Windsurfing 101: Intro to Windsurfing

As expert windsurfers, we really have to think back to remember a time when we weren’t familiar with every in and out of our favorite sport. But we get that not everyone is an expert. Many people are still learning about windsurfing, so we’ve created this handy guide to teach you the basics.

What is Windsurfing?

Some people may think that traditional surfing and windsurfing are similar. They both happen on the water with a board, but that is where the similarities end. Think of windsurfing as riding your own mini sailboat! With regular surfing, you are using the speed of the wave to move you, but with windsurfing, you are using the wind in the sail — which gives you a lot more freedom.

People also often confuse kiteboarding, or kitesurfing, and windsurfing. With windsurfing, the sail is attached to the board, whereas with kitesurfing the sail is a kite high above you.

There are several different styles of windsurfing for all kinds of fun:

  • Racing: You cross a start line and see who is fastest around the buoys. Slalom racing is fast and exciting racing that takes place across the wind, or slightly downwind. Course racing is more tactical around the buoys racing and involves more different points of sail (direction of the board in relation to the wind direction).
  • Freestyle: Tricks! Can be spinning tricks on the surface of the water or aerial maneuvers.
  • Wavesailing: More like surfing, but you are using the power of the wind to get out to the waves instead of paddling like you would on a surfboard.
  • Freeriding: What most windsurfers do. Blast around on your local bay or lake, maybe drag racing your friends.

Can anyone windsurf?

Windsurfing is a great sport for people of all ages. The only requirements are that you be comfortable in the water, able to get from a sitting or kneeling position to standing and that you want to learn to windsurf.

Practice and patience are all that is really required. Windsurfing is a balance and technique sport much more than a strength sport. Being strong doesn’t hurt — but isn’t required!

What are the best windsurfing conditions?

That all depends on what kind of windsurfing you are doing and what kind of equipment you have. You need some wind to make windsurfing happen, at least 5 mph or so. Beginners will want wind speeds of 5-10 mph, but more advanced windsurfers get excited when they see a weather forecast that includes “small craft warning”.

We will dive into the basic equipment in a future blog, so keep an eye out for that!

Make windsurfing your new favorite sport

Windsurfing looks thrilling and intense. Don’t let the tricks scare you; let them motivate you! While beginners won’t be able to do a forward loop on their first ride, a good foundation will push you in the right direction to be able to do tricks or glide around the bay with ease. Windsurfing can have a reasonably high initial cost, so a good tip is to begin with lessons with included equipment. This way you can get a taste for what windsurfing offers — minus a big financial commitment. Whether in a group or one-on-one session, we will provide you with a strong foundation to have you windsurfing on your own by the end of your first lesson.

>>Sign-up today to begin your windsurfing adventure!

Sailing Terms

Starboard: When you are on the right side of the board while facing forward (your right hand is your front hand)

Port: When you are on the left side of the board while facing forward (your left hand is your front hand)

Planing: When the board has a minimal amount of board surface (sometimes only the fin) in the water while moving fast

No-go-zone: Directly into the wind. The area around where the wind is coming from, you can not travel that direction because the wind cannot be caught by the sail

Upwind: The direction the wind is blowing from. Sailing against the wind or closest to the wind without entering the no-go zone is called sailing upwind

Downwind: The direction the wind is blowing toward. Sailing away from the wind is called sailing downwind

Tack: Turning around by steering upwind

Gybe: Turning around by steering downwind

Reach: Sailing across the wind

Uphaul: Standing on the board and using the uphaul line (see gear terms) to pull the sail out of the water in order to start windsurfing

Waterstart: Starting in the water while swimming by letting the sail pull you up onto the board (instead of uphauling)

Beachstart: Begins standing on the beach in knee deep water. Using the sail to step onto the board (instead of upahualing)

Gear Terms

Boom: The horizontal bar that you hold onto while windsurfing

Mast: The long pole that holds the sail up vertically

Mast extension: A rod that goes into the mast to extend it for different sized sails

Clew: The back end of the sail, where the boom attaches

Luff: The leading edge (or mast side) of the sail

Leech: The trailing edge from the clew to the head of a sail

Mastfoot: the piece that connects the board and mast together

Fin: the piece that allows the board to maintain grip while moving through the water

Finbox: different fins will need different finboxes depending on the make and model

Harness: a device that goes around your waist and has a hook to the harness lines on the boom in order to use your body weight to hold the sail up instead of just your arm strength

Harness lines: the lines attached to the boom that are used to hook in with a harness

Uphaul Line: a string that goes from the boom head to the mast base that is used to pull up the sail while standing on the board

Mast track: the track in the middle of the board that the mast base slides into. This is long and can be adjusted on certain boards

Rig: all of the gear needed to rig up and go sailing other than the board. The mast, boom, sail, and mast extension

Foil: The hydrofoil replaces the fin on boards and allows for the board to pop out of the water and glide on the foil

Centerboard: The foil in the middle of the board to help keep traction while sailing upwind

Types of Boards

Longboard: Longboards are longer boards that have enough buoyancy to stand on while not moving

Shortboard: Shortboards are used in higher wind. They are not as buoyant as longboards and require you to be moving to ride them

Waveboard: Wave Boards are short and pointy boards that are used while surfing and jumping waves

Slalom board: A board made to go fast in flat to medium conditions; some may call them shortboards

Freestyle: Freestyle boards are short boards that are used in flat water to perform tricks.

Freeride board: Shortboards that are not for any specific discipline (such as wave, slalom, or freestyle)

Foil board: Foil Boards are made specifically for foilsClick here for a comprehensive guide to windsurfing boards.

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