Comments by Henry Thomas

Date Article Author
May 13, 2011 Learning to Hook-in Henry Thomas

While it may seem a bit narcissistic to post such embarrassing videos of myself online, my motivation for videoing sessions was so I could figure out what I was doing wrong. It takes a lot to overcome the almost daily humiliation of being a beginner - particularly if you thought you were much more competent because you windsurfed when you were younger - but then I figured that was exactly the point, when you are getting back into a sport like windsurfing and finding it all really hard, it helps to see that lots of other newbies make all the same mistakes. Sharing this online helps, particularly if there are only a few beginners like you in your area. I think its also interesting now to look back and see how quickly I progressed with regular time on the water. Just got to nail my gybes.

Best of luck barload ;)

August 10, 2011 Learning to Plane Henry Thomas

Hi Johan,

I have read lots of Formula pros and others say that you need your boom high - the higher the better - personally I disagree. Mind you, I use a seat harness. I have the boom relitavely low. Low enough to hook in without having the pull the sail back or lift my pelvis up too high. I have found that when I have the boom too high I can't get enough leverage and I get pulled forward - with 30" long harness lines and the boom lower, I can really hike out.

I tend to water start or beach start, place the toe of my front foot on the mast base and hang low with straight arms for a short while, then hook in straight away. Because I use bigger sails than most, they strain and tire my arms if I don't hook in early. Next I bend my legs into a crouching position and sit down into my seat harness. This transfers my weight through the boom and down the mast base to the centre of the board. The sail is then taking more of my weight. My torso is upright, so my arms are bent and I am shifting my body weight around with my bent legs to pull down on the rig. As I build up speed I constantly test the rig trim until I feel that surge (and the associated drag) that it is going to plane. Next I step back into the front foot strap and continue the couch transferring my weight to the sail. This tends to launch me and my board out of the water and onto the plane very quickly. Next I point down a bit, build a bit of speed, then turn up a bit and move my back foot out onto the rail, slip it sideways into the back strap and I am away. At this point the board has another surge of speed. Next I place my back hand just behind the harness lines, and I rake the sail back and sheet out slightly. This continues to accelerate the board and allows me to point much higher into the wind.

Hope all this helps.


August 9, 2011 Learning to Plane Henry Thomas

Hi Johan,

Without having a look at your rig, I am only guessing, but here are a few things you could look at. If the back is bogging down, try moving the mast track more forward. Do this until the opposite starts to happen - the nose starts to sink and then bring it back a bit. This may upset all your other settings, like boom height and harness line positions. So once you find the mast foot position that corrects the tail sinking problem, mark it with a permanent marker. Next work on the boom height. You should be using long 28"-32" lines, depending on your height. Set the boom height so that you can hook in on the water with with a slight lift of your hips - mark that boom position on your sail. Next work on harness line position. Rig up you sail and hold it with one hand into a light breeze and find the point where it is evenly balanced. Mark each side of your hand, this is where you should place the harness lines. Make sure you have enough downhaul on your sail so the second batten down has a tight pocket (is pulled away from the mast), also the top three panels on the leach should be floppy. Set your outhaul to neutral (i.e. not loose and not tight).

Now with your rig dialled in, have a look at the beginning of my [ Getting into Footstraps ] clip and see if that helps. It all about hooking in and getting enough grunt out of your sail to lift you and the board out of the water, followed by trimming the sail as it accelerates because as you go faster, the wind direction changes (its called apparent wind) and comes more from the front, so you as you go faster, you need to sheet the sail in more and more by stepping further out onto the rails. Hopefully that helps a bit - best of luck ;)


August 25, 2012 Learning to Waterstart Henry Thomas

Hi Linas,

Really glad you found it helpful and well done, learning to waterstart!


July 22, 2011 Wind and Tide Links Henry Thomas

Gavin has been the 'cat that swallowed the canary' on quite a few occasions lately. It been quite uncanny the way he has picked just the right sail and caught wind the rest of us missed. There are certainly swings and merry-go-rounds in this game, but winter winds are just so flukey.

March 19, 2012 Surf Sailing Henry Thomas

My pleasure Mike, glad you found it useful.

November 23, 2011 My GPS Setup Henry Thomas

Hi Rod,

No, I was not aware of the Speed Puck - it looks like a really cool unit. Only concern I would have is how and where you would mount it. I guess you could attach it to the mast above the boom, assuming there was enough space in the mast sleeve gap. Not sure if the units heading reading is effected by the unit turning, or just by changes in trajectory - if the former, rotating the rig, which you do constantly would give you erroneous heading readings - if the latter, then it would be a pretty interesting device for windsurfing.

