Unifiber Team Rider Fabio Calò flys the mast tip over the whitewater @photo: FotoFiore
Why do small waves break more masts than big surf? Because in small waves people either often leave the rig flat instead of holding it above the whitewater, or they stress the tip holding it by hand/bodyweight under the wave. In larger surf you can duck under bigger waves more easily or the rig is 'free' and the mast tip not held under tension.
What can you do to protect your mast? Don’t hold the mast tip under stress in any size surf
Windsurfing masts are designed to take a lot of strain and punishment, but the ocean is a powerful force and gallons of moving water focusing on your rig can push materials to the limit.
So, how can you prevent costly a costly snap that can also damage your sail and other gear and result in a long swim home?
The most common snappages and warranty claims come from less experienced riders in smaller surf. Of course less experienced windsurfers are in bigger waves less too, but it’s not that simple.
Naturally, pros or advanced windsurfers are light on their feet and can nimbly tack and skilfully avoid the impact zone, especially in sub-planing conditions. But they also push their limits and find themselves taking a lot of beatings too.
So it may surprise you that the most common breakages from pros are also in small surf. Why is this?
First, let’s get some foundations to the arguments and clear a few things out of the way.
In this post we’ll focus on wave conditions. Most mast issues with race/freerace rigs happen to due to excess UV/heat exposure, being left tensioned for too long and/or camera inducer setups that put too much pressure on the mast and the subsequent wear during rotation causes a weak point. Cammed sails usually also have a lot of tensions so the mast is already quite stressed.
Besides technique, here are some influences that can shorten the lifespan and increase the chances of a break in wave conditions:
1. Longer masts, say above 400/430 are at greater risk of snapping 2. Sails with higher levels of luff curve increase the tension a mast is already operating at before you put it under more pressure 3. SDM masts are weaker than RDM masts 4. Masts with a high level of conical taper can also suffer more than regular, even taper
Before we examine some Pros' theories, here’s a quick hypothesis of our own:
Holding your mast tip, in any size surf is generally not a good idea. Yes, you can and should probably hold your rig somewhere when in the water, for a quick recovery, to prevent it washing into other water users or onto the rocks. BUT if you hold the mast tip under water when a small wave wave breaks, you might hear a SNAP, from any brand of mast in any size waves.
In more powerful waves you may not be able to even hold onto the tip anyway, which kind of backs up the theory that smaller waves break more BECAUSE people hold onto the tip.
Do you need to do this in small surf anyway? Probably not. Can you hold it elsewhere on the rig? (without putting yourself in the ‘don’t get between the you and your gear’ position) YES you can - and should.
Exceptions? Well, in large surf you can use the ‘catapult into the wave’ technique as a monster approaches you and then dive the tip under and through the wave. That’s okay because the wave’s motion will rush it under and past the dangerous lip.
In small surf it may be too shallow or you may think the wave is not powerful enough to tear away your mast and then hold the tip as the wave or whitewater passes over you.
But then your rig is flat and vulnerable and, as the tip surfaces, with you hanging off it, and the rest of the rig and board are swept shorewards and are still gripped by the water, you might hear that dreaded POP!
K4 fins wave warrior and Unifiber team member Steve Thorp gets more than his fair share of waves at the price of lost earnings and nights sleep as he notches up miles chasing swells in the UK and Ireland, rigging up for icy dawn sessions in obscure parts of the coastline and taking a lot of beatings in the line of duty.
‘I nearly always try to get back on my gear if at all possible so the mast is upright, even if I know I’ve got zero chance of staying up. If it’s windy I might also try and ‘launch’ the gear over the top if I really am about to get obliterated.
‘If there’s zero wind and I'm in the impact zone, I try and be in the waterstart position - unless it’s about to break on my head, then I’ll go for the rig-as-vertical-as possible-under-the-water method (assuming it’s deep enough to not hit the bottom). That’s always the main thing with both surfing and windsurfing, is not to leave stuff ‘laying on the top’.
‘As for small waves, well I guess that’s just being careless (if you’re swimming with it), you shouldn’t really be breaking a decent mast in small surf. Just make sure you avoid letting it be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There shouldn’t be any need for ducking it, just keep it flying at all times holding the boom (over the back of the board if no wind).
‘In small waves, if the sail is ‘in the wave action’ (i.e., ducking or laying flat) then different parts of the mast are being exposed to different zones of the waves cycle (some stationary, some up, some down), and that’s probably why people break masts in small waves, because more powerful surf tends to pass anything duckdived under and past the power zone of the wave quite rapidly.
‘The only Unifiber I’ve broken in 2 years was going for a 360 on a head-high wave, being a little late to the lip and it pitching me backwards and breaking onto the area below the boom. One broken mast, one bent extension. I could feel heck of a lot of force come through the boom so it must have connected just right! Pretty impressed to only have broken one considering they’re pretty light and what they’ve been through.’
Damage Limitation with Guy Cribb
Guy Cribb’s not a Unifiber team member, but he is a world-class wave sailor with a lot of experience teaching people how to wave sail and manage themselves and their gear in gnarly situations.These are the basics of INtuition’s Damage Limitation sessions during Guy Cribb’s Freewave and Surf Gods courses with regard to preventing masts from breaking:
‘A mast can break when the rig is flat on the surface, this would be the typical position if you’d accidentally let go of it for example. So rule one is - never let go!
‘Keep the rig out the water whenever possible, flying it in a waterstart position. Fast rig recovery and smooth waterstarting technique is crucial for wave sailing partly to ensure your rig doesn’t get damaged in the surf.
‘If it’s not possible to get the rig out of the water, or, if the wave approaching you is very powerful or large, the next best place to put your rig is well under the water, by duck-diving it.
‘This way the waves energy dissipates before it hits your rig and the wave can roll over the top of you and your equipment with everything still intact, and relatively stress free.
'Intuition’s Damage Limitation sessions teach you exactly how to do this - and much more - but the basics is to slice the rig diagonally under the surface mast first, with both hands on the boom in a wide grip and your knee pushing the mast well under the surface.
'As soon as the wave has passed if you have good waterstarting technique you will be able to recovery the rig and start before the next wave hits you. Cribb’s water starts take less than 10 seconds no matter what dreadful position you might start from.
Miriam Rasmussen 'pinches' the easy-to-fit lightweight straps for her narrower feet to gain extra control and direct contact sensation.
Lightweight windsurfing footstraps have been on the scene for slalom and speed use for some time. But they'e had their downfalls in the past with questionable durability for more 'active' sailing involving jumping, riding and less static styles of sailing.
The idea is that EVA foam eliminates the ‘sponge effect’ of regular neoprene straps and can result in weight savings of up to 100 grams each - that's nearly half a kilo over a 4-strap setup.
Tough Enough? So how are minimalistic designs now genuine options for more dynamic sailing use such as in the waves or even for freestyle tricks?
Traditionally the foam and webbing have separated too easily in this type of strap in the past, especially for heavier riders or harder use.
'Love the footstraps! The main thing is the board weighs the same before and after the sessions. I was wearing neoprene socks but with bare feet it will be even better - and no abrasion to the top of the feet!' writes customer Mr. T from Poland.
So what are the extra benefits - apart from weight savings?
Easier fitting and adjustment. Faster on/off and switching - great for those who like ‘pinch’ or widen their straps from regular width or to fit back into board bags for transit without straps
Added rigidity and structure for ultimate power delivery and ‘direct’ feeling and control – without being too hard on the feet thanks to multi density EVA foam
Anti-twist fitting that really works
On the Edge The standard narrow option in these straps is great for most boards, but Unifiber also have a wider, ‘contour’ version that has the same reinforcements too that is ideal for medium and higher-width hulls.
This extra surface area area is great for getting ankles further outboard onto the rails for added speed – for those that dare on all-out slalom boards or to gain extra outboard drive from freerace models for example.
But the contour shape can also be favored by some freestylers that like to get more of their foot and even lower ankle in contact with the strap for added grip in radical moves.
Norwegian racer Miriam Rasmussen puts some serious miles in behind the wheel and in the air as a busy Often seen competitor, road-tripper, clinic organiser, vacationer - and windsurfing kids' Mum!
Often seen pulling her 'board bag trains' through airports she's a savvy packer and knows all the right tricks for a smooth journey.
Here's her top picks and things she loves most from the Unifiber bag range:
1. Boardbag Pro Luxury I use these to protect my boards when I’m traveling by car or van and for day-to-day trips to the beach. The only occasion the boards get out of these bags are when they’re being packed in the larger bags for traveling by air.
