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Jana Sonter’s Top Tips for Windsurfing Instructors!

Published Thu 14 Mar 2024

In each Training in Focus edition, we will provide some bite-sized, practical, easy to implement ‘Top-Tips’ from experienced instructors and coaches from around the country, that you can incorporate into your session planning and delivery.  

This edition is Jana Sonter’s Top Tips for Windsurfing Instructors!

Jana Sonter is the current Australian Sailing Deputy Chief Windsurf Instructor. With over 20 years of extensive experience teaching windsurfing, sailing, and powerboating across Europe and a Master’s degree in sport science, specializing in windsurfing. Jana has a passion for inspiring others through leading by example and is dedicated to developing lifelong skills in participants and instructors. When not teaching she is also called “’hotel Mama”’ with her two kids booking all sorts of fun and adventure trips in and around the northern beaches 24/7.

Before getting into a few top tips it’s important to mention a few characteristics to help you become a great instructor and can help influence your planning, sessions, and your life in general.

  • Be Creative,
  • Always work to improve your communication
  • Be understanding of others’ perspectives and needs and how different experiences can be connected.
  • Always be open to learning from mistakes and other instructors.
  • Adaptability is great but always have a plan A, B and C


Preparation is the key

Part of preparation is customising each windsurfing session based on participants’ age, skill level, and objectives. Ensure beginners have the appropriate gear and start in an ideal location with smaller sails. Provide a fun introduction to the Board and use sail games for familiarisation of Board Balance and Sail handling.


Be Patient and Encouraging

You are teaching people a new skill, who most likely, have never had anything to do with this sport before. Some people are more talented than others and will adjust to the muscle memories and learn quicker than others. Students can quickly get frustrated by not being able to get the sail out of the water and get moving. Hold the board in the back for stability and give as minimal verbal instructions as you can, such as – ‘’stay on the Centreline’’ – ‘’point your belly button to the front of the board’’ - Leave them time to practise and don’t overload them with information.


Group Control and Management on the Water

6 Windsurfers drift apart very quickly, make sure you keep your group under control and mark the Windsurf area clearly and have whistle signs set with everyone before you go on the water. Home – You come to me – everyone comes to me.

Make clear rules about what happens if someone windsurfs out of that area and check participants are aware of how to get back.

Rule: Get back to the area as soon as you leave it.

How: Butterfly – walk holding the front of your board – start again once you are in the area.


Your own skills

You need to have your own skills to a certain level so you can understand the teaching part. If you are teaching beach start, you need to master the water start and Carve gybe perfectly. Understand exactly what the board does when you have your weight on your toes or heels so you can give instructions correctly.


A few helpful tips on the water for Instructors when you are watching your students.

  • Look – one of the big rules of windsurfing is that where you look, is where you go – most students will be looking down at their feet – likelihood is that the rest will follow very quickly.
  • Don’t Stick your bum out- getting your stance right from the start will not only improve your windsurfing but it will also prevent injuries like lower back strain.
  • Love your Sail but don’t pull it too close to your body as it will not be able to catch the wind properly – keep your front arm extended.
  • Keep your feet on the Centreline – demo of what happens if feet are not placed correctly.


As instructors you will come across the above issues and the sooner the key points above are in place it will make the practical session go a lot smoother.