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Flaka before Vulcan?
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Joined: 23 Aug 2001
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:10 pm    Post subject: Flaka before Vulcan? Reply with quote

Here's a question for all you advanced tricksurfers out there: should the first New School trick to learn be a Vulcan or a Flaka? Common wisdom seems to be the Vulcan, but maybe the Flaka makes more sense?

My thoughts about this are at Am I missing something?


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Location: cape cod

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


I am still working on the vulcan after 6 years. I can do them on a big freestyle board maybe 30% sailing out of them. Since I do not have that board anymore I mainly ride a 85 lt FSW. I get the jump rotate and slide but rarely get going the other way as I am too slow with the sail and sink. I think it took me 4years to figure out the jump rotate and slide part. Maybe 2 years to learn the willy skipper. It is supposed to be harder as you are out of the straps. No lessons for me. No coaching for me.

Flake first? Maybe. I would start with sail body360's and upwind 360's in the sraps. Also shoveit. The flaka is a mix of these three things. I have tried them. But I may never get there.
The rotation is much faster than the vulcan. I think the advantage oof learning the vulcan first is the board pop for the vulcan and the flaka are similar. And learning to pop off the water from a centered front foot weighted stance is not so easy. This is one move that you can work on effectively on a land simulator. If you can hunt down Mike Burns or Chris Eldred they could coach you locally.
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Location: Formerly Cape Hatteras, now Burlington, VT!

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do it to it and let us know how it comes out!

I'm extremely biased to starboard tack freestyle, so I'll give a few port tack attempts this morning on both the vulcan and flaka and report on which one hurts less Smile
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw Tom's report from Aruba where he was given that advice. I read your rationalization which is sound. I was right where you were last year. I have wondered this briefly at times in recent months.

I past my one year anniversary recently of trying to vulcan. It is hard to learn on your own. Over the past year, I have been given little bits of advice here and there, but I have been on really my own without instruction. I think the ABK clinic you have planned in Bonaire will help tremendously. I got skunked when they rolled into my state. It looks like ideal conditions over there, and should be very easy to video you. I think until you have a real idea of what you are doing wrong, you keep making the same mistake over and over that results in crash after crash which can get tiring and frustrating.

Realize, Tom has access to those guys and the Carribean multiple times a year and is still at it now for as long as I have know him... 3 years.

9 months into it (random weekends locally), I progressed to pop/rotate/slide..fall. I broke 2 carbon booms in the process (one was covered by warranty), and I got mildly injured (all happened when accidentally getting hooked in). Later, we had a long spell of no wind, and unfortunately, I regressed a little.

I am definitely one tack dominant due to my inability to pop well on port. I will give this suggestion a try as well. One thing I will point out, is if you watch the Flaka crashes by the pros on the Tricktionary DVD, they look more painful (landing on the rig) than a vulcan crash(usually away from the rig). I have never tried a Flaka beacuse I can't vulcan yet and that is what you are supposed to do first I thought as well. I have mastered non-planing upwind 360s and backwind sailing this year when the conditions were light, so this may help me break the vulcan fixation.

I am confident I will breakthrough this year. I will say, like all of it, there is no substitute for time on the water. I would not over intellectualize it. Make a commitment and keep plugging away at it.

Last edited by wsurfn1426 on Wed Feb 03, 2010 1:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can not do either.

I have tweeked my wrist trying both.
I have landed ontop of my sail trying both.
I have splattered everyway I tryed.
I even tryed drunk.....pain comes much later, and more of it!

Let me know how that turns out.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I knew I had missed something - I did not notice that the Flaka is a tack (nose going through the wind) while the Vulcan is a jibe. So getting the board to turn while jumping may be harder in the Flaka - is it? Or perhaps not killing all the speed?
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Boardsurfr,

I think it's a great idea to try both the vulcan and the flaka - but I don't know if I would recommend trying to learn how to flaka before learning how to do the vulcan. Here's my point of view on this subject, and my reasoning behind it....

