You've taken a lesson and got stoked! You've
begged, borrowed, or rented gear to get out a few times;
and, now you're sure -- THIS IS IT! -- I'M READY TO GET
INTO THIS SPORT FOR REAL. You're thinking --I gotta
get my own stuff, but... just what do I need?
Well, you need 5 pieces: a board (with fin),
a sail, mast, boom, and mast base/universal joint assembly.
(Oh, that's right...you need two other things -- wind and
open water -- but those are free.)
Let's consider the five components individually;
but, if you don't want to read my advice below, then just
click on these suggestions...
HiFly's MOTION and MAMBO
Exocet's CRUISER - Starboard's START
Sails (value-packaged as complete rig with mast, boom,base/U-joint)
Mistral's EXPRESS RIG North's DRIVE rig
board to start on?
That question is easier to answer in 2005 than ever
before. (Less expensive, too!) Since the
revolution in equipment over 6 years ago
-- see more on this below -- manufacturers have
finally pretty much gotten this entry-level, or
"first board", concept wired in. Choices
are fewer and simpler because we've learned what
really works in boards of this class.
Even though windsurfers come in
all shapes, sizes, and abilities, all beginners
should look for boards that are stable,
and capable of intermediate
skills (so you don't outgrow it
so quickly); and, now, manufacturers are able to
make boards with all five characteristics, or at
least 4 and 1/2, in one board. No longer is the
first board choice all about where you're willing
to make a trade-off, i.e., lightweightness
for greater durability, or greater initial
stability for future higher performance.
After 6 years of trial, some error, and a lot of
success, the many various brands of "first
boards" have melded into one overall basic
design. Of course, there are some bells and whistles
added here or there, and still some relative
differences. Therefore, my choices presented here
have been reduced to about 4 models in '05 instead
of 8 or 9 as in previous years. All are better than
2 or 3 years ago. All are less expensive than even
Let me elaborate on two of the
board design characteristics. One is " capable
of intermediate skills". If you call me
to discuss board choice, we'll talk about this for
sure. Once you become an advanced-beginner level
windsurfer, you would be able to notice, if you
had alternatives to test, that a given board will
have natural capabilities that another may
not, relatively speaking. Some boards seem inclined
toward easier manuvering
and upwind ability while other shapes
are built for early planning
and speed in light winds. This distincton
in '05 "first board' models is so reduced --
you really can get both! -- that my bringing it
up may seem confusing now. However, this general
performance dichotomy is endlessly discussed in
the world of windsurfing board design. You might
as well be aware it's out there. Your personality,
goals in the sport, and general athletic ability
will determine which factor concerns you most. But,
as I said, among current designs listed here, it's
not as big a deal as it used to be. But, in the
...There are a couple other things
you need to think about. 1) the usual conditions
you can expect to sail in most of the time, and
2) your lifestyle -- how often will you be able
to get out there on the water? This brings us to
the other design characteristic worth some elaboration:
most cases you will be able to get to the lake or
beach only when you have scheduled time off -- which
is not necessarily when the wind is blowing at 15+mph.
