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Artikel: Speed surfing - The formula 1 on the water


Speed surfing - The formula 1 on the water

Many things were enhanced, but the old sailing boat was not touched for a long time. The principle remained till 1964, when Newman Darby built a sail board with a square sail, supported by a mast and a boom. After this tremendous change it took only eight years to the first world record in speed sailing by the “Crossbow I”. 26,3 knots were measured. The World Sailing Speed Record Council was the first institution to control high-speed sailing and authorise all kinds of speed records on water. In the following years the development of materials and innovations contributed the great improvement and spread of speed surfing. The trapeze, the fin/skeg for navigation, the foot loops and the improvement of boards suitable for the rider’s figure as well as wind conditions contributed considerably to the versatility and increase of the efficiency of this sport. Speed surfing became more and more popular. By the constant development of the product range around boards for high-speed surfing the sport got into new dimension.

The speed surfer
The speed surfer should have good physical conditions and mostly exhibits a certain body weight, since the rider steers the surfboard by strength and his own weight. The speed surfer is a lone fighter. An optimum is an experienced surfer, e.g. Bjoern Dunkerbeck or Finian Maynard. Both are surfers, who are able to realistically estimate their own personal achievements and to deal with different wind and water conditions. According to the conditions at the place of racing they make the right decisions for the equipment (sail size, board etc.).

Every surfer tries its best in every legal way. The male drivers are usually muscle packages of 90 Kilos and upwards. They need their weight to hang perfectly in the sail to reach maximum result in the race. Beside the optional life jacket the drivers are also allowed to carry weights. But the basic rule is: the combination of life jacket and additional weight must still swim. The weights can be sinker or flexible refill water tanks.

The technique
The Formula 1 is a battle of the designing engineers of materials and for the drivers of technologies. Just as well is speed surfing a high tech sport. Under the enormous wind pressure with Beaufort from 8 to 10 the mast, the boom and the sail must be made of flexible but sturdy material. Currently carbon fibres are making this possible.
The simple surfing means: I put up the mast, stand straight on the board and hold the boom tight to my body. The size of the surfboard corresponds with the body weight: largely for large and heavier surfers and small for smaller riders respectively. The type of board and fin are determined by the surf style or surf purpose. The sail is selected according to the Beaufort. The surfer chooses a large sail for less wind and a smaller one for much wind. The boom is deeply attached. This made it possible that the surfer stands while holding the boom in a larger and thus more stable angle to the sail. Therefore he securely stands on the board.

A speed surfer changes completely these principles and selects the equipment as follows:
– Although the strong wind he uses the greatest possible sail.
– The own body weight is an additional weight in the competition with beaufort 6 blowing in the sail.
– In addition the speed surfer selects the smallest possible board. The board is small and light and would not even swim with the surfer on board. A fast water start can prevent this.
– The equipment is completed by a small, nearly straight fin, which holds the direction of the surfer. It is mostly speed surfing on flat water and you want to minimize the resistance of the board. That is the reason why the fin is not very long.

As in the Formula 1 all components of the driver are selected in the best possible way, according to reach the maximum speed at the surf spot.
– The sail is the engine, which is as large as possible, so that it brings much speed.
– The board is the chassis. It should have a form, which minimize the resistance on the water.
– The fin should produce the smallest possible resistance. It only steers the board in the right direction.

The surf board
The special boards of this category are getting more and more popular within the amateur range ever, after the ISA (International Speedsurfing Association) changed the conditions for the competitions. The professionals drive now production boards and the amateur compete on a professional level according to boards. The boards are characterized by extremely small width of approx. 25-35 cm and small volume (sinker). The tail is very small, that gives the rider more control of the board. The peak of the board should be broadly based and not curved, then the board always remains with the point just a bit over the water surface. These boards are also called “needle”.

The fin
It is a part of the equipment in water sports. However in contrast to the rudder the fin is being fixed and it is usually installed at the tail. The surfer gets stability in his direction by the fin. With help of the fin the sail forces are converted in propulsion. Curved fins are used for larger flexibility needed for jumps with surfboards. Straight fins are much better for higher stability while surfing.

The driving technology
The equipment of speed surfers permits only a fast start on water. As soon as the speed surfer has started and he reaches the appropriate speed on the way to 100m, 250m or 500m racing distance, he passes the buoy. Then he hangs himself with its entire weight into the sail. He stretches the front leg and bends the rear leg strongly. He pulls the mast and thus the sail with all strength so far that it goes straight downward toward board. He tries to close the gap between the lower edge of the sail and the surface of the board, so that hardly wind comes through. The driver must now hold this tension and if possible he should not move the board, so that it slides with little resistance flat over the surface.

As the speed is measured
In the past there were the most adventurous measuring systems used. A couple of years ago the speed on the water was measured by pistols of the police, which were used for the speed check in traffic. The current system, which is used of the ISA is a video measurement with a resolution of 1/100 seconds combined with a temporary hand stopping. The hand-stopped time is shown directly after the run on a screen at the beach for the immediate information of the rider. Opposite to the start and goal buoy are the measuring stations at the beach. The driver passes the “one man only” zone before the starting buoy. When the surfer crosses the starting line the timer starts hand stopping with parallel video recording and stops both at the finishing line. The video recording serves an exact measurement with precision of one hundredth of the surfed time.

The best surf spot
All kinds of outdoor sport depend on nature as well as speed surfing does. The champions of speed surfing need at least a wind with beaufort 6 coming in a flat angle diagonal from the back while surfing. It is an offshore wind blowing near the beach plain above the glassy water, because the speed measurement is at the beach. These conditions extremely restrict the places where speed surfing is possible. So far ISA selected Namibia, Fuerteventura and for the first time the Devils Bay on Karpathos as perfect places.

But ISA is always searching for new spots, that have an optimum of topographic conditions. Other conditions as infrastructure for the event, transportations or accommodation for the surfers have to be assured by the local organizers otherwise the ISA will not chose the place.
There is one place in the world with absolutely perfect conditions. It is the “French Trench” or “le canal” in Southern France. The canal, which is situated at the beach von Les Saintes Maries de la Mer in Camargue, is 1.100m long and 15m wide. The canal was developed particularly for world record attempts. Although you have extremely strong wind (about beaufort 8) the wave formation on the water is reduced to a minimum and the canal is not deep. Best conditions to reach maximum speeds on very flat water.

Organization and federations
ISA (International Speedsurfing Association) www.speedsurfing.org

World record owner
Finian Maynard, 2005: 48.70 knots = 90.20 km/h

Karin Jaggi, 2005: 41.25 knots = 76.39 km/h

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