When I was recently thinking of buying a new board I realised how difficult it can be to pick the right gear. During many years that I was teaching windsurfing in several parts of the world, I often got questions about what to buy and why. Making the right choice will really benefit to improve your windsurfing. So I made a list of all things I have learned testing, buying and using windsurfing equipment.
How do I choose the best windsurfing equipment for me? First I make an realistic estimation of where I will sail, and in what conditions, for the years to come. Then I determine what type of sailing I want to be doing. Racing, wave sailing or freestyle moves require completely different kit. Knowing this, and my budget, I research the latest developments in the category that I want to buy from. Of course I make sure to buy stuff that fits the gear I already have.
Spending a lot of cash on windsurfing kit doesn’t guarantee that you will have the most fun for your money. Buying a mast that doesn’t work well with your sail, or a sail size that is beyond the recommended sail range of your board can spoil a lot of fun. Moreover choosing the wrong board or sail type can be a killyoy.
What is to be considered before choosing windsurfing equipment?
I always think hard about what to buy. I need to know what exactly what I buy, why I buy it and how it works with the rest of my kit. Look at it this way: I buy windsurf gear to have fun. Therefore I want to have the most fun per dollar. Since I windsurf in conditions that I can’t control, that is a factor too. Believe me I tried looking hard at the wind app until it had ideal conditions but it just has its own will 😉
What does this imply? I love windsurfing in perfect 4 foot swell, on a 75-85 liter wave board. A stable sideshore 25 knots wind from the left. And it’s great to use 4.7m2 sail. But, reality is that most of the time (based on my notes over multiple years, I sail either a 5.0m2 or a 5.7m2 sail on a 95 liter Freestyle/Wave board. All this in choppy conditions for half the time.
So spending all my cash on a perfect new 80Liter waveboard and a great 4.7 wavesail will probably not give me the most fun per dollar. Yes, a little less hours on the 4.7 can be more fun than a little more with the 5.7 in less epic conditions. But my data shows that I sail 2-3 times more with the 5.0-5.7/95L FW combi.
Before we go on: I consider having lessons before you buy kit yourself always as a very good idea. For safety reasons, and because it increases fun during the first attempts. Why not try some different boards and sails just to get a feel of what you like?
To get the most fun per dollar I have developed a strategy that I am happy to share.
1) First I make an estimate about my skills and the conditions I’ll be windsurfing in. It’s important to be very realistic here.
I once decided to go and test a number of real deal wavespots in the next year. That had impact on the boardtype I bought. After visiting two spots I learned that to ‘know a wavespot’ takes time. So I switched plans to pick my favourite and get accustomed to it. For that spot another board would have been more ideal.
2) Second I determine what gear suits my needs best (also considering what I already have). This step can save money and gain fun, or not. Buying a sail requires checking what mast you exactly have (IMCS, length, and bending curve).
I once bought a sail. The recommended boom was exactly the max boom I had. Great! I thought. Until rigging it with my mast. The mast had the right specifications, but another brand than the sail. I quickly found out that I needed half an inch more length in the boom than indications on the sail said. It’s always good to try new equipment on stuff you already have to make sure it fits.
3) My last step is to try to get the best price. Since my budget is always tight I try hard to find the best deals. I like buying gear from ‘last year’ as soon as the new editions come out. On the other hand I follow an advice that I, more than once, heard: don’t buy sails that are more than 3 years old. I am careful buying used masts and boards since they can have damage that I can’t see.
Where will I be sailing and what will I be learning?
- We’re diving in to step one a little further. Let’s ask a few questions to get a feeling of what is going on:
- What is your current level?
- What do you want to learn?
- What does that mean to were you will be sailing?
- What does that mean for kit you buy?
Answering these questions can be helpful, especially if you do it in writing. Leave them for one or two days and then reconsider. Any new insights?
Suppose you sail on a lake and you want to make the step to the sea. That might mean you buy a board that rides through choppy waters easier. Maybe you don’t buy a new freeride board but a freestyle/wave board with enough volume. Or instead of replacing your freerider, you keep it, and spend the money on an occasion freestyle/wave board. This enables you to practice moves further on your old board.
Perhaps gibing at sea makes you realise that a good practice session on your old board helps you improving your skills. And doing a tack also required a bit more handling speed that you might have realised. Back to the old board for some tacking 😉 .
What gear suits my needs best?
Here I share a few more thoughts on step two. A few questions to get a better picture:
- What mast do you have?
- How long is your boom?
- What sail sizes and types?
- What type of harness do you use?
Masts are expensive. Can you have the same range of sails with one mast less if you buy a different brand of sail? I tried to find one boom that I can use on all my sail. Saved me a pair of harness lines too.
Sails have different characteristics. So, going back to the example, if you aspire to sail on the sea maybe you don’t want a cambered sail after all. Perhaps a camberless freeride sail will be a little less fast on the lake, but far easier to handle at sea. Especially while water starting in waves. My point here: choosing windsurf equipment is about finding optimal combinations that suit your needs.
How to choose the best windsurf board? If you have followed the steps in this blog I only have one more advice: Try before you buy. I have read many board descriptions and impression. That’s good research. Sailing a board and feeling it can really give you great buyers info. Many manufacturers have rental stations. In my opinion it’s hard to waste money on a test session.
How to choose the best windsurf sail? Windsurf boards come with an recommended range of sails that you can use on them. I have good experience buying boards with an overlap herein. If you buy a second or more sail it can be useful to make sure it complements the range you already have. Since I don’t have the budget to buy sails with an 0,3 m2 interval I prefer to buy them 0,5m2 apart. Above 5.5 I feel comfortable having 0,8m2 between sails since I sail them in lighter winds on board with more volume and thus flotation).
How to buy the best windsurfing mast? Masts are expensive and the range of sails you can use them for is limited. As carbon percentage goes up the performance and price go with it. Therefore I choose to buy 80% caron masts for the 4 sails I use most. All the same brand. Different length and IMCS to fit with sails recommendations. Doing so I have the same feeling in the sail with every mast. For the sails I use less I have an older 50% carbon mast. This way I spend my budget most in the window of operations that I have most fun in.
Extra info about the new sport Hydrofoil Wing Surfing
Recently I started learning Hydrofoil Wing Surfing. Since you read this article I assume you might be interested in this new, easy to learn watersport. I found that, compared to windsurfing, I needed less wind and less strength to have fun. I also had a lot less equipment to transport. The board is small, the wing can be disassembled and the wing is inflatable. So no masts or booms needed. Want to read my blog about Hydrofoil Wing Surfing?
- Disclaimer: No rights can be derived from the information provided in this blog. This blog only displays my experiences and knowledge and data that I got trough online research.