2. Next the Roofrack Quiverbag to attach on your cars roof rack, I chose this bag as its long enough to accommodate my biggest sails and longest masts. I put the 7.8 and 8.6 and all the masts in there. (the other bags won’t fit 490 masts and up inside). You attach the bag underneath so the straps don't crush your sails and the bag can stay securely on the roof when its windy making it easy to access only what you need.Unifiber also make a board bag version too.
3. … then my favorite - the Small Equipment Carry Bag: I’ve got 3 of these - a great way of keeping control of your smaller gear. Fins, mast bases, extensions, ropes screws, tools and what have you. As it happens, I’m just a little bit disorganized, so I find it so much easier to be maintain control when I have these! This one comes highly recommended!
4. I’m standing on another piece of Unifiber smartness - the Wetsuit Carry Bag (its put upside down in the pic, the right way when using it is logo down) I pack my neoprene stuff in here, and stand on it when I change - no more sand (or mud!) in-between my toes! After I finish sailing I put my wetsuit inside, and can safely put it inside the car without having to fear for water leaks or rust inside!
5. Then another single board bag - I got 3 of these for my slalom board, will get another two for my waveboards so all my boards are protected.
6. On the far right is my Wheeled Double Boardbag. I use these for air travel - I pack one board, one boom, two sails and two masts in each, and get exactly 32 kg. inside! So depending on where I go, and for how long I stay, I bring two or 3 packages like this. The downside of wheeled bags is the added weight of the wheels. The definitive pro of this solution is the versatility added to the bag because of the wheels. I have on several occasions travelled alone with 3 bags and I know I would be totally lost if I couldn’t tie the bags to each other, train style, and haul them by myself!
Both products have the same function and the same dimensions and are very similar Universal Joint (UJ) types, but are produced by two different manufacturers.
Boge is a brand that make vehicle (shock absorber) parts that is operated by the ZF Group in Germany, a large automotive components producer, while the Power Joint is a replica product sold on an OEM (Original Export Manufacturer) basis out of Asia.
In this respect it's important to differentiate - as both are often presented as 'Boge' joints - and to be aware that calling a Power Joint a Boge is like calling a vacuum cleaner a Hoover.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
If you are dead-set on the Boge, then you will see the moulded inscriptions, as pictured here, in store.
SO WHICH IS STRONGER?
Branding aside though, there is very little difference, although you may still hear different opinions around the windsurfing market place about which one is more durable from fans and critics of both the branded and generic options.
In all honesty, our opinion is that they are almost entirely equal in terms of sailing sensation, power transmission and longevity and identical in all respects - other than the slightly cheaper price of the Power Joint.
WHY SELL BOTH THEN?
Since the Unifiber view is neutral on the durability - and by that we mean we are all happy (when not choosing to sail with tendon joints) to use either of these types of 'hourglass' UJs - but, as opinions are so often split, we offer both versions in the range of windsurfing mast-base products we sell so that customers are free to choose what suits their preference and/or budget.
Any windsurf schools, centers or stores are welcome to ask for additional product information based on years of experience we can provide the best advice depending on wind/water/UV conditions and intensity of use - please email us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk in to any windsurfing dealer worth their salt and they’ll recommend you buy the mast the sail you’re interested in was designed on.
And for a 100% carbon spar for a performance race or wave sail this is absolutely the right selection if the sail designer’s intended handling behaviour is your top priority - and providing the manufacturer has a consistent manufacturing method. (Read on for more on that.)
But once you get into the realm of considering 80% or lower carbon percentage masts, this becomes less of an issue.
Is a Sail Manufacturer's Mast Better than an Indepedent, Specialist Mast-Maker's?
Do you want to be ‘stuck’ with Brand X’s mast when you switch to Brand Y? Will you have to sell the mast with the sail or, even worse, risk having to sell both separately and wait - and be out of pocket - longer so you can get the new ones?
And, even if Brand X’s masts are also the same bend curve as Brand Y’s, will you be left with inferior performance, especially if one brand is ‘on the edge’ of the bend curve spectrum?
Plus there are other general build quality arguments, such as whether the sail-brand model has integrated ferrules or specific radial compression layers for racing masts or not and so on. (More mast spec FAQs.)
Law of Averages
Unlike most aftermarket brands, Unifiber produce masts based on an average of all the bend curves that they continually measure, so that you can rest assured that a constant curve (CC) model for example, will equally suit all brands listed as favouring CC masts. And so on for flex top (FT) and hard-top (HT) varieties too.
This way you can confidently buy a mast and keep it to use on any brand’s sails and gain added value for money over it’s lifespan.
Even 100% Carbon models by Unifiber will have superb response compared to the recommended brand. In fact, all manufacturers have production tolerance variances - meaning nobody is producing masts - at any carbon content percentage - with consistent behaviour. (Mainly because most sail brands do not have a dedicated program and mostly rely on off-the-shelf, generic OEM products from their suppliers.)
Unifiber too will have some production tolerance range as well, although their pre-preg manufacturing method is the most consistent technique to ensure all fibers have accurate resin impregnation levels compared to other processes.
You should carefully evaluate those techniques and consistency levels when considering that recommended sail-brand mast, or any aftermarket choice, regardless of carbon content.
It could just be that the aftermarket/Unifiber choice makes the best sense in the end.
First, it's important to be realistic about your ability and the type of sailing you do. In your dreams you may be riding radical waves, but if you’re really just improving and your actual goals are having fun blasting, jumping and mastering gybes, let that be at the forefront of your decision making.
Secondly - re-think your budget. Don’t focus on the cheapest, focus on lifespan. Often paying more now will cost you less later. If you’re on a tight budget now, the cheapest may still cost you in the short-to-medium term, so focus on value for money.
Thirdly. There are 'different horses for different courses'. With higher quality manufacturing techniques, adjustment ranges are reliable and wide these days. But will one boom do it all? Depending on preferences, larger sails/cammed sails can work better with different boom outlines. Be honest about if you will need more than one boom and if that means re-allocating your budget into more than one boom.
In either aluminium or carbon always look for ‘monocoque’ construction, which means they are all made in one shell, with a continuos tube from side-to-side, rather than separate arms on each side fixed into the head.
Do you want a direct feedback - or some element of absorbent, energy-saving feel?
Carbon delivers rigidity, weight reduction and can protect sail shape on cambered sails, especially in larger sizes at the higher end of the extension range. Aluminium can be more forgiving and disperse shock/load than more brittle, older carbon or non-pre-preg carbon booms.
Regular ‘R-Shape’ booms fit traditional cambered sail profiles/curves.
‘C-Shape’ booms are efficient and reduce stress on the wrist/forearms, promote good stance for more active, dynamic sailing (waves/freestyle), plus the more parallel tubes per additional strength. Modern C-shape booms with wide tails can be the best of both worlds in terms of stance/comfort and accommodating the deeper-bodied sails.
Boom diameter plays a big part in comfort. Those with smaller hands or in colder water can often prefer Reduced Diameter Grips (RDGs). RDGs or SLIM tubes are widely thought to offer a more ‘direct’ handling sensation for those that like to have a lot of feedback from their rig. Larger hands and/or racers often prefer Standard Diameter grips (SDG). In either case, a tapered tube arm often delivers both extra strength and the comfort you prefer (see below).
Much like masts, internal wall thickness will play a major part of strength of either variety. Some booms are Heavy Duty (HD) which means the tube walls are thicker.
Tube thickness can vary from section to section. Some booms offer a tapered profile with the grip area having a thinner tube than the tail for example. That means the tail end can still be durable . Others are consistent throughout the length of the arms.
Lastly, ‘V-Grip’ booms offer a different sensation and added rigidity. Some windsurfers prefer the ergonomic ‘wedge’ profile and claim it delivers a more energy efficient grip, while others find that movement up and down the boom on V-Grips causes added blisters. There are also OVAL grips that offer similar advantages but with a smoother ergonomics.
Tail Width and Shape
Large sails - again, in deeper bodied race sails for example — can benefit from wider tail shapes to prevent distortion of the lower leech.
Some modern wave sails also favour wider tails as more powerful, fuller shapes of sail, (usually to tighten up bottom turns when wave riding in onshore conditions), have the centre of effort further back and so added room at the rear end is preferable.
