Thinking of taking up windsurfing, or maybe just giving it a try?
Windsurfing is a form of sailing, where a board is powered across the water by the wind.
Polynesians have been using boards with sails for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until the 1960s that windsurf board design really developed, and it became the sport we know today.
Unlike surfing, windsurfing uses the wind to propel forward while surfing uses the force of waves. This means you can practice the sport anywhere with a big body of water and wind, such as lakes, rivers, estuaries and, of course, the open ocean.
Windsurfing was once referred to as “surfing’s ginger haired cousin” by the sport’s legend Robby Naish. It grew hugely in popularity during the 1980s when it was estimated that one in every three household in Europe had a windsurf board.
While the sport does resemble surfing, it’s more closely aligned with sailing – windsurfers call themselves sailors and their rules are very similar to sailing racing rules.
You may have heard Windsurfing is now even in the Olympics. Windsurfing became an official Olympic sport for men in 1984 and women in 1992. There are currently two Olympic events – the women’s RS:X and men’s RS:X – each compete in 12 races with the top ten from those events going into the final medal race.
Windsurfing is a sport that is done in a potentially hostile environment. This means that before we hit the water it is important that we must take the time to ensure that we will be getting back to shore.
Some things to keep in mind:
Check your windsurf gear to make sure it isn’t faulty and breaks while on the water
Avoid windsurfing in offshore winds (if you do, keep close to the shore, if possible where you can still stand)
Don’t go windsurfing alone. If there are others on the water, they can get help if need be
Wear clothing that will keep you warm if you need to swim for at least an hour
We never recommend first time Windsurfers to just try it and not know anything. We do strongly recommend taking a Wind Surfer class for beginners. Just like anything else, you want to know some when getting started.
There is a slightly longer learning curve when it comes to learning to windsurf, unlike other action sports like snowboarding or skateboarding. You will start on a bigger board with a small sail when learning the basics, before gradually moving onto a smaller board as your skill increases. Sail size depends on the conditions.
One of the best things about this sport is it can be enjoyed at any age – even at quite an advanced level – because there a relatively few injuries when compared to those that take place on hard surfaces like snow or concrete. Many windsurfers carry on sailing well into retirement age.
What gear/equipment do you need when starting Windsurfing?
Choosing the right windsurf board is important when learning to windsurf. It’s best to go with a large, stable board with lots of buoyancy when you’re just starting out because it will help you learn to balance on water – without falling in every two seconds.
Alongside your board, you will need a sail, mast and boom. When learning, smaller sails are best as you will have to pull the sail out of the water to get going. Bigger sails are heavier and harder to control. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can move onto a bigger rig.
Depending on water temperature, wetsuit boots or shoes come in handy, as they keep you warm if it is cooler. They will also protect your feet when you’re getting in and out of the water, plus provide extra grip on the windsurf board.
You’ll also need a buoyancy aid or life vest. All schools will require you to wear one – they will provide these when you rent a windsurf board or take a lesson.
Types of sails in Windsurfing
Wave sails are made for stronger winds, so they tend to be smaller. They are also made to be used in waves which means that the sail panels are reinforced to make sure they don’t break during a wipeout or your knees landing on them, etc. The battens are also stronger, so they don’t snap when a wave breaks on them. This implies that they are also going to be heavier than other sail types. They are also cut so that the boom is shorter and there is not much sail surface below the boom to avoid it being caught by the wave.
Slalom sails or race sails are made for speed, usually in light winds. The range for slalom sails is usually on the large end. However, to increase speed performance despite their size they are also built with light materials. This is especially useful for water starting, pulling the sail out of the water or gybing. They are best used with light masts and booms to keep their weight down. However, due to the light materials used they are also more fragile so they are not apt for getting washed in the shore break by accident.
Also, light weight sails as they are usually used with lighter winds. Even though they are not really designed for waves they are also made to be sturdy as the sailors will fall on them a few times and with little sail area below the boom to do maneuvers that require shifting the sail around the clew such as duck tacks or duck gibes, etc.
Basically, your all-around sail with which you can have a crack at everything without getting very specialized. Your Jack of all trades, master of none. It is made to a blend of all the above so depending on the brand they will lean towards one discipline more than the others.
We spoke a little about these above. While the previous sail types use more rigid materials such as monofilm to create a stable profile of the sail, these sails tend to use Dacron and PVC. This is to make the sails lighter so that you don’t get tired fast from having to uphaul them a lot. The downside is that they don’t have an efficient profile, so you can’t use them to achieve high speeds. It is not necessary to learn with a Dacron sail, but it will make your initial phases of learning easier and less stressful on your back.
