Windsurfing is an exciting way to spend time out on the ocean or the lake. If you have the urge to give Boardriding a try and you’re a sailboat enthusiast, windsurfing is the perfect way to extend your skillset. Windsurfing is fun when you’re enduring the hardships of the learning phase, and it’s positively thrilling when you get your technique and riding style down.
While many people prefer to start wind-watersports with kitesurfing, windsurfing is still a popular niche in the watersports community. There’s a big difference between windsailing and windsurfing. While both have similarities, the biggest difference is that windsurfing occurs in the ocean. However, you’re going to need to start your journey to the sea by learning on flat water.
Learning to windsurf well is an achievement in life, and when you get it right, it starts to consume your thinking and lifestyle. You’re always waiting for the next swell and the perfect wind conditions. This guide to windsurfing unpacks everything you need to build your skill from a beginner to an advanced level.
However, it’s going to take some investment in time and effort on your behalf to master the skills involved. How long it takes you to learn to windsurf is anyone’s guess. Some pick it up in weeks, and others take years to get it right.
Everyone’s journey to catching the perfect ride is different, but there are some general guidelines that everyone needs to follow. Read through the guide and mahalo!
Part 1 – The Basics of Windsurfing for Beginners
Before you even think about getting in the ocean, there’s a lot of work to do. You need to understand the dynamics of your equipment and why you need it. You also need a firm understanding of ocean safety, but above all, you need advanced-level riding skills.
It takes some time to build these skills as a beginner. However, it’s a rewarding process. Let’s break down everything you need to start learning the basics.
Understanding the Gear
Start with purchasing the gear you need to learn. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on beginner gear. When you decide you like the sport and want to upgrade, you can drop more cash into your equipment.
A windsurfing board is different from a bard you get for cruising on the lake. The windsurfing board has a similar design to a surfboard, with more rocker in the nose and tail. The tail and nose also feature a more pulled-in design, allowing for high levels of maneuverability on the waves.
There are various boards available to suit your skill level and your weight. The board’s volume defines how much foam it has under the glass to float your body weight. Typically, beginner boards have fatter rails and more foam distribution with rounded noses.
- Windsurfing Foostrap Inserts
- Length: 113 mm / 4.45 inch, Width: 11 mm~18.4 mm / 0.43 inch ~ 0.72 inch,Height: 25.6 mm/ 1 inch
- Hole Diameter: 3.92 mm / 0.15 inch, Distance between holes center: 25.4 mm / 1 inch Square hole size: 13 mm x 9.6 mm / 0.5 inch x 0.375 inch.
- The shortest distance between two squares: 11.9 mm / 0.47 inch
- Color: black Material: plastic
The windsurfing sail is slightly smaller than the traditional sail used on sailboards. When you’re windsurfing, you’re relying on the power of the waves and the wind to drive you forward. The smaller sail also allows for better handling and maneuverability in demanding conditions where you’re changing directions quickly.
Your leash is your lifeline to your board. If you fall, the board could get away from you, leaving you stranded in deep water and reliant on your Personal Flotation Device (PFD) to keep you afloat and alive.
Wetsuit and PFD
Wear a wet suit if you’re in cold water or will be out on the water for longer than an hour. Even though you’re riding on top of the water most of the time, the spray will soak you, and you’re going to fall off every now and again. Use a 2mm suit for warm water and a 4mm suit for cold water. Tropical waters won’t require you to wear a suit, and you’ll cook in it with the heat if you do wear it.
- MULTI SPORT WETSUIT: Wetsuit designed for all water sports like diving, scuba, paddle boarding, surfing, or kayaking.
- DURABILITY: Spot taped at stress points and flatlock seams provide a smooth interior and exterior surface to ensure maximum comfort and durability.
- NEOPRENE: Constructed with premium neoprene for a comfortable and athletic fit.
- 3/2mm neoprene for warmth without sacrificing flexibility.3mm chest panel for added warmth and 2mm sleeves for greater flexibility
- FEATURES: Easy-reach, extra-long leash and easy on with heavy-duty YKK back zipper ; Order the product according to your body measurements.
Find the Right Venue to Learn
After you have your gear ready for action, it’s time to start the learning process. Learning to windsurf isn’t as easy as getting out into the waves right away, especially if you have no previous surfing or SUP experience. Finding your feet and balance takes some time.
So, the best place to start to learn is on flat water. A dam, lake, or lagoon is a great place to build your skills. However, you need guidance when starting your windsurfing journey.
You have the choice of hiring a professional to teach you lessons or joining a windsurfing club near you. If you live in a major city near the water, like Florida, there are dozens of these clubs to join. The club will have resources for the best instructors.
It takes three to five lessons to learn the basics of windsailing. From there, it’s all about how fast you master those skills. Once you’re confident on flat water, you can think about moving into the sea to start windsurfing.
Practice in the Right Conditions – Understand the Wind
As a windsurfer, you have two considerations reading the weather; the swell and the wid. As a beginner, you’re more concerned with the wind until you build the skills to get out on the ocean. Wind speeds over 7 to 10-mph are too high to learn. They are ideal for intermediate windsurfers looking for huge air on waves, but you need calmer conditions to learn as a beginner.
