Windsurfing is a form of sailing where the board is powered by the wind. Though boards with sails have existed for centuries (even dating way back to the ancient Polynesians), the modern windsurfing board was only designed during the late 1940s by a boat maker named Newman Darby. His board was controlled mostly by weight distribution, whereas boards nowadays are dependent upon the sail for steering. Still, the success of Darby’s original design is why he is referred to as the “father of the sailboard.”
The first official, marketed sailboard was patented by engineer Jim Drake and surfer Hoyle Schweitzer in the 1960’s. The two friends made a fortune from their board, as consumers loved the polyethylene material and thus began to windsurf on a regular basis. Since then, windsurfing has become a popular sport all over the world.
While windsurfing is easily accessible, it can take a little practice. Windsurfing is a bit more complicated than traditional surfing because it requires more hand-eye coordination. Though balancing is somewhat easier, a sailboard has multiple working components that must be accounted for. That’s why many people who regularly windsurf call themselves sailors instead of surfers – and may take offense if you suggest otherwise!
People also often compare windsurfing to snowboarding or skateboarding, but windsurfing has a much higher learning curve. New students often have to use “training boards” that are bigger in size to ensure that they don’t injure themselves. However, unlike other similar sports, windsurfing is typically much safer because there is no concrete or asphalt to wipe out on. This makes the sport popular for all ages and skill levels.
If you live in Texas, it’s likely you found out about windsurfing through the Olympics. This sport is a newer addition (the men’s team began in 1984 while women had to wait until 1992) but is currently one of the most watched Olympic sporting events. There are a total of 12 races with the top ten competing in the final medal race. Few advance past the initial stage, so any windsurfing race tends to be a nail biter!
Watching is only half the fun, however: there’s no reason that you can’t try windsurfing for yourself! To begin, you will most likely need an instructor, but there are a few tips you should know before getting out on the water. First, like a car, you should always check your brakes. If the wind is particularly strong, it can be easy to be swept away, especially if you don’t have the means to stop. You should also always windsurf with a buddy to keep you safe in the event of an emergency.
The next step is to check the direction and strength of the wind. From there, you should always remember to keep your front arm straight (this is important for steering and maintaining control), keep your weight on your back foot (for balance), and to keep your body as horizontal as possible. Combine these rules with the proper training, and you’ll be a pro sailer in no time!