History of Windsurfing
Windsurfing is the most amazing of sports, combining the thrills of surfing and the tranquility of sailing. It is a sport where you can go off by yourself for some peace of mind, or enjoy the camaraderie of sailing with the crowd of 200 other windsurfers. No sport other than windsurfing can give you the same feeling of being out in beautiful, clear and open water, gliding along effortlessly. A windsurfer has virtually unlimited access to the nations' waterways. It's fun, it's easy - it's the perfect sport.
Most people know Windsurfing to be the brainchild of two southern Californians, Jim Drake (sailor) and Hoyle Schweitzer (surfer), who combined their two sports into a workable, if not somewhat unusual, new hybrid sport. At the same time, Bert Salisbury of Seattle, Washington, met Drake and Schweitzer during a trip to Malibu beach with intense enthusiasm and interest. Without delay, the men obtained patents and soon the world was introduced to this new sport aptly named (as suggested by Salisbury) "Windsurfing". Although it was Drake and Schweitzer who developed the sport into what it is today, the first inventors of the sport of sailboarding should be attributed to Newman & Naomi Darby.
Thanks to American Windsurfing Magazine Newman & Naomi's story came out from obscurity. Although the Darby's name has been mentioned through the years when the origins of windsurfing was discussed, their idea was always referred to as something that didn't work. But in fact, Newman had been working with the idea of a 'free sail' since 1948 and the Darby's were producing and selling their boards in 1964. Their story is a must read and if you haven't done so already pick up Volume 5, Issue 1 or check the American Windsurfer Magazine website. And know this - It was a woman, Naomi, who was the first person to be photographed sailboarding! For more first hand in-depth information check out the Darby Electronic Museum.
On August 20th, 1997 an event organized by Brian & Lorraine Carlstrom was held honoring Newman Darby. The gathering drew a crowd of 300 plus giving the first public acknowledgment of Darby's contribution to the sport of windsurfing.
The heart of both the Darby's and Drake & Schweitzer's co-invention was mounting a sail on a universal joint, requiring the sailor to support the rig, and allowing the rig to be tilted in any direction. This tilting of the rig fore and aft allows the board to be steered without the use of a rudder.
The Darby's phased out their production of sailboards by the late 60s as sales were not going well and it wasn't until Schweitzer's Windsurfer™, which began being mass produced in the early 70s that the fledging sport took off. These durable polyethylene boards were used for all sailing levels, simply because they were the only boards. Beginners learned on them, and experts prevailed on them. Everyone made the Windsurfer™ work, regardless of the conditions. By the late 1970s, windsurfing fever had Europe firmly in its grasp. Europeans, attracted more to individual than team sports, took windsurfing up in masses, and one in every three households had a sailboard, as they were called back then. Dozens of European manufacturers produced their own versions of the Windsurfer™, and a thriving industry was born.
Americans started buying European-made boards, a trend that continues to this day. The early 1980s was a period of tremendous growth for windsurfing. Racing participation was at an all-time high, the professional World Cup tour was born, and the sport was awarded with Olympic status in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Equipment development progressed at a feverish pitch through the mid-80s, as seen when a windsurfer captured the world speed-sailing record at slightly faster than 36 knots. Since then, windsurfers on extremely specialized equipment, sailing winds of 40 knots and above, have pushed that speed up to an incredible level, 45.34 knots. Now, windsurfing is a fully matured sport that is enjoyed by people of all ages.
From riding the biggest waves to simply just going out for a cruise in gentler winds, windsurfing become a very diversified sport. Just as skiing has its downhill and Nordic branches, windsurfing has light-wind and high-wind sailing which, while sharing some similarities, are quite different in both equipment and technique.
Light-wind windsurfing, taking place in winds of approximately 10 knots and under, is done on boards that can easily support a sailor's weight while he or she is not moving. This aspect of windsurfing is an easy, low-energy, relaxing way to enjoy yourself on the water.
Cruising — This is the most poplar form of windsurfing. It is windsurfing in its most simple form. Setting out for a sail across the lake, or going for an all-day island-hopping sail, cruising from point to point is one of windsurfing's most satisfying feelings.
Freestyle — Freestyle is somewhat opposite of cruising. Freestyle sailing involves putting your board and sail through a series of tricks and maneuvers that could include turns, rail rides, sail spins ... anything you can imagine. Some sailors make a career out of freestyle sailing and it is remarkable what they can get a board to do. Freestyle sailing is always a crowd pleaser, and is an aspect of the sport done by all levels of sailors.
High-wind windsurfing is done in winds over 10 knots, but primarily from 15 - 25 knots. At this wind strength, advanced sailors can get their boards onto a plane, and consequently, the lift created from the board's speed allows for the use of smaller and more maneuverable boards. The smaller boards go faster, but require more agility and quicker reflexes to handle.
Slalom sailing – This is the most popular form of high-wind sailing. When the wind is up, sailors can be found out on their slalom boards blasting at speeds up to 40 mph and executing high-speed turns between exhilarating runs. The speed involved in slalom sailing makes this one of the most exciting aspects of the sport.
Bump & Jump sailing – When the winds are good, and the waters are choppy, advanced sailors break out their small boards, and the fireworks really begin – jumps, spectacular speeds, turns, loops and crashes. Bump & jump sailing is like slalom sailing on adrenaline, and takes place wind between 20 and 40 knots, in the wildest waters imaginable.
Wave sailing – The most spectacular, as well as the most athletic and difficult aspect of the sport is wavesailing. Any ocean or gulf could produce wavesailing conditions, but the best are when there are open swells breaking parallel to the beach, and the wind is blowing along to the beach, or side-shore.
The Truth about Myths
Some people say windsurfing is hard to learn. The truth is – nothing could be further from it. The only time windsurfing is difficult to learn is when people try to learn on the wrong equipment in the wrong conditions. With the right equipment, most people are comfortably sailing around after a two-hour lesson.
Others say you need to be strong to windsurf. The truth is – windsurfing is like golf when it comes to strength. Muscling it will get you nowhere. This is a finesse sport, where 100 pound women can windsurf as easily and as well, if not better than a guy twice their weight.
This leads to the next myth, that windsurfing is a guy's sport. Remember, windsurfing is not a strength sport, it's a finesse sport. And who has more finesse? Just take a look through any windsurfing magazine, and have a look at how many women are enjoying the sport.
Maybe you've heard windsurfing is expensive. The truth is - it can be! But is can also be cheap. $500 can get you a good, basic setup, and from there, you have no lift tickets, no registration fees, and the wind is free!
Or maybe you think you have to be young and athletic to windsurf. Hardly! Sure, many windsurfers look very athletic because windsurfing can be great exercise. But windsurfers come in all shapes and sizes and certainly all ages.