Step 8: Tacking
In both tacking and jibing, you change direction so the wind comes from the opposite side of the board. In tacking, you turn toward the wind; in jibing, you turn away from the wind. Hence, tack when you want to move in the direction toward the wind. Jibe when you want to move away from the wind. Tacking will move you toward the wind, jibing away from the wind. Since beginners often have problems staying up wind, it's best to learn how to tack before leaning how to jibe.
There are several different ways to tack. This is a method similar to one taught at ABK Windsurfing clinics. It works well where the water is rough.
Before starting to tack, you must do three things. (1) Look over your shoulder. Are you about to turn into someone’s path? (2) Drop your front hand to the mast just below the boom. (3) Move your front foot to just in front of the mast (A).
Now begin to turn into the wind by moving the sail to the back of the board and across the board, just as in the "Steering Step" above. (Figure A) Keep your arms straight, knees bent, and take a lot of little steps. If you don't move your feet from the beginning of the turn, you will find it difficult to move them at all.
Keep force in the sail; that force is what turns you. (May the force be with you.) As the board points into the wind, swing your body in front of the mast (B). Keep pushing the board around with your feet, and keep pulling on the sail with your rear hand. Keep force in the sail. Note that the sail is “backed” until you are all the way around (C).
When the board has turned all the way around (180°), move to the new basic position (C and D) and start up as usual.
Finally, you will probably want or need to turn further off the wind, so aggressively move the sail forward and across the board (just as in the "Steering" section).
Keep your arms straight, knees bent, and butt tucked in while tacking. The important principle in the tack described above is that you keep pulling the sail against the wind for as much of the turn as possible (Figure C). This gives you something to lean against, and will help you avoid falling in. You can speed your tack by doing the following. Before beginning the tack, when you move your front foot just before the mast, also move your back foot a few inches back on the board (so that you have a wider stance). Having a wider stance will give your back foot more pushing power.
It is interesting to watch racers tack. One moment they are on one tack, and in the blink of an eye they are on the other tack. The tack described above will be slow and deliberate. One thing that you can do to speed the tack is before beginning, when you move your front foot just before the mast, also move your back foot a few inches back on the board (so that you have a wider stance). Having a wider stance will give your back foot a bit more pushing power.
When racers tack, they literally jump from one side of the mast to the other, cutting to a split second the time they are in front of the mast. Two factors allow them to move so quickly. First, they may change position while "head to wind" (Position B). However, then they aggressively throw there rig forward and across the board so that they head downwind on the new tack. Like its slower cousin tack that I recommend above, there is power in the sail for nearly the entire turn. Second, racers are going very fast going into the turn and their momentum helps them complete the turn. As you get better, you will realize that in all things, speed is your friend. There are many things that you can "pull off" when you are going fast that you can not do when going slow. Always sail as fast as you can.