I get to spend a lot of time windsurfing, definitely more than most. That being said, perfect practice makes perfect - my sailing buddies and I are the big fish in the small pond, so we are forced to rely on our own videos and trial/error to learn new moves, which takes more time. ABK clinics and visits to places like Bonaire, Aruba, or Jericoacoara can help you make big gains in your freestyle.
It took me six months to learn how to vulcan on my good side, another two to slide through my first spock; and then it took another six months to unlearn all the bad habits I had acquired so I could actually begin to sail away from spocks consistently. With the proper technique down, it only took about two more months to start claiming spocks on both tacks (I'd been trying vulcans/spocks on my weaker tack since day one, but like most I found myself slower to progress on one side). So a year and change into it, I began attempting grubbies. It's been about three months now, and on a good day I can hit about forty percent of them split between both tacks; on a bad day, I may only make one or two out of fifty or sixty combined attempts (port and starboard).
Learning to vulcan properly has also helped me with my forwards, especially in flat water. The vulcan teaches the framework for the "pop" through the legs and with the hands, and it also establishes the groundwork for moving the board with the mast base. The downwind push of the mast base for the vulcan is very similar to the downwind push of the mast base for the forward loop, as is the initiation of the pop (although the result is quite different, for you want to pop as high as possible with the forward and as little as possible with the vulcan/spock/grubby).
When I was learning to vulcan I could barely make it through upwind 360s, so the flaka was definitely out of the question for me, but the vulcan seemed attainable. The foundation necessary for attempting vulcans is relatively small (you need to know how to pop the board off of flat water, and you need to know about mast base pressure), and the margin for error is quite large. Now I have all the basic skills I need to begin learning the flaka, but the move has a specific skill-set that is different than the vulcan, which leads to the spock, which leads to the grubby, which leads to the chacho. The flaka leads to some awesome tricks as well (wave takas, ponches, goiters, shakas), but there are more complicated processes involved with the flaka than there are with the vulcan. The flaka requires the rider to carve downwind so they are relying on sail apparent wind instead of true wind. It also necessitates that the sail backwind, which is counter intuitive for most windsurfers. It also requires, I think, more focus to keep yourself on top of the board as you set the nose of the board upwind of you. When I master the grubby (fifty percent or more in flat water) I am going to devote myself 100% to the flaka, and I'll let you know how it goes. When you start out, though, try it all: spin loops, vulcans, flakas, body drags, downwind 360s.... I find I improve more rapidly when I take the time to mix it up once and a while, especially if I am stuck in a rut. Also, make sure to try both tacks!!! I think this is extremely important, unless you live somewhere where the wind and water are always the exact same conditions, because you never know which tack is going to set up better for jumping and which side is going to set up better for sliding.

tricks for the vulcan: slide front hand as far forwards as possible; twist back foot as much towards the tail as possible; pop aggressively to start and drive your front hand as hard as you can downwind; learn to do the crossover, or boom to boom, instead of grabbing for the mast. Oh, and KEEP YOUR HEAD/CHIN UP (literally)!!! I wish I had better advice on whether to try popping further downwind or upwind, or whether to try it with some chop or in butter-flat water, but I don't have any answers for you there. What seemed to work great for a while with me left me frustrated at other times, but those five tips have always held true.

Andy Brandt has this great practice technique where the rider revs up on their back hand as aggressively as possible when going for their vulcans; like revving a motorcycle but twisting the knuckles down/elbow up instead of the other way. This really drives the board downwind and sets the rail nicely so you don't have to do as much of a turn during your pop. It also keeps your head up and makes it easier to cross over boom to boom, which helps with spocks. Andy McKinney, or Hodad.Andy if you will, really focuses on pointing the back foot (he points both, but I think the back foot is the most important) towards the back of the board. This really helps set you up for spinning backwards, as your hips naturally want to unwind.
Anyways, I hope this helps and doesn't hinder.

