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The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Windsurfing

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Windsurfing is a sport that most people stay away from because they think it is too dangerous, too expensive, or even too uncomfortable. However, this is not the case once you become familiar with this water sport. To help you understand how fun and invigorating this pastime is, peruse our ultimate beginner’s guide to windsurfing!

Windsurfing Equipment

Before you begin learning how to windsurf, you must be familiar with the equipment you use in this sport. Your windsurfing rig will generally consist of a mast, sail, boom, and the board you stand on. Typically, these components are sold separately; however, for beginners and intermediate learners, there are kits or packages available where you can purchase everything together.

The mast is what holds the sail in place to the board. And the sail guides your board through the water utilizing the power of the wind. The boom is a device that attaches to the mast, giving the sailor a place to grab onto and control the sail as you glide through the water.

Learn the Lingo

This article might be easier to read with learning the lingo first. Understanding the jargon will make learning and picking up the sport much more manageable. Below we list common language you can find sailors use while windsurfing.

  • Tail: the back of the board
  • Rail: edge of the board
  • Deck: top of the board
  • Fin: a fin on the bottom of the board that helps keep it straight in the water
  • Daggerboard: large retractable fin that provides stability and sideways resistance
  • Uphaul: the rope that allows you to pull the sail out of the water
  • Battens: rods that provide flexibility, strength, and shape to the sail
  • Offshore: when the wind is blowing off land or shore
  • Onshore: when the wind is blowing onto land or shore
  • Gybe: a move that turns the board away from the wind
  • Tack: a move that turns the board through the wind

Wearable Gear for Windsurfing

The attire you wear to go windsurfing is essential for protecting you on the water, and it could keep you warm on cooler days. A wetsuit or rash guard can help keep you warm if you were to fall into cold water and protect you from getting sunburned by UV rays. You do have the option to wear a bathing suit if the weather permits. We also recommend quality water shoes to protect your feet and help you grip the board better.

All in all, you can wear whatever you please to go windsurfing, but keep comfort and protection in mind for the safest windsurfing. Pro-tip, as a beginner, you may want to wear a buoyancy device to keep you afloat if you fall into the water.

Assembling Your Equipment

When sailing, you always want to follow the gear’s assembly directions to ensure you are putting it together the right way. Though instructions may differ slightly from board to board and rig to rig, there are a few overarching tips that will ensure you sail correctly. For instance, before inserting the mast base, double-check that there is no sand in the hole; otherwise, the mast will not fit right. Never use damaged or broken equipment, and ensure everything is in place before setting sail so you can remain safe.

Finding the Perfect Location

Finding the perfect location to windsurf is crucial because you must utilize many natural elements to perform this sport. If you live in a landlocked state, this doesn’t necessarily mean there are no bodies of water nearby where you can practice your skills. For a beginner, the location you choose should be a calm body of water with little to no waves—additionally, you must avoid places where power boats or jet skis are common, as they can cause you to fall off your board.

Never try learning to sail on the open sea, as this can lead you to being separated from your board and may cause you to be lost at sea. However, if the sea is your only option, we suggest going to a shallow bay or a recreational use area, which can be found near most recreational beaches. Ensure you have practice and are at an intermediate level before transitioning to a larger body of water like the sea.

Practice Your Maneuvers on Land First

When raising the sail on your windsurfing SUP board for the first time, it’s best to do this on land so you can get the hang of the maneuver. This is also the same way many sailors learn how to sail a boat. To raise the sail, stand on the board’s centerline, pull in the uphaul line, and allow the sail to flap in the wind as it positions itself correctly to the board. Doing this will enable you to balance on your board without the effect of waves and water beneath you. Once you gain muscle memory, uphauling the sail in open water will be much more straightforward.

Consider Wind Conditions

When you’re starting your adventure into windsurfing, you should never sail in a wind that is more than 15 to 20 mph. When wind speeds are incredibly high, it can become dangerous for the sailor because it can throw them off the board more easily, and they could be separated from the board. The ideal wind speed for beginners is between 3 and 15 miles per hour. Lower wind speeds will allow you to manage the wind better and use it to your advantage. When you’re still learning the sport, be careful never to let the wind blow you too far away from the shore.

You can use a tether line on days with off shore winds to fasten your board to a dock or boat. This will prevent you from drifting further out on the water than you would like. Make sure there is enough line for you to maneuver in any direction you desire. In most cases, you will want to attach this line to the daggerboard handle or the base of the mast. This will allow you to pull yourself back in when necessary while still allowing you to maintain a center of gravity.

Sailing On the Water

When uphauling the sail, you must lean back slightly and keep your back to the wind as you draw in the uphaul line. In this position, you can utilize your legs to straighten the windsurfing board in the water. This action may be difficult during your first few tries, but as water drains away from the sail, the process will become much easier.

To steer in the water, tilt the sail toward the front or back of the board. Relax your legs close to the mast and keep your hands shoulder-width apart on the boom. The more you attempt to steer in windsurfing, the better your skills will become. Once your skills are strong, you can try tacking or gybing for different maneuvers.

We hope you have enjoyed this ultimate beginner’s guide to windsurfing. As long as you put in the effort, practice, and take proper precautions to stay safe, you will have tons of fun out on the water. Reach out to us at Green Water Sports to see our wide selection of boards and accessories to start your adventure in windsurfing!

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.