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How YOU can start WINDSURFing

When I started windsurfing, I had access to a chalet on a lake, a van AND a free board with a full rig. Not everyone has all of these elements. If you have NO place to store it when not in use, or no way to transport it, it becomes quite difficult. There is ALWAYS the alternative: KITING. This is an ever-growing sport in terms of popularity. Lessons are available in many places. It stores in a back pack and as such is easily transported in a car, plane, etc...

Should you decide that windsurfing MIGHT still be for you, well then READ ON... :-)

When I got my board, it was about ten(10) years old, I did NOT know of any lessons in town AND there was no opportunity to rent either. RENTING is a bit tricky even today cuz some of the places have "junk" AND are in bad locations - example: Parc Jean Drapeau in Montreal. Junk stuff on a little lake. On the other hand, the lake near Ste-Agathe seemed to have decent equipment on an okay lake and the APVM has decent stuff to rent - you just have to transport it. Just checkout this link:

Windsurf lessons are even trickier. I did not know of NO windsurf lessons in Montreal. BUT NOW THERE IS !! There are professionals who give lessons. Names like Guy Cribb, Dasher, and even Matt n Kevin Pritchard !! If you have the $$, you can go to exotic places and get lessons in nice warm water. Even our local shop auventfou arranges trips with lessons. Yvan explained to me that these islands are ALL about windsurfing. So, it sounds like an all or none experience. I give lessons to friends and family, but few of these people have been bitten by the bug. Always the issue of access, storage and transportation.

Let us assume you still have the will - what to start with ??

No, do not run out and buy the full kit n rig and rush it to the water. There are many aspects that can be learned from the comfort of our armchairs, deskchairs and/or sofas. There is a lot of lingo and concepts that need to be understood before going on the water. My lessons ALWAYS start on shore. Some places actually use what they call "land simulators" where a board on land can pivot about with sail movements. Before going on the water, the equipment needs to be adjusted to the person, they need to understand some basic concepts, try some simple stuff and THEN it is off to the water WITHOUT the sail. Yep, that's right - balance is an important factor. I tried to "teach" one determined fellow, but he lacked the strength and the balance. You do not need to be Mr. Muscle, but you do need some strength, some co-ordination and some balance. Others complain about their backs - strength and technique can usually overcome this, but if you have a bad back, you may want to reconsider...

Before I discourage you completely, let me tell you that if you love water {you then probably know how to swim}, you are gonna have a BLAST. It seems complicated and requires patience, but is a true riot on water. My favourite part is that there is NO motor. 

So, before we speak about equipment, what are some information sources. I used to read magazines and still do, but have lost confidence in their tests. Many suppliers are complaining about these tests more n more. In a world of advertising, don't the big guns always win ? In other words , read em with a grain of salt. Also, the equipment of today just seems GREAT. I read Windsurfing Magazine and WindSport (as of 2015 NEITHER of these magazines exist - Windsurfing NOW is just starting up)

Back in 1999, Windsurfing Magazine {defunct now sinc DEC 2011 :-( } was still recommending longboards as the starting point for windsurfing. Boards were long and narrow with a centreboard. It was within a few years of this that wider boards came on the market - especially shortboards. This trickled to the learner fun boards as well and makes for a great board to start and KEEP. The AHD ZEN that came out as a family board back in 2003 is now just an AHD FastForward with an EVA deck and a centreboard. The Fanatic Viper that came out in 2006 has an 85 cm wide version that works well as a light wind board with sails all the way up to 10-oh. This means early planing and FUN in light winds with a centreboard that ensures one can get back to the launch point.

I am currently looking at products like the JP Funster 180 that is marked as a starter board. It has a 90 cm width which once again means early planing and FUN!! The Exocet RS-7 looks promising too - butt not for a novices...I hope they are available by the time i am ready to buy - in a year or two...{NO cash and quiver is okay for now}

Here is a great video showing windsurf board and rig parts:

On-line information is available on YOUTUBE and websites from magazines.This one is a classic on YOUTUBE - showing a young lady putting together a kit at the beach and the old guy showing off once in a while :-) at least it shows many basic things and terminology. This one has a centreboard and was called a longboard. Some current shortboards are developing centreboards....

This is one example of the vids on the web and there are plenty more. Still NO discussion of YOUR equipment choice. Need to be patient :-) Some DVDs give good advise and one I like is "Beginner to Winner" by Jem Hall.

Here was a magazine link for basics: I still do not know why they seem to use young ladies and bare them. Some people object to this and thus i wish it was a little more "classy". The next video is an extreme and thus CANNOT be taken seriously !!

Windsurfing In High Heels Tutorial from Worn Shoes on Vimeo.

