Monday, July 20, 2009

Windsurfing vs. Sailboarding

Have you ever noticed that the news is always announcing some new, appalling statistic about how dumb people are? Like, "only 59% of American adults know that dinosaurs and cavemen didn't live at the same time". Well, I'll bet if they did a survey of how many people know what windsurfing is, it would be even more appalling than that. I'm guessing this based on the kind of crazy questions I get from people of all ages whenever I show up on the beach with my windsurf. Some real examples...

"Cool, a surfboard!"
"That's a BIG boogie board!"
"What are you going to do with that?"
"Good day for para-gliding, huh?"
"Do you do kiteboarding lessons?"
"Betcha need big waves for that!"
"Wow, can I please please FLY it?"

Obviously, some of the confusion can be attributed to the fact that most people have rarely, if ever, seen windsurfing. Their scant mental images of it blur with images of other activities involving boards and / or wind-catching devices: surfing, sailing, boogie boarding, stand-up paddleboarding, parasailing, paragliding, wakeboarding, snowboarding, skateboarding, skimboarding, hang-gliding, kiteboarding, etc.

The names become a blur, too. Would the average person be able to match the word "windsurfing" with the correct activity? "Wind-" doesn't narrow it down much, and "-surfing" sorta implies that the activity requires waves. People could also get off track thinking of it as "surfing the wind". I bet more often than not they would mis-attribute the name windsurfing to kiteboarding or hang-gliding or something.

"Sailboarding" might have a higher rate of correct image matching for newbies. You've got "Sail-", which should narrow it down to sailing or windsurfing, and "-boarding" which distinguishes it from big-boat sailing. Also, there's a precedent for naming boardsports with the -boarding suffix. Snow-, Kite-, Wake-, Skate, Skim-, etc., so I think people who knew one of those boardsports could figure out what sailboarding is pretty easily. "Boardsailing" would be another option, mixing the same two words but emphasizing sailing. That might help market windsurfing to people interested in cheap forms of recreational sailing.

Personally I would lean towards "sailboarding". It's descriptive and it establishes our sport's niche between sailing and boardsports. The old argument that it sounds dorkier than windsurfing doesn't carry much weight anymore, thanks to the efforts of talented skateboarders and snowboarders who have made things ending in "-boarding" as cool as things ending in "-surfing".

You can voice your own opinions in the sideboard poll and the comments section.


Sergey Menshikov said...

yup, and we call it waterboarding, when the wind dies!

PeconicPuffin said...

""Sailboarding" might have a higher rate of correct image matching for newbies. You've got "Sail-", which should narrow it down to sailing or windsurfing, and "-boarding" which eliminates sailing.

I'd say "boarding" eliminates "boating". Sailboards/windsurfers certainly sail (and really the board is a very small boat, that can sail in displacement mode, as opposed to , say, a wakeboard.

Another name I've heard from spectators is "windboarding".

Meanwhile Sergey has the good joke with waterboarding!

James Douglass said...

Sergey- Lol, yeah. :)

Puffmeister- Ah, I think I see what you're saying. I might reword the post a little. Also, I have definitely heard "windboarding", too, even from some of my scientist friends who ought to know about these things.