If you’re choosing one boom to cover a range of use consider the back end’s pulley system and whether it will accommodate an adjustable outhaul if you require it.
A lot of modern booms will offer both RDM and SDM mast compatibility, but check first before buying on what adapters may be required or if your favourite so far only accommodates RDM masts for example. (All Unfiber booms come with adapters and will fit either type of mast.)
Also check how much of the front end will have contact with the mast as those with a narrow contact area will point load the mast more. A longer head section delivers a nicer, more connected feedback sensation.
Another point to check off is whether the front is fixed or has an Axial head. An axial head means the boom can move up or down for varying clew heights without stressing the mast.
Finding that your line does not fit a new or borrowed, unfamiliar extension can be frustrating - especially if the wind is blowing and you're in a rush to get out there!
So, is there a thickness of line that will do the job across-the-board?
ANSWER: Yes. 3.8-mm. Formuline™ is the best - if your extension cleats are compatible. Here's why …
PULLEY, LINE AND CLEAT SIZE
Most windsurfing mast extensions have wheels with a 23-mm. diameter.
This makes them mostly compatible with the standard, 4.0-mm.polyester line supplied with most extensions. (Unifiber supply 4.0-mm. polyester on standard models, 4.0-mm. pre-stretched polyester on HD models and 4.0-mm. Dyneema® on the Élite line.)
Standard 4 mm polyester windsurfing downhaul line
Some extensions and cleats will simply not accept anything less than 4-mil rope.
Marlow Formuline™ 3.8 mm. as sold by Unifiber
Others work best with the 'pro' favorite of 3.8-mm. Dyneema® or Marlow Formuline™.
The distance between the pulleys and the block on various models also makes a difference on what rope works without having to be jammed through.
Formuline™ is popular because it has no outer cover for the teeth in cleats to wear and stretch and is famed for it's 'slippiness' and for how easy it is to tension with.
For sure buying the best quality line, such as a Spectra, Dyneema®, is best and, over time, the most economical - not to mention safest option too.
Sea water is savage as the dried salt crystals act as tiny shards of glass or miniature knives to cause significant wear in all fabrics or yarns that are not rinsed or soaked through enough after immersion in the ocean.
For that reason alone you should remove the basic line supplied with many models and replace it with premium quality rope.
4.0 mm. Dyneema® on Unifiber Élite Stainless Steel Mast Extenions Line
We recommend 4.0-mm. line to be the best overall solution if you are buying in bulk and expect a stock of rope to last you over some time and for outhaul and inhaul use as well.
Whatever the purpose, good quality rope will always pay dividends over time.
But, if you are specifically wanting the best downhaul solution - and your extensions cleats will happily grip 3.8-mil. rope, then buy the Formuline™ for the best effect.
One other easy downhauling tip is to use 'dry' lubricant silicon for the pulleys on your extensions and booms to aid tensioning and prolong their lifespan too. (Winches also help of course!)
Note: Beware how you tie stop knots with Dyneema®, as that slippy quality means they can easily come undone and cause a potentially dangerous or painful situation should they loosen while rigging, or out on the water! Always use a 'figure-of-eight' knot if you can - and pre tighten it well.)
What kind of breaking strain can a Unifiber mast withstand?
In testing Unifiber masts can endure stress of up to 180 kg.
Why are Unifiber mast's top and bottom pieces different lengths?
Unifiber produce masts on existing mandrels, with integrated ferrules, based on the principle of optimum load distribution, regardless of section length. If we invested in new mandrels - and even matched the current consistency and performance we deliver - then the higher cost of production would impact on the price-to-quality ratio we could offer our customers. If your quiver bag does not fit the longer section, please consider a Unifiber quiver bag that will take the longer bottom piece of masts up to 490.
Mostly we take multiple C100 masts as the reference of various brands, in general those represent the most accurate bend curve of the sails. This is because sail brands design the sails to perform best on those C100 masts.
We also found quite big differences in tolerances regarding production with all brands. Fluctuations of bend curves and stiffness from +/- 1-2 points (bend curve) which proves that none of the brands are 100% consistent. So we measure several masts per brand and take the average of those measurements into account when constructing the Mast Selector Matrix Tool. Read more on this subject.
Can I interchange top and bottom mast pieces of Unifiber masts - for example a 430 bottom with a 400 top?
Why do your SDM 100% masts cost more proportionally than the 40/60/80% models?
Unifiber's SDM C100 masts have an additional (radial) compression layer for durability reasons, since many brands' C100 masts were breaking due to an increase in luff curve, on race sails especially. As SDM C100s need to be light and durable there are more costly materials used to reach this objective. Without the additional compression layer the durability aspect would be not as good. We are confident you will find our masts perform well in all 3 bend curves.
Modern 'C-Shape' booms allow the wrist to remain straight (see diagram), which means less stress on the forearms.
For some this will mean longer, funner sessions on the water, because the power can be controlled more efficiently with the 'straight-on' stance they facilitate.
PARALLEL TUBES C-Shape booms’ increased parallel-tube outlines also allow the back hand to be nearer the body and therefore the body to be more committed when bottom turning for increased control both in wave riding and in the air.
Of course the outline also means the parallel tubes are under less stress and so the C-Shape is also markedly stronger.
REGULAR GUYS Regular, or 'R-Shapes' are the traditional, classic, ‘wishbones' with an outline shape that fits the curvature of a cambered sail.
R-shapes place the front hand closer to the luff, which is often more comfortable for those that favour an underhand grip on their forward side.
Which is best? Well, racers often prefer the R-shape, especially in larger sizes of say more than 200 cm. and/or sails over 7.0 sqm. Slalom and speed sailors often also favour these outlines.
The C-Shape is mostly suitable for free riding and more dynamic disciplines such as wave sailing or freestyle.
1. Why are Unifiber’s top and bottom sections different lengths?
We produce the masts on existing mandrels, with integrated ferrules, based on the principle of optimum load distribution, regardless of section length.
If we invested in new mandrels - and even matched the current consistency and performance we deliver - then the higher cost of production would impact on the price-to-quality ratio we could offer our customers.
If your quiver bag does not fit the longer section, please consider a Unifiber quiver bag that will take the longer bottom piece of masts up to 490.
Many windsurfers have strong preferences for which type of boom suits them best.
Naturally carbon gives the ultimate stiffness under more intense loads and tougher sailing conditions, but these days, aluminium models can also deliver impressively rigid handling too.
GO MONO Either way we always recommend you have a boom made from monocoque - single shell - construction so that carbon versions will be as stiff as possible and aluminium models are still strong enough to cope with any forces the metal is under in extreme conditions.
Monocoque continuous tube.
In some cases it's hard to argue against carbon. For example, when using powerful, cammed slalom models (especially in the larger sizes), then a ‘soggy’, flexy boom will lose all the extra power you should have on tap - and have paid serious money for.
Other riders, such as a some of freestylers you will see, prefer a slightly more ‘absorbent’ feel to their rig.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY - DIRECT OR FORGIVING? For many casual freeriders an enjoyable time on the water can involve energy saving thanks to the flex and forgiveness an aluminium boom delivers.
For others, the more direct the connection the easier it is to channel the power of the rig and allows longer sessions – and more fun!
It really is just a matter of personal preference to ensure you're having the most fun possible!
Of course we have a measuring machine at our base, but we also track data from external sources such as magazines, sail designers and riders, plus, at Unifiber HQ we frequently visit customers and collect multi-brand mast data too.
Mostly we take multiple C100 masts as the reference of various brands as, in general, those represent the most accurate bend curve for those sails, which are designed to perform best on those C100 masts.
We also found quite big differences in tolerances regarding production with all brands.
Fluctuations of bend curves and stiffness from +/- 1-2 points (bend curve) prove that none of the brands are 100% consistent.
So we measure several masts per brand and take the average of those measurements into account when constructing the Mast Selector Matrix Tool.
In general brands don't have much interest in renewing bend curves year-on-year since compatability issues will arise across sail/mast combinations from previous seasons that will cause conflict for their regular customers.
We follow the market based on feedback we gather as well rumors we pick-up on upcoming changes. (Some of those are due to happen soon.)
When there are strong signals we will investigate deeper by sourcing product in the market and take measurements and update our mast selector using version numbers.
In general, to obtain correct data, ideally we would like to measure 3 of the same type of masts (since each brand face inconsistencies in production, to have an average result) although for practical reasons this is not always possible.
