If I asked you to describe a downwind 360, it would probably go something like this: “Carve downwind, lay the rig down, drive hard off the back foot until the nose points back the way you were originally going, feel the wind on the new side of the sail, step forward – and hopefully sail away.” Or: “I get all the way round and then can’t quite finish it!” Like so many 360s, close, but not close enough (240s). First off, it’s not a ‘circular’ turn from reach to reach. It’s a mega-fast, ultra broad reach, with a delayed (at the beginning) and then very prolonged ultra low rig drop (through to the very end). The carving is very gentle at first and then incredibly aggressive in the last half, creating a very hooked, tight ending where the board whips round the last 120 degrees, virtually within its own length. Finally, you have to possess a unique ‘rig elevation trick’ to raise a seemingly dead and very low rig from the water.
STRAPPED OR STRAPLESS?
In the last few years I’ve changed how I coach 360s. My evidence proves that people learn more quickly doing them with both feet in the straps the whole way round. Yes, there’s the initial oddity of bearing away and carving with the back foot still in the back strap, but once you get over that, the middle (especially in chop) and, most crucially, the ending becomes much more achievable with more secured feet.
SKILLS & DRILLS
You can’t simulate all the dynamic forces involved in a 360, but you can definitely perfect the beginning and – most importantly – the ending without actually trying 360s. To ensure you have the right skill for the right time, make these exercises a massive part of your 360 skills training.
FLAT WATER WAVERIDING
Why? Creates confidence bearing away and carving with the back foot in the strap.
Moment in 360: First 150-180°.
How? Wiggle both feet in the ‘very open’ straps before blasting fast downwind, unhook and continue downwind. For a gybe you’d sheet in hard, but just to practise the 360 setup, keep the rig quite upright and not too excessively sheeted in, with the body quite upright up over the board. Do this for 10-20m then weight your heels to head back upwind and carry on sailing. Repeat as many times as possible.
Why? Until you can lay the rig down in a gybe, you’ll have difficulty making a 360. Fact.
Moment in 360: While you can practise doing this quite early in a gybe, when it comes to the 360 this action is started a little later, approximately 150-180° into the turn.
How? Broad reach fast into a gybe, unhook, place the back foot across, and really sheet in with the back hand to make the rig ‘go light’. Continue to massively over-sheet the rig, but then lay the rig down low and back. To counterbalance, lean the upper body forward into the turn. Don’t hold it for long, and raise the rig by scooping it forwards (body goes back) and be ready for a very fast dynamic, speedy foot and rig change:
Why on land? It’s hard to get the rig really low on the water without the carving momentum of the whole 360. You can on land.
How? Position the nose roughly into wind, lay the rig down (boom just off the sand / grass), then ‘push out’ (on the back hand), and ‘slide’ (mast forward) to create the lift. Give it a few goes and you’ll soon get the hang of it:
Why? Teaches the ‘push, slide and lift’ trick to raise a dead powerless rig to an upright position at the end of a 360.
Moment in 360: Last 40-30°.
How? Head upwind, as if tacking, but adopt a wide foot spread. Turn until ‘front-to-sail’ – rig back / body forward, then whip the mast forward and push the mast very low with the front arm. Flex the knees and keep the boom as horizontal as you can with the clew over the board. To recover the sail, the ‘trick’ is to push out on the back hand and slide the mast forward and up with the front hand. Get the rig forward otherwise you just get thrown off the back. As the rig rises, sheet in hard with the back hand:
Look how flat-water waveriding, laydown gybes and the front-to-sail trick come into play.
Skills Training and Feasible Freestyle Relevance: improves carving, gybing and definitely waveriding.
Pro Freestyle Relevance: for those bendy enough, elements from the downwind 360 link into grubbies and setting up for flakas.
1. Very fast, very broad, rig still upright, feet planted into ‘open’ straps. Get well downwind – fast!:
2. Approaching ‘dead downwind’, start to sheet in the rig back a little and down:
3. Soft, flexed knees and ankles. Rig low, back – horizontal boom! Carve hard. (Hamster cheeks optional…):
4. LOOK (determinedly) back to where you want to go and force the horizontal rig towards the tail, flexing the knees / ankles to carve super-hard!:
5. No wind in the sail, rig still horizontal and forced towards the tail, flexing knees / ankles to continue super-hard carve!:
6. Still forcing the rig back, but now heavily flexing front knee to angle the body forward in preparation for ‘the trick’:
7. Pushed OUT on the back hand and massively sliding the mast forward to raise the rig:
8. Twisting the rig forward and now sheeting IN on the back hand, and – a rare moment in windsurfing – the rig and body lean forward together! (All possible due to the strapped rear foot.):
9. As the rig powers up, pull down on boom and sail away in the straps:
Q: Why do I fall onto the rig?
Q: Why does the board spin out on the tail when I carve?
A: You’re not downwind enough, or your back leg is too straight, which is a real killer in chop. Soft knees please…
Q: Why do I get back-winded all the time?
A: You’re not alone! But it’s usually down to…
• Not getting downwind enough before lowering the rig and carving.
• Not getting the boom horizontal enough (as shown here). If the clew catches, it stalls the turn and powers the rig up, throwing you off.
• Most likely it’s simply that the rig is just too high during mid to last third of the turn.
Plus, do all you can to avoid the following…
1.Insufficient bearing away before starting to carve.
2.Dropping the rig too low too soon.
3.Allowing the rig to come up too soon in the turn – very common.
4.Few bother to practise the ending as a specific skill.
What this feature highlighted…
360s need skills training, otherwise the only time you can practise the beginning and ending is when you actually try a 360, which is only a few seconds a session.