Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Modern Windsurfing


An introduction to
the gear and how it

    by James Douglass
for VIMS Sail and Paddle
        Club, 2005
               Basic Windsurf Board
         Footstraps (optional)
                                     Mast groove


   • Bigger than a surfboard, so it floats well, even when you’re
     not moving.
   • Has a small “fin” at the back, and a big, fold-down fin
     called a “daggerboard” in a slot in the middle
   • Has a groove or hole on the deck where the mast attaches.
   • May have 3 or more “footstraps” for use in high winds
  Basic Windsurf “Rig” (Sail and Stuff)
       Sail                                 • The “rig” is everything
                                              besides the board.
                                                             Boom                   Boom head
                                                         (what you hold)           (holds mast)

          Battens (stiff rods)               Can be

              Cutout to attach                                Harness lines
                                              Outhaul line
               boom to mast                                  (red, optional)

                                                    Mast base                  rope (pink)
                            Mast                     extension
                          “sleeve”                 (fits in mast)
                                                                    Downhaul line
for outhaul
              Grommet for downhaul                U-joint (attaches to board)
      Important Numbers and Terms
• # m2 = Meters squared = Sail size. Ranges from ~3 - 12 m2.
  Strong winds require smaller sails. 3 - 6 m2 is appropriate for
• # liters = Volume of board = How floaty it is. Beginner boards
  should be around 200 liters.
• # x # cm = Length and Width of board. Width adds stability.
  Modern beginner boards are at least 75 cm wide.
• Luff length = How long a sail’s mast sleeve is. Mast length +
  mast extension length should add up to this.
• Fin size = About 25 - 70 cm. Big sails need big fins.
• Cambers / Cams / Camber Inducers = Plastic things in the
  mast sleeve of some sails that make the sail curve a certain
  way. Beginner sails should not have cambers because they are
  a pain to deal with.
                     Windsurf Accessories
                                                              Waterproof GPS.
                                                              Global positioning
                                                              system. Can plot your
                                                              course and keep track of
                                                              your distance travelled,
                                                              maximum speed, etc.

                                                                       Life Vest.
                                                                       A.k.a. PFD.
                                                                       Always a
                                                                       good idea.

                                                                  Booties. Neoprene
                           Harness. Lets you use your
                                                                  rubber shoes that
                           body weight to hold the sail, so
Wetsuit. A neoprene                                               protect your feet,
                           your arms don’t get tired. The
rubber suit that gets wet hook in front attaches to a loop        keep them warm,
inside but still keeps you of rope on the boom.                   and help you grip
warm.                                                             the board.
     Longboards vs. Shortboards
• A longboard has a daggerboard and a fin.
• A shortboard has no daggerboard and is usually smaller
  and less floaty than a longboard. It is used by advanced
  sailors in strong winds.
• A longboard with the daggerboard folded up works like a
  big shortboard.


Examples of Longboards and

Longboard         Shortboard
            in Action at
            the Sydney

Shortboards in Action
 Formula Boards - Fat but FAST
• Formula boards are extremely wide shortboards. They can
  hold big sails and “plane” in very light winds. A huge fin
  is necessary to balance out the big sails.
• Formula boards can go upwind better than regular
  shortboards, so they are used for races where you have to
  go upwind and downwind.
Formula Boards in Action
      Hybrid / Beginner Boards
• Cross between longboards and formula boards. Wide like
  formula, daggerboard like longboard. Very Stable.
• Good at slow and high speeds.
• New Olympic Board is a Hybrid.
• Our club has two “Mistral Prodigy” boards (below).
Points of Sail
 = Angle of the sail. Notice sail
 is sheeted in when going upwind,
 sheeted out when going downwind               Upwind
                                            “No Go Zone”
              Going upwind as                10:00 - 2:00
             steeply as possible,
             a.k.a. “close reach”

     Going perpendicular
      to the wind, a.k.a.
         “beam reach”

            Going sort-of
           downwind, a.k.a.
            “broad reach”
                                    Straight downwind, a.k.a. “ on a run”
• Windsurf boards have no rudder, so steering is by moving the sail (at
   slow speeds) and carving with the board (at high speeds)
A) If the sail is over the back of the board, the back of the board goes
   downwind, and the nose points up into the wind.
B) If the sail is over the front of the board, then the front of the board goes


             A                                                    B
                   Turning Around
• You start your turn by steering, then
  switch sides of the board and sail
  when you you get to the maximum
  point of the turn.
• A tack is where you turn upwind and
  walk around the front of the board       Tack
  to get on the other side.
• A jibe is where you turn downwind                 Start
  and walk around the back of the
  board to get on the other side.
• A tack takes you upwind, so if you are
  trying to go upwind, do a tack. A jibe   Jibe
  is faster because you don’t have to
  pass through the no-go zone, but you
  end up downwind of where you
                       Going Upwind
• You can’t go straight upwind, but
  sometimes you need to get upwind to
  get home, or to get around a buoy in a
  race, or whatever                                       Tack
• Close reaches connected by tacks will
  take you upwind.
• How “close to the wind” you can sail
  without hitting the no go zone depends
  on your board and rig, your skills, and
  the wind (see below).                     Tack

Longboard        Formula       Shortboard
                        Floating vs. Planing

                                                                           WOO HOO!

Non-planing mode: The board sits low in the water. The daggerboard is down, and the force of
the sail is balanced out by the daggerboard. Planing mode: The daggerboard is up, and the board
is skimming on the surface. The sail is leaned back over the fin.
                         Balance of Forces
• A big part of
  windsurfing is
  balancing your
  weight against the
  wind and putting
  sideways pressure
  on the fin or
• Formula sailors
  stand on the edge of
  the board but don’t
  tip it because their
  weight is all in the
  sail, and their feet
  are pushing
  sideways, not down.
     Windsurfing vs. Kiteboarding
•   Windsurfing was invented in the 70s and was most popular in the 80s.
•   Kiteboarding was invented in the 90s and is having its heyday now.
•   Kites have twice the m2 of windsurfer sails for the same windspeed.
•   Kiteboarders can usually jump higher and stay in the air longer than
    windsurfers, which is good for showing off.
•   Kiteboards sink when you stop moving, and tangled-up kites get stuck
    in the water, so kiteboarders often need to be rescued by boats.
•   Kiteboarding injuries and deaths are common because the kite keeps
    dragging you over the water / rocks / road etc. after you fall, and the
    kite lines can choke you or sever your appendages.
•   Kiteboarding requires wide spaces free of obstacles, and it takes at
    least two people to launch and land a kite. The Outer Banks of NC are
    a good place for kiteboarding.
•   Windsurfing can be done almost anywhere, in any type of wind.
•   Both kiting and windsurfing are fast, but windsurfing has the world
    sailing speed record of 53.88 mph.

To top