Editor’s Note: Issue 7.3/4

Windsurfing has reached its renaissance…

american_windsurfer_john-chaoWITH THREE ARTICLES about the Trans-Atlantic Windsurf Race, you might think that it may be a bit over indulgent to cover something so few windsurfers will ever do. While you’re absolutely right, we’re hoping that you will consider that this is exactly the reason you subscribe to this magazine.

For the TAWR is an out-of-the-ordinary event and one of the responsibilities encharged to a publication such as American Windsurfer is to deliver every once in a while, subjects that may stretch the pallet of our loyal readership. For if a magazine is to grow, it must be stretched, nurtured and noticed. Events such as the TAWR fulfills all three of these qualities as well as providing entertainment, information, exploration and a little spice.

But the challenge for a publication such as ours is to stay within the boundaries of a respectful relationship between innovation and tradition. This is the old adage that they teach you in Journalism 101. “You must lead and feed your readership.” The readers must be able to find what they want at the same time, you must take chances in delivering something they didn’t ask for. To only provide a steady diet of one or the other, is a sure formula for ultimate failure. If all we do is provide articles that readers can’t relate to, then we too will suffer the fate that has in essence, plagued this sport of windsurfing. Let me elaborate, as I have some strong personal views about this.

It has become clear to me, after watching ten years of steady decline, that the evolution and overriding love for innovation, has taken windsurfing into the stratosphere where only a few consumers are now willing to follow. With the recent development of the super wide boards, the industry argues that the sport has become more accessible to more and more people. Still, I would argue that the fundamental flaw cursing the sport of windsurfing is the belief promoted by many in the sport that, “If you’re not planing, your complaining.”

It is true, once you’ve gotten a taste of planing, there is no turning back. If you been eating bread all your life and you’ve discovered butter, it is indeed hard to go back to just eating bread.

But if you’ve never had bread before and someone asked you to eat a stick of butter, it might be a bit hard to swallow. This is in essence what we in the sport of windsurfing expect newcomers to do.

We missed the boat. Kayaking was a sport that was floundering in the ‘80s during the glory days of windsurfing. Contrary to what the windsurfing industry did, the kayakers began producing and promoting inexpensive packages which provided the recreationalist a simple “access” to a little wilderness in a concrete world. That simple access has turned a sport that was in the 300,000 participants to 2.1 million today. There are an estimated 70 kayak dealers in the US for every windsurfing outlet. If you would look around, you can imagine what happened to windsurfing.

But what windsurfing has is by far a bigger and more powerful experience than kayaking will ever be. Once you hold the wind in your hand and get a taste of being in the “flow” there is nothing that will be equal this magical sensation.

Now the good news is the karmic winds have started to blow. Major changes are coming down the pipe and I believe you will see a dawning of a new age for windsurfing. Kite sailing has evolved into the arsenal of high performance sailors. Many of the gurus of the sport have switched their attention and sphere of influence to this new high. Top managers from companies that have set the trends of the past have resigned. New innovative and concerned industry leaders are in place manufacturing user friendly and easy-on-the-pocket-book equipment. The sport has basically weeded out a complete generation of players whose power base restricted the promotion of our own “access.”

I mention this because I feel this issue you are holding is a symbolic turning point. We are at the crossroads of change and it will come very quickly. There is a shift in the wind and it’s time to tack and sail our way back to shore.

Let the world know: windsurfing has reached its renaissance.

by John Chao

Publisher / Editor is a former photojournalist for GEO, National Geographic and Time-Life Magazines.