Airborne WindSurfing II

In this article, I will give you some tips…

For a long time, my windsurfing friends and I have been trying to find a perfect winter hobby (including wind and air time). In the spring of 1996, I discovered a Skimbat. I tried it once, made my first jump after 30 minutes of training and I was sold… In this article, I will give you some tips on how to jump with a Skimbat. I had jumping experience only with skis, but the basic technique is pretty much the same as with snowboarding. Before jumping with a Skimbat you should already be an experienced Wingsurfer and preferably have done some jumping with skis or snowboard on a hill. Okay, so how should you start your training?

A little about techniques…
Jumping technique varies whether you jump on a flat surface or you use little snow bumps, but you always start practicing your jumps into sidewind. Naturally there’s a difference when you go to the  mountains, but let’s not go into that area in this article.

Jumping on A Flat surface (ice/snow)
1. Takeoff Run: Speed up by steering your course a bit more downwind.  When you feel comfortable and balanced, take a wider grip (i.e. move your backhand further back on the boom). Wider grip equals better balance and control during the jump and landing. Unharness yourself if you use a harness line.

2. Lift-off: Make a tight carving turn towards the wind. Simultaneously push the wing up (sheet in with your backhand and push the wing upwards with your front hand). With this motion, you’ll open the wing and it will create more lift for take-off. Just before you feel the pressure in the wing (pulling you upwards),  jump up (just as you would jump from the springboard) and after becoming airborne, pull your legs to your chest. Curl your arms to make a more tugged position. This tugged body position decreases drag and makes it easier to control your wing in the air. Your body movements in the air are the same as when performing a basic jump in windsurfing.

3. Cruising altitude: Make only little corrections and enjoy your airtime!

4. Landing: Open up your tugged position by straightening your arms and legs. Try to aim where you want to land.  This way you can see how high you are. When the landing comes, take the  impact on the back of your skis. This way you will minimize the impact on your legs.

Ski jump, i.e. snow bump
1. Once again speed up by steering your course first a bit more downwind. Find a comfortable and well-balanced position before hitting the snow bump. Take a wider grip (similar to flat surface technique). Unharness yourself, if you use a harness line. Note: When jumping from a snow bump, it can be very dangerous to go fast. Start with slower speeds and work on your gliding techniques for longer jumps!

2. Make a shallow turn towards the wind just before arriving  at the snow bump. (Be careful that the lower antenna on the tip of the wing won’t bang the surface when hitting the snow bump).  Turning shallowly towards the wind, stabilizes the wing and set it on straight, level flight.

3. Lift-off is a little different now because you don’t need to sheet in as much as you had to on flat surfaces. Actually, jumping from snow bumps is a lot easier, because you need only to jump up (spring up) on the edge of the ski jump. Then pull your legs to your chest and curl your arms to make a more tugged position. Now you don’t need to do any drastic sheet in’s. Simply hit the lip and get airborne.

4. The gliding technique and the landing are the same as before, so we don’t need to go through that  again.

In general, jumping on flat surface takes more skill and precision (= training).  You have to have the right timing of leg and hand coordination when making a turn into the wind and jumping up.  When jumping from a snow bump a good rule of thumb is to make a shallow S-turn between arriving at the snow bump and landing. First, turn shallowly into the wind. When you’re in the air, sidewind will push you more downwind.

There are always problems…
Like everything, it takes time to master jumping or even to learn the basics thoroughly. Everybody must be willing to pay the price (broken antennas, occasionally strained muscles and so on).

Here are some solutions I have found when things go wrong:

A) Lower antenna touches the surface when you launch your jump from a snow bump: You have probably sheeted in too much, so “open” the wing a little more by straightening your backhand.

B) Your center of gravity is too much forward when in the air: Push the wing forward on the level (towards where you are going) and straighten your backhand. Your weight and center of gravity will move aft.

C) Your jump is higher than you would prefer: Very carefully curl your backhand—this will increase your wing’s angle of attack and slow your airspeed. Be very careful, because sheeting in too much could stall your wing!

Safest way is to make a small 2-foot high snow bump. Make sure you are in an open area, so you have safe distance when training. Make a
symmetrical snow bump so you can use it with
various wind directions. Check the landing area especially well, cause you don’t want to find any sharp objects there while landing. . . You may want to pile up some extra snow on a landing spot, so the landing impact is not so painful in the case of unsuccessful landings. Note: Don’t even think to make an “Olympic-size” ski jump or shaping it very steeply. This will only result in injuries and bad techniques. With right technique, you can jump more than 10 feet high from flat surfaces. . .

Use the same gear you would otherwise use when wingsurfing, but leave the ice pic home: Necessary equipment would be:

1. protective helmet

2. knee and elbow pads

I prefer mogul/freeride skis less than 5.75 ft. long. Set the bindings a bit tighter than usual so they won’t open on landings. In the long run, it´s wise to buy a light, but durable pair, of freeride skis (very extreme carving skis would be good), because they will probably take a lot more beating than your mother’s old all-round skis, which you are now using in your training.

Also, recalibrate your thinking. A fearless hot dog attitude will only cause accidents and a bad reputation for this sport. With raw muscle power and stupidity you’ll probably end up flying high, but the landings are a different story. Jumping is first of all precision and technique. With experience come the power and the big moves. Competitive attitude is something you won’t want to mix in your training. Make your own pace and do only what feels good, because in the end that’s the only thing that matters.

by Misa Leiber

is a product manager for a software company in Oulu, Finland. He held the title as the Finnish National Snowboarder Champion for three years in the early 90’s and came in second the Production Windsurfing Worlds.

photos by John Chao

Publisher / Editor is a former photojournalist for GEO, National Geographic and Time-Life Magazines