SPANNING THE SPECTRUM
We use 3 dots to mark the bendcurve of different brands to help clarify which bend curve is more preferable in marginal situations where one brand's bend curve is close to another category of curve.
We show 5 blocks representing the same curve color simply because all brands, including our own, will face prodution tolerances during production.
These variances are simply unavoidable and any manufacture telling you that they do not have a range of tolerances is not telling the truth.
In general these tolerance are acceptable in terms of performance, although specific brands want to claim differently.
PLEASE MOST OF THE PEOPLE MOST OF THE TIME
According to our knowledge, we feel about 90-95% of customers who purchased Unifiber masts are happy with the performance of their sails and have bought a product with a sensible average of curve characteristics to use on a range of sail brands they may buy in the coming seasons.
Additionally, windsurfers who compete or are heavily into sail tuning have options to tube their sails for specific conditions, e.g., for speed sails, in general a Flex Top mast for a Constant-Curve design sail can work beneficially in terms of performance.
You won’t be the only windsurfer experiencing annoying, twisting straps.
So, how can this be prevented to keep them nice and rigid and stay in good, efficient shape?
TOOLS FOR THE JOB
Apart from studying the original mounting instructions supplied (yes, do that!) use a screw driver / bit with a perfect fit.
Most screws used are fitted with PH3 heads.
Close to zero movement between the screw head and bit should be observed. Preferably use a hand-driven screw driver.
It will take a few minutes more to mount, but guarantees zero broken screws or inserts.
Don’t use a motorized tool. Leave that to the professionals …
PREVENTION NOT CURE – BRAND NEW STRAPS
Getting it right first time is critical. Later we’ll look at tricks for older/used/broken-in boards and straps.
But this needs some patience – so if you’re rushing to unpack and strap-up a new board and use it straightaway beware!
Due to the very specific behavior of the foam pad material, you need to take time to deform and mould the foam in such away that it can take the rotating forces of a strap.
Start with firmly turning the screws in place. But don’t overdo this!
Give it an hour or so for the strap to sink into the EVA foam
Turn again firmly. You will see it is easy at least to give it an extra half turn, Again don’t overdo it
Give it another hour or more to repeat again!
In the end the force required to properly mount the strap is firm, but not more. Fixed is fixed.
The instructions above will 100% guarantee no more twisting straps.
What to do with loose or to too-easily-turning straps?
The basic problem is that most strap mounting constructions are simply too weak against the relatively high turning force of a strap. I.e., one screw only in combination with a relatively simple anti-twist part of only a few tiny little pins positioned into weak foam.
Chances are you either know a super messy or a hyper organised windsurfer. Either way or in between the two extremes, you won't go wrong with one of these bags so their vehicle can become more ordered and tidy.
3. Wetsuit Carry Bag
Fed up of riding in stinky vans and cars that reek of wet wetsuits? Give them one of these wetsuit carry bags and they'll be able to prevent rust and seal up the smell of the sodden suit - plus it doubles as a handy changing matt to prevent sandy, muddy feet walking into your house when they're hungry after sailing …
4. Collapsible Beach Cart
Perfect for kids and cycling to the beach, SUPs, Kayaks and for travelling with big, heavy bags through airports. Light and strong and packing down easily to maximise space this collapsible beach cart is a winner for the young and adventurous.
5. Epoxy Ding Stick
Sure, they think they're radical - but you know they're just plain clumsy. Prevent tears from a ruined session when their stunts go wrong and stuff this ding stick in a stocking to save the day and get them back out on the water so you can enjoy yourself until they're back on shore to ask if you saw their …
With the right equipment you can sail in any temperature, all year round.
It’s been said before – in this age of wonderful technology - that in winter the windsurfer’s worst enemy is lack of daylight – not the cold.
Yet still, chilly weather and low temperatures put a lot of ‘fair weather’ sailors off hitting the water.
PROPER PREPARATION PREVENTS …
But with a little preparation and the right gear can have you enjoying temperatures lower than your regular threshold. (Always seek medical advice if you suspect any physiological issues that might contradict with the below advice.)
HEAD, HANDS, HEART
It goes without saying that you need a warm dedicated winter wetsuit (5 or 6-mm. thick – even consider drysuits).
Of course hoods and hats are vital too as are warm boots – unless you’re a real die-hard ‘barefoot’ sailor!
Palm-less mittens are the big saver of ‘hot hands’ ‘reheats’ ‘hammer hands’ pain that many dread.
Choose a pair of mitts where the wrists are not too tight and the rubber not too thick so that forearm cramps can be prevented.
Get changed at home. You’ll find a surprising amount of motivation is lost when you arrive at the beach and the prospect of a cold, wet change puts you off - If you’re already suited-up you’re going out!
Make sure you have a dry wetsuit at all times. Don’t leave your suit outside to ‘popsicle’.
Get home and dry it out straight away.
TIP: Although you may think salt from seawater helps dry a suit out, actually, if you rinse a suit in fresh water you wash out the salt that actually absorbs and holds dampness in the rubber! (You should always rinse a wetsuit out anyway!)
Don’t shower in water that’s too hot after a sail as it can ruin the glue on the wetsuit.
If you are caught with a damp suit from the day before, roll it up in a towel (perhaps wrapped around a warm flask?) and drive to the beach with it on the dashboard with the heater on full-blast!
Also, as much as it might make the contrast when you step outside higher, keep your vehicle as warm as you can on the drive so that your core temperature is high.
If you only have a short drive, warm up first at home inside so that your blood’s pumping (the anticipation of a sail might do that for you though!) and your muscles are amped and ready to rock.
The same goes for layering up whether you change in the van or before you leave home – be warm so that your core temp is high.
Miriam Rasmussen rushing out of her suit after an early winter, arctic-circle sail in Norway. (5 deg. Celsius and no snow yet!)
Often it’s a race to get warm after a cold-water session, so have a combination matt/bag at the ready to keep your feet off cold ground, reduce dirt going in your socks and help you de-suit, dress and get your feet into some warm footwear fast!
Then just zip up the suit and stop your vehicle smelling bad and keep it dry and rust-free.
Always tell someone where you plan to sail – and inform them if that launch spot differs. Respect your ability and don’t sail alone.
There’s no shame in flaking out if the conditions are beyond you or your equipment at any time of the year. (Do a full gear check regularly summer or winter anyway! UJs, rope, boom area on mast etc.)
Avoid putting yourself and rescuers at risk - especially in fading light.
Have fun – it’s supposed to be enjoyable so do what you can to make it possible and bearable – summer’s never that far away …
Normally the carbon content of windsurfing masts varies between 30% and 100%.
Higher percentages of carbon content deliver a more responsive and 'crisp' feel to the rig, as the mast flexes and returns at a faster rate, which has implications on how the leech reacts, how the sails breathes, how shape is maintained in the sail - and many more behaviours that will affect your session.
NICE, EASY AND LIGHT
Of course, a higher content also means a lighter mast, with more control and earlier planing and acceleration advantages too.
Naturally no mast can be made 100% of carbon, so the quoted carbon percentage represents the carbon content aspect only, as the other materials used - such as resins and protective tapes - are not included.
Lower carbon content gives two main advantages. Cheaper masts and actually stronger masts in many cases too.
However, along with price, the sensations are also reduced - while weight is increased - resulting in a 'deader' action from lower responsiveness.
Sails will always perform best on the higher percentage models and, especially on freeride/freerace and [camber-induced] race sails it's always wiser to match your sail with the best mast that you can afford.
Many would also argue that, by using 100% carbon models, you'll break less masts by being able to plane earlier and avoid trouble in the surf too.
But for strength, especially in say, wavesailing, 80% can be a good mix of durability and performance. (Bear in mind that using the shortest mast you can in a sail allows you the chance to decrease vulnerability to breakages and still use a reactive, 100% carbon mast, but that using a mast shorter than recommended can also soften your rig and affect sail shape. Not a bad thing, just choose wisely considering your build, sailing conditions and preferred style etc.)
Another issue to bear in mind for maximizing durability, especially in waves, is to consider sails with lower luff curve, so the mast is under less tension to start with.
Various brands' manufacturing processes also affect the performance.
For example, a pre-preg (pre-impregnated with resin for reliable, consistent layup) 60% carbon content mast can perform as well as another brand's non pre-preg 80% model.
Generally speaking, 'performance' can be gained from 60-80% models upwards, while 30 or 40% models can be a good fit for intermediate/progression sails (although a little heavy for smaller riders) or sails with very low luff curve (so the mast has less influence on sail shape).