It may be 5 mph and puffy or it might be a steady
"lake wind advisory", yet, that's the
day you're off and ready to go. You want the equipment
to "work" as well as possible in whatever conditions
you encounter. I want you to have fun the first,
as well as each and every time thereafter, you go
windsurfing. Also, the frequency with which you
get on the water will greatly determine how fast
you progress. If it can't be weekly, you need gear
that is forgiving and doesn't require all your attention
on balance each time you get out. Stability,
which comes from volume and width, is the
key to (1) drastically reduce the learning curve
and (2), more importantly, have fun from the very
The revolution in equipment
that resurrected this sport (around the '97 - '98
season) was initially all about "light-air"
sailing. One company began to make ultra-wide boards
for greater stability, ease of learning, and ability
to "plane" in much less wind. Their success
was unbelievable. Soon, all manufacturers followed
suit with very wide recreational boards; and then,
the next season, increased width was incorporated
into all classes of boards (except the extreme "wave"
boards). Boards were made shorter and the volume
(floatability) was built into the middle to the
rear of the boards where the rider stands. Initially,
I was worried about this whole revolution -- I feared
the sport was going to become "wind platforming"
and the whole sensation of surfing
would be lost to beginners. But, now, several years
have passed and shapers have learned how to enhance
the wide designs to achieve higher performance boards
that are quite stable, get on a plane easily, cruise
comfortably, and maneuver turns in a similar fashion
to a traditional short board. Now, that was a true
#1: A Word on Width:
As 4 or 5 years have gone
by since the "revolt" began, some brands
just think boards can't get too wide. They went...um,
overboard. If 100cm is OK, why not 110?; why not
120? They are wrong-- boards can get too wide to
perform "all-around" as they say. Too
much width = excess drag, weight, and bulk that
will hold you back in several categories. You can
get all the stability any reasonable person needs
without going there. I do list one of these "too-wide"
boards here simply because they still meet certain
needs.) And, concerning length,
a board can definiely be too short, also. Stability
is affected by the length axis significantly, but
of even greater concern is how a too-short board
narrows the margin for error in the critcal sail
trim, or angle, that all beginners work hard to
maintain in order to sail comfortably across the
wind. I NEVER ever teach in the sub 280cm boards
for that reason. I have a "too-short' model
listed below due to its one patented, unique feature
that certain individuals might value.
Note #2: A word on Centerboards:
In the first 2 or 3 years of this revolutionary
change to shorter, wider boards, the board shapers
eliminated the centerboards, or daggerboard, that
had traditionally been in the very long boards beginners
started on. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Upwind ability,
the beginners biggest challange, was heavily sacrificed.
Manufacturers tried to correct this by adding center
fins, side fins, and junk like that with questionable
results. However, one brand, F2, in 2002 realized
this and their first "revolution" board
-- The DISCOVERY -- had a standard retractable
centerboard. Why not? Indeed. Now, in 2004,
almost all the "first boards" have standard
said all that to say this: My goal is to help you
get a board that is (a) stable platform for learning
and carefree light-air cruising at the lake, (b)
has high-performance characteristics so you can
progress through all the intermediate skills, such
as planning in the footstraps, getting in the harness,
going FAST under control, and perhaps carving your
first jibe, (c) is easy to handle and durable out
of the water,and (d) a good value. So, relax! --
It's easier than ever to get the right board and
be successful in this sport -- for everyone! I'm
ready to discuss any of these factors mentioned
here with you personally.
SURE YOU DON'T BUY A USED BOARD THAT IS NOT FROM
THE WIDE REVOLUTION OR IS FOR ADVANCED WINDSURFERS.
For guaranteed success, here are my 2005 "First
Board" recommendations. (Click on the hyperlink
to see the board and specs.) Remember, MSRP
may not be my price -- there is room for meaningful
discounts on some models -- and NO national catalog
mail order house beats me or would dare to match my
no-hassle guarantee of satisfaction.
"N-Trance" -- (MSRP: $999; add EXPRESS
rig, $359, or North DRIVE rig, $569) Only slightly
refined in 2005, this model has become "the
one" in first board design. Developed in '04
after extensive testing of all major entry-level
boards on the market, including classic "old
school" beginner boards up to the latest, most
extreme "wide body" designs, Mistral launched
the N-Trance , a board of superior performance
in planning and sub-planning conditions. They focused
on a correct length-to-width ratio and Even
Volume Distribution to provide stability
on both axis, upwind pointing, and improved
high-wind control. Two models, both within my not-too-wide,
not-too-short requirement: One is 280cm long and
80cm wide with 199 liters of volume. The other,
the XL, is 290cm long, 90cm wide with 220 liters
which will give heavyweights plenty of float, but
in a narrower tail, manuverable performance package!
Wow. Add a, comfy and protective EVA rubber-like
deck all over, High Resistance Skin, many footsrap
positions, and a traditional retractable
daggerboard for "get me back to home" ability
-- shoot, this is it!
