The team review the boards on which you should successfully be able to perfect everything from your Robin Hood (gybing) to your Jackie Chan (tacking)!
If you’re reading this then you’ve obviously got the windsurfing bug and can’t wait to get out there again – but haven’t decided on your first board yet. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Read on and we’ll help you find a gem!
You’ve actually come into the sport at a great time because windsurfing manufacturers are generally all now producing outstanding improver boards. If you know anyone that was introduced to the sport in the ’80s or ’90s you’ll no doubt have heard them go on about the huge longboards they learnt on and how hard it was back then. And that was just carrying the things down to the beach! Whereas anyone talking about their first experience from the early part of this decade will tell you about learning on a board that was almost as wide as it was long – not looking too different from your dining room table! Luckily, these two extremes have now met somewhere in the middle, and the equipment you can buy today will help you to improve far more than anything from the earlier mentioned eras. This is important to bear in mind if you’re tempted to get a secondhand board, but more on that later.
If you’ve scanned our magazine and online classifieds you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of different boards, sails, masts, booms and ancillaries available. Fortunately, the market isn’t as complex as it looks, because most of that equipment is for more advanced windsurfers. All you need to be looking at is something that’s very stable and easy to balance on that can help you to progress from beginner to winner in no time.
The first and only real thing that you need to understand when buying your improver board is that it needs to be reasonably wide, so that it’s stable enough for you to learn and progress on. The first board you probably stepped on at a UK or overseas centre will have been between 90-100cm wide – pretty much the widest available. We don’t recommend buying one of these as your first board. Instead you’re much better off using one at a centre until you’ve grasped the basics (uphauling and turning around), and then buying something a little bit narrower that will give you more room for progression. The width generally regarded by most gurus as ideal for average weight improvers is around 80-90cm. It is in this size bracket where you’ll find the majority of improver and family fun boards, which are excellent for moving you forward from basic beginner to being competent at a number of skills needed in higher winds – waterstarting, harness, footstraps, etc.
All the boards in this range will have a retractable daggerboard system, which will make the transition from non-planing to planing windsurfing very easy. The daggerboard provides added stability and will help you to make ground upwind. Once you move into planing windsurfing in stronger winds you simply adjust it with your foot so that it’s no longer in the water. This versatility makes it one of the most user-friendly boards you’ll ever own! They are often worth hanging on to for this reason. You can always go back to using it in light winds, and one day teach your friends and family on the same board.
This article was put together with the help of a panel of experts comprising current windsurfing instructors, instructor trainers and centre managers. Because they are in constant contact with beginners and intermediates they were able to provide excellent (and invaluable) feedback.
The secondhand market is bulging with kit. Although some of it may seem like an absolute bargain compared to new, tread very carefully. A full setup going on eBay for a tenner may seem like good value for money, but trust us, it’s far from it. After your first go the only thing you’ll be doing with kit like that is taking it straight to the tip!
If you’re not ready to buy new just yet, then consider joining your local club and renting kit. At least then you’ll be using the up to date equipment we’ve been talking about here instead of some old rubbish. Otherwise, head to your local retailer and see what deals they have. Good secondhand improver boards are often like gold dust and therefore hold their value, so if you’re thinking about the long term then a bargain like the Fanatic Viper package at £799 will do you proud. If your budget is really tight, then a good first stop is the BOARDS online classified section (www.boards.co.uk). You’ll find no shortage of kit up for grabs, with the added bonus that there’s plenty of free and friendly advice available from our forum, where the regulars will be happy to steer you in the right direction.
SB’S TOP TIPS
New to the sport? Want some tips to take to the beach? You’re in luck! Our technique editor and creator of the RYA’s coaching methodology, Simon Bornhoft, demonstrates some influential skills that’ll last your whole windsurfing career…
Tilt and head upwind!
Uphauling doesn’t need to be back-breaking. You may well be taught to position the board directly across the wind and stand either side of the mastbase when uphauling. This is fine in zephyr winds with a tiny rig, but I suggest upgrading your uphauling technique to cope with stronger breezes, normal size sails and a moving pitch.
1 Adopt a wide foot spread and position both feet to windward of the centreline:
2. Lean back, semi raise the rig and push through the feet (usually more on the back foot) to turn the board virtually into wind:
3. Then place the front foot right on the windward edge of the board, pushing down as you start to uphaul. Digging the windward rail tilts the board to lever against the mast, which massively assists in releasing the rig from the water:
slightly, pushing through the feet to ensure the board heads more upwind than across the wind. This encourages the rig to be drawn forwards from the back of the board, which makes everything more stable and lighter when getting going.
Now you’re up, here are some fabulous skills to work on!
Good vision plays a huge role in developing control, balance and confidence. Always look in the direction you want to go. So if you want to head upwind, look upwind. If you want to head downwind, look downwind. Avoid gazing down at your feet!
Aim to keep the board as flat as possible. Ideally the front foot faces forward to control pitch, and the back foot faces across the board to control tilt.
• At lower speeds adopt a narrow foot spread, positioning both feet forward and inboard.
• At higher speeds adopt a wider foot spread, shifting both feet back, outboard, and weight the heels.
• Pushing through the front foot helps to turn downwind.
Have a continuous objective of maintaining a distance from the rig (by extending the front arm) and always opposing the rig’s pull, position and movement with your body. So if the rig pulls or moves one way, the body moves in the opposite direction.
• Rig back, body forward when heading upwind.
• Rig forward, body back when heading downwind:
POWER & STANCE
The term ‘power’ refers to directing the rig’s forces into forward motion. To achieve this, the clew (back end of the boom) is sheeted in over the board’s tail by extending the rear shoulder away from the rig and outboard. As board or wind speed increase, sheet in more, and most importantly lower your body position to pull down on the boom.
• In lighter winds, adopt a hand spread just inside shoulder width.
• In stronger winds, adopt a hand spread approximately shoulder width.
‘Stance’ is all about your body.
To develop a good stance, imagine your body forming the shape of a number ‘7’, always trying to keep your shoulders outboard of your hips. Avoid heavily flexing at the waist and excessively bending or pulling on the arms. If you straighten the ‘7’ by locking and tightening the torso you become more stable and effective in lighter winds (see pic):
To resist a powerful rig and cope with higher speeds, you’ll find dropping your hips down and leaning the whole body more outboard is far more effective than standing up and pulling on the arms. So flex that back leg, force the shoulders further outboard and drive through the front leg to adopt a low ‘super-7’ stance:
Don’t go out in strong winds, strong currents or offshore winds. Wear buoyancy when new to the sport, but most importantly enjoy it and get good lessons!