For waves I prefer to use fixed 28-cm. lines, clean and simple.
I don't think line length is super important, but for me, according to the classic convention, the 28s loop to my elbow and are short enough that I can rest my arms easily, but not so long that I accidentally hook in.
Note Steve has quite a wide placement of his wavesailing harness lines - presumably for stability- but that's a whole other topic!
The other way of preventing accidental hook-in is to go super long, but I just can't sail with them that long.
I've tried slightly longer than 28s, but just don't get on with them either. 28s every time …
For speed I use adjustable lines 28-34 cm. and I do occasionally adjust the length to suit different conditions.
But having just checked them now they are fully wound in to 28 cm. on both sides!
If my lines are too short, I feel like I'm too close to the rig and not able to stick my weight out far enough to balance against the gusts.
Adjustable lines for speed sailing
If my lines are too long, I feel like I can't control the trim angle of the rig easily enough as both my arms are outstretched.
Some of these effects come from the way they change your stance, but also because of the way they influence your sail’s outhaul setting.
For example, lowering the boom also increases the outhaul tension, while raising it loosens the tension to create more draft.
Changing both boom height and adjusting outhaul (and downhaul) together can give even greater range and settings for your rig to cover a wider tuning band without changing sails. (Add in mast-track positioning and you get even more variety. Forward for control and high wind – back for lighter wind/earlier planing!)
A General Guide:
Down for Higher Wind
Up for Lighter Wind
‘Ideal’ boom height also depends on the type of harness (waist or seat) you use as well as the length of lines you have on the boom – as hook height and the distance you are under and/or away from the boom have a great effect on your stance and how that influences the way you transmit the rig’s power into the board.
Board width also plays a large part in influencing where the boom ‘should’ be set. (The further away ‘outboard’ you are from the rig the lower the boom feels.
WHERE TO START FROM
One general guide to define a starting point for any combo of harness line lengths, boom widths and harness hook heights is to stand, as if sailing off the plane, standing slightly in front of your straps on your board on the beach - across the wind – and hook in and then raise/lower the boom until you feel slightly suspended.
Failing that, try just under shoulder height if you’re standing close to the rig on the board with the sail upright as a starting point to experiment from. Go a little higher for larger sails and wider boards.
An extreme low would be considered just below nipple height and eye level as very high.
Specialist disciplines such as wave or speed sailing also have any number of ‘ideal’ combinations dependent on preference and conditions. (E.g., a lower boom helps with leveraging more radical bottom turns, especially in light wind. Riding waves in onshore wind brings other opportunities for boom-height variation.)
Steve Thorp with a low-to-mid height boom for agile turns when wavesailing.
Speed sailors also vary on whether they like low booms and short lines to hold-down power to higher booms and longer lines for lift - and any combination of those to suit the day and find their most effective or efficient stance.
Steve Thorp speedsailing with a low boom and narrow board
Again, these are all a matter of personal preference.
The best advice is to make small increments of adjustment and feel the results one step at a time.
The best thing about changing boom height for a fast, easy tuning method, is that you can do it on or in the water and do not need to return to the beach.
A change of height can be highly effective if you are suddenly over or under powered and are far from land and unable to adjust your mast track or out/downhaul lines.
Try it next time you’re out sailing and see! Small steps at first and then add in other changes such as mast track and down/outhaul for even better results!
Did someone put a reef in your way or drain the water at your local spot? Maybe you dropped your precious board in the carp park?
In a few steps we will show you how to make your damaged fin ‘as good as new’ again.
OUCH! G10 EXAMPLE
The below G10 fin has severe scrapes on the leading edge.
The intention is to bring the leading edge into its original state and profile.
Note – we will not in any way modify the edge to get rid of the scratches and dents. Start with grinding (sandpaper 120 grade) a little bit over and around the affected area. This to make sure no dirt or grit is left behind.
Quite often customers ask what specifically makes an HD mast extension ‘Heavy Duty’?
That’s a good question, especially if you’re considering strength as a vital point and have perhaps already weighed up (pardon the pun!) the durability and performance advantages of carbon versus aluminium extensions?
BEEFED-UP MAST EXTENSIONS
Heavy Duty usually refers to increased wall thickness in the extension tube, or the connection between the plastic foot and the tube.
This should, usually, involve the use of Stainless Steel or extra alloy to help spread forces, resist against wear and provide resistance to salt and sand.
You can often see some of the HD material inside the first few holes of a reinforced carbon or aluminium extension.
CNC-machined Alloy HD reinforcement visible behind regular-width tube wall.
‘HD’ can also feature extra protection inside the foot where the ‘U-Pin’ is inserted.
Stainless Steel reinforced U-Pin slot in cup.
HOW MUCH HEAVIER GRAM-FOR-GRAM?
And what about weight?
Of course this varies by brand, but think up to 2-300 grams difference like-for-like (HD compared to regular), even in the larger sizes of both RDM and SDMs.
That represents a 25-30% difference in overall weight increase – which is also pretty much about the equivalent weight and percentage difference between most aluminium and carbon extensions of equivalent lengths.
In any case, an HD Carbon model should still be slightly lighter than a basic aluminium model.
In our opinion, since mast extensions are not on the ‘swing weight’ extremes of your board and rig package - but in the middle of that bundle’s momentum, where weight is less critical – it’s always advisable to ‘go HD’ in whatever material you ultimately choose.
If booms arms are glued or screwed onto the boom head there are multiple materials coming together with different material properties that increase the chances of failure over time.
Forming the shape of the arms in one single section equals less joining points for stress to focus on and fewer components such as screws, glues etc. to potentially fail, which significantly increases the structure’s lifespan. (And in carbon booms with separate arms, which cannot reliably be joined by rivets or screws like aluminium models, that means only glue’s holding the whole structure together!)
Instead, one rigid, constant shell means a boom tube can pass through a clamp or boom head with less risk of failure at that point and delivers greater levels of stiffness too.
Generally speaking, seat harnesses allow a locked-in feel - such as for racing or performance free riding - and waist harnesses deliver easier hooking in and out and allow for more 'reactive' sailing. E.g., for freestyle or wavesailing, where you need to easily and regularly be in and out of the harness.
LOW, MEDIUM OR HIGH?
A lot of these riding positions are more specifically related to hook height. Seat harnesses usually have the lowest hooks and waist harnesses the highest.
Low hook height race seat harness - for ultimate low-down, locked-in power control.
However, many top-level coaches advise that waist harnesses be worn with the hook below the belly button.
In reality they are often much higher and ride up the stomach due to either poor fit or body shape.
This advice suggests that no hook be positioned too high.
Waist harness with internal contours to fit the body and prevent riding up and maintain steady hook height
There are solutions such as mid-height freeride seat harnesses that allow a 'best of both worlds' solution for a wide range of sailing that will not ride up, but allow the rider to 'sit' on the power for faster sailing and still have some agility to unhook swiftly for gybes and jumps.
'Hourglass' figures can also benefit from having a seat harness that keeps the hook at the optimum belly button level.
Medium hook height seat harness - good for a mix of blasting/free riding and a few jumps.
People with straighter hips will be able to have their hook positioned in the recommended medium height by a quality, regular waist harness that grips the body and does not slip upwards.
Apart from correct fit - a lot of hook height issues can also be solved by using longer harness lines than you might be used to that can prevent waist harness hooks riding up on lines that are too short.
You can also experiment with boom height to get this balance right and your stance and equipment working in harmony.
If you are in doubt, book a clinic with an experienced coach and trust your local store to help you get the right fit - and don't be a bad sport and then go and buy it online for a few bucks less! (Wear it out!)
The level of flex there is higher up in a mast hugely affects how a sail behaves. This is why sail manufacturers recommend using the same – or most similar to - mast they used to develop the sail.
To understand why – or if you feel like experimenting with a different feel - here is some insight into what is inducing certain behavioral characteristics.
SOFT AND SMOOTH
You can see the manufacturers, such as Attitude Sails and NeilPryde, that favor the forgiving nature of the flex-top mast in this Mast Selector Tool.
In general terms, more flex (from a higher bend-curve figure and a flex-top mast) results in higher levels of control.
This is usually - but not always - displayed by a looser leech and often results in less power on tap.
That added control can be felt mostly in rougher water and is often appreciated by lighter riders, who prefer a slightly softer sensation from the rig.
