re-sized modern windsurfer

Hi-tech materials catapult windsurfing into the space age.

If you first windsurfed 30 years ago and liked it, but weren’t over the moon about it… the board was vast, the sail and mast incredibly heavy, the whole cumbersome lot needing muscle and determination to get some form of style out of it… you might have decided “well, been there done that.” Or, you might have been one of the not insignificant few who thought that this fledgling sport had a future. In 1976, 13,059 Windsurfers were sold worldwide. 11,210 in Europe, 1,507 in the U.S. and 342 in Japan!

Robbie Naish winsurfing at the 1976 World Championships

Robbie Naish riding the rail in 1976, Steve Wilkings photo

However, you wouldn’t recognise the sport as it is today.

Windsurf manufacturers have embraced new technologies and materials with a tenacity that has dramatically changed the sport. Just about every aspect of the board, sail and equipment have been radically updated and improved upon to such an extent that windsurfing has never been easier.

Modern boards offer much greater performance and are far easier and more enjoyable to use. For starters the weight of the board has halved over the intervening years. The original boards were built from polyethylene on a heavy PVC foam whereas the modern boards, weighing in at about 20 lbs, are built in light sandwich constructions using  materials such as carbon and Kevlar around a much lighter foam core. They are still very stiff and strong improving performance rather than hindering it. In fact, the improvements mean that you can get on the plane much more quickly than before and certainly have better acceleration.

Advanced aerodynamic theories have vastly improved the sails too. The old, heavy, dingy shaped sail which was extraordinary difficult to pull out of the water has morphed into something that is more similar to an airplane wing than a boat sail. It’s fixed shape which is maintained by numerous full-length battens and stabilizing components have made it stable and light in the hands, while generating far more power and speed.

Mordern windsurfer, board and rig

modern windsurfer

As I said – it is quite a different sport.

And what you can’t do on a windsurfer today beggars belief.

Manoeuvres like this requires a great deal of time, patience, and hard work. It’s no point even trying to do tricks before you’ve mastered the common moves. Progressing onto tricks takes skill and determination. It also requires balance, coordination, timing and strength.

There is a basic manoeuvre that you can practice to set you in the right direction. Once warmed up and feeling comfortable on your board, try working your foot movement over the board. Shift from heel to toe and around the board, without moving the sail. First do it with the left foot leading, and then the right. Mimic the movement but this time swing the sail too. Remember that ideally you must maintain solid foot contact and balance. Once you master this you can move on to step overs and sail spins. With a firm grip and a slight lean, step over from foot to foot, pull back on the sail pushing it forwards or backwards as you follow the flow of the sail.

Once you’ve mastered this basic movement, you are well on your way to being able to learn many tricks…

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  1. Windsurfing versus kitesurfing | Xtremesport - 2011 | 27 April

    […] with the lighter boards, smaller sails, improved designs (see previous article: hi-tech materials catapult windsurfing into the space age) much greater speeds can be achieved. The Fanatic Belgian Speed Week are just coming to an end. […]

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