It would be pretty cool having a speed on our mast, because you would see it all the time, because that is where you are facing most of the time.


July 24, 2011 My GPS Setup Henry Thomas

Hi Claes,

I have no problem with the features of the GT31 unit (which in my opinion are superior to the Foretrex), just that in a Aquapac its a bit bulky and so most sailors I have seen using them wear them on their upper arm facing out. Their complaint to me was that they couldn't read data while they were sailing. In this regard the Foretrex has a clear advantage. Its small, light and works just like an oversized wrist watch.

October 14, 2010 Ray & Caleb Kitesurfing Henry Thomas

Hi Guys,

Sorry this took so long to complete, had some other stuff come up in the mean time...

June 19, 2012 Teaching your Kids Windsurfing Henry Thomas

My daughter was about seven at the time, not sure about her weight - but she was too light to handle the rig on her own. She probably would have been better off with an Ezzy 1.5m kids rig. Nevertheless, my kids will grow into using this gear - there are plenty of summers ahead of us. The sail is 4m - that's about the size I would recommend for your son. Perfect for sailing in light winds (>10kt) and as he gets older he will be able to sail it in stronger winds.

If you want to get specific, have a look at my windsurfing gear calculator, it has an option for Kids under Activity, so you can enter your child's weight etc. - see what it spits out. However you will probably want to go a bit larger so they don't grow out of it too quick.

The thing I liked about the Aquaglide setup was that I could tag along on the back, give them a lesson and help them out. Its needs to be fun - I have heard stories of kids on their own getting stranded out on the water - with all the trauma that entails - who never wanted to go back out again. Very costly mistake when you consider the investment in gear involved.

April 30, 2011 Rob & Terry Kitesurfing Henry Thomas

Yes Justin,

I think we all owe you a shout of beer.

June 9, 2011 Predicting the Wind Henry Thomas

I have not had a session there yet, but Andrew and Al had a few sessions in the marina last winter. From what they told me the key issue is the tide - you have to be there an hour before high tide, and the wind needs to be northerly (NE, N or NW). For kites, the shallow water isn't as big an issue, but for us windsurfers with long fins it is - so we need to launch at the boat ramp, or for a North-westerly where the astrix is. My recollection is that Al launched over in the South east corner somewhere.

June 3, 2012 Board Nose Repair Henry Thomas

Hi Andy,

I just used an auto clear coat I purchased with the auto paint I used. Yes I could have used 2 pack epoxy, but figured that it was a relatively small area and using a spray can just made the process quick and easy - no need to sand and polish, it created a shiny clear coat straight out of the can.

April 22, 2011 Board Nose Repair Henry Thomas

Thanks Eva,

I really found your website very helpful and I am grateful to you for sharing your considerable knowledge and experience.

I did find it really hard to get a smooth clear top coat, but in the end I am not unhappy with the results.

May 1, 2012 Tabou Rocket Mods Henry Thomas

Hi Dave,

To attach the foot straps, you will notice that I countersunk the opposite side to the bolts that attached to the board. So I countersunk bolts with nyloc nuts. The countersunk head was flush with the strap against the board and the nyloc nut attached inside the footstrap. The Tabou footstraps include a plastic plate, but you could also use a stainless steel washer if your footstrap doesn't feature something like this. This helps to keep the footstrap from twisting as you tighten the nyloc nut. Obviously you have to attach the footstraps to the stainless steel straps first, make sure they are tight, then attach the straps to the board - otherwise the countersunk bolt will just spin because you have no way to hold it in place.

December 13, 2011 Tabou Rocket Mods Henry Thomas


Given that most of your sailing is done on an 8 metre free race sail, you are only going to get a marginal benefit from a smaller board - as you point out maybe 25% of sessions. Still, when it blowing a gale, you don't what to get stuck on the beach for want of a smaller board. The thing you have to remember is that biger sails bog the nose of smaller boards down - so you may need some smaller sails too.

I have always found that its better to go with a smaller sail and rig it a bit baggy than a big sail that is tight as a drum and over powered. The centre of effort on a tightly rigged sail tends to get twitchy and is less forgiving. Also if you fall on a tightly rigged sail, you are more likely to damage the stitching.

I developed a gear calculator for wind surfers to help estimate the sails for a full quiver. If you type in 100kg for your weight, your 10m and 8m sails are pretty much sport on, but you would benefit from something around the 6.3-6.5m size for stronger conditions, and a 135lt board might be fit for 16-20+ knot winds.