The Center of Effort (CoE) will also usually shift lower in the profile if you put a flex-top mast into a sail designed around a hard or constant curve mast.
Depending on the brand and mast specification, this may or may not improve the handling of the sail – but can be interesting to try and feel for yourself if any adjustments can enhance your sailing experience. (See below for some other tweaks you can make.)
Flex-top masts often extend wind range as well – especially at the top-end to prevent being too overpowered.
They are also arguably harder to control with the center of effort typically higher up.
This is not a bad thing in, say, manoeuvre-oriented wave/freestyle sails that are less comfortable to sail around in a straight line on - but the higher CoE allows more of a throw about nature for moves.
For faster, racing-oriented sails, the extra depth/profile and power typically works better on flatter water and/or for heavier riders.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the majority of manufacturers opt for constant-curve masts, whose behavior offers the ‘best of both worlds’, along with a wider range of potential changeability between brands.
There are some easy ways to achieve different behavior from your sail.
Some brands top and bottom sections are interchangeable, allowing combinations of shorter or longer top sections to achieve various bend curve (and stiffness) characteristics. (You could also find different handling from cutting/shortening masts but do not recommend doing that with newer items!)
However, where possible with adjustable heads, by extending a mast or using a longer mast, you can achieve a harder-top sensation.
SOFTEN THE BLOWS
But perhaps the easiest tune-up to make is to soften a rig by using a shorter mast (of the same bend curve/brand) than recommended.
For example, use extra extension on a 430 in a sail designed around a 460. (Modern extensions should allow you to confidently use up to 45-cm. of extension.)
So a rig setting on 460+10 for example, can be softened considerably by using a 430+40.
We hope this may help improve your understanding - and fun on the water!
We’re often asked about compatibility between mast extensions and sail pulley orientation.
Sail brands produce their downhaul pulleys either inline with the sail cloth itself – 0 degrees - or perpendicular to the sail surface in a 90-degree position.
AVOIDING CROSSED LINES
Many people struggle to thread the downhaul on sails with 0-degree pulleys and achieve correct alignment without crossing over or twisting the line using a standard mast extension with just two or three pulley blocks.
Note. For a 0-deg. setup, it's even easier to have the stop knot set on the opposite side to the cleat like Steve has above.
For zero degree and two or three extension pulley wheels: Thread from stop knot to luff side sail pulley groove -> mast side of ext. pulley nearest cleat -> clew side sail pulley groove -> front side of ext. pulley furthest from cleat -> middle of sail pulley -> cleat
For 90-deg. sail pulleys: just use obvious loop-go left-to-right or right-to-left method as demonstrated in this clip:
Most brands these days only make fixed-hook harnesses. But some die-hard fans still prefer the sliding spreader bar with a hook that moves across their body as they change tacks.
Why do some sailors prefer the anchored feel of the regular, fixed bar and some the sliding? We asked two of our Brand Ambassadors – 10-time Dutch Formula Champion Dennis Littel plus wave and speed specialist Steve Thorp – what their preferences are:
This one is easy. I tried a sliding spreader bar a couple of times and that was enough for me to know it wasn’t for me.
I didn’t like it. In fact, as soon as I received all my new gear, which included a light-weight harness that I liked - but that had a sliding hook system – I decided to wrap the webbing strap around the bar to lock it in place.
I much prefer fixed. The stable hook position lets me change the sail sheeting angle easier with sublet body movements.
With the sliding hook, the bar just shifts around rather than giving the direct response I prefer.
Lots of wavesailors favour wider tails on their booms these days, especially for onshore wave ring control. Here's some additional thoughts from Brand Ambassadors Steve Thorp and Dennis Little on the benefits of having straighter, more parallel tubes form modern boom shapes and wider back ends for racing and speed-sailing use too.
STEVE THORP - BOOMS FOR SPEED
I do 2 types of sailing - wave and speed. For waves I prefer RDGs (Reduced Diameter Grips) in carbon.
After first using a carbon boom I've never gone back to Aluminium. I prefer the direct feel plus they last forever (assuming you can get the spare clips easily, as that’s usually the only part to fail eventually) so they really are worth the investment as I often found Aluminium booms would fatigue at the front and snap after 2 or 3 season’s abuse.
For speed, again I use the best carbon one for the job - it's a no brainer!
Stiffer and better power transfer - and less sail distortion due to less boom distortion.
I like a 'wide tail’ for speed.
We often try to set the outhaul very negative for really broad conditions, so the wider arms let the sail out further without folding over the boom tubes.
Unlike many others, I don't use an adjustable outhaul as I prefer a secure fixing to the clew and feel that less bits flapping about is more efficient.
Plus, with small race/speed sails in strong wind you don't really need to crank the outhaul on to get back upwind I can get back to the start point fine with zero outhaul.
DENNIS LITTEL - BOOMS FOR FORMULA AND SLALOM RACING
For all the Formula racing I do with my Loftsails Racing Blades I have to have carbon for the extra long arm extensions lengths – up to 240 long – that we use.
I use a ‘C-shape’ boom now, which was strange in the beginning after leaving ‘traditional’ outlines, since I missed grabbing the new side after a transition!
But now I’ve used it for more than one season I love the wider shape in the front and wouldn’t want to go back to the ‘old’ shape anymore.
I also prefer the wider tail end models and straighter, more parallel arms since this provides me better control and strength and works well with adjustable outhaul pulleys for quick pulling or releasing of the outhaul tension while speeding down the courses.
In fact, in an ideal world I’d go with an even wider back end with pulleys on both sides for even easier trimming as you cruise!
A common question is ‘which is stronger – a light and stiff carbon mast extension or solid alloy model?’
Of course an aluminum extension will most likely bend than break, whereas in the unlikely event of a carbon model failure you’re looking at a snap, leaving you with some work to do to get home – and maybe even a damaged mast and/or sail too.
Here’s some notes to help you find the right mix of weight, performance, strength and price to suit your budget and needs.
The issue of which material us stronger is slightly more complicated than it first appears.
Wall thickness on all types of material plays a major part in structural integrity.
Regardless of material, Reduced Diameter Mast (RDM) extensions have more relative wall thickness and so are stronger overall, yet Standard Diameter Mast (SDM) extensions have the best weight-to-strength ratio.
SDM and High Tension Slalom/Speed Sail Use
In the case of SDM extensions, that are generally under more strain when used with large, camber-induced sails for example, this weight:strength ratio is a potential plus point in performance terms.
However, although carbon extensions are generally much lighter, which in terms of momentum in lulls or early planing in light wind is something you might think is important, in the case of windsurfing, mast extensions are in the middle of the board/rig combo, so the effect of any extra weight is far less than if that mass was ‘swing weight’ on the outside edges of say the clew, or head of sail, nose of board etc.
Carbon will more than likely snap before aluminium bends, so we would ultimately recommend racers use a reinforced aluminium extension over carbon unless they really value weight or just love the look and feel of carbon.
Bear in mind though that not all carbon extensions are 100% made of carbon - such as the base area that’s often made of nylon or other plastic - compared to all-metal/aluminium models that are produced entirely from aluminium/stainless steel etc.
Of course aluminum-reinforced, Heavy Duty (HD) carbon models do offer some of the best of both worlds with stiffness, partial weight reduction and protection against snaps.
That said, well reinforced, HD aluminium extensions are also very strong and not that heavy, but are also, depending on what grade of materials are used, liable to suffer from corrosion over time.
Remember that all types of extensions are likely to have pulleys/rollers and cleats made of some type of metal, be it brass or aluminium or even marine-grade stainless steel, which are all potential corrosion targets at some point in their lifespan.
In the Surf
For wavesailing there’s not much in it as 99% of modern rigs use RDM masts and so choices are made more on weight and price rather than strength alone.
Even the most basic alloy model will already possess a good amount of durability and deliver a satisfying length of service for most riders and usage.
Radical wavesailors should consider whether they value carbon for optimum performance and cosmetics, or HD aluminium models for ultimate reliability, such as from landing hard jumps or wipeouts in heavy conditions.
And once again, the alu reinforced HD carbon option delivers a good mix of both reliability and performance.
These types of fin are also a sensible pick for beginners as they learn the basics.
Later, when you’re a top-level freestyler you’ll also want a short, stubby freestyle-fin for maximising the glassy surfaces found at the water’s edge where you’ll be aiming to slip and slide!
