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...
and Mambo Starboard's
GO and START F2's
DISCOVERY 190 and 170 Mistral'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
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,
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.
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
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
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.
SURE YOU DON'T BUY A USED BOARD THAT IS NOT FROM
THE WIDE REVOLUTION OR IS FOR ADVANCED WINDSURFERS.
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.
-- (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.
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.)
--(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:
"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.)
"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.)
"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
||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
||There are a
couple of really good values out there on quality
sails in complete rigs that include mast, boom, and
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
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
|| 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.
base and Universal joint
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.
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).
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.
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.)