The Balance of the Neutral.

Why do Freestylers make it look so easy?


In this article I am going to look at various balance points and neutral positions we can use.

Some I call active and others passive.


Right from our first steps on a windsurfer we are introducers to basic principles that do not change, all that happens is that we go down to smaller and smaller boards. However there comes a point where you learn the water start and with some people, they never up haul again, loosing a very important skill and balanced neutral.

When your body is over the centre line of the board you are in balance. For all boards you must find the central balance point of the board, this is normally just behind the mast foot. Once you get down to short boards it is half way between the mast foot and front footstep. So if your weight is over this point, the board is in balance.

When the sail is held by the up haul, it will go out like a flag, so be in neutral. The body will balance against the weight of the rig, so you will be in active balance.


The sail also has a balance, a centre of effort. (Shown by the red dot)

When the centre of effort is over the centre of the board the sail is in passive neutral, complete balance.

When using an active balance and neutral, it can never be true balance. (The centre of effort away from the centreline of the board)

We can hold the mast and move the sail from active balance to passive (pure) neutral and even further into active balance on the windward side. Always coming back to passive neutral a soon as we can.


I have stated that the centre balance of the board is half way between the front foot strap and the mast foot, this is when the board is stationary. As the board picks up speed, this point will move further and further back. At full speed this point is half way between the straps.

We also have a centre, this is at the bottom of our sternum, just above the belly button.

So for example, when we are in the straps. A.) is at very slow speed or stationary, B.) average speed and C.) will be at high speed.

NOTE! Do not be confused with the rotation point used some times by the pros in freestyle or pivot points we use when turning with power in the sail.

In 1.) While sailing, it is a simple movement to come into pure neutral to line up for a manoeuvre, as in C.) or  position 2, which is using A.) Waiting for a wave for example.


We have Pure Neutral on all directions.


A.) is the simplest, so this is the one we always learn first. You can see there is maximum space, when the rig is moved towards or away from the wind it will naturally balance you.


B.) as we turn towards the wind you will notice the space where we are standing on the board is reduced, so pure neutral becomes harder.


C.) takes that to the extremes. Used for the Heli tack and upwind 360.


Going away from the wind, finding the pure neutral can be so useful. In D.) you can see I am just using one hand.


E.) this angle of pure neutral could even save many of your gybes.

The principle is the same for clew first sailing.

When we move the rig around in neutral, there is no turning effect until we introduce power.

So lets have a look at how the rig turns the board.


We are using the front of the sail. (Normal sailing position)

When the centre of balance of the board is at A.)

1.) is straight, 2.) turns you upwind, as well as 5.)  3.) turns you down wind, also 4.)

When you get speed, the centre of balance of the board will move back to B.) So 2) is in fact straight and 1) is turning you down wind.

So in fact this is very simple, the only other criteria is whether we are using the front or back of the sail.


In this graphic we are starting in pure neutral and moving the mast towards the wind, into active neutral.

Even though in 1.) the C of E is over to the side, because we have not engaged the power, the board still continues straight.

By using the back of the sail in 2.) the board will turn up towards the wind. If you move your weight forwards as the power comes on, the centre balance of the board will move to B) making the turn faster. Basic push tack.

In 3.) we use the front of the sail, the board turns down wind. Again if we bring our weight right back as the power comes on, the centre balance of the board moves to C). Pivot/Slam gybe.


Lets have a look at how this can work with the start of the 360 in the straps.

1.) You are planing, so when you come into pure neutral to set up the move the centre of balance of the board is at the front foot strap. the rig angle is set to optimum, you can see that it is not closed so much.

2.) The board turns. The rig in fact, is staying in the same position in relation to the wind but you can see it is closing in relation to the board. The board is slowing down so the centre of balance of the board  is moving forwards, this means by keeping the rig in the same place the turning motion is infact increasing.

3a.) Now the rig position is at a position it has stopping driving the board forwards, so it is time to move it. If you move it forwards at this angle, it will turn you back down wind. So the sail will need to go into neutral before you move it forwards, you will go through pure neutral as you go forwards.

3b.) I have shown this graphic with the board at the same angle as 3a. to show you can move the rig forwards fast and engage back to sail directly. Because you have the rig in pure neutral the board will continue turning.

4.) As the board turns you will need to be adjusting between neutral and power, especially as you are back to sail.

 So where else do we have a neutral and balance?

When we are sailing we are also in balance. When we are going straight, it is important to let the material ride. Many people think to go fast you must lock everything down, close that slot and grit your teeth and push.


It is important to be 100% in the harness, this way your hands are only adjusting the sail. With your harness lines close together, the sail will find its optimum position. The wind angle, sail angle and centre balance of the board is always changing with our speed, so we need to be constantly making minor adjustments. I call this breathing as in A.) or floating as in B.)


The board also has a balance. When stationary, it is obvious that the board is in balance when it is flat. When moving the balance is not so obvious and depends a lot on the underwater shape.

Looking at the rocker of a board, we start with 1.) Nose rocker. This is there to lift the nose when it goes underwater.

2.) Entry rocker. This area is always lifting the board and encouraging the board to ride on section 3. So it is important to get your front foot into the strap as soon as possible. Placing your mast foot towards the back of the box will also help the board to go back onto section 3 earlier. Likewise be careful if you have your mast foot towards the front of the box, the board will be trying to lift but the mast foot will be always pushing the board back down. So stopping it going back onto the planing section.

3.) Fast planing section. This section speaks for itself.

4.) Command and turning. If this section does not go into the water first, the board will not be very responsive. This is why many people find they can not turn wide tail boards.

There are 2 basic underwater shapes, A.) Progressive ‘V’. B.) Concave, it can be single or double. ‘V’ will cut through chop better and be easier to change from rail to rail. Concave encourages air to come under the board so helping it to lift. When the rails are lower than the middle, the board will tend to “stick”, it is hard to go from rail to rail. Most boards will have both of these shapes through the board. A shape I like a lot is what I call Concave ‘V’, found more on Free Wave and Free Ride boards. Very easy to use.

I said for a board to go fast, you must let it ride. So flat is the most obvious but many people sail there small boards (especially wave boards) as in Y.) and X.1. This is very inefficient, the board is tending to slide sideways. Plus you are using a turning moment, carving the board upwind. So you need to have the rig in a position where it is turning down wind. 2 opposing forces slowing you down.

Now if we look at X.) it is a different story. You see that by allowing the fins to lift a little the board will ride onto the down wind part of the ‘V’ as in X.2. You are reducing the wetted area, so faster. The fin has lift which is generating power, faster. X.3 the rail gives you an edge, creating more grip. More resistance to sideways force. Add an extra fin as in a quad X.4 you have a board that really flies up wind.

The same principle works for concave boards but obviously it is a lot more technical.

Sailing in Balance and using the neutrals makes for easier faster sailing.


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