You don’t have to look too hard for reasons to take up windsurfing. It’s a great way to get exercise, to make friends, to travel and to experience sheer enjoyment. However, sometimes people are put off because they think it’s a costly way to have fun. This isn’t necessarily the case and if you look around you can pick up beginners windsurfing gear at reasonable prices.
Of course, when you first start out learning, your windsurfing centre will have almost everything you’ll need. Some sun block and a towel will probably suffice to begin with. But once you’ve caught the windsurfing bug and want to start taking it more seriously, you’ll want to get your hands on your own gear. Here’s a list of the essentials you need before you hit the water.
Boards for beginners are usually higher volume than those used by more experienced riders. They give you less freedom of movement and flexibility than thinner, lighter boards but they will aid balance and allow you to get to grips with the basics. Although, the newer ‘widestyle’ boards for beginners are still big but lighter and easier to move than beginners boards in the past.
A 200 – 220 litre board is about perfect for a novice and will allow you to build confidence and have fun early on. You can always trade up and go for a smaller board in the future.
Beginners boards will also have the choice of a retractable daggerboard (they retract when planing) or a fixed centre-fin that can be removed with a screwdriver in high winds. If you’re planning on any inland sailing, the retractable option is probably more convenient.
The sail is perhaps unsurprisingly the most important part of any windsurfing set up. Without it you’ll just be standing on a board going nowhere. Sails are made from clear monofilm, which is light and measured in square metres. Beginner sails are usually within a 2.5 – 4.5 square metre bracket. These will increase in size as you get better at faster speeds to between 5 and 8 square metres. Although in strong winds of between 18 – 30 knots, most windsurfers will use a smaller 4 – 6 square metre sail.
This is the central pole to which the sail is attached. Modern masts are made of carbon and are lightweight and easier to carry and handle when on the water. Together with the sail and the mast base, the mast forms an integral part of the rig section of your windsurfing equipment.
Positioned just under 150 cm from the tail (usually between 135 cm and 140 cm) the mast base connects the mast and sail to the board. The mast base is essentially a flexible joint like an elbow that keeps the sail fastened to the board but allows plenty of movement so that you can angle the sail in the right direction.
The boom is essentially an oval-shaped hand rail that attaches at one end to the mast and at the other keeps the sail tight. Riders hold the boom, allowing them to direct the sail and steer. It should be set at roughly shoulder to chin height when standing on the board. Like the mast base, there are different types of booms for different size sails and masts. However, an affordable basic model will be sufficient as beginners windsurfing gear.
Windsurfing is great fun and a great way to exercise but it is not without its risks. Any sport that takes place out on the water usually requires a buoyancy aid, and in the case of windsurfing with all the relatively heavy and hard equipment, it’s an essential piece of beginners windsurfing gear.
Depending on where you are in the world, you may or may not need a wetsuit. If you’re on a Caribbean windsurfing holiday, you probably won’t need a wetsuit for temperature reasons. However, head out on the water in Cornwall in December and you definitely will. A wet suit will also protect you from minor abrasions.
For those starting out, a wetsuit is a very handy piece of kit for maximising enjoyment as it will fit right and with something skin tight its nice to know your were the last person to wear it. Blind stitched, steamer or smooth skin wet suits are glued and stitched, which means they minimise water penetration through the seems. A good compromise for all weather is a short arm, long leg blind stitched steamer.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to beginners windsurfing gear. Check back again as we plan to publish more detailed guides to each bit of kit.