Windsurfing is really two different sports. It’s like downhill and cross country skiing all packed into one. You start on the cross country part where it is gentler, more forgiving and less demanding. Inevitably, as the skill level rises, most windsurfers graduate to the downhill part of the sport. This is where stronger winds and shorter boards are desired.
Like any sport, commitment plays a major role for success. In windsurfing, commitment means everything. You will not be able to learn this sport by borrowing equipment from friends. Nor will renting equipment be a long term solution. Clearly, success goes to those who’ve made a commitment to purchase a board. Learning to windsurf is a meditative process. When the conditions and the urge is there, having the right equipment waiting for you is the difference between success and failure. Once you’re committed to going through the beginning phases, windsurfing can open a spectacular world to you.
How to Purchase YOUR First Board
Because windsurfing boards come in all shapes and sizes, it can be very confusing to the beginner. Boards are different because the conditions are different. A beginner would want a large board with as much floatation as possible for stability. Where as an expert, sailing on a very windy day, would want a small board to go fast. This same expert could not sail a big floaty board on windy days. At the same time, nobody can sail a small board when there is no wind.
If you live on a lake with light wind, you will want a big, floaty, long board regardless of your proficiency. If you live in Hawaii or Aruba where it is windy all the time, you might have little use for a big board. However, over 90% of the world is not blessed with high winds and for those of us living in “normal” areas, a long board can provide more than 90% of the fun.
For those wishing to purchase a new beginner/long board, the considerations might be less confusing than in previous years. In the past, you could buy a board that was big and stable but you might quickly outgrow its performance capabilities. Or you could have, by mistake, bought a board that was too small and would have to struggle twice as hard to learn the basics.
Today’s manufacturers are keenly aware of the needs for entry level products and have designed boards that are multi-talented. These boards can see you through your infant steps and also keep pace with you as your skills advance. They can rip when the wind picks up or they can serve as a steady platform for the beginner.
New boards are shorter, lighter, and have all the bells and whistles to satisfy your sailing needs. Once you get started with one of these boards you can sail for the rest of your life. It becomes your personal craft to waltz into your local lake or the nearby ocean bay. It’s basically a vehicle for meditation and adventure, not the radical extreme sport portrayed by the media. Just remember, windsurfing opens the door to a world beyond the waters edge. It is not just a sport. It is an exciting way to take you there.
However, if you do want to turn windsurfing into a sport, then the equipment possibilities are endless, and can become very expensive. It is remarkable how many layers of excitement and thrills this sport can offer. There are endless challenges and levels of proficiency to attain. For those in need of a challenge, windsurfing can be one big perpetual challenge.
BUY it New or Used?
There are many used boards available for the beginner. If you’re big, buy a board that is bigger. Any board that is big, floaty and with a centerboard, will do the job. The financial benefits are obvious and they can also be quickly passed to another beginner once you enter the intermediate stage. You can find these boards through your local shop listed in the back of the magazine. Many of these shops have swap meets or consignments and all the ones listed will provide you with a 15 minute free intro lesson about windsurfing.
You are, however, taking a gamble buying used if you don’t have good advice. You will certainly not have the latest technological refinements to assist you if you buy used. Here is a good basis for your decision: If you’re the kind of person who likes to keep what you buy; buy it new.
What do I Need to Spend?
Windsurfing is relatively inexpensive considering there is no lift ticket. However, you can also spend a fortune. There is no end to where you can spend your money on high performance equipment. But for the pure joy of sailing and being part of nature, windsurfing is a bargain.
You can find a complete package of used equipment in the United States anywhere from $200– – $700 or $700 – $2,000 for new. “Package” means a board, a fin, a sail, a mast, a boom and a base. We’ll cover sails in the next section.
Whether you buy it new or used, you will find windsurfers to be a group of friendly, kindred spirits. They will gladly give you a helping hand or pass you good advice. Don’t be shy about asking. There is nothing more enjoyable to a windsurfer than to share their knowledge and their thrills with another windsurfer. —ED