fully retracted, the rail pressure dynamics are reversed : to go upwind you no longer sink the leeward rail, but the WINDWARD rail. Is this correct ?

e. Final point : Today the wind was probably 10 knts/hr and I felt the board was so far from planing , that I can hardly believe the claims made by some manufacturers that PLANING is the NATURAL behaviour , as it were, of todays boards... They are advertised as though they were just waiting to leap off the water even with under 10 knts/hr. winds ..Well, mine didn't even try ! I thought it was quite normal , because sheer common sense told me that it should have taken hell of a lot more wind for it to plane !

Anyway, thanks to you and the Good Samaritans on the Forum who have been kind enough to share their experience with me and give me their advice, today I had my first EPIPHANY, because, for the first time, thanks to the leeward sinking trick, I was able to sail upwind with my Rio and I had a lot of fun, until the darn rain started pouring down again !
I used a larger sail ( a 7.6) though, because the wind was light and I am envisaging to eventually buy a 8.5 ( Which brand would you suggest ?) .
I guess the sail size and my ignorance of the leeward rail sinking trick were the main causes of my failure . I still have a long way to go, I have to admit, and this darn winter will be here faster than we imagine and put a stop to my learning curve !

Thank you for your comments