Windsurfing has become one of the most popular forms of watersports and over the years we’ve seen a growing trend with high-impact, exhilarating and extremely fun ways to spend your time on the water. This form of sailing gives you complete control over the board while allowing the wind to propel you forward while using the force of the waves to surf.
Combining many forms of watersports including sailing and surfing that can be done on the ocean, lakes, rivers and even estuaries, the versatility of windsurfing is what windsurfers love the most. To date, very few forms of watersports combine the physical, mental and psychological aspect windsurfing gives you while being open for all experience levels and ages.
This windsurf buyer’s guide details everything you need to know from learning to windsurf, buying a board, and everything in between.
What is Windsurfing?
Simply stated, windsurfing combines the elements of surfing and sailing propelling you forward using the force of the waves to surf. Unlike surfing, the wind instead of the waves is what causes you and the board to move and like sailing, the sail is what’s used to control the direction of the board. The windsurf board is much larger than a standard surfboard and is heavier.
Windsurfing inherits both the laid-back lifestyle of watersports and more of a rules-based approached seen in sailing. The learning curve is more than other water sports, but once the basics are understood, windsurfers can perform inverted loops, jumps, spins, and other freestyle type moves that cannot be achieved sailing.
Choosing the right windsurf board is the single most important decision you’ll have in being successful on the water. Advances in technology have changed the shape and weight of the board itself giving windsurfers a competitive advantage.
A windsurf board that weighs more is what’s recommended for beginners. Offering more of a stable ride, boards with more volume offer better balance and makes it easier for the user to raise and maintain the sail.
As you progress in experience, you’ll want to choose a board that weighs less. Intermediates and especially advanced windsurfers traveling at faster speeds will find high volume boards are harder to control with rough seas and higher winds.
There are many different types of boards which are discussed in detail below, but some simple things to consider include:
- Wider boards (except competition style) provide more stability and area easier to learn on
- When buying a windsurf board, make sure it’s modern. Older boards, even boards with high weight do not have the weight well-balanced causing the board to be unstable. Older boards seem to have too much weight in the front and not enough in the back. Weight and width in the tail of the board improves early planning and stability.
Types of Windsurf Boards
There are primarily four different types of windsurf board with each offering their own unique ride. Experience plays a big part in which type of board you choose which is better explained below.
Recommended for advanced windsurfers who are physically fit, formula windsurf boards are the only boards worth considering. These boards provide more speed and power but are much harder to control when the wind picks up. These boards were built to be outfitted with larger sails 40”+.
These boards are wider and weigh more, but are flatter, stable and easy to control in light to moderate wind conditions. During times of higher sustained or gusts of wind, these boards are hard to control due to the large sails.
Freeride windsurf boards are the most popular. These boards are perfect for intermediates and advanced windsurfers and provide a great deal of speed with higher winds. Weighing less and offering less width than beginner boards, where the weight is proportioned is very important with freeride boards.
The tail of the board should have a good amount of volume as this is where you’ll be standing. Freestyle boards with not enough weight in the tail will be harder to control while turning and too much weight in the tail will be harder to control in high winds.
Because freestyle boards are lighter and narrower, they’re easier to maneuver and offers a smoother ride in choppy conditions.
Freestyle boards are wider and slightly shorter than other types of windsurf boards. The weight also differs and is spread evenly throughout the board making it easier to maneuver and provides a larger platform for performing freestyle tricks. These boards are relatively simple to turn despite the volume and were designed to be used on waves or flat water.
Wave boards, or Pure Wave Boards are significantly lighter than other types, many lighter than the riders themselves. These boards tend to have very soft rails and are popular in places with larger waves like Hawaii and best suited for more experienced windsurfers.
Windsurf Board Size
Like most water sports, size matters. The ideal windsurf board should match the rider’s weight in pounds (liters). This is especially the case with light to moderate wind conditions which makes the board easier to control and maneuver.
Below, is a recommended size chart broken down by board weight and rider experience level.
|Experience Level||Recommended Board Weight|
|Beginner||Less than 100 pounds (liters)|
|Intermediate||120 – 160 pounds (liters)|
|Advanced||Less than 100 pounds (liters)|
After the board, the sail is the next thing to consider before purchasing a new windsurf board. The size of the sail should match your experience level as the overriding factor is control the sail itself and not the other way around. A sail that’s too small will not provide you the type of exhilarating ride you’re looking for, and a sail that’s too big will be too difficult to control.
Below, is a detailed chart on the recommended windsurf sail based on speed and wind.
|Sail Size||Speed (mph)||Wind(kts)|
Windsurf Board Features
There’s more to a windsurf board than the board and sail. Some features are added to provide better traction while other board like a fin help improve user control while proving more speed and maneuverability.
Other windsurf board features to consider include:
Not all boards include a fin and not all can be outfitted with one after the fact. Choosing a board that can be extended with a fin will help provide greater speed, control and makes it easier to maneuver.
There are also different types of fins that serve different purposes including:
- Straight, narrow and upright – improves speed, but provides greater lift making the board harder to maneuver and control
- Curved and slanted – less speed as it has more drag, but easier to maneuver and control
Foot straps are recommended for intermediates and more advanced users. These simple, but essential foot straps are worth considering if you’re looking to perform tricks, stunts, or looking to get some air between the board and the wave.
A mast box uses a slot to connect the board to the sail or any other equipment.
Tips to Get Started
If you’re just starting out, below are some valuable tips to help you master the art of windsurfing:
- If you’re a beginner never windsurf barefooted. Wear booths with rubber soles or neoprene shoes which help prevent your feet from slipping and helps protect them from rocks or other equipment affixed to your board.
- Borrow a board from a friend instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars before knowing windsurfing is for you. The board and equipment will be costly, unless you’re sure you’ll be using it regularly.
- Seek out a local class or turn to YouTube for beginner basics. Unlike most other water sports, windsurfing is harder than it looks. As a beginner, having a guide or a resource to turn to will save you a lot of frustration, and possibly an injury.
- Hold off on buying hardware until you’ve progressed past beginner. Odds are after you feel comfortable, you’ll be buying a new windsurf board anyways. Buying hardware for your starter board that is not compatible with the next board would not make any sense.
Windsurf Board Reviews
Odds are if you made it this far, you’re looking to get to get your feet wet. We’ve tried, tested and researched the best boards out there to bring you the best, unbiased windsurf board reviews you’ll find anywhere. Feel free to browse our huge collection below or at the top of this page.