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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.)

If you don't want to read my advice below, then just look at these suggestions...

Boards

HiFly's Motion and MamboStarboard's GO and STARTF2's DISCOVERY 190 and 170Mistral's N-Trance, Trance or PRODIGY

Sails (value-packaged as complete rig with mast, boom)

Mistral's FreeRide • Aerotech's ACTION and AIR models HiFly's (North Sails) ULTRA

Sails (alone)

Norths' DRIVE

What board to start on?
 


That question is easier to answer now than ever before; but, still, there is not one answer for everyone since windsurfers come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. Beginners should look for boards that are stable, lightweight, durable, low-cost, and capable of intermediate skills so you don't outgrow it so quickly.That's five characteristics. Manufacturer's seem to be able to make boards with 3 or 4 of the five, but not all of them in one board.

Also, that fifth characteristic, capable of intermediate skills, breaks down into two general categories. Once you become an advanced beginner-to-intermediate level windsurfer, a given board will have natural capabilities that others will not. Some are given to easy manuvering and upwind ability while other shapes are built for early planning and speed in light winds. Your personality, goals in the sport, and general athletic ability will determine which is best for you.

Sound like too much to consider -- complicated? Actually, it's easier than ever to get the right board and be successful in this sport -- for everyone! Just start with good advice. I would want to discuss each of these these factors mentioned here with you personally.

Beyond these things, 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?

     
 

In most cases you will be able to get to the lake, or wherever, 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 breeze above 12 knots, 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 both 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 beginning. Thankfully, about 3 years ago, the equipment manufacturers realized this.

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. My fears were in vain-- mostly.** Shapers soon were able to enhance the wide designs to achieve true high-performance boards that are incredibly stable, get on a plane easily, cruise comfortably, and maneuver advanced turns in a similar fashion to a traditional short board. Now, that was a true revolution!

(** Well, not completely in vain. As the years have gone by since the revolution, some brands just think boards can't get too wide. 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. America's leading instructor, Tinho Dornellas, in the fall/winter 2002 issue of Windsurfing Magazine, points this out. I list a couple of these "too-wide" boards here simply because they still meet certain needs.)


Mistral's N-Trance is super stable and great for sailors of all abilities
   
  I 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.
   
 
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T BUY A USED BOARD THAT IS NOT FROM THE WIDE REVOLUTION OR IS FOR ADVANCED WINDSURFERS.
   
Board Recommendations
  For guaranteed success, here are my new board recommendations. (Click on the hyperlink to see the board and specs.) Remember, MSRP may not be my price and NO national catalog mail order house beats me or would dare to match my no-hassle guarantee of satisfaction.
   
  Mistral "N-Trance" -- (MSRP: $899) New in 2003, Mistral makes an excellent attempt at "doing it all" in an entry level board. A shortish 270cm length and not-too-wide 90 cm width gives everybody -- even heavyweights -- plenty of float, but in a thin-rail, manuverable performance package! Wow. Add a, comfy and protective rubber deck all over, many footsrap positions, and a traditional retractable daggerboard for "get me back to home" ability -- shoot, at this price, this may be it! (Also comes in two non-rubber deck versions: the TRANCE 201 which is exactly like the N version less the soft deck; and, the TRANCE 191, a longer, narrower (77cm), lightweight version made for the athletic beginner anxious to be at the intermediate level in the shortest possible time. Add a complete sail rig for $330 more. (Trade offs: very little. N-Trance is a bit heavy perhaps at 30lbs.
   
  The Starboard "GO" -- (MSRP: $1349) Ultra wide and very short, thus, very stable; but, all sources claim it is maneuverable and fast on a plane. Comes in 4 sizes suitable for beginners -- 200 liter, 110cm wide model for heavyweights; the 180 liter, 100cm wide model for middleweights; and a 165 liter, 90cm wide and 150, 84 cm wide versions for women, lightweights, and kids.. Full toe-to-tail rubber deck pad makes it super comfortable. It's width can make it unwieldy out of the water but it does only weigh 23 to 27 lbs.. People ride their children and pets on the front of these yet they also win races requiring precise jibes, up and downwind navigation, and speed. Beginners may find this board difficult to keep upwind in lighter wind due to it's lack of a centerboard. (Tradeoff: not low-cost, less durable, no centerboard.)
   
  Mistral "Prodigy" --(MSRP: $ 999) This is a truly unique design. Bestselling board in America in ' 02. Incorporates a very thick convex deck that gives beginners a greater sense of comfort and direction. Tremendous stability for beginners and occassional sailors, but also has interchangeable components you can add later that transform the board from a family-friendly beginner to an all-round performance board in light to medium winds and for racing. (There is a national race class specifically for this board.) Good durability. A bit heavy at 33 lbs., but with more volume (255 liters) than any other board here, it is particularly suited for heavyweights. Add a complete sail rig (5.7 or 6.7) for $330 more. (Tradeoff: not lightweight; questionable high-end manuverability.)
   
