I learned a ton from my first downwinder a few days ago so thought I’d share some thoughts and videos to help others on what to do and especially, what not to do.
Rider profile: This was my first time doing a downwinder. I mostly wing on the SF bay and coast. I prone foil some but not regularly since conditions aren’t ideal due to lots of turbulence at Ocean Beach. Weight 85 kg.
Conditions: 1-2 foot wind swell, flood tide (not ideal, ebb is better for waves since you want the tide in the opposite direction from the wind so the waves stand up/get bigger), 25 mph winds at the starting point but dropped significantly along the run, length of run was about 3.5 miles (east side of Treasure Island to Berkeley pier). Wind fetch is fairly short.
Gear: Axis 1150 PNG foil with 1700 sq cm area (massive), 75cm mast, 4’8" prone board, probably 38 liters. Yamaha jet boat (plenty of power).
Getting up: Boat assisted with 15 foot rope and handle. Knee start then slip front leg through. Faster and less pull required than wakeboard style start.
Thoughts and observations about technique and gear:
Pumping - I tried to limit the amount of pumping and keep the mast high so I could ride the energy of the waves. I had some success here and there but mostly ended up pumping way too much. Since I’m not a proficient pumper, I quickly ran out of energy. It looks like I’m just bobbing up and down without much forward thrust or gains to show for it (glad I have video of this so I can see I have quite a bit of work to do on pumping technique). I wasn’t lifting my heel on the rear foot and wasn’t getting enough out of my pumps when I really needed it. Too much upper body movement, not enough movement and power from legs(?). Need more thrust on the back stroke (throw hands back harder and farther) and drive with my feet, ankles, and hips. Also, I need to switch up the cadence of pumping by using more short frequency pulses (lifting heel of back foot and keeping front foot flat) then some deeper pumps.
Lines and Connections - My lines could have been better and more continuous/connected. While I did make some turns, they didn’t flow from one section to the next and I had to pump to compensate. The waves were small but still think I could have reduced pumping by being more deliberate with my path. I also chased too many bumps ahead of me rather than looking to the side or behind. I need to look around more and think ahead about how to more efficiently use the matrix of energy. The waves were also a bit messy in the bay which created some negative energy and I dropped into a hole/ no mans land a few times which required a ton of energy to get out of. By better identifying and anticipating those spots I could probably get through them more efficiently (or avoid them entirely). Related, I need to look where to find the nearest next section of power rather than brute force pumping through the neg/low energy sections.
Mast height and length: Generally I kept the 75cm mast high, but I think I could have ridden a little lower at times which may have allowed me to turn without breaching or a tip coming out. Also, a longer mast like an 85cm seems like it would have been better to allow for more glide and opened up more opportunities to turn.
Foil size: The Axis 1150 is a massive wing with a span of 115cm and area of 1700 sq cm (also thick profile). This is the first time I’ve ridden this foil and I thought it would be way to slow and clunky (I typically use thinner and smaller foils) but for the slow, 1-2 foot wind swell this wing was great. It just steamrolled along, had decent speed, and turned decently well.
Style: Legs and body overall too stiff. Too much movement with arms to counterbalance. Stance felt reasonably narrow, efficient, and comfortable. More linking turns are needed to smooth out the line and that’ll probably help with overall style too.