Now that we have that NONSENSE out of the way, let us get down to the real business of windsurfing. Need to learn concepts of wind, parts of the board and some introductory terms like uphaul, etc. Once this is done, time to shop? Sorry, still not. Now time to look about. If you live on Hawaii, everything i have said here so far is probably just silly. There are not just wind and waves, but also people doing crazy tricks. Where do they start. Well, probably at the beach and perhaps at home i.e. family influences - like the Sivers.

So, where you are and your current sports activities have a big influence on how you start windsurfing. If you are already downhill skiing, skate boarding, water skiing or in great shape due to any tough sport with a good sense of balance, you will probably advance more quickly. And as such, you will not want to spend $$ on stuff you will tire of quickly. If you are going to go on a small lake with some wind and just putz around, an older larger longboard with a small sail to start and a larger sail later may be all you need. Modern longboards include the Mistral Malibu and the Starboard GO n RIO. There is much discussion on this on the SB forum:   One option is always theWindGlider. It is an inflatable "toy" that doubles as many water devices where one resembles a windsurfer. One get em used for about $200 and new around $500. If one goes to a lake occasionally and has not much room for storage nor transportation, this may be the option for you ... Again in 2015 they are starting with inflatable REAL windsurf "boards". Starboard called theirs the AirPlane :-)

A brand new option is the SUP board with the option of adding a sail. This could work on a lake as well. I have NOT pursued this option myself. I have however, paddled the BIC Dufour Wing with a canoe paddle and my seven(7) year old son laying down on front ...Here was a discussion/review of the different SUPs that can be used for windsurfing:
SUPs have no footstraps and can go quite fast in light winds - compared to shortboards that will schlogg in light winds...

Here is a SUP being used in light wind for some older freestyle moves:

It is the shortboard world that is the most complex one to start in. You almost need to have an idea where you are going before you start investing dollars. I have seen two(2) cases locally where people purchased $2000 Formula boards which are now on the used market. Even if these are larger boards, they are NOT starter boards. Unless you are going to race locally and winds are light to medium, this is NOT a place to start. I always use the analogy of purchasing a house. When i purchase a house i look for things i like, but i also ensure the house has a good re-sale value. This applies to your first board too. If you outgrow it , change your mind or whatever, it needs to have resale value in your area.

AGAIN, if you can, beg, borrow, steal the first board that you use. I am NOT condoning theft, just trying to say - please do your best to try stuff AND get a real feel for your enthusiasm before buying anything. Since I am NOT a freestyler, nor live in a wave enabled area, i will simply discuss the average joe situation. You live near water, you can swim, and you wanna windsurf in an area where longer runs can happen ie not a small lake.

If you are a heavyweight like myself and my w/s buddy, you will be looking at quite large boards. Luckily these are available, but rarely on the used market ! We are 100 kilos and purchased 160 liter boards at about 80 cm wide. This matches the sail calculator from James Douglass. He uses the formula weight in kilos * 1.3 + 30. Link to this spreadsheet can be found in my windsurf links at the right of the blog. The spreadsheet also states the smallest board for our weight that can be uphauled is 130 liters. This corresponds with information found on Tinho Dornellas' website... This means anything less would need water-starting. See photos here:  Other places suggest a simpler formula for start of liter size -- your weight in kilos + 20 kilos for board and rig + another 20 liters for extra flotation. In other words start with a board where the liters is 40 more than your weight in kilos - for me @ 100 kilos --> 100+40 = 140 liters minimum. Helmut says he wished he had started around here at 140 liters, yet he now has issues getting going with his 135 !! We both started with 7.0 sails which are good to quite high winds. This just means one starts with "smaller" sails. So big board and small sail in light wind - to start. Then increase intensity by just going out in a little more wind. DO NOT SAIL ALONE and NO OFFSHORE winds. Wear a life-jacket !! I wear a helmet in heavier winds and may not be necessary when starting windsurfing. One board I wish I could afford as a heavyweight is the JP SuperLight, but Tinho says his custom is more designed to get heavyweights on the water more often ...In around 2013 I did purchase a JP SuperLight 92, but the BIC Techno Formula was better for people learning - though i do love my JP...

So, lighter person, lighter gear and smaller sails.

As they say in German: "Aller Anfang ist schwer." which means it is always the most difficult at the beginning. For me in this windsurf world, I often wonder if there is an end. There are SO many things to learn and even the things one already does - can all be improved upon. Do I think I could have more fun in another sport or even on a motorbike? Motorbiking is definitely up there for me !!! I have spent as much money as I would have on a bike - on all my windsurfing gear. So, this means for me that I am really hooked. I have never had a bad session. They are all worth talking about. The mishaps are usually more interesting than the average good sailing days :-) Butt that is simply due to silly human nature.

