The Student Windsurfing Association

Waves Glorious Waves.

Making the transition into wave sailing can be a daunting prospect, but in reality you are likely to have many of the skills you need to dive into the swell and start taking your windsurfing in new and exciting directions. To help break down some of the most important aspects of this incredible windsurfing discipline our resident SWA wave series directors: Ben Page and Dan Lytton have put together this excellent guide for you. The SWA hosts 3 wave events every year visiting some of the UKs best loved wave sailing spots. With so much fun to be had now is the time to get in involved! Here are our answers to some of the most common questions regarding the wonderful world of waves. 

Level and Tuition

What level do I need to be?

 Since waves add another level of complexity to the potential windsurfing conditions it is important that you are confident in some of the core intermediate and advanced skills. We usually recommend that to try wavesailing you should be able to:

  • Waterstart with a reasonable degree of confidence.
  • Plane comfortably in the footstraps and harness on a board of less than 120l. 

If conditions are particularly gentle then it may be possible to try it out if you do not meet these criteria but for the most part this is a good minimum standard to ensure your safety.  

Will someone teach me to wave sail?

Whilst attending one of the SWA's wave week you are invited to attend our inclusive skills clinics. These are often the best place to receive guidance on: selecting your kit, wave sailing stance, launching and landing and much more. There is a huge amount of experience in the SWA and a fantastic opportunity to pick the brains of those who have been wave sailing for years! One thign to note however is that you will not have an instructor as such. Members of the beach team are often happy to offer pointers if you are struggling but will not be by your side for the entire event. To make the most of the event it's best to prepare before hand. Even something as simple as watching a few videos of wave sailing before the event can reduce the sense of unknown, there are also lots of blogs and added info on the web so make the most of some research! 


What Kit do I need? 

It is not essential to use specialist wave kit to go windsurfing in waves. For boards, something under 120l is a good starting point. Any bigger than that and it gets pushed around by the waves and makes life much harder. For sails, anything works really, don’t use anything bigger than 6.0m as again it becomes a rather large target for the waves. 

Can I use demo kit on the day?

There is not always demo kit at the wave events. Do not rely on it. If there is some available then speak to the brand rep and arrange to borrow it. Unlike core events, they need to know exactly who has what and when. NB: If demo kit is available it is often not possible to use it during heats. 

I Don't have my own kit, what do I do?

Many clubs have kit in their lockups that you could borrow. Again anything smaller than 120l and 6.0m. If you’re keen, then you should buy your own kit. Rental wave kit is almost non-existent in the UK. If you want to go wave sailing again, having your own kit is pretty much essential. Unlike a core event kit is likely to be used by one rider exclusively for the weekend.


Is the competition compulsory? 

No, but it is a great way to push yourself and learn a thing or two. Competition entry is included in windsurf tickets. The competition is not super serious so please don’t feel intimidated by it. If you do enter, please be on time. If you miss your heat, that’s it, it cannot be changed. 

How does the scoring work?

Wave events at all levels judge two broad elements; wave riding and jumping. The weighting between the two varies depending on conditions. This will be announced at the briefing and displayed on the notice board. A typical scoring system would be two wave rides and one jump to count. Each wave or jump is scored out of ten and the total score is compared to the others in your heat to decide who goes through to the next round.

Wave riding is judged on several elements:

  1. Wave selection; picking the best waves to ride will gain you points. Generally the bigger the wave, the more points you will get. You will also get more points for a wave that doesn’t close out (break all at once) and gives you a chance for more turns on it. 
  2. What part of the wave you ride on: the judges will be looking for you to be riding in the ‘pocket’ (just in front of where the wave is breaking). If you ride the whitewater or an unbroken swell then you will still get points, but not as many. Riding in the pocket can be quite difficult, but is also the fastest and most exhilarating part of the wave. This is why it is regarded highly and scores accordingly. 
  3. What you do with it: Judges like a sailor to make the most of the wave they have caught. Riding with speed and getting as many turns as possible is a good place to start. Use your speed and throw some spray! At the top end, manoeuvres such as an aerial off the lip score highly. 

