Windsurfing is an exhilarating sport that combines the best of two other
sports -- surfing and sailing.
Windsurfers 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.
Windsurfing 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
Experts 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|
Others 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."
Still, 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.
Judith 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
While 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.
Depending 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.
Windsurfing can be done alone, but experts say you should surf with other
people, for fun and safety reasons.
You 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.
When 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.
Windsurfing 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!
Some 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.
If 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
Start 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.
For 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.
When 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.
326 East Merritt Island Causeway, Ste. 300
American Windsurfing Industries Association
1099 Snowden Rd.
Find out what's happening with this sport in Australia