Still, I would highly recommend that you get your feet in both straps out on the rails. You may need to change your sail trim to accommodate sailing in this position. Mast foot in the centre, long harness lines and boom chest to chin high. Start with getting your front foot in, and the back in the middle for control, then as soon as you feel comfortable start trying to get your back foot in the straps as well. You just need to get on the plain, and before you get too much speed up, point up a bit, to take pressure off the sail, slip your back foot in and point your toes to steer the board back down wind as soon as its in the straps -- if you are too slow, the board will keep pointing up and stall, so its a bit tricky to learn, but well worth it. The difference in speed and control is phenomenal.

December 13, 2011 Tabou Rocket Mods Henry Thomas

Hi Joe,

When me and my mate Gavin decided to get back into windsurfing after a 20 year absence, we both purchased large floaty progression boards. I got the Starboard Go 165 (circa 2004) and he got a Bic Tecno 148. I was 110kg when we started and Gav was around 90kg, so both these boards gave use plenty of buoyancy. Nevertheless, my board was much wider, at 91cm which made it more stable. Gavin and I used to share it, taking turns on my board in the early days when we were learning to plane because it was so stable, and much easier to ride.

Later we discovered that once you progressed to outside foot positions on the Go, it was actually a very fast formula style board. Perfect for light wind sailing yet very forgiving. Gavin ended up purching a Starboard Go 170 more recently because he enjoyed sailing my board so much.

Experiences that influenced volume decisions

When it came to choosing a volume for my next board there were a few experiences we both had that played into the volume decision. We were both pretty reckless when we started windsurfing - we were so keen to go out, we often didn't do a great job of judging the conditions. One time Gavin had a rig failure - I think his boom broke -and drifted out to sea with the tide, so he had to ditch his sail and paddle back in, which was a huge loss. I also had a few mishaps, perhaps the worst was one time before I learned how to waterstart, I got into some trouble uphauling at high tide in a heavy swell and also got washed out to sea, I ended up getting sea sick and throwing up - not pleasant. Fortunately for me, a guy on a jetski saw me out there in trouble and he and a mate rescued me - and my board and rig - which was very fortunate.

25-30 litres positive buoyancy for intermediate progression

After those experiences Gavin and I were a little more cautious when it came to purchasing our next boards. We both decided to progress to smaller volumes that still provided enough buoyancy to uphaul if the wind died. I opted for the Tabout Rocket 140 and Gav ended up getting a Starboard Kombat 117. Essentially we were both looking for around 25-30 litres of positive buoyancy.

Most of the really light weight windusrfers we know (75 kg) have three boards, a 80, 90 and 100. They rarely get to use their 80 litre boards. So they have 15 and 25 litres of positive buoyancy in their main two boards. However they also sail smaller rigs that tend to be several kilo's lighter than ours - so you have to factor that in as well.

Smaller board need more wind to be fun

What we both discovered was that as heavy weights, the boards we ended up getting were no fun under 16 knots. In light winds you are just working all the time just to stay up and it is exhausting - its better to come in and wait for the wind to pick up. These boards really need 16-20 to get going, and over 20 is the sweet spot. On our big Go boards, 12-16 is plenty, and in light conditions it is still fun to slog around and goof off. We used to always wonder why when the wind dropped off everyone else came in, when we didn't - now we know.

In an average year, over 50 percent of my sessions are on my 8.5m or 11m sails with my Go board. Another 15% are probably still better on my Go using a 7 and only 35% of sessions are really suitable for my Tabou Rocket, using a 7 or a 6. I almost never get to use my 5.1.

One thing I would also mention, is that once planing, the Rocket 140 does feel like a smaller board under foot than it actually is - at least that's what other sailors who have had a go on my board report.

What board size do I recommend?

Based on my experience I would look up the weather statistics for your area like I did (See Predicting the Wind). What you really want are the wind roses for each month. These will give you an idea of the extreme wind ranges and how prevalent they are. From this you can make a judgement call on how small you want to go.

The other thing is to make sure you really are getting the most out of your current board. Push it to the max - set the foot straps to the outer positions, learn how to get you feet in them, right out on the rails and see just how fast your current board can go.

All that being said, for a heavy weight sailor I would recommend a minimum of 20-30 litres of positive buoyancy for an intermediate progression board. The difference really comes down to the size of the sails you plan to use on it - which depends on the dominant wind speeds in your area. If your sail a 6.5 or smaller, I would go with 20-25 litres of positive buoyancy. If you sail larger than 6.5, I would go with 25-30 litres of positive buoyancy.

Don't get fooled into going too small

I think the whole windsurfing industry has a lot to answer for. All the magazines are full of pictures to pro's sailing at places like Maui where the wind blows 20+ knots day after day. So they push this image that smaller boards are more fun, extreme and thus way more cool. In the real world where most of the rest of us live, this is an absolute crock of s**t - and to many people get conned into making very poor decisions about boards and sails because of it.