Trade-offs: Not lowest price of
all boards here
"Motion" and "Mambo" --
(MSRP: $749 or with a North Ultra 5.5 sail
rig, $999.99) These are dagger-board equipped,
poly extruded blow-molded boards that are the ultimate
in durability and very affordable.
HiFly is all about windsurfing with no worries,
mate! Great choice for a family or beach house situation.
These models have the same material as it's big
brother, the Primo, on which I teach and more people
in the world have taken their first windsurfing
lesson than any other. Bombproof.
Lifetime guarantee! "Motion"
is longer and wider, more floaty (290m x 90cm x
219 liters) than the "Mambo" (275 X 80cm
x 175 liters). Heavy out of the water at 41 and
35 lbs respectively, but in the water maneuvers
nicely, accelerates smoothly onto a plane, and glides
easily through the water. Extend the retractable
daggerboard to gain stability and upwind performance.
Mambo is not for mid-to-heavyweights in the 180
Trade-offs: not lightweight; somewhat
less top-end performance compared to some models.
"Cruiser" -- (MSRP: $899) A very successful
selling design primarily due to it's ease-of-transportation
feature, a unique roller on the tail and a handle
cut-out at the nose. Roll it around like luggage!
You don't have to carry it. And, hey, that cheap
price is nice! Another great family or lake/beach
house board. It shares a lot of features with other
boards here: overall EVA (rubber) deck, very durable.
Large size is super wide at 100cm, volumizing at
205 liters, and has a retractable daggerboard. Medium
size is 150 liters and 87cm wide -- suitable for
lightweights, kids only. These boards are approaching
the too short at 270cm long. Stability from front-to-back
can be an issue and also requires more precise sail
positioning to track across and upwind.
Trade offs: a bit heavy in the
water; short shape creates sail handling issues.
"Start" -- (MSRP: $902 to $958) The
board that makes windsurfing accessible to anyone
of any ability, age, weight...or attitude.Super-wide,
ultra-stable, rubber-decked learning platform that
is hard to fall off of. Several unique features.
Domed in the rear of the deck melds to concave up
front with a subtle center ridge to help beginners
feel the centerline. Unsurpassed security and comfort
for rapid learning. Great for the timid beginner
or family goofing-around on the occassional trip
to the beach or lake. Updated in '05 with a super-smooth,
retractable "Clipper Box" center fin system
and a shallow-water rear fin supplied as standard
equipment. Comes in '05 in 3 sizes. All are very,
very short. The (orginal) Large, at 101cm wide X
253cm longand 34 lbs, can be a handful on land but
has a carrying handle. It's not a board to take
you to the intermediate level. The M is 205 liters
and 258cm long X 90cm wide. The S is 235cm X 85cm
Trade-offs: limited capabilites;
very short length affects sail handling; propietary
Prices are plus freight which can be from $50 TO $85.
(The nationwide windsurfing mail order catalogs charge
freight too.) If at all possible, I'll also lend hands-on
help to set up the rig and be there to make sure it's
and Sail Recommendations
Sails from the last 3 to 4 years are also much better
than the old beginner's rigs. They are lighter
weight and often without mechanical cams
(where the batten meets the mast) so they rig
easier, uphaul (lift from the water) easier,
and transition from one side to
the other on turns much easier. Most men
should start with something in the 6.2 to 6.7 sq.
meter range. Lighter women, something closer to 5.5.
I often have good close-out deals on some sizes of
' 04 and ' 03 sails. Some used ones out there are
quite suitable. Things I would want to talk with you
about: Should you get one or two to begin with?
Which size(s)? Are you planning to take
it in the ocean? Are you going to go out whenever
it blows...or just whenever?
a couple of really good values out there on quality
"first" sails in complete rigs that include
mast, boom, and extension.
The NorthSails DRIVE is a quality
rig package (with excellent 30% carbon mast) at
$560 or upper $200's to low $300's for sail alone.
Nothing is in it's class quality-wise at that price.
I've touched, felt, inspected, and tested it personally.
