"Tuning;" making small adjustments in the settings and setup of one's equipment, is an aspect of windsurfing that is both frustrating and compelling.
The right tuning can take you to a higher plane of ecstasy; a feeling of effortless oneness with the ocean elements. Equally, the wrong tuning can make you feel like you're trying to carry five bags of groceries while balancing on a log floating through river rapids.
I'll admit to experiencing a bit of the latter feeling when riding the Exocet WindSUP 11'8" in waves for the first couple times. Though I'd found the board to be very comfortable and well balanced for flatwater sailing, my first forays into the small, steep, closely-spaced, uneven waves of the Gulf of Mexico were somewhat disappointing. The only tuning I did for the first round was to replace the 44 cm upright stock fin with a 25 cm swept weed-wave fin. Clearly that wasn't enough tuning, or wasn't the right tuning. Part of the problem was me. My instincts for catching a wave with a longboard were developed with the Angulo Surfa 10'4" SUP in the ideal conditions of Nahant- weight forward to catch a wave, weight in the middle to ride a wave, weight back only fleetingly during a steep drop or sharp turn. With the WindSUP, weight forward didn't help- it just made me pearl the nose. And on a wave I couldn't get the thing to turn. Where I had the most success was on a fairly windy day, where I could get the board planing on the wave well before the wave was about to break, and then I could turn the board with an overdone caricature of the moves I would use to turn a shortboard windsurf in the waves. I was starting to think the board either wasn't all it was cracked up to be for waveriding, or was just too dang big for me to manage.
I told Exocet guru John Ingebritsen (see him in a rad youtube video here) about the trouble I was having, and he told me these three tuning tips for the WindSUP 11'8"-
1. Go small with the fin, but not too small because you need some fin length to get planing. A traditionally-rockered SUP like the Angulo Surfa sort of melts into the wave and turns with the whole body of the board, using the fins only for traction. In contrast, the WindSUP uses the wave to accelerate to planing or partially-planing mode, and then turns more from the tail like a shortboard windsurf. Lift from the fin is more critical for this type of waveriding.
32 cm MUFin
2. Move the mast track all the way back and keep your weight back to "unstick" the nose.
3. Put the footstraps in the inboard positions and make them as loose as possible.
Track back, straps inboard
The other day I implemented those suggestions and they made a huge difference, both for wave-riding and for pleasant easy-planing in the stronger winds outside the break. For the mast track position, I put it as far back as the two-bolt baseplate would allow. For the fin I chose a 32 cm Maui Ultra Fins "No Spin." Ingebritsen says that's good and that it's actually on the smaller side of the fins he usually uses in the waves- he'll often wavesail with a 38 cm freeride fin. With the centered footstraps and the 32 cm fin, the WindSUP was very non-technical to get planing, and I think it would be the perfect setup for someone trying to learn footstraps and planing for the first time. Very gentle feel with lots of room for error.
The other recent bit of tuning I did was with the Starboard Formula 135. I traded the 65 cm Curtis fin that was sold with it for a 58 cm Finworks fin that is more naturally suited to the board's 85 cm width. It felt great on my first time out with it in good winds around 15 knots, but in slightly less wind the second time out it felt a bit "sticky," i.e. it was bogging down in the chop a bit and sometimes sending water splashing in my face. Today I moved the mast base back as far as it would go on that. It was only a change of two inches or so, but it made a big difference as far as making the board feel more free, fast, and efficient. With perfect formula conditions of about 13 knots of sideshore wind, I rode it way upwind and way downwind, really jamming and enjoying the Florida sunshine.
Life is good when you're in tune.