Thursday, April 17, 2008

Top 12 Questions ABOUT Windsurfing / Sailboarding

This post aims to answer the common questions that non-windsurfers have about windsurfing.

Question 1. What is windsurfing / sailboarding?

Windsurfing, also known as sailboarding, is where you're standing on a board, and holding a sail, which is attached to the board with a bendy joint. The sail is roughly triangular, and has a rigid mast and boom. Unlike a sailboat, the windsurfing board doesn't have a movable rudder. You steer by adjusting the position of the sail and moving your feet.


Question 2. What is the difference between windsurfing and kiteboarding?

In kiteboarding you are also standing on a board, but there is no sail attached to the board. Rather, the wind power comes from a large, crescent-shaped kite that you fly high above the water. For more discussion on the nuances of windsurfing versus kiteboarding, see this post.

Question 3. Is windsurfing dangerous?

No. It's safer than almost any other boardsport, and definitely safer than kiteboarding.

Question 4. Is windsurfing hard?

Yes and no. With the right stuff and a trained instructor, most people can learn the basics of going back and forth during their first time on the water, even if they have never sailed or surfed before. If you already have a sense of wind and sailing, and you have decent balance, then you can learn even quicker. However, progressing beyond the beginner stage takes practice and determination. You gradually develop an intuitive understanding of how the wind, the equipment, and your body interact. When it all comes together it is incredibly rewarding.

Question 5. Do you need good balance to windsurf?

No. The modern boards are very wide and stable, and everyone gets their sea legs after some time on the water.

Question 6. Do you need a lot of upper-body strength to windsurf?

No. Sails comes in all sizes, so you never have to use a bigger one than you can handle. Of course, even you're an athlete, windsurfing will work different muscles than you're used to, and you'll be worn out after your first few sessions. Fortunately, once you get the hang of it, you can windsurf so long that you'll get hungry before you get tired. It's all about finesse and using leverage and gravity instead of muscle.

Question 7. How old is too old to windsurf?

If you're healthy enough to swim, and you can climb out of the pool without a ladder, you can windsurf.

Question 8. How young is too young to windsurf?

They make sails for children as small as 40 lbs, but a kid's ability to process verbal instructions on the water may be a more limiting factor than size. If your kid is smart, athletic, and interested they could learn at 6. If not, better wait until the kid is 9.

Question 9. How fat is too fat to windsurf?

Heavy people can compensate, up to a point, by using bigger boards and sails. But if you're over 350 lbs or you can't climb out of a pool without a ladder, forget it.

Question 10. How much wind do you need to windsurf?

You don't need very much wind at all. As long as you can feel SOME wind on your skin, you will be able to move on your windsurf. 5 miles per hour (8 kph) is plenty of wind for basic windsurfing. That is much less than is required for kiteboarding. For fast windsurfing, it takes 10-15 mph. Beginners may have trouble windsurfing in more than 15 mph, but some experts can windsurf in extreme winds of 35 mph or more.

Question 11. Where can I get windsurfing lessons and equipment?

Well, if you live in the US, you can check the Windsurfing Magazine website. In the sidebar they have a guide to shops and schools organized by state. You should also do a google search to see if there are any windsurfing clubs in your area that have programs for beginners.

Question 12. Where can I get some more specific advice or ask some questions about windsurfing?

There are a number of internet forums with resident experts who are more than happy to answer any question you may have about windsurfing, i.e. what gear to buy, etc. You may have to create a screen name to post a question on the forums, but that's no big deal. Here are some of my favorites:

Starboard's Windsurfing School- This forum is overseen by Roger Jackson and Ellen Faller, two very helpful gurus. Random windsurfers will also chime in with advice, which may or may not be useful. This site combines weather, windsurfing discussion forums, and a classifieds section for buying and seling used gear.

I also have my own list of frequently asked windsurfing questions and answers here.


Kent Littleton said...

what is the difference between a square sail and a triangle sail while wind surfing

James Douglass said...

Hi Kent,

I think all windsurfing sails now are roughly triangular, so I'm not quite sure I understand your question. Old windsurfing sails were a simple triangle, but newer ones are more of a trapezoid, stiffened by battens, to have a more efficient, wing-like shape.