2. Safety

Feel safe and prosper! If you feel safe when you sail, you will sail better, more often, and learn faster. The faster you learn, the more fun you will have. The more fun you have the happier you will be, which will contribute to WORLD PEACE! This section is broken down into two parts: Beginner Safety and Advanced/Intermediate Safety. If you are a beginner, you only need to concern yourself with beginner safety. Check out advanced safety when you get to the harness bit. The opinions given in this page are strictly mine.

Beginner Safety

Picking a sailing spot. Safety begins by picking a good place to sail. You want a spot where the wind and current will return you to where you started, should something break. Consider the launch on the map below.

Bad Launch

You might ask, what's the skull and cross bones? It may be a place where there is no road from which to drive to to retrieve your stuff. It might be a swamp. It might be a thorn patch. Its a place where the wind will unfortunately take you, should something not go quite right. A good place to launch from is illustrated below:

Gool Launch

What you want is a place where the wind (and or current) will take you home. Generally that is an "on shore" wind. The launched labeled OK is a "side shore" launch. The location marked OK is fine if further down the beach is safe road access.

Finally, ask the local sailors about hazards, etc. Local knowledge is indispensable.

Wetsuit

Most of us are not fortunate enough to live in a place where the water is always a bathtub 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Hence, a wetsuit is a necessary piece of equipment, not just for comfort, but also for safety. Most importantly, your wetsuit provides warmth and the sailors worst enemy is hypothermia. Your wetsuit also provides buoyancy (in addition to your PFD - Government Speak for life jacket).

When you buy a wetsuit, don't skimp; it could mean the difference between happy sailing and hypothermia. Buy a wetsuit designed for windsurfing rather than one designed for scuba, kayaking or looking cool. Windsurfing wetsuits are designed so that you can comfortably hold your arms out straight and hang on to the boom. Scuba wetsuits are designed for swimming with your arms by your side. Windsurfing wetsuits will be made with the outside mostly shiny neoprene, not cloth (or Nylon II). Water will run off the shiny neoprene and not cool you in the wind. Water will stick to cloth and cool as it evaporates in the wind.

Wetsuits come in various thicknesses, indicated by two numbers. A 3-2 wetsuit will be 3 mm thick in the chest and body and 2 mm thick in the arms and legs. Many people find 3-2 wetsuit is adequate for San Francisco Bay if they just sail in the summer and do not tend to get cold. On the other hand, a 4-3 wetsuit is a good bet for someone who tends to get cold or who plans to sail into the spring and autumn.

When you chose a wetsuit, there are three important things to consider besides the thickness: fit, fit, and fit. The wetsuit should be snug everywhere without cutting off circulation.

Personal Flotation Device

A PFD is useful, even when state laws do not require it. (A PFD is required in some states.) Your wetsuit will give you some floatation, but with just the wetsuit, you will float in an awkward horizontal position. The PFD will float you in a more vertical position. Also, it provides insulation that will keep you warmer and body armor to protect you when you slam into your board. The PFD should fit snugly. I like PFD's designed for kayaking. They have high waists, so they do not interfere with a seat harness (which you will be using soon). They are relatively less bulky than some PFDs.

Some people prefer to wear neoprene 'booties' when they sail, and others prefer to sail barefoot. You can tell the latter because of the number of abrasions, lacerations, and plain old stubbed toes that they have. If your hands get sore, you might try a pair of sailing gloves.

Other safety gear.

Don't forget sun protection -- plenty of waterproof high SPF.

A whistle tie to your PFD or wetsuit is a great safety item to signal other when you need help.

I usually carry a 15 feet of thin rope. Its useful for fixing lots of things.

Rescue Me!

Actually, you should be able to self-rescue in almost all situations. The strategy will depend on the situation:

Strategy 1. You do not have far to paddle. Lay on your board and let the sail drag in the water in the position shown below (Sail on the back of the board, mast toward the board). Paddle with your arms. This is definitely very slow, so take your time and conserve your energy.

Strategy 2. Same situation as above, but there is absolutely no wind and your board is pretty long. Try to balance the boom on the board so that the rig is out of the water. Lay on top of the sail and paddle home.