Good Luck!!!
the haterrater

oh, ps - there's a great little article on the physics of flaka by rob warwick and his dad on the windsport website. Check that out, and check out the extras section of 4 dimensions, which has a great little vid on the flaka.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks haterrater, great detailed reply. I went back to the Tricktionary and came to the conclusion that the Grubby rather than the Flaka is what I was looking for - it has the downwind jump followed by a Flaka ending, if I understand that correctly. I'm not to concerned about the backwinded ending after 3 (soon 4) ABK camps and lots of heli tacks. I have no clue about the jumps, though.

My plan was to go for the speed loop first, since everyone says it's so easy, and for the Gecko if we get the usual light wind days. But your suggestion to try a different moves makes a lot of sense - some stuff others find hard I get on the first try, while other supposedly easy stuff is very hard for me. If we get a few good windy days, I'll try the pop-and-slide both downwind and into the wind. That is, if I can figure the pop out Smile.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ahh, now the grubby is kind of a decent starting point, especially if you're also going for speed loops. The cool thing about the grubby is the lack of a sail flip/hand movements, but a very similar pop/board handling to the vulcan and spock. It actually is a great way to attempt the pop and slide without having to think about too much more other stuff like jibing the sail while mid air.

Definitely try Grubbys STRAIGHT downwind. They're a lot easier when the sail completely stalls out as you spin. If you try a grubby while sailing on a reach you're pretty much guaranteed to get punished as you try to pull the clew through the eye of the wind. It'll backwind pretty violently... In light winds you can try to sail clew first backwinded as practice. Also try Andy Brandt's "Piledriver" which I assure you is very aptly named. The Piledriver is just an out of the straps light wind grubby. The hard part is, again, pulling the clew through the eye of the wind without getting pancaked.

Hatterrrrrskater's advice about trying lots of different stuff all the time is pretty spot on. I wasted a ton of time just being stuck in a rut, but as soon as i started trying other things, all of the original moves benefited. That goes for any level of sailing, too. Stuck on your sail flip during jibes? As Jingebritsen says: Try a few Duck jibes just to mix it up and get a different feeling... It can really work wonders.


Oh, by the way, this morning's session was wayyyyy overpowered so I only tried a few flakas and vulcans on port tack. They all ended pretty badly, but the flakas did feel better/less scary. I didn't try any port grubbys this time, but have in the past and they felt pretty reasonable and less scary than vulcans. Cheers!
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Flakas and vulcans don't share many common skills, so one is not a stepping stone to the other. If you're thinking about flakas and spocks at all, one good skill to have is the upwind 360 in the straps (and out of the straps). The spock 540 ending is essentially and upwind 360 switch in the straps and the flaka is a planing upwind 360 with an aerial beginning.

Vulcans are relatively easy to try and hard to do (Andy Brandt's words, not mine, but it rings true). Even if you have the correct take-off, there's a lot of shit that can go wrong, and there are a lot of new skills involved: flat water pop, rotating in the air, sliding backwards on the nose, landing and sailing away switch.

The Flaka on the other hand is a simpler move (like the grubby). If you start it off correctly, there are fewer things to go wrong, but it is pretty hard to recover from a bad initiation. Trying the flaka correctly is pretty scary IMO and it's a hard commitment to throw yourself that far forward. Most initial attempts will involve falling back onto your butt once the board slides out which means you haven't committed. It's not until you start eating shit and falling forward into your gear that you're really going for it.

For me, learning the vulcan is all about incremental progress... trying over and over and making headway. Learning the flaka is all about that breakthrough day where it clicks and then you realize how it works.

I'd say the most forgiving (technique wise) freestyle move to try is the forward.

That said, the vulcan is generally regarded as the first stepping stone as most people learn that, then the spock. It's definitely a stepping stone to the spock and will also help with trying grubbies. I view the flaka as a whole nuther animal.

So, why not try both!

Kevin Kan
Sunset Sailboards, San Francisco CA
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