A guide to choosing the right windsurfing board
Especially for a novice, scrolling through windsurfing boards for sale on the Web can be a bewildering experience. But what you’re looking for is actually quite simple: a board that’s suitable for the conditions you’ll be using it in and the type of windsurfing you’ll be doing - but one that isn’t too difficult to use.
With this in mind, here’s a guide for navigating through the features and jargon you’ll come across when shopping around. Armed with this, you should be able to hone in on the board that’s right for you.
Know what you’re looking at: windsurfing board jargon
So you’ve experienced first-hand what windsurfing is all about, but haven’t yet got to grips with the lingo? Here’s a quick guide to the basics:
This refers to the volume of water the board is capable of displacing before it starts to submerge. 1 litre of water is capable of floating 1 kilogram of weight.
This refers to the fixed rear fin on the bottom of the board. Its purpose is to generate lift and assist with directional control. As a general rule, a larger fin generates greater lift which makes it more suitable for bigger sails and lighter winds. With a smaller fin comes less lift and easier manoeuvrability, making it ideal for less experienced windsurfers or for use in stronger winds.
This is the retractable fin in the mid-section of the board and is a feature on most beginner and intermediate-level boards. When sailing it can be adjusted within a range of angles from 0 to 90 degrees according to the conditions. When fully down, the fin helps to maximise stability and minimise drift. Fully retracting it into the bottom of the board helps you achieve faster speeds.
For inserting your feet into when the board is planing. Footstraps help you retain stability when using a harness.
This connects your rig to the board, consisting of a slotted channel in the board deck.
Getting familiar with board sizes and types
It’s worth getting plenty of experience out on the water before you make your purchase. Novices should check out the Royal Yachting Association’s National Windsurfing Scheme and Youth Windsurfing Scheme and/or taster sessions and lessons from your local windsurfing school.
Your learning experience will usually involve a swift progression from a very wide schooling platform to a lower volume, yet still ‘newbie-friendly’ beginner board. It’s usually at this point that you will probably want to think about buying your own. Windsurfing schools are great for hiring and trying out different types of board to get a sense of what feels comfortable for you. Your instructor should be able to point you in the right direction and the school may even have a selection of ex-hire boards for sale.
Understanding board volume
There are two elements to windsurfing board volume. Firstly, you require enough volume to ensure you stay afloat. So for instance, if you weigh 80kg, you factor in a further allowance for 20kg for your wetsuit, rig and the weight of the board itself. Given that 1 kilo equates to 1 litre, the volume required just to stay afloat is therefore 100 litres.
On top of this, you need to factor in an element of ‘reserve volume’ to give extra stability when sailing. Beginners should aim for a reserve volume allowance of around 80 litres, so a beginner who weighs 80kg would typically be looking at 200l boards.
As you progress to intermediate level where you want to achieve faster speeds and perhaps start making greater use of a harness, you may want to reduce your reserve volume capacity to around 40-60 litres. As you become more advanced, that reserve volume requirement may reduce to 20-40 litres, making you better equipped to deal with stronger winds, while still providing enough volume for uphauling.
Growing your collection of boards
As you notch up experience and your technique improves, investing in a further board doesn’t necessarily mean ditching your old one. Having a ‘quiver’ of two or three boards means you’re equipped for a range of conditions and sailing types.
For instance, as you become more comfortable with harnessing, the time may come to invest in a ‘freeride’ board which doesn’t have a daggerboard but makes up for this with the potential for greater speed and maneuverability. If it turns out that speed is your thing, the next logical step might be a race windsurf board with very low volume (making manoeuvres difficult) but with an ultra-sleek design to maximise planing.
As you try out different boards and gravitate towards new types of windsurfing, make sure you’re protected with the right windsurf insurance cover to keep you safe as your collection grows.