 Jumping also has a few elements to it:

 On the SWA, we will score anything where you get your fins out the water. Crashes do not score highly, you will get more points for landing a high jump than for crashing a forward loop. Despite crashes not scoring well we often award a prize for the best crash so still go for it! 

Here are some suggestions for jumps if you can’t loop: big floaty jump, one handed jump, rail grab jumps. Then if you’re feeling extremely adventurous; no handed, one footed, table top, surprise us! 

General tips for sailing in a heat:

  1. Go for a practice run. Go out for a sail and check you have rigged the right sail size.
  2. Start upwind. There is a set heat area, anything you do outside it will not be scored. You will always move downwind through the course of a heat. So it makes sense to start right at the upwind end of the area, giving you as much space to play with as possible.
  3. Decide on a plan. One approach is to start way upwind and fly though the competition area as the green flag goes up, doing a jump on the first run. This leaves the rest of the heat to hunt down wave scores. Other people like to do the opposite and launch before the heat starts so they can catch a wave immediately at the start and get some points in the bag.

  4. Fill your score card. I'm mentioning this because it is the single biggest mistake people make. If the scoring is two waves and one jump, make sure to ride at least two waves and do a jump. It sounds obvious but it is remarkably common for people to fail to do so. If you get a jump and ride two waves, even if they aren't the best you've ever done, you'll be in a good position to go through. 
  5. Take your time. Ten minutes is actually quite a long time, if you haven't scored and time is ticking, just calm down and think what you need to do. It's all very simple but in the heat of the moment many people forget to think logically like this. As ever, the golden rule is FILL YOUR SCORE CARD. 

What do all the flags mean? 

The flags are used to signal when heats are starting and finishing.

They do not indicate which heat it is.

You need to check the heat board to find out which heat you are in, and when it is in the order. 

The flag system stays the same between the events;

  • Red flag goes up: two minutes till heat start.
  • Yellow flag goes up: one minute to heat start.
  • Green flag goes up: heat start.
  • Green flag comes down (no flags): one minute to go.
  • Red flag goes up: heat ends/two minutes to next heat.  


Why is it safer to start wave sailing at an SWA event?

One of the most difficult things about wave sailing is choosing when and where to go. At our events we do this for you. We endeavour to hold the events at the most suitable beach in the area to provide good and safe conditions. Rescue cover at wave beaches does not exist outside of events. As such you will likely not get another chance to go wave sailing with rescue cover. 

 Could you tell me more about the rescue cover? 

Our rescue cover is in the form of a jetski with a rescue sled on the back of it. It is primarily there to stop you from getting into serious difficulty. It is not for giving you a lift back upwind. Rescue in waves can be hazardous. Our main priority is in rescuing you, not your gear. We will leave your kit behind and take you to safety, if it is safe to collect your kit afterwards then we will. 

What do I do if I'm in trouble? 

Hold on to your kit with one hand and wave the other arm above your head to signal for help. If you are sailing and see someone who needs help, make the beach team aware and offer any help you can. If you are being washed back towards the beach we may not launch the jetski, and just wait for you to reach the beach. 

What if we get to the beach and the waves are huge? 

There is no obligation to go in the water. If you do not feel comfortable with the conditions then do not go out. If you are unsure, talk to a member of the SWA wave team. They will be able to advise you as to the suitability of the conditions.  

What if I drift downwind? 

You need to walk back. The jetski will not give you a lift back up the beach. 

Will I get laid by starting wave sailing?

 Yes, definitely.

What does wave period mean?

The period is the time between waves. Measured in seconds, a short period means the waves are close together and a long period means they are further apart. Long period waves tend to be bigger, faster and more powerful. 

 If I don't windsurf on the day can I have my money back and just pay for a party ticket?

 I'm afraid not, we have a limited number of windsurf tickets to ensure safety. There are no refunds available if you decide not to sail. In the event of there not being wind, a windsurf ticket often includes an alternative activity. For example at Cardiff in 2016, windsurf tickets got a free surf lesson and board hire. This was not included with the party ticket. 



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