As I said earlier, the light-weight sailors I know who have 80 litres (extremely cool boards) rarely ever get to use them. So you either have a cool board and quiver, and rarely get to windsurf, or you get real, and muck-in when ever you get a chance and simply make the most of it, and choose appropriate gear to match.

What Gavin and I discovered it that while the big days can be fun, the water is rough, the wind is gusty and the sessions sometimes brutal. Gear gets trashed, and its pretty stressful - but its also is also such a rare event, we take on the chin and just go for it.

By comparison, the 12-16 knot days are common, and if you judge the conditions right, you get beautiful, serene blue sky days and flat water. Hiked out on the rails blasting around in 12 knots is like the Zen of windsurfing and it gets pretty addictive. Those are by far my most favoured sessions.

Are you looking to go even smaller?

Yes and no. I would really like to get a wave board - one with rubber shock absorbers under your heals. So I am looking for a big wave board. The best I have found so far is the Exocet Kona Mini Tanker (which in 2012 is called the Exocet Carve 120). I like the compact wide shape with the duck tail. This is the bigest small wave board I have been able to find, (without going to a true long board) so my plan us to loose 10 kg over the summer so I can essentially fit into it ;)

This raises another issue you really should consider when choosing a board. Make sure you can handle the narrower widths. I can't really go much below 65cm planing from a water start, and 75cm is really my minimum for a beach start or uphaul in marginal conditions. At my age, I am just too uncoordinated to go any narrower.

Final thoughts...

Sorry for such a long post to answer your question, but choosing a new board is a serious undertaking, and you kind of get stuck with it once you have made your purchase - particularly if you buy second-hand gear off eBay or Seabreeze. So its a decision that requires quite a bit of deliberation and research.

My key recommendations are:

  • Figure out what you enjoy most about windsurfing.
  • Understand the range and likelihood of conditions you get at your favourite launch site.
  • Decide on the amount of positive buoyancy you will need for your skill level and future skill progression - but as I have pointed out, be realistic.
  • Arrive and some critical numbers for volume, width and length.
  • See if you can get along to a demo day to try out some boards. Be sure to ring them in advance to make sure they have a few boards in the volumes you are after - even 2nd hand trade-ins they might have on the floor. Alternatively go for a holiday somewhere you can hire a board in the volume you are interested in buying.
  • Figure out your budget, and start looking for boards that fit the bill.

When you do get a new board, make sure you push it to the max, get right out on the rails in the straps, before you make any judgements about whether you really like it - or not. I really felt pressured to progress from my Go 165, but every-time I am blasting along in ideal light wind conditions while everyone else in sitting on the beach, I just smile and think who is fooling who - this industry really needs to get real and let people know that a lot of fun can be had in places that are not like Maui by not being extreme ;)

September 8, 2011 Tabou Rocket Mods Henry Thomas

The foam rubber is called high density EVA foam - I purchased mine form a local foam rubber supplier. Its a bit like the stuff that camping or exercise mats are made from, but firmer. You may also see squares of high density EVA foam sold in hardware stores as mats to stand on in your workshop to stop your feet getting tired - these floor mats are the high density type of foam, so could be used as a substitute.

September 8, 2011 Tabou Rocket Mods Henry Thomas

It depends how heavy you are. I weigh in at 110 kg, and I use my 140 as my strong wind board, and my Starboard GO 165 as my light wind board (which I also learnt on). I also have a 190 Z Class formula board for really light wind ocean cruising. Based on my experience I would suggest at least 50 litres of positive buoyancy if you are a beginner - so if you are around 90kg the 145 would be a good fit. It all depends where you are up to. If you are a real beginner and falling in a lot - a soft EVA deck is a really good idea to protect you from injury - you can lose a lot of skin from your shins falling on those sandpaper like hard deck surfaces. If however you can confidently uphaul and/or beach start without falling off then a hard deck may be for you. Don't underestimate the need for a good 50l of positive buoyancy - without it learning and light wind days (12-14 knots) get really tiring because the board is lower in the water and the drag is hard work on your arms. The other really important factor is the width. If you are uphauling, 90cm wide makes it much easier, 75cm and you will fall in a lot, but eventually get there, but 65cm is too narrow for a beginner and you will likely give up from embarrassment long before you feel the joy of any success.

September 8, 2011 Tabou Rocket Mods Henry Thomas

It certainly can take some abuse, but not as durable as a beginner board like a Bic or Starboard with tough skin. In my case, I really clobbered the front and it was only a small bit of damage, so it pretty durable.

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