Choose a day when the wind speeds are between three to five mph. As your skills improve, you can go out in stronger winds to start to gain a feel for the changes in the movement of the board and the power of the wind creating more speed.
Prepping the Board for Action
Most windsurfing boards feature construction with a foam core and several wooden stringers running the length of the board to add support and strength to the structure. Some feature foam designs with plastic coverings or fiberglass designs. It depends on the budget you have and your windsurfing style.
The deck of the board will get slippery when wet. Therefore, we recommend buying some aftermarket traction pads for the area around the deck where you place your feet.
Apply the trackpad, and let it cure overnight before taking it into the water.
Most windsurfing boards come with a tri-fin thruster setup on the board’s underside. The fins give you more traction in the wave’s face, allowing you to bottom turn on the wave face and set your rail. For surf conditions under 3-foot, you can usually get away with a single fin to provide sufficient tracking for the board.
Take Time to Practice Out of the Water
After the instructor teaches you the basics, take time to master them out of the water. Spend ten to fifteen minutes a few times a week practicing the positioning of your sail and your posture. Lay the bard out on the grass and practice your technique by moving it around.
Get used to assembling the booms, mast, and sail on land before attempting it in the water. Practice hauling the mast up from the deck of the board, imagining that you’re in the water. A pool is a great place to learn. Just be careful you don’t damage the board’s rails on the edges of the pool, especially when falling.
Part 2 – Getting Out Onto Flat Water
Now that you have the equipment and the basics down, it’s time to start building your skills. As mentioned, it’s not time to jump in the ocean just yet. Let’s get you going on flat water before you hit the waves.
Fid a lagoon, estuary, lake, or dam near you that allows sailboarding. Practice the skills you learned in the session with your instructor until they become second nature. When you have a mastery of the sail in wind speeds of around 10-mph, you’re ready to get out onto the ocean.
Here are the skills you need to master before you get to the next level of ocean windsurfing.
Hauling Your Sail
Hauling the sail from the water while remaining balanced on the board is challenging enough on flat water, but in the ocean, it’s a nightmare. The key to learning the haul is to repeat it until its second nature. The faster you can get to your feet and haul the sail into position, the better you are at completing the move without falling.
Practicing the movement on land or in the pool a few times a week will dramatically fast-track your progress with this vital part of the learning process.
- Lean back slightly into the wind and pull the hauling line using your legs, not your back.
- As the water runs off the sail, it gets much lighter, so prepare for the weight shift.
- Use a hand-over-hand hauling technique on the line until you have the boom within grasp.
- Pull in until the booms are out of the water, allowing the sail to blow downwind.
The mast hand is the hand closest to the nose of the board. Reach for it over the hand holding the boom and grab the boom around 6″ to 8″ to the back of the mast.
- Lean the mast toward the nose over the centerline while releasing the front hand.
- Move that hand a shoulder’s width back and grasp the boom. This is the “sheet hand.”
- Pull in with the sheet hand and lean the mast to the nose.
- Slide the rear foot back into position.
- Make sure you practice completing all these movements in synchronicity.
Most beginners find their board turns upwind, the sail loses wind, and they fall back into the water. You can stop this from happening by leaning the mast forward.
Resume a straight course by leaning back into the mast and turning away from the wind. Make sure you don’t pull the boom in too far as you’ll start to turn to the side.
Use your rear hand to sheet out quickly to dump the wind from the sail if a gust takes you by surprise. After recovering, pull the sheet hand in to resume your course. Don’t let go of the mast hand if it pulls you too far forward. Instead, release the sheet hand first.
Releasing the sheet hand dumps the wind while releasing the mast hand pitches you into the surf.
Keep your posture with your arms slightly bent at the elbows when grasping the boom. Keep your back straight and your knees bent, with a 60/40-split between the weight distribution on your rear ad front foot, respectively. Keep your core tight, and don’t let your but sag out the back.
Keep the front leg fairly pointed to the nose of the board, transferring the sail drive through the deck. When you start sailing at faster wind speeds, wove your feet toward the windward rail to compensate for the pressure of the wind driving the sail over.
Steering the Board
Turning your board requires leaning the mast toward the nose over the board’s centerline to “head-off” or turn away from the wind or “head-up” by turning it toward the tail.
Tilting the mast backward or forward moves the “center of effort” of the board to the front or behind the “center of lateral resistance,” which is the fins.
You might wonder about how it’s possible to surf into the wind. Traveling upwind requires you to sail on a zig-zag course or use a series of “closed-haul tacks” to move forward and reach your destination. Coming about is the technique of turning to the upwind tack, bringing the board’s nose across the wind.
When sailing close-hauled, you can come about by leaning the mast back until the board heads up into the wind. Drop the rear of the boom into the water to pivot the board and slow your speed.
Allow the sail to lose wind and grab the boom handle or uphaul line. Step around the front of the mast while the board heads up.