So, get on the forums, read some mags, check some youtube, hang out at the beach, rent if you can, check the local shops {if there are any} and take your time. Wonder if there is some way to get a network started whereby interested newbies could contact veteran or average joe windsurfers to get a first-time lesson on the water ? In Montreal the APVM has a demo day every year and there is usually a session on water. This is the only occurrence I know of such an event here. They also have kid cliniques or camps. Their site is not always up-to-date, but check it out just to see the historical sessions: vous parlez francais n'est-ce pas :-)

If these kids can do it - so can you :-)
It does NOT matter if the board is too large - JUST make sure the sail is NOT !!

I cannot believe that I have NOT discussed the iDo here $%^&*( To make life MUCH simpler there is device , which i feel is a bit expensive, called the iDo which keeps the sail out of the water. This means there is NO hauling the sail out of the water. It means the sail needs to be small and the board needs to be attached to another water device so as not to go away too far ie take off !! For first-timers this removes the big energy killer - uphauling. People spend time just learning that !!! Skip that and go right to sailing :-) Locally I can rent it from the APVM. No problem getting kids started !!!

The riggeek, Henry Thomas, has some decent "how to videos" on vimeo and his website/blog is definitely good for a beginner: 

Here is a sample video about getting in footstraps: {which is a more advanced activity}

In here I do NOT speak much about the how to's. There are many types of windsurfing and many levels. A real newbie MUST get accustomed to the equipment and the location. Here we have newbies, intermediate and advanced or pro as I call them. Newbies start with rigging, getting to the water and uphauling. Slowly one learns about turning called tacking and gybing/jibing. After that one starts working with the harness and going faster called planing. This causes catapaults which forces one to learn foot straps. After that it is high speed tacking and gybing plus any other high speed activity like bump n jump with or without "tricks". Remember the faster you go, the more the risk of injury and damage to equipment. If you try to hold on boom no matter what, these risks are reduced somewhat. Please use common sense at all times. Equipment failure when one is far from shore when no-one is around is NOT fun either. In other words, be careful about windsurfing alone. Do NOT depend on marine help cuz they may be far away !! Play it safe and it is really fun. I hope one day it becomes as popular as it was in the seventies !! That is why I always push the FUN factor. I do NOT need to go fast to have fun, but i am NOT advanced nor pro. Even those folks do things like windskate ie windsurf on land where less wind is required ... I am actually starting to consider this as well since the season between my summer and winter windsurfing seems long this year !! HAVE FUN !!

just found this @ which suggests first longboard, big short board and small shortboard.
and a similar spin - added later:

(Volume in Liters.)




i put the 160 liter entree for 220 pound early planing short board :-)

and here's another fellow who raves about long boards for beginners :

and another spin on starting windsurfing - in less windy areas - that seems to be my way of thinking

"The Kona is a modern LONGBOARD, one of the few built these days (all of them built by the same factory anyway, even the different brands). I am myself a fan of longboards, but you need to know that it is not the prevailing “type” of windsurf most people do . A longboard is a very nice board for light winds, when you want to sail around, go upwind like a sailboat, etc. and can be a good option for learning.
They are very fast in “non planning” conditions but a short board (without dagger-board) will be faster and more fun once you get a handle of the harness and sail in higher winds (over 15 mph).

Consider these option:. You can get an older longboard, like a used Mistral’s Equipe, One design, Pan Am or a Fanatic Ultra Cat (all from early 90’s) for a fraction of the cost of the Kona (say less than $200), and for many things it will likely be as good or even better than the Kona. Note that I am not saying ANY old board, but these models that I am giving you. They were the last longboards to be manufactured, they were at the top of technology when changes in racing rules phased them out (courses went from triangular to slalom), and carbon fiber was not as expensive as today.
With the money you save, buy a new or used “shorter” board, like a Bic Techno 2, a Starboard Go or any board newer than 2000 between 150-180 liters (assuming you weigh less than 200 lbs).
Then in light wind days you can use the long board, if it gets windier you have the short(er) one.
This is just a suggestion, I am sure the Kona is a nice board, it is just that I suspect you will want something else once you get addicted, but I guess you can wait until that happens.
The windiest it gets where you live, the less inclined you should be to buy the Kona. But if windy days are really the exceptions, go for it.


The KONA has become quite popular in Canada. The Worlds in 2013 was one hour away from Montreal and Canada did place well in the top 10. A local windsurfer, Yan aka Sailboarder, swears by the board and sails it in all kinds of conditions. He did better than I did one day in 2012 at BDU on his Kona than me on my 160 liter shortboard. I had rigged a sail a bit large, but that is no excuse... What I am trying to say here is: you can use the KONA ONE to get started, go into bigger winds and then race at the International level !!! It all depends on where you live - I have read that in Australia the KONA is NOT popular ...