Windsurfing Information and Resources
For people who want extreme water activities, windsurfing might be right in their ballpark. Windsurfing is a water sport that utilizes elements of both sailing and surfing (hence the name) by using a board, approximately 3 meters long, and a sail, which has an area that ranges anywhere from 2.5 square meters to 12 square meters. The area of the sail depends upon the type of windsurfing being done, the sailors weight, and their skill level.
Many people credit the invention of windsurfing to S. Newman Darby, an American inventor from Wilkes-Barre, PA. Darby, however he did not patent his “sailboard” resulting in a patent instead being taken in 1968 by Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer on a “windsurfer” design by Drake. Darby had already begun selling his sailboards 4 years prior to Drake and Schweitzer's patent in 1964 and had been featured in an article in Popular Science magazine in 1965.
Falling somewhere in between surfing and sailing, the “hang ten” lifestyle of surfing is a part of the windsurfing culture, though the more rules based sailing culture also plays a role in the sport. There are activities available to windsurfers that can not be enjoyed by individuals in a sailboat, such as spinning, inverted loops, jumps, and other freestyle movements. Windsurfers also have an advantage over traditional surfing as larger waves are more accessible to windsurfers than those on traditional surf boards.
While windsurfing competitions do exist, including on such a large scale as the Olympics, the sport is most often enjoyed in a non-competitive settings, with windsurfers simply enjoying the experience alone or with friends.
Not all windsurfing gear is created equal. Some of the more modern categories of windsurfing boards are: Formula windsurfing class boards, freeride boards, freestyle boards, wave boards, speed boards, slalom boards, racing longboards, tandem boards, and beginner boards or funboards. Every board type has specific strengths due to it's unique characteristics, allowing a wider range of people to find boards that best suit their interests and needs. Today most windsurfing boards are made of an expanded polystyrene core that is reinforced with a composite shell that might consist of epoxy fiberglass, carbon fiber, kevlar, and sometimes thermoplastics and plywood. The sails on the boards are usually made of a clear polyester film known as monofilm, a woven polyester known as dacron, and mylar. The areas on the sail that are under high load might be kevlar reinforced.
There are two types of sails most commonly found on windsurfing boards: Rotational and camber induced. Rotational sails are sails which have battens protruding past the back aspect of the mast, meaning that when a windsurfer is tacking or jibing they must flip to the opposite side of the mast. The shape of these sails is aerofoil on the leeward side when filled with wind and can be depowered and completely flat when sheeted out.
Camber sails are named as such due to the one to five camber inducers found on the sail. These inducers are plastic devices which cup against the mast and are found at the end of the battens. They keep a very rigid aerofoil shape to the sail to allow for greater stability and speed. The increased speed and stability however result in a loss of mobility. Thus, sails with camber inducers are generally used for racing over wave riding.
Windsurfing Clubs, Gear, and Additional Information and Resources
Explore the below resources for even more information on windsurfing.
- The 10-Step Guide to Windsurfing
- Windsurfing Fin Technology
- Maui Windsurfing Report
- The Adirondack Boardsailing Club
- North Texas Wind Riders
- Windsurfing in Western Australia
- Speed Surfing Blog
- Boat-Links Windsurfing Resources
- Starboard Manufacturer
- Mistral Windsurfing
- The United States Windsurfing Association