The Windsurfing Essentials
All the information a windsurfing new comer needs, 3 articles in 1!
What is Windsurfing: Explaining exactly what the sport entails, a brief windsurfing history, as well as why it is a great sport for women and girls to get involved in.
Getting Started: All the information you need if you are thinking of giving windsurfing go!
The Beginners Guide to Equipment: Covering the ins and outs of the types of boards, sails and accessories available and what sort of equipment you might look to purchase.
‘Imagine skimming across the water, wind on your face, water splashing at your feet, just you and the elements, enjoying and appreciating what nature has provided.
Leaving the stresses and strains of everyday life on the shore, and using every part of your body in unison with your equipment, with nothing else to think of except going that little bit faster, making the next turn, catching the next wave or just enjoying being out on the water with friends.
Windsurfing has a different meaning to everyone, but to me that is what it’s all about.’ Amy Carter
What is windsurfing?
Windsurfing is a sport invented in the late 1940‘s, but it was not until 1968 that Hoyle Schweitzer (a surfer) and Jim Drake (an aeronautical engineer and sailor) applied for a patent for the “windsurfer”. Windsurfing is also known as sailboarding, and although this term is not commonly used now, the expression ‘sailing’ with reference to sailing on a windsurf board rather than a boat is used across the windsurfing world.
A windsurfer basically consists of a board, mast, boom and sail. With some good tuition it is easy to learn to rig the board and get out on the water safely, for the first time. The principle of windsurfing is simple; you stand on the board, with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, and hold the sail up with your hands. From this position the aim is to control the board and execute all the different manoeuvres with a variety of techniques. When you learn to windsurf it will be in a safe, calm environment where you can get to grips with the theory and techniques of the sport. After mastering these you can move onto sailing in more challenging conditions and continually improve your windsurfing ability.
There are many different types of windsurfing, from blasting along or learning tricks on flat water, to surfing or jumping in waves, there is an aspect of the sport that everyone can enjoy and excel in.
The number one reason for doing any leisure activity should surely be the enjoyment you get from it. The feeling you get as you are floating across the water is quite hard to explain, or fully understand, until you experience it for yourself. The buzz you get the first time you pick up enough speed for your board to plane over the water is beyond belief. You can chose to make your windsurfing as challenging or as easy going as you like, progressing at your own pace and setting your own achievable goals.
Windsurfing is a complete body workout, it naturally tones your back, arms, stomach, bum and legs. A session on the water will use your cardiovascular system too, but unlike most exercise you won’t be clock watching, an hour or two windsurfing can fly by and rival any gym workout.
Windsurfing is an incredibly social sport, any spot you go to you are bound to meet lots of like minded people to spend time with both on and off the water. As windsurfing inevitably becomes a significant part of your life, acquaintances met through the sport quickly become good friends. There is so much you can learn from other windsurfers you meet, particularly females, which is why this website aims to provides a center of communication for women that windsurf in the UK.
Your local lake is by far the best place to start, providing easy access to learn and progress in the sport, and where ever you are based in the UK you are sure to be near enough to an RYA accredited centre. As your windsurfing level improves you may seek out more challenging conditions, and it becomes possible to travel to some incredibly beautiful locations across the UK, Ireland and the rest of world in search of that perfect spot.
How easy is it for women and girls?
It is a common misconception that you have to be big and strong to be able to windsurf, and although strength may help at the top level of the sport, it is in fact technique that is paramount. Females are widely considered to be better pupils than men, the ability to take a little time understand the theory of what you are doing before jumping straight on a board is definitely advantageous!
Equipment, particularly for beginners, has advanced a great deal in recent years. Boards for learning are now big, stable platforms that are easy to use and still light carry. Sails are made from hightec lightweight materials, and with the production of specific ranges for women, beginners, and children there really is something to suit everyone.
So what are you waiting for? Read on to find out about how to get on board!
Getting on the Water
There is no better way to learn to windsurf than by getting lessons at an RYA (Royal Yachting Association, the governing body of windsurfing in the UK) accredited centre. Here you will be taught by a fully qualified instructor, in appropriate conditions with safety cover, to ensure that you can enjoy and achieve as much as possible in your first windsurfing experience.
Many RYA recognised Training Centres, sailing clubs and schools offer taster sessions for as little as £25.00 per hour. You can check out the RYA website to find a training centre or sailing club that is close to you. There are numerous centres and clubs based all over the country and abroad, both inland and on coastal waters. If you prefer the idea of sunny climates and warm waters then it is worthwhile considering an activity based beach holiday in places like the Mediterranean or the Caribbean. Many of them offer windsurfing as an optional sport and run RYA courses for all levels. Your local travel agent should be able to offer good advice about what is available. Remember to always look for the RYA ‘tick of approval’ to ensure a structured and safe learning environment.
Head to www.rya.org.uk for more information.
The RYA has developed an excellent structured training syllabus that provides complete beginners with a course to learn the basics of windsurfing. There is the National Windsurfing Scheme for adults and the Youth Windsurfing Scheme for youngsters. A windsurf starter course will be your first introduction to the sport, it teaches you the basics, so you are up and sailing around in as little as eight hours.