North, the world's largest sail maker, is proud
to have their name on this model. Simply the best
economy sail I've ever seen. You can get thesail
alone and scrounge a used mast or boom, base and
extension, or let me complete a reasonable package.
All sizes, from 3.7 to 7.0 rig on a 430 mast! For
the entry level, it's da bomb!
The Mistral EXPRESS is a quality "kit"
economy rig. At. $359 for 5.5 or 6.5 with an epoxy
mast and all monofilm sail, boom, base/U-joint.
All you need in the basic rig package.
You can't hardly beat Hifly's ULTRA
rig price when you buy a HiFly Motion or Mambo board
-- $280 additional dollars for a very nice, lightweight
sail (made by the world leader, North Sails), epoxy
mast, basic aluminum boom, AND the U-joint/ mast
base. All you need. These "kit" sails
are much, much better performance-wise than kit
rigs from just a few years ago, but the main trade-off
for the low price is the over-all weight and durability.
They are heavier and less rugged than most of their
high performance counterparts.
I have in stock the boom you ought to get.... $99.
A super value in a quality aluminum boom by Chinook.
These are exactly like the boomI started on and often
still use; they're $30 cheaper than other manufacturers
and way less than hi-tech carbon ones you don't need.
||The mast: For years,
most beginners started with a basic epoxy for $95.
I did for my first 2 years. But, the other lighter
option is the carbon-composite which,
for the basic 30 % carbon one I would recommend, you
jump to about $195. They are lighter and more responsive
and someday you will want one. For now, choose betwen
the epoxy or 30% carbon, unless you can easily afford
a higher percent carbon and lightness of the rig is
very important to you.
base and Universal joint
FIRST, A WARNING: If you get this
from your brother-in-law that has an old, obsolete
mast track andmast base/U-joint system, you will
be very mad when you realize that, if a piece of
this system breaks, that's it -- the board is
worthless.The sail, mast, and boom should work
on another board, but if you can't find the obsolete
replacement U-joint parts -- and I'm pretty good,
but I can't work miracles --just toss out the board.
To prevent this from happening, call me before you
buy that used stuff. I'll go over it with you.
and mast bases are really simple, but there are
several systems out there. Only two are really standard
and soon it will be one, in my humble opinion. Let's
go over it. The mast base extension
sticks into the bottom of the mast and has the imbedded
pulley wheels on it for downhauling the sail. They
come in 3 or 4 lengths and each is adjustable in
the amount of length they add to your mast. You
only need one. This allows a given mast to adjust
to fit a variety of sail sizes. Get a longish one.
Why not? It only costs a few bucks more and then
you have more flexibiity.
An extension is made to accept a U-joint/mastbase
(also commonly referred to as just the
mast foot or mast base) of the same
style. There are only two current styles: (1) the
double push-pin cup , or (2) the Euro-pin. Either
is perfectly fine and readily available in shops,
etc. This universal joint top piece inserts
into the bottom of the mast base extension adn locks
in place. The flexible piece of the U-joint comes
in two shapes and materials, the black rubber hourglass
or the orangish-looking urethane tendon.
Either is fine. The bottom of the U-joint assembly
usually has a threaded bolt and stainless or brass
square washer to insert in the mast track of the
board. Then, there is a mechanism to tighten down
the whole assembly to the board, usually by twisting,
which pulls the washer up tight inside the mast
track. (Yep, can you believe that? -- it all comes
down to that washer holding the sail to the board!)
I sell and use myself Windsurfing Hawaii, Chinook,
and Streamlined brands of extensions and U-joints.
Expect to pay about $55 for the longest mast base
extensions. The Windsurfing Hawaii STAR foot "twist
and release" U-joint is simple, reliable, inexpensive
($44) and great for beginners (and you'll still
be using it when you're an expert).
||Other minor necessities
Up-haul line -- get the braided
rope for easy grip -- $18. The basic bungee one
Boom bra pad --
$13. Attaches to the boom at the mast clamp to cushion
the blow if the boom slams into the nose of the
Hand-held rigging tool
That's all, folks!