Remember, bigger windsurf boards – in terms of volume – are easier for beginners. Thinner windsurf boards, like short surfboards, are more competitive.
The original Windsurfer was a heavy windsurf board. Meanwhile, the composite industry has evolved and develops light-weight materials that can be found in both beginner and advanced windsurf boards.
Today, a modern sail board can be made of Expanded Polystyrene Foam, Epoxy, Fiberglass, PVC or Carbon Sandwich.
Usually, wave and speed windsurfers prefer lighter boards made of Carbon Sandwich, while beginners kick off their windsurfing experience with heavier and larger boards.
There are four main categories in windsurfing: slalom, speed, freestyle and wave windsurfing. Each specialty demands specific windsurf boards.
Windsurf boards are selected by their volume (in liters) and length (in centimeters). High volume boards offer stability and flotation. They are also used in light wind conditions.
Speed windsurfing requires short and light windsurf boards. It’s harder to sail in these boards.
How much does it cost?
Here is to give you an idea: Beginning windsurfing opportunities at beaches and lakes cost about $70-$140 per day, including equipment, depending on location and class length. Shorter two-hour courses are available in some locations at $70-$95 per session, but include little water time. A two-day group lesson is priced about $165-$200. Kid’s day camps cost $90 per day or $150 for a two-day lesson for ages 7-12. Windsurfing day camps offer consecutive training days for beginners at about $300-$400 for three days or $500 for four days and typically includes instruction, video analysis, and gear rental of the board, mast, sail and boom.
Private windsurfing lessons are $50-$90 per hour, per person depending on location. These typically do not include gear.
Now if you have rented and learned some about Windsurfing, and think you want to do it more, then purchasing will save you more in long run the renting.
How is purchasing your own Windsurfing equipment? As you know this really varies, as if used or new, type, etc. Would expect to pay though 1600 to 5000 and up.
Remember also, you may be needing to purchase wetsuit, and booties, gloves, and a hood, depending on the air temperature. Below 50 degrees you will want a very thick wetsuit or dry suit, and booties, gloves and hood are essential. A life vest is good to have for windsurfing, especially if you aren’t wearing a thick, floaty wetsuit. Kayaking life vests are the best because they leave the midriff bare for your harness. Integrated vest-harnesses are also available.
Is Windsurfing good exercise?
Mental Benefits: There’s nothing quite like being on the water beneath the sun on a beautiful, warm day! People benefit greatly from exercising outdoors versus a gym. If you’re out on a sunny day, you’ll also soak up some Vitamin D, which is known to combat depression. Just make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen.
Strengthen Core: Windsurfing works your core muscles as you balance on the board. You use your entire body to maneuver the sail rigging and steer, so you work your arms, back and legs as you sail. The constant adjustment of balance to your core ensures that it’s constantly engaged and working!
Cardiovascular: The body consists of many muscle groups, and to use them they need to be provided with a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients via the blood stream. For this reason, large muscle groups like the back and legs require the heart to pump faster when they are being used more extensively. Windsurfing is an amazing cardiovascular exercise because it requires the use of several of your bodies major muscle groups.
Increased Cardiovascular Endurance: The more you windsurf, the better your cardio endurance becomes because of how steadily active you are when you partake in this sport. Because your heart is providing blood to these muscle groups, it’s a serious workout for your heart. The best part about this is that as your cardiovascular fitness increases, you will be able to windsurf for a longer period!
Even Beginners get a Great Workout: As a beginner, you’ll probably spend most of your time learning how to stand on the board of the windsurf. This involves using your leg muscles to balance on the board while employing your shoulders, forearms and lower back to control the force of the sail. Novices might spend half their time in the water, but this is all part of a workout. Falling off the board means you are constantly pulling yourself out of the water which works your arms and increases your calorie output.
Burn ALOT of Calories: Expert windsurfers burn up to 1000 calories per hour, and recreational windsurfers burn around 500 calories an hour.
Doesn’t Feel Like Exercise: Travelling up to 20 miles per hour on your windsurfer is so exhilarating you hardly know you’re exercising. This means you’re likely to stick at it for longer and burn up more calories than in the gym.
(According to the Royal Yachting Association the average windsurfer spends up to six hours each day exercising without even realizing it!)
As you can see from this, Windsurfing may be just something you really enjoy and have fun with.