All the RYA windsurfing courses are run regularly by many RYA recognised training centres and sailing clubs across the country and in various locations abroad. A full list of the training centres can be found on the RYA website. More information about the full RYA windsurfing syllabus can be found here on the RYA website www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining/courses/windsurfing/Pages/default.aspx
What you might need
To learn to windsurf you will need minimal kit as most training centres and clubs will have the windsurf equipment and a wetsuit for you to use, it might be useful to take along something to eat and drink, sunblock, swimsuit, a towel, a warm coat and some wetsuit boots or old trainers if you have them.
Once you have become hooked you will almost certainly want to buy your own kit. There is a whole range of equipment out there, suited to different people for different conditions and disciplines. Take a look at the Beginners Guide to Equipment (below) to find out more about all the types of kit available.
You do not need to buy brand new equipment, especially when you are starting out, there is a massive range of second hand equipment available online and at your local shops and centres. With a bit of looking around you should be able to find a board and sail to suit you for a couple of hundred pounds.
The basic windsurfing accessories you will probably want to look at to start with are a wetsuit, a buoyancy aid and/or harness, and wetsuit boots. Take a look at the Kit Bag section, particularly the On The Water subsection to see the latest products on the market.
Find a Club
There are many excellent clubs around the country that actively promote womens windsurfing and run various courses, social events and racing calendars. It is worthwhile visiting your local club to have a chat with the membership secretary to check out the facilities and suitability of their sailing programme. Many clubs offer a ‘pay as you play’ type package, where you can hire equipment per day or within a monthly subscription. This is a great idea, particularly when you are starting out as you can try different types of equipment while progressing your windsurfing.
Use the RYA club finder http://www.rya.org.uk/wheresmynearest/Pages/WheresMyNearest.aspx to see what’s in your area.
Where to buy
There are a large number of specialist water sports shops and online retailers which stock a good selection of kit, ranging form boards and sails to wetsuits and fashion clothing. Looking in the classified pages of windsurfing magazines or on second hand websites, is a great way to pick up second hand bargains. The notice board at your sailing club may feature good second hand kit at reasonable prices. Buying windsurfing kit can be very affordable if you take the time to look around. Websites such as www.boardwise.co.uk and www.boardseeker.com/equipment.php have great section hand sections.
Check out the FLOW as we often feature and have deals for FLOW members windsurf shops, many windsurf centres will also have a shop, and of course the usual online search engines are a good aid in finding a near by windsurf shop.
Do not be afraid to chat to your sailing school, instructor or ladies through FLOW before making your first investment in a board and sail.
Remember head to www.rya.org.uk for everything else you need to know about getting started!
There are lots of terms used for the different parts of equipment you will need to put together your windsurfer. Here is a run down of the most important ones, explaining what they are and what their job is, don’t be daunted by the list, it is here to help you not for you to memorise!
Board - the piece of equipment which you stand on and floats on the water.
Nose - the front of the board.
Tail - the back of the board, distinguished by having the fin attached to the bottom.
Rail - the sides of the board.
Deck - the top of the board which usually has a rough finish to give grip, which helps you balance.
Fin (also known as a skeg) - found on the underneath side near the tail of the board, it projects out to give stability and lift to project the board along the water.
Footstraps - found near the tail of the board, they are straps attached to the deck which are used in windier conditions to secure your feet to the board.
Mast track - roughly in the middle of the deck, where you screw your deck plate into.
Daggerboard - found on some, but not all boards, like a longer fin which is situated more in the center of the board and can be used when needed to help with stability and direction.
Deck Plate/UJ - attaches the board and sail together.
Rig - collective name for equipment which fits together to drive the board, a main component of which is the sail.
Sail - the piece of material extended over a mast which catches the wind and propels the board.
Clew - the back, pointed end of the sail.
Battens - long strips usually made of carbon, inserted inside the sail to give it shape and stability.
Mast - the tall upright post used to support the sail.
Luff tube - the section of the sail the mast goes into.
Mast base/extension - fits into the bottom of the mast to make it the exact measurement required for a sail, and then attaches to the deck plate/UJ.
Boom - extends from and around the mast, and is what we hold onto while windsurfing.
Uphaul - an elasticated piece of material used to pull the sail up with.
Outhaul - a piece of rope going between the clew of the sail and the back of the boom, pulled tight to set the sail.
Downhaul - a piece of rope running through the mast base/extension which is pulled tight to set the sail.
Harness Lines - lengths of rope covered in plastic which can be attached onto the boom and used in windier conditions to hook into (using a harness) to take the weight from your hands and help keep control of the sail.
The best way to learn exactly how to set up a board and sail is through a qualified instructor on a Start Windsurfing Course or similar.
You will probably start your windsurfing on a relatively big board (more volume and size means more floaty and stable!) and a small sail (light, easy to use with a little bit of power but not too much). Your instructor will know exactly what board and sail will be best to send you out on, taking into consideration your size, the location and the weather conditions.
At the beginning of your windsurfing journey it is probably a good idea to hire equipment, as so many clubs and centres run hire systems it is also very easy, then when you have progressed a little more to invest in your own equipment.
As explained in Getting Started there are many places you can look for new and used kit, as to deciding exactly what to buy your instructors and local centres/shops will be able to advise you, as will the other ladies on FLOW so don't be shy, ask away!
Look out for future articles covering equipment and set up, and check out the On the Water section in the Kit Bag for some of the latest products on the market.