Prophets of doom in the last few years have predicted the demise of windsurfing but after a recent overseas trip – and conversations with wind nuts aplenty – it’s pretty apparent there’s as much thirst for the sport as ever.
Windsurfing’s due a renaissance I feel. For too long windsurfing’s upper echelon dynamism has been overlooked. Have you seen PWA world tour freestylers and wave sailors lately? Every bit as extreme, colorful and off the chain as any watersports.
When kitesurfing emerged it did its best to steal windsurfing’s thunder – and for a while that was true. What was once a loud clap turned to a faint whisper. This new kid on the block boasted accessibility, user friendliness and affordability. Windsurfing was reduced to the ugly duckling and banished. Perceived as the domain of middle-aged men it languished on the sidelines for years. The global recession did nothing to help windsurfing’s participation levels either.
But scratch the surface and it’s not this way. Hit up noted windy spots on their day and you’ll find sailors blasting blissfully. Those roguish kitesurfers are ever present but you can’t deny the stoke emanating from riders holding a boom – and in many cases it’s them young ‘uns loving it!
Honestly, windsurfing can sometimes be a faff. Particularly when you consider the sport has been marketed as a high wind discipline since the 90s, or thereabouts. Back in the day if it wasn’t nukin’ it wasn’t happening. Kit was super technical to use and an elitist attitude dominated. These days, rightly or wrongly, windsurfing is still seen as a planing sport (i.e. more short board oriented) but people miss the efficiency of equipment and how light breeze can be for riders to ‘get going’. Big gear is sometimes seen as cumbersome (it’s not really) but stoke is still stoke when reaching across crystal clear waters – even in only 12 knots of breeze.
Caribbean blows are consistent but light (in windsurfing terms) – perfect for freeride and freestyle (I’m aware there are wave spots as well). Some would have you believe that owning multiple pieces of windsurf kit is the only way to score maximum brine time. While that’s true for serious addicts, out whatever the weather, it’s possible to be a fully-functioning windsurfer with one board and a couple of sails – minimal expense and hassle.
I’ve heard comments from certain corners that windsurfing is now a destination sport. That may be the case for some, but riders still want their fix. Travelling to windy hot spots like the Caribbean for itch scratching is perfectly fine. Centres are, after all, equipped with the latest toys and plenty of them. If this is your bag then all power – however you get wet, it’s all good.
Also within kitesurfing there’s a steadily migrating group of converts heading back to windsurfing’s fold. As a man of many disciplines it’d be wrong I suggest kiting is too easy – it isn’t and is no less dynamic. But a number of windies who passed over to the other side have been rediscovering the joys of sail power. My response? Whatever gets you out there and onto the brine, enjoying Mother Nature. The more feathers your cap sprouts the better primed you are to maximise everything she can throw at you.
Windsurfing has never been easier to learn and progress with. Qualified instructors know their stuff and will have you up and running quick smart. Kit is super-efficient, as I’ve already said. And if you’re a returning rider contemplating the expense of new gear then why not consider second hand. Equipment from a few years ago is perfectly fine to use. (I own a couple of older kit bits).
Windsurfing doesn’t have to be a chore, break the bank or be a pain in the ass. It can be complimentary or all encompassing. If you’re tentatively looking at windsurfing as a sport or considering having another bash then there’s never been a better time than now. Ignore all the pessimism and get involved – you’ll be thankful you did.