  The Fanatic "E-Ray 200+" -- -- (MSRP: $1049) Very interesting combiantion of traits! A board with the high-tech materials and outline shape of smaller, advanced high-performance boards but upsized to 200 liters of volume. The result is a lighter weight (23 lbs.) more manuverable, yet stable, platform for the middle-to-heavyweight aggressive beginner. If your goal is to be up planing in the straps within a year, carving a jibe, and passing your more advanced buddies on the water without having to buy another board, this tool can take you there. Very early planning; high speed capable! Very durable construction. (Tradeoffs: no centerboard).
   
  Hifly's "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. (Daggerboard is retractable.) Same material as it's big brother, the Primo, on which more people in the world have taken their first windsurfing lesson than any other. 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, but maneuvers nicely, accelerates smoothly onto a plane, and glides easily through the water. Extend the daggerboard to gain stability and upwind performance. Not for heavyweights in the 190 lb.+ range. (Tradeoff: not lightweight.)
   
  Starboard's "Start" -- (MSRP: $669) The board that makes windsurfing accessible to anyone of any ability, age, weight...or attitude. A ultra-wide, ultra-stable, rubber-decked learning platform that is hard to fall off of. 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. At 100cm wide and 31 lbs, it is a handful on land but has a carrying handle. Removable center fin, shallow-water optional fin, and footstraps increase it's capabilities; but, it's not a board for those aiming to be an intermediate to advanced windsurfer. (Tradeoffs: lower durability; limited capabilites; unweildy out of water.)
   
  F2's "Discovery" -- (MSRP: $999.95 or with a North 5.7 or 6.7 sail rig, $1299) Two versions that may come the closest to doing it all. Both have the comfortable full rubber deck, an exclusive Impact Protection Surface to take abuse, and are the lightest boards in the class! The longer, not-so-wide "190" liter model modernizes the "sporty longboard" idea with the features beginners need and abilities you won't exhaust for years. At 299cm (9' 10") and 80 cm wide, it has a retractable daggerboard for upwind ability and added stability, multiple foot strap positions, enough length to jump onto a plane with reasonable size sails, and a shape that encourages manuverability. The "170" liter model is shorter (280cm, 9' 2") and wider (90cm) for the more-agressive learner looking to plane soon. Ideal for lightweights and kids. Optional center fin for upwind ability when needed and integrated carrying slot on the deck. Only weighs 22.5 lbs! (Tradeoffs: none of great significance, slightly heavy compared to top-end performance boards.)
 
Prices are plus freight which can be from $35 TO $65. (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 right.
   
Rig and Sail Recommendations
  Sails from the last 3 to 4 years are also much better than the old gear. They are lighter weight and often without mechanical cams (where the batten meets the mast) so they rig easier and lift out of the water and transition from one side to the other on turns much easier. Most beginning 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 ' 02 and ' 01 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?
   
  There are a couple of really good values out there on quality sails in complete rigs that include mast, boom, and extension. Aerotech Sails has a couple of quality rig packages (with 30% carbon mast!): the ACTION at $460 and, if you want to go high performance right off the bat, the new AIR rig packages have the top-end 30% carbon mast and a premium boom for around the low to mid $600's. Does not include mast base adn extension.

You can't hardly beat F2's and Hifly's ULTRA rig price when you buy a Discovery, Motion, or Mambo board -- $300 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.

For just a sail alone, this year there is a new choice: North sail's DRIVE. At mid to upper $200's, 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. 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 a new-school alternative -- whatever that means.

   
Mast and Boom
  I have in stock the boom you ought to get.... $119. A super value in a quality aluminum boom by Windsurfing Hawaii. These are the same exact ones I started on and still use; they're $30 cheaper than other manufacturers and way less than hi-tech carbon ones you don't need (and neither do I).
   
  The mast: For years, most beginners started with a basic epoxy for $95. I did for my first year and 1/2 to 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 $185. They are lighter and responsive and someday you will want one. For now, do the epoxy unless you can easily afford a carbon and lightness of the rig is very important to you.
   
Mast base and Universal joint
 

FIRST, A WARNING: If you get this fantastic used-board-with-sail-and-everything-deal from your brother-in-law that has an old, obsolete mast base and U-joint system, you will be very mad when you realize that usually if a piece of this system breaks, that's it -- the board is worthless.The sail and other stuff 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.

   
  U-joints 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 are adjustable in the amount of length they add to your mast. 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. Only get ones that accept a double push-pin cup of the U-joint and you'll always be carefree and happy. The Universal Joint, or U-joint (also commonly referred to as the mast foot), assembly has a "cup" on top of it that inserts into the bottom of the mast base extension and should have two push pins that fit in the two holes at the bottom of the extension. 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 stainlesswasher 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 use Windsurfing Hawaii's and Streamlined brand 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 one with little foam balls inside the rope for easy grip -- $18. The basic bungee one is $11.

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 board.

Mast pad -- $18. Attaches at the base of the mast to cushion abrasion on the board from the lower part of the mast when the rig lays over in the water. (May not be needed on the newer sails if a pad is integral to the sail.)

 
Chuck Hardin
(706) 860-0639

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