The Waterstart. You either love it or, well... let's explain the basic techniques on how to do it first. If you can waterstart it makes a huge difference in your windsurfing progress and experience. If you can waterstart you'll sail longer, preserve energy and windsurf smaller gear in stronger winds! Provided you have a little wind to start with, the waterstart is actually quite easy.
Before we continue there are some requirements. You need to have some windsurfing experience and you most definitely need to have first mastered the beachstart. There are a number of ways to learn the waterstart so let's try to avoid tons of detail and focus on the basics with a few cheats to get you going. We'll leave the fine tuning up to you. Right!
One of the common ways to learn the waterstart is to start from the beachstart and go a step deeper, each time doing the beachstart until you are deep enough to be doing the waterstart. So, start knee deep, then waist deep and so on.
The idea is to get the sail into a position so that the boom head is facing into the wind. Swim upwind to get the water off the sail and then lift the mast giving it a little shake to get wind underneath the sail. Pull the sail over your head to get it flying and then, if needed, use the sail and your swimming to shift the board downwind. This will get you closer to the back of the board and is all done while flying the sail.
Now that you're in position you can use your beachstart skills. Place your back foot on the board and let the sail lift you to the point where you can put pressure on the mast base, this will give you leverage to complete the launch. Sheet in and blast away.
There is a little cheat that you can use to avoid a lot of the positioning, swimming and treading water etc. It can only work in some cases depending on how high your boom is and if you can get away with it, give it a shot. That is, try to rest the boom onto the back of the board. You should not rest the middle of the boom but rather the top part by the head section as shown below.
The head of the boom needs to be facing into the wind. You can now relax and use the board to keep you afloat, giving you plenty of time and rest. Every now and then swim upwind to avoid the clew of the sail from sinking.
Once you have the sail resting on the back of the board, grab the mast and pull it over your head into the wind. You can even put your other hand on the back of the board as leverage to fly the sail. The wind will lift the sail up. You, the board and the sail should be facing slightly downwind.
Now that you have the sail flying, the rest will come more naturally as you can apply some of your beach start skills.
If the wind is on the light side, you can sheet out and give it a little pump as you launch. As the sail lifts, extend your arms well above your head putting pressure directly down the mast onto the mast base. This, combined with the wind, will be more than enough to get you up and away. You can also pull the board towards you using your back foot if need be, while giving a good kick in the water with the other leg.
Try in stronger winds when you get the hang of it, you'll be surprised at how easy it is.
There is still another way to learning the waterstart and we call it the amateur body drag. This learning technique works for some but not for others, it helps you get some idea on sail control in deep water. The amateur body drag is easy. In waist deep water, get into the beachstart position while flying your sail. Now, all you have to do is let yourself drag a few meters using only the wind. Try to play around with the sail and feel where the power is. Once you get the hang of it, go for a waterstart.