Similarly, wave sailors also benefit from sailing on shallower reefs when using multifin twin, thruster/tri, quad, trailer and 5-fin setups too.
Shallow water is important across all disciplines, particularly for intermediates learning to beach start.
Getting going quickly, as near to your launch spot as possible, means you can pass waves (or jump them sooner!), maximise gusts and sailing areas in locations with limited space or area - and generally have more fun.
WINDSURFING IN WEED – FINS FOR DEALING WITH THE EVIL GREEN
In both coastal and inland locations though there’s another enemy looking to kill your enjoyment – but fear not, there are weapons to slay the monster weed.
Typically, at weed-infested locations, performance is never going to be same as in clear-water conditions, so the object is to look for the ‘least worst’ solution.
The high amount of rake needed to slide past weed, results in the Centre of Lateral Resistance (CLR) - or focal pressure point in the fin - moving backwards, effectively making the sail’s Centre of Effort (COE) move forward, which makes it harder to get on the plane and to head upwind.
Also, fins with equal profile thickness, as a lot of heavily raked fins tend to have, lift less than foils in more traditional, upright positions.
It’s a question we hear a lot, but of course there isn’t a hard-and-fast, straightforward answer!
Sail manufacturers specify hard, constant curve or flex-top masts according to the characteristics and behaviour they intend the sail to have.
But they don’t always opt for the most durable mast in the name of performance.
So the advantage of buying an aftermarket model, from a dedicated mast producer such as Unifiber, is that you get to try and match and maximise the performance of your new sail as well as pick the strongest specification for the longest lifespan possible.
CRUNCH TIME - WAVES
So what are the forces in action to test your mast’s construction?
Wave sailors like to think in terms of both durability as well as reflex in their mast choices.
These days most wave sails use a Reduced Diameter Mast (RDM) mast of 400 cm., or less, to minimise the length of the spar presented to a rig-munching set wave.
RDMs also have a thicker-and-therefore-stronger relative wall thickness than Standard Diameter (SDM) models. (Although Unifiber 80 and 100% SDM masts have an added radial ‘compression’ layer of material to add strength without affecting bend characteristic. To save weight this is only applied on the bottom section.)
But in that critical wipe-out in the surf, which type of mast is strongest?
The truth is that the mast base is the weakest part of the mast.
Approx. 80% of mast breakages occur in the bottom half - it’s the section under the most stress.
In theory, a hard-top mast takes more energy to bend than a flex top. Which means a hard-top mast's base is under more stress than a constant curve or flexure top model.
A flex-top will absorb more pressure and is less likely to snap as early as a less flexible mast. (Unifiber use a ‘drop-shape’ profile in the pre-preg layup that allows all their 3 bend curves of SDMs to bend further before any eventual snap.)
Read more about masts, bend curves, stiffness, IMCS measurements and carbon content.
However, the real answer is that the in-built luff curve in a particular sail’s design is key to prevent mast breakage in almost any type of sail.
SHAPE – RACE SAIL PROFILES
Most racing sails have incredible luff curve to increase skin tension, which allows designers to create a more stable sail body profile and create shape around the boom area.
So lower tension and straighter-luffed sails will put less pressure on the chosen spar, while sail depth/shape is achieved more through seam shaping in the panel-layout design.
It’s a complicated subject though and some race sails use flex-top masts to add reflex, forgiveness and also absorb the tension.
Race-sail-compatible masts also suffer from wear and tear from camber inducers, which is, again, heightened when filled with wind and fully downhauled - plus of course during rotation.
Visit the Knowledge Section for more information on choosing the right windsurfing equipment for you
For racing/slalom sails you may have to sacrifice durability for performance, although we’re confident in the performance of our own products performance in main-brand sails for the best of both worlds.
In terms of wave sails, that would mean, in theory, that a straight-luffed sail with a flex-top RDM mast would be the most durable solution. (Probably in 60-80% carbon content too, as reflex would be less critical, so the stronger build of a lower carbon content model would deliver added strength – although also weight.)
Although you won’t find many like that that deliver much shape, stability or any of the benefits of skin tension or leech control.
It could be a soft, ‘float and ride’ sail, which is arguably the one that needs to take the most beatings due to the ‘vulnerability’ of the riders’ situation in serious surf without much power to be mobile around the break.
SUMMARY In conclusion, if you value durability of your mast in any type of sail, yet still want performance, then look for lower luff curve and more seam shape - but still choose the mast bend characteristics and stiffness that the designer specified.
UP ON THE TOES AND AGILE - OR LOCKED AND DOWN LOW?
As always, before you pick, we recommend trying various methods out as there are so many ‘subjective’ choices in this sport.
So don’t be afraid to seek advice and input from professional coaches and advanced instructors to make sure your time on the water is fun and energy-efficient.
Of these coaches, most will recommend a waist harness for waves and freeriding and whatever feels best out of waist or seat for freerace and speed/slalom sailing.
Many also recommend that ladies with ‘hourglass’ figures choose a seat harness. It’s all about getting hook height right!
Research and choose carefully before you decide!
Here we go, starting with …
Living in a secluded arm of a Norwegian fjord, I was presented with no option when I started windsurfing three years ago: "You race!" (Imagine this being said in a Nordic, guttural, growl-like fashion)
Norwegian slalom racers use seat-harnesses. That’s the way it is, so I started my windsurfing career on an 124-litre slalom board, wearing a seat harness.
I did buy a waist harness once, but have never managed to become friends with it - even when sailing my wave gear.
I just can't get used to the fact that the harness changes position when I sail - moving up and down and from side to side.
I’ve tried different kinds of seat harnesses, from the lush, generously upholstered heavy varieties, to the spartan, race seats.
In principle, they all offer the same, precise, body-weight-powered, downward thrust into your rig.
I appreciate this, especially when I’m sailing the large, heavy slalom rigs.
But, as mentioned above, you tend to get accustomed to the kind of harness you use the most, so I prefer my race seat any day of the week.
The only catch that comes with using a race seat is that you're in for a thorough wedgie every now and then - especially if you’re sailing in speedos or a bikini! MR
… and …
I grew up sailing slalom gear on a lake, (back in the days of BIC Electric Rocks, Tiga 260s and Sputnik 270s) so always used a seat harness.
Then Freestyle and waves came into my life, the slalom stopped and I just used a waist harness.
When I returned to speed and slalom I tried a seat harness again, but found it really hard to get on with after using the waist harness for so long.
So I now just use a waist harness for everything.
I think there are actually advantages for speedsailing.
You spend your whole time sailing very overpowered and, with a waist harness, I find I can manage the power much easier.
If I get lifted by a gust it's easier to sheet out and stand slightly more upright over the board - or sheet in and drop my backside further outboard as it's not tied to the rig!
Basically, with a waist harness, I can handle anything nature throws at me and this gives me much more confidence.
I guess for the heavy guys a seat harness is ultimately more efficient, as you can apply more mastfoot pressure when needed - and get your head and upper body slightly further outboard when needed.
But to win, you have to finish, so for me a waist harness is the best choice!
Clearly, for waves (and freestyle), a waist harness is always best as it gives maximum freedom of movement and is easier for quick hooking in and out. ST
RDG VS. SDG WINDSURFING BOOMS - WHICH GRIP DIAMETER IS BEST?
Boom tubes come in a variety of thicknesses, generally ranging from 26 – 30 mm., with the average diameter being in the 29-30-mm. region. Around 28 mm. would be considered the ‘median’ tube width.
Above this mark would usually be classified as Standard Diameter Grip (SDG) as, until ten or so years ago, that was the most common size produced and, below this, is what you’d call Reduced Diameter Grip (RDG).
So, which is best for your style of sailing then?
First of all it’s important to define where the diameter is measured.
Many manufacturers have tapered boom arm tubes that make it harder to pinpoint what the usable diameter is.
The thickness of the original grip tape supplied also makes a difference.
Unifiber also tapers the tubes, but quotes their external tube thickness – not including the grip tape – in the harness line / hand-grip area shown by their printed line-setting markings. (Tape thickness not included, just the carbon or aluminium diameter, as this can vary as a result of wear over time.)
SDG is not necessarily weaker, as this of course mainly depends on the wall thickness specified by the manufacturer.
COMFORT 26-mm. RDG boom tube diameter
Can suit smaller hands, such as kids and ladies
More ‘direct’, fingertip handling and feedback sensation
Popular with cold-weather riders that claim to experience less cramp when using with mitts and gloves
Can wear palms of the hands and fingers more for those that grip the boom harder and/or slide their hands up and down the tubes a lot during wave rides or transitions.
