Make Waves with Nayra Alonso
When you start windsurfing your are shown how to rig up your beginner kit and told what sort of equipment it is good to start out on, but as we progress there is less guidance about how to set your equipment for optimum performance, especially for women. If you sail at a costal location it is inevitable that as your windsurfing advances you will venture out in stronger winds and bigger waves, start to waveride and jump higher. FLOW talks to professional female wavesailor, Nayra Alonso, to find out how we should be setting up our gear to make the most of the waves:
Hi Nayra, you started competing on the PWA (Professional Windsurfers Association) wave and freestyle tours in 2001, just two years after you first stepped on a board, can you tell us a little more about how you got into the sport and how you progressed so quickly?
When I was a child, I used to spend the summers in the house my parents own in Fuerteventura, in Las Playitas, and sometimes I went to Sotavento to see the PWA World Cup events. Actually, I always hated being in the beach just suntanning, so I used to watch the people sailing and think: wow, that has to be sick! Then, in my high school, there was a guy that lived in Arinaga and used to sail, so once I went with him to try and since then I could not stop sailing as much as I could.
When I could save a little money I bought my first (shity) gear, and at the beginning my girl friends used to drive me to the beach as I did not have a car. When I could go in and out by the same place without finishing too down wind, I started going to Vargas and learning wave riding...and that was my end... I was addicted to this sport forever!!!!!
What equipment do you use? And what is your favorite set up?
Sails: I use mainly Severne SWAT sails, from 3,7 up to 5,2. I am lucky enough and for the windy Canaries season they have made me a 3,3 as well.. I really fell in love with this sails..!!
Boards: I use mainly the Fanatic Twin 72. This board is just great! It has volume enough to still float me when the wind in really light, but still, because of the rocker like it has, it is still really manouvreable when it gets pretty windy. Love this board!
My favourite set up is on my Fanatic Twin Fin and SWAT 4,2 or 3,7 nicely powered. I really dont like being over powered. I like to be just powered up, nice, not too much. And this is why I like the SWATs so much, cause it feels like it has a big range of wind. It doesnt feel too over powered if the wind picks up.
How can a woman set up their equipment to get the most out of it?
Different type of people prefer different type of rigging. I think first of all you should try the setting that the sail specifies, and from there, test and change until you feel it suits you best. For example, I like normally the sails pretty flat, so I always put more outhaul thank other people would. But that is just personal preferences.
It is really important to have the right downhaul, I think. The leech of the sail should be open or loose enough, otherwise the sail would feel really bad. It is also important that the clew and the foot of the sail are pretty close to the end of the boom and to the end of the extension. So if when you rig your sail the way you think it looks ok, you have the foot or the clew very separated from the boom or the extension, it is better if you do it again taking off one or two point on the boom or on the extension.
Each board is different, and again here, you have to try at least a couple of times before you get them right (I am terrible at coming in and change the settings when I am having fun sailing, but it is worth doing, at least the first time you are on a new board). So try the footstraps all the way to the front first, then all the way to the back and feel the difference. Then decide how would you like it best.
Normally girls are shorter than men, so the stance shouldn’t be as wide. Just put the one screw different (for example, all the way on the front ones and one from the back on the back one). The fin, again, there is a lot of try and error, but for example, on the single fin boards, it is generally ok if you have the middle of the fin right under the end on the back footstrap. If the board feels to stiff on the turns, move the fin forward and if you feel it too loose or you do too many spin-outs, move it a bit to the back.
The harness lines should be long enough so you dont get easilly pulled forward when a gust hits. It is a common error to have them too short. I am using 28inches, and I am 165cm tall. The first time you change to bigger lines it will feel like you cant handle it, but give it a couple of tries, and you will get use to them in no time. And to set up where to place the harness lines, it is normally where the pressure point of the sail is. Set up your lines somewhere you think it is ok and go out. When you are planing, if the sail is pulling you forward all the time or you feel like you have too hold on too much with your back hand, your harness lines are too far forward, so move them a bit to the back. On the other hand, if you have to keep pulling a lot with your front hand, then they are too far back, so move them a bit forward.
Another big and common error is to have the boom too low. If you are standing on your board, close to the mast foot and you get close to the sail, the boom should be around the high of your shoulders.
How do you change your set up to cope with different conditions?
If the wind picks up and you cant be bothered to change sail, come in and put a little bit more of downhaul and outhaul. That will help feeling less overpowered. And same, if the wind drops a bit, put a little less downhaul and outhaul. If the wind is on shore, it is a little harder to keep the speed when you try to surf front side. Having the sail with a little more power would help, but not too much because if you are overpowered it is really hard to stay on switch-stance clew-first for too long.
Don’t take a way-too-small board, because you can loose the speed pretty quick. Normally, I prefer to have the mast base a bit more to the front, this helps you to lean forward a bit, which helps keeping the speed when you are going front side. You have to find a fine balance between being powered up to not loose the speed and also to not be too overpowered.
If the wind is side shore, it is easier to maintain the speed on the wave. If the waves are not really big, put your fin a bit forward, so you can turn easily. If the wind is side-off or really off shore, keep in mind that the wind will accelerate a lot on the face of the wave. Normally in this conditions I prefer to be a little bit under powered most of the time, even if I am not planing all the time, and be fine on the wave than to be planning around all the time but being really overpowered on the wave.
Why is it worth spending the time to set up your equipment perfectly?
It does take a little bit of time and effort, but playing with the settings of your equipment will help you a lot. It makes a big difference in how comfortable you sail. Also, try to find out what works better for you, so you can find the right equipment.
Some sails have more power at the front, some more at the back, some are more neutral... Try to feel with you equipment what you like about it and what you don’t. And also, ask a lot. At the beach, on the phone, through websites, ask other people, especially ladies what they think. They might help a lot.
Name: Nayra Alonso Cabrera
Date of Birth: 13-01-79
Sail Number: E4
Years windsurfing: 11
Windsurfing level: Professional (waves and freestyle)
Home town: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands.
Training Spots: Gran Canaria ( Vargas, Pozo, Maspalomas, North Shore), Maui..
Thanks so much Nayra, some great tips in there, good luck for the rest of the PWA (www.pwaworldtour.com) season.