Strategy 3. You have a long ways to go and there is little hope of someone else rescuing you. However, you are not in any kind of dire circumstance. De rig, roll up your sail, and tie the sail, boom and mast together. Place off of the rig parts together and on the boards. Lay on all the rig parts an paddle home. It is not easy to de rig in the water.

Strategy 4. You are in a dangerous situation. Abandon you rig (sail, mast, and boom), lay on your board, and paddle home. The general rule is never leave your board, it is your lifeboat. You can replace your sail, mast, and boom, however.

Whatever the situation or strategy, keep in mind that its easier to walk or drive than to swim with your gear. Hence, know where all the safe places to land and get our stuff ashore. Walking your gear back is almost always faster and easier than swimming.

There are other sailing safety hints spread throughout this manual. There is tons of advance on the web, here is one site that I think offers good information.

 

Advanced (and intermediate) Safety

As you become more advanced, you are going to be sailing faster, crashing harder, and sailing further from the beach. This brings up addition issues.

Foot straps. Probably the most frequent injury related to windsurfing are foot, ankle, and lower leg injuries, possibly related to foot strap use (see Dyson et al. Br J Sports Med.2006; 40: 346-350). Think about your foot straps! I find two thoughts expressed. The first strategy applies to me and probably many sailors.

Strategy 1. I want to know that when I fall, I will come out of my foot straps so I don't break a foot, ankle, or knee. I adjust them so that only my toes and ball of my foot fit in the straps, and so that my foot hinges at the toes, as shown below.

Adjusted as shown above, when I fall, my foot can flex, and there is a greater chance that I will come out of the straps. I personally feel safer with my foot straps. adjusted as above. For me, this is the safest bet. I believe that most foot injuries happen because people do not come out of their foot straps.

Strategy 2. Some of my friends who do a lot of aerial freestyle do not like strategy 1. They want to know when they do a foreword loop or Vulcan, they will not come out of their foot straps when they are flying through the air. Hence, they adjust their foot straps. so that their whole foot fits into the straps. Since I am not doing forward loops, its not what I do. Think about how you sail and what is the safest option for you.

Helmet. Concussions and traumatic brain injury are rare, but they do happen. A helmet makes me feel safer, particularly in higher winds and crowded venues. If you wear a helmet I recommend one with a nose guard or visor that will protect your nose and teeth from slamming into the mast.

Other Equipment, Flares, Strobe lights can be useful in attracting help. You can get them at boating supply stores. If there is a chance that you might get caught out after dark, reflective strips sewn to your PFD are very visible. You can get these at bicycle stores. If you venture far from shore, a waterproof marine VHS radio or cell phone in a water proof pouch might be a consideration. The VHS radio only works if there is something like the Coast Guard to monitor it (usually coastal areas and near large bodies of water). If you get a radio, be sure to study the instructions. There are specific procedures that must be followed. If you go the cell phone route, enter the number of the appropriate rescue agency (e.g., Coast Guard, county Sheriff) in quick dial before you go sailing. In my area (San Francisco Bay) the Coast Guard advises one to call them directly instead of 911 as the 911 operators are not always familiar with marine rescue.

Learn self rescue strategies such as those below:

Fin Breaks. Two strategies have been suggested to me, First, attach your harness to the rear foot strap so it provides drag at the rear of the board. Second, stand by the mast, sink the windward rail in the water and sail very slowly.

Universal breaks. Tie your mast to the mast base with the rope you brought along (as suggested in Beginner safety). If possible, put something (a bootie?) between the mast and deck so that you will not dig a hole in your board.

Boom breaks. There are two sides to the boom, and you only need one. You might have to take the boom off, flip it over, and reattach to get the good side to windward.

Harness line breaks. With that rope you have along, make a new one.

Mast breaks. If it breaks above the boom, you are in luck. Just sail slowly home with what little sail you have. If it break below the boom, you might be able to stuff the top section in the bottom section (tip down), and sail slowly home.

 
A Tip. If you look carefully at the picture of my booties above, you will see my cell phone number written in yellow. In fact, every bit of my equipment has my number written on it. A great way to pick up of the opposite (or same) sex? Perhaps. The real reason is that I am forgetful and I have at one time left a harness, mast, helmet, head, and wetsuit at the launch site. Kind people take pity on me and call me up. Of course, you are not forgetful, so you might disregard this tip ... until the first time you leave your wetsuit at the beach.

 

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