by Leon Turkevich
“Release the front hand all the way.”
“All the way?”
“Yep. All the way.”
In fact, I don’t release the front hand “all the way” as instructed, and the sail slams me backward off the board. Tom Lepak from ABK patiently explains that I fell back because I still had some pressure on my front hand which kept the backwinded sail from spinning around. I step back on the board and try again: this time, I do release my hand “all the way” by opening my palm and moving it away from the boom, and the backwinded sail effortlessly swings around in the fresh breeze as I step back into a perfect clew-first stance: my first successful lee-side escape! A few more tries and I got the heli-tack nailed. Now I just need to move it from the simulator to the water.
This was my “remedial” private lesson with Tom early before the start of Day 2 of the 5-day ABK camp, since I was trying to still wrap my head around the whole concept of back-winded sailing, let alone a lee-side escape and a heli-tack. I was having difficulty on the water getting to the backwinded side the first afternoon of the ABK clinic, so Tom came up to me and offered to meet with me the next morning to go over things with the simulator.
This is just one example of the instructor dedication that makes the ABK camps such a uniquely special event: these instructors are not only expert windsurfers, they also are expert instructors in being able to describe the precise do’s and don’ts that are the difference between consistent success and repeated failures.
On-water instruction is just as thorough, with instructors standing in place and hollering guidance while other instructors sail around and offer up a tip (I think Derek enjoys sneaking up behind your blind side to give you some jibe tips, but I digress). I kept falling backwards during backwinded sailing until the magic tip: dig the windward edge into the water to keep the leeward edge from catching, chest up and push your knee into the sail to counterbalance, and LOOK FORWARD — voila! No more backward falls!
The after-effects of Hurricane Matthew gave us the unusual (and unfortunate) result of little wind for most of the 5 days. Still, there was plenty to learn on land, and plenty of fun time on the water. We learned how to uphaul a shortboard, and once again the devil’s in the details: the sail is at the tail of the board when you start, you uphaul halfway, then yank it the rest of the way using the famous “tennis save”. As Andy Brandt fondly says, a shortboard gains 5 liters every hour: after a short time my tippy 106 liter board was much more manageable (and tack-able).
Whatever your level, I can honestly say there’s nothing better than a 5-day ABK camp (except, perhaps, a 5-day ABK camp in Bonaire!)