Lean the mast to the turning side, and the nose will start to move in the requested direction. This technique is also known as the “rope turn.”
When the board starts to come around to the new direction, step around the mast base to keep your back in the wind.
Tip the mast forward when the board turns to the correct direction, and sail on your new course.
You can use the running technique with a broach reach, tilting the mast forward to the nose to sail downwind.
Bring the sail around perpendicular to the board, and lean the mast to the windward side. Steer the board by looking through the sail window, tilting the mast, and boom to the right or left instead of back or forward.
Leaning the sail to the right turns the board left, and vice versa. The difficulty in managing the situation comes from maintaining your balance. Keep your knees bent and your stance just wider than shoulder-width.
When you’re sailing downwind, the jibbing technique works when sailing downwind on a broad reach, and you want to turn to get the wind coming from the other side. Lean the mast toward the board’s nose, and you’ll start to sail downwind.
When the board starts to come around, move your feet so you’re standing with your feet on either side of the daggerboard or fin box. Release the sheet hand from the boom, holding the uphaul line while letting the sail swing over the nose to grab the boom with the opposite hand.
Breaking Down the Sail
Sometimes, the wind goes dead, and there’s nothing to do but break down the sail and paddle your board back to shore. Drop the sail, releasing the mast base from the step. Pull the mast across the board and reach the outhaul line.
Release your outhaul line from its cleat. Let it all the way out, winding through the stainless steel grommet in the sail’s clew. Then, tie off the extra outhaul line and gather the sail around the mast.
Rotate the booms against the mast and sail, place the booms and mast on the board’s centerline, kneel over the mast and booms with them between your legs, and start paddling.
Part 3 – Getting into the Ocean
When you’re confident with your skills, it’s time to hit the ocean for your first surf. Getting into the sea for the first time can seem like an intimidating experience. Follow these tips, and you’ll be just fine.
Rely on Your Training
Remember that you have all the skills you need to get this right. Believe in your training, and practice what you learned on the flat water. Don’t expect to get everything right the first time. Remember, the struggle is part of the fun of learning.
Start in Small Conditions
Pick a day when the surf is two to three-foot, and the wind is around 3 to 5-mph. Use charts like Windy to read the forecast, and you’ll spot the perfect conditions ahead of time a few days before they arrive. Starting small is the best way to get it right.
Stay Comfortable, and Don’t Panic
If you fall, the motion of the ocean dragging you along is very different from falling in the lake. The sea might decide not to let you up for air for a few seconds. The important thing to remember is not to panic. Stay calm and deal with the moment, not the future.
Part 4 – Understanding Windsurfing Safety
Windsurfing is plenty of fun, but there’s also plenty that can go wrong with the experience, especially as a beginner. Unfortunately, everyone has unfortunate incidents with windsurfing; it’s just part of the game.
However, once you make a mistake, you’re likely not to repeat it. So, see the learning experience and making mistakes as an essential part of the learning curve.
Make sure you know the lay of the land and the water in the local area. Speak to lifeguards or read up on blogs about local water conditions before heading out for your session. Use the following tips to ensure you have a safe experience.
What You Need to Know About the Waves
The weaves make ocean windsurfing the sport that it is. When you get onto your first six-footer and charge the face, you’ll understand what all the practice was for as you get the biggest smile on your face.
Download a charting app like Surfline or Windy to assess ocean conditions. Big storms produce bid swell, so make sure you go out on a day that suits your skill level. Just because you see the guys out there in six-foot conditions doesn’t mean you’re ready for it yet.
Take your time to build your skillset and your courage before you find yourself out of your depth in conditions that are too big and gnarly for you to handle.
Always wear your PFD when you’re out windsurfing. If the bard or mast hits you in the head, it could knock you unconscious. Without a PFD, you’ll drown. The life vest keeps your head above water and floating in the upright position, ready for rescue.
- USCG Approved Personal Flotation Device; Perfect for Wake Sports, Waterskiing, Tubing, and Swimming
- Segmented Foam Core And Anatomical Flex Points Allow Unrestricted Movement
- Quick Release Safety Buckles And Heavy Duty Front Zipper Create an Unparalleled Sense of Security
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- Relaxed Fit For The Water Sports Enthusiast Who Wants Some Room To Move
Learning to Fall
Learn to fall gracefully. Sometimes it catches you by surprise, but you have time to brace for the impact in most cases. When you’re traveling at speed on a big wave, falling into the water can be as impactful as falling on concrete.
Holding Your Breath
Practice holding your breath in the pool. It’s very different when you fall from the board in the water. When the wave has you in its grip, 5-seconds underwater can seem like five minutes.
Use Reef-Friendly Sunscreen
Keep sunscreen on hand to stop your skin from burning. However, use reef-friendly sunscreen if you live in an area with reefs.
Wrapping Up – Tell Someone Where You’re Going
Before you head out on your adventure, tell someone where you’re going, especially when going alone. If you don’t return, they can start the search for you. If no one knows you’re gone, it could mean that rescue never arrives.