Windsurfing Information

Insider Info

dotWindsurfing is an exhilarating sport that combines the best of two other sports -- surfing and sailing.

dotWindsurfers stand on what is basically an oversized surfboard. They hang on to a sail that's attached to the board. The sail can be moved in all directions to catch the best winds.

dotWindsurfing is done both on lakes and on oceans. Conditions tend to be less extreme on lakes than on the ocean. Lakes are called "flat water." Ocean surfing, or surfing on lakes with high winds, is called "wave sailing."

"I remember sailing on Lake Michigan in waves much bigger than anything I'd ever sailed in before. The swell past the impact zone was climbing over my head and seemed like a wall at my back," says Marcus Huber, a veteran windsurfer from Michigan.

dotExperts say that while windsurfing was one of the fastest-growing sports in the 1980s, it's slowed down a bit now. The drop is due to the people who took up the sport when it was popular and found out later they didn't have the money or time to continue with it.

"It was bigger during the '80s, but I still think there are lots of people doing it," says Petter Sevenius, a windsurfer from Stockholm, Sweden.

It's obvious this guy has windsurfed before! Windsurfing takes time to learn, but is totally exhilarating once you have mastered it.
Courtesy of: Fabian Frick

dotOthers tried the sport but gave it up before getting good at it. "I think there are millions of people out there who have windsurfed, but only a fraction would be die-hard windsurfers," Huber says. "A lot of people get frustrated in the early stages where they seem to spend more time hauling the sail up out of the water than they do actually sailing."

dotStill, experts say windsurfing is not that tough to learn. It takes a combination of balance, confidence, persistence and determination. And yes, patience. You'll fall off a lot in the beginning, but once you get past this stage, experts say it gets a lot better.

dotJudith Burke highly recommends windsurfing as a great way to get in shape both physically and mentally.

"Young people can learn by cutting down older longboard equipment," she says. "The best learning option for young learners is to join a seasonal windsurfing club in their area that provides equipment, instruction, fun events and ongoing peer support."

dotWhile most committed windsurfers have their own gear, a beginner can rent gear for about $30 to $50 a day. Good used equipment can be had for about $500 for the basics -- a board, mast and sail.

You'll also have to get your gear to the water. This means you'll need some form of transportation that's capable of carrying all your windsurfing gear, which is bulky.

dotDepending on where you surf, you may need a wetsuit. Colder climates and ocean surfing require a wetsuit for both comfort and safety reasons.

"If you break some part of your equipment, you may be stranded in the water for a long time, especially if the tide is strong. In this situation, not having a good wetsuit is life-threatening," says Luigi Semenzato, a windsurfer from San Francisco who surfs near the Golden Gate Bridge.

dotWindsurfing can be done alone, but experts say you should surf with other people, for fun and safety reasons.

dotYou don't have to be in great shape to windsurf.

"For a beginner, just an average level of fitness is fine. If you can walk a few miles or ride a bike for a while, you're probably fit enough," says Dave Cheesman, a windsurfer from Great Britain.

dotWhen you start windsurfing, be prepared for a sore back and arms. This comes from having to pull the sail out of the water all the time. In time, you'll get used to it, and you won't drop the sail as much.

dotWindsurfing is not an especially dangerous sport. Yet windsurfers do have to avoid collisions with objects like boats and other windsurfers. Depending on where you're surfing, you might also have to watch out for sharks!

dotSome windsurfers have turned their hobbies into jobs teaching windsurfing to beginners. They may work in windsurfing shops. While it's fun work, you can't count on it to pay the bills because it's seasonal in most places.

Getting Started

dotIf you're a thrill-seeker and you've got the patience and determination to get through the difficult beginning stage, windsurfing could be the sport for you.

dotStart with a few lessons. It will make things easier in the long run because you'll learn the proper techniques.

Often, shops that sell windsurfing equipment can direct you to lessons. There are also windsurfing schools at some of the more popular windsurfing locations all over the world.

dotFor example, places like the Sail Board Center in Sebastian, Florida; Watersports in Ventura, California; and Hawaiian Sailboarding in Paia, Hawaii, all offer lessons in windsurfing.

dotWhen you first start windsurfing, rent equipment. There's no sense spending a lot of money on gear you might not end up using. Renting while you learn will also give you a chance to think about the kind of gear you will want to buy one day.

When you're ready to buy, attend swap meets held by windsurfing associations, magazines or shops. This can be a good place to get cheap equipment.


U.S. Windsurfing
326 East Merritt Island Causeway, Ste. 300
Merritt Island , FL   32952

American Windsurfing Industries Association
1099 Snowden Rd.
White Salmon , WA   98672


Australian Windsurfing
Find out what's happening with this sport in Australia