31-mm. SDG boom tube diameter
Firmer grip sometimes preferred by larger hands and bigger sailors
Often deliver positive weight-to-strength ratio
Arguably less energy efficient to ‘lighter-handed’ and/or smaller riders, especially in colder conditions.
Amongst the many issues to think about the types of sailing that each type suit are, broadly speaking, that wavesailors/freeriders and freestylers like to pick and choose between the two choices, whereas, most race booms on the market are SDG, which is mostly an issue of strength relating to the forces of longer arm extensions and pressure from more powerful sails.
That’s not a hard-and-fast rule of course, as the ‘feedback’ from thinner grips would be preferable to some performance slalom or speed riders, but, the heavy, settled power delivery that those types of sail deliver do demand less contact with the source and so the firmer grip and added strength of SDGs tend to influence choices.
Extensions of all grades still consist of component parts regardless what the main tube is constructed from.
Component materials have different strengths and benefits relative to their intended purpose or type of sailing.
Consider what your clips, collars, pulley blocks and bases should ideally be made of with this information in mind, as well as the availability of spares for repairs. (For example, aluminium coatings can see surface corrosion, whereas marine-grade Stainless Steel will have a longer lifespan, but a higher price tag.)
OUR FEATURES CHARTS - FOR RDM AND SDM VARIETIES- MAY HELP YOU TO SEE WHICH TYPES AND MODELS CONTAIN THE BEST MIX FOR YOU.
Polyethylene Plastic: is more flexible, which brings some disadvantages, but less likely to break apart as it’s less brittle.
This could suit more impact-heavy usage such as wavesailing or freestyle.
Nylon Plastic: stiffer and longer wearing, a bit more fragile/brittle than Polyethylene, although it’s not really a disadvantage.
This type of rigidity would suit higher performance levels of racing or freeriding for example.
Stainless Steel Reinforcement: Offers less wear and corrosion, but, along with extra peace of mind, also adds more weight - and cost.
MAST EXTENSION AND BASE PIN TYPE – U-PIN OR US System?
U-Pin vs. US Strengths/Weaknesses: The ‘U’ or ‘Universal’ pin is most common in Europe and the US-Pin most common in North America.
The U-pin also has less play and is mostly more ergonomical to operate.
US-Pin extensions tend to have less parts exposed to wear, which can be seen as an advantage on durability, but are fiddlier to operate.
The EU pin system (base plate + extender) is also lower in height. So a sail can be trimmed lower to your deck.
This means that for race or speed sails for example, it’s easier to close the gap (typically 2 cm. of difference between the height of and EU and a US).
Also this 2-cm. difference allows for a 2-cm. lower boom position that is a bonus for shorter riders.
Using a lot of extension on high-tension rigs is not exclusively for carbon either.
For example, aluminium - with a wall thickness of 2.5 mm. or more - can still offer safe extension up to 45 cm.
Pulley Alignments / Orientation: Some sails have their pulleys ‘in line’ with the surface of the sail and some are offset by 90 degrees.
Similarly, some extensions have the pulleys set up to work best with one system or the other and some with both.
Matching alignment reduces friction when downhauling as well as allowing you to really downhaul as close as possible to the pulleys and reduce the elasticity of the rope. (It is possible to go below a ’0-cm.’ setting.)
BOGE UJ VS. TENDON VS. CARDAN – WHAT ARE THE BEST TYPES OF UNIVERSAL JOINT FOR WINDSURFING?
There are three main varieties of Universal Joint – or ‘UJ’ – used in windsurfing. These are attached to baseplates that fix the rig (mast, boom and sail) to the board and allow multi-directional movement when the mast falls and when the rig is being used in dynamic motion for steering and manoeuvres when sailing.
Which type to choose depends on the kind of sailing you mainly do, for example, racing, freeriding, wave sailing etc.
Here’s a summary of the different varieties generally available on the market.
This is the classic ‘hourglass’ UJ and most commonly used style. It’s also the most impact-resistant pick, but offers less sideways resistance and stiffness.
The flexible nature of the Boge UJ is more forgiving in bumps and lumps with a ‘suspension-like’ nature that absorbs hard landings and smooths out the effects of sailing across chop.
In general, Boge joints also have a longer lifespan than tendon joints.
All UJs need a regular inspection for wear and tear.
To check the condition, flex the joint sideways towards the baseplate a few times, rotating around each side of the UJ and look for flaws such as stretch marks or cracks.
To replace a Boge or power joint (where the glue holding the pin into the rubber is very strong), you will need a heat gun (perhaps a hair dryer will do the job too!) as the resin will only release over a certain temperature before undoing the parts and replacing them.
Always use 'loctite is similar epoxy resin 'superglue' to ensure a secure connection.
Boge Joint Best For: Bump ‘n Jump/high-wind freeriding/heavy-weather wavesailing.
The tendon offers the sturdiest transmission between board and rig with the least susceptibility to sideways movement and deflection.
This direct type of connection is preferred by those that like instant feedback from the board through their hands and a feel of ‘precision’ in handling.
Although they have less ‘suspension' effect in choppy sea states, tendons can also offer added control as they are slightly shorter and lower the sail’s Centre of Effort (COE) close to the deck, which can be useful for speed or slalom racing, especially in overpowered, rough-water conditions. (A lower COE can also benefit shorter riders.)
However, on super small speed 'needles' (50-cm. wide or less), some sailors prefer a Boge joint as it can be easier to waterstart in open water with a more flexible UJ that prevents the board from being stuck in a 'bottom down' position.
Tendons also need regular safety inspections. Tendons can also be easier to replace with basic tools. However, to do this you must partially dismantle them.
Failure usually occurs around the hole at the top or bottom where the horizontal pins holding them in place run through.
When replacing a tendon, make sure the tendon fits perfectly into the base plate and top part.
Also make sure that both ends of the tendon are fully supported. If they are not, the forces will focus only on the tendon material around the hole and wear very fast.
To test this, insert the tendon first without any mounting parts. Rotate and push the tendon firmly until the holes in base and top are in line.
Alignment height differences larger than 1 mm require a washer ring made from any hard material (non corrosive metal or hard plastic).
Tendon Joint Best For: Racing/speed/performance wavesailing in smooth water/rough water control and lowering COE.
These 'links connecting the top and bottom of a Cardan connection offer little absorption properties, which means they are not the most suitable for accomplished riders.
However the light feeling they provide is popular with beginners and improvers, mostly at schools and rental centres.
Unifiber’s 2015 team has been selected with more than just sailing and testing ability in mind.
So, instead of labeling them as ‘team riders’ we’ve decided to call them ‘Brand Ambassadors’ instead, because representing us and explaining what we make is exactly what they’ll do.
ON THE PULSE
Apart from people sailing across disciplines - and having passion for the sport - we’ve decided to work with riders that really ‘get’ online content and how to communicate their windsurfing and travel experiences across the web and Social Media.
Traditionally brands sponsored pros whose focus was on the competitive side of the scene.
We’ve instead decided to support riders that can really show how their experience with the gear has worked out and, to be frank, can make it all a bit of fun too!
Plus, apart from making us smile from time to time, they’ve also got the serious job (someone’s got to do it eh?) of testing the gear and telling you what kind of equipment from the range suits what types of sailing best.
FACES AND PLACES
So, to see which ‘characters’ we’ve picked - and why – please visit out Team Page and note the various ways you can follow the personalities that you might identify with most.
Some are focusing on soft goods and travel bags etc., and others on hardware and accessories, one or two instead like to blog, or post short clips, or might be more into sharing pictures alone - you name it, whatever the network, they’re on it!
We hope you enjoy some interesting and informative content from the team in the coming months. Thanks for following and, as always, let us know some feedback on how you think that works out or anything else you’d like to ask or tell us.
KINKY Too much and the mast has a pronounced kick, or too small and disconnection will require at least four of your friends.
Normal production methods cut the mast in half and involve gluing a ferrule into the bottom part of the mast afterwards.
This has two disadvantages. Positioning the glued ferrule in the middle of the bottom part could lead to negative long-term effects caused by point loading (the mast is conical in shape so contact is not even).
Hence, as a result, there could be a severe kink at the connection point.
On top of that, the extra wall thickness in the bottom part results in a discontinuity in the bend curve.