Every time I bought a new windsurf board I felt a certain uncertainty. There are so many different boards. How do I pick the right one? Over the last 20 years I have bought, hired and tested many boards. I also did some research on the latest trends.
Which windsurf board to buy? A windsurf board that fits best with your level, weight, the conditions you are going to sail in and the type of windsurfing you want to do. These have impact on board shape a volume. A final tip is to match the new board with what you already have. For example, for freeride windsurfing it makes sense to buy a freeride board. Your level and experience than determine the type of freeride board. Next, your weight and the conditions you will sail in determine the amount of volume you need.
Many windsurfer find it difficult to know the exact difference between boards. Often they rely on reviews and marketing stories to make their choice. There is actually a lot to choosing the right board for you. Seemingly small differences might make a huge difference on the water.
Choosing the Right Board Type
Most brands offer different types of windsurf boards. Wave, Freestyle, Freeride, Race and Beginner are often seen type categories. Depending on the brand sub categories or crossovers are offered. Examples are ‘Performance Wave’ and ‘Onshore/All-around Wave’ (Naish windsurfing 2019) or ‘SurfWave Quad”, SurfWave Thruster’ and ‘FreeWave Thruster” (Goya Windsurfing 2019). These boards have different features that make them more suitable for specific needs or conditions.
The Goya names, for example, refer to the amount of fins. Quad boards have a 4 fin setup, thrusters have a 3 fin setup. When free is combined with waves there is a good chance we are talking about freestyle characteristics in a waveboard. Meaning early planning, easy upwind sailing and nice bump and jump features.
My experience with wave boards in general is that the freewave boards are more all round. Meaning they plane a bit easier. I always found them easier to sail upwind and easier to use in choppy conditions.
I felt the more radical wave boards are better suited for pure wave riding action on nice clean waves. More radical boards might be better suited for more advanced windsurfers. Sailing upwind is a bit harder. Although, If you are really good, you still might prefer a more all round shape in onshore conditions with a heavy current and unstable winds. Just to enable you to sail upwind if needed and enjoy the bump and jump action where you can.
Freestyle boards are designed with a relatively very thick tail. This enables the free style windsurfer to keeping floatation and speed trough tricks. Also the volume under the back foot is larger. Fins are specially designed to enable boards to slide over the water over their sides. Freestsyle boards plane easy but might have lower top end speed since a lot of freestyle windsurfers make short runs to accelerate and then do their trick.
Looking at the segment of freeride and race boards my experience is that the names tell the difference pretty good. Freeride boards are great at planning fast over water that is relatively flat. They are easy while gibing and go upwind and downwind nicely. They are build for good control at high speeds.
Race boards have similar characteristics but are more radical. They have features to accelerate out of a gibe that, off course, only add to your fun if you can keep planning during a gibe. Freeride boards can have a little more volume to make sailing easier. Unless you have a light wind raceboard that is.
What is the Right Board Volume?
There is no one right volume for everything. Light wind sailing requires more volume and as the knots go up smaller boards become easier to handle. There are several board size calculators online. They vary to the extent of specificity they offer. The sail size and type also have a lot of influence so in my opinion all calculators give more of an indication than a exact number. Moreover several brands have come up with waveboards that they recommend to sail 5 or 10 liters more than you are used to. Since during the last decade boards have become wider, shorter and therefore easier to control.
More experienced windsurfers I know choose their volume based on windspeed. If sailing in winds higher than 20 knots they won´t be using an uphaul since they can easily waterstart. They use a board that has the same volume as their bodyweight in kg or up to 10 liters more. Personally, If winds go above 26 knots, I don´t like the extra volume and I prefer a board with a volume in liters that matches my weight in kg. If windspeeds are lower than 20 knots, accordingly more volume si needed.
Less experienced surfers, who can sail without a daggerboard, can find several ´boardsizecalculators´ online. I have come across calculators that recommend to add 30kg to the bodyweight and then multiply it with a factor. Factors varying from 1,3 up to 2.
Beginners that still need a daggerboard, in my opinion, are always safe choosing a 200 or more liter volume.
Choosing the Right Fin
There is a lot about choosing fins. But honestly, if you are not a expert on the subject, I think it is always safest to just use the original fin or fins that came with the board. I trust the manufacturers and their test team to know what they are doing.
Choosing the Right Board Material / Technology
Not only do windsurf boards come in many types. Within the type you can sometimes choose different technologies or materials used. Examples are combined wood-fiberglass, wood-carbon carbon-fiber glas and full carbon construction.
Often wood/fibreglass constructions are a little less expensive. They are known to be able to withstand heavy impacts over a longer period of time. Great for school or rental situations. Also nice if you are less experienced and inclined to crash your mast or boom on the board regularly.
Wood/carbon and full carbon are more expensive. The extra money buys you an advantage in weight and more stiffness in the board which improves directness. More carbon usually means stiffer and lighter. I have experienced that carbon is also more fragile when hit by hard objects. Rocks, masts and booms can damage carbon easier than materials that are a bit softer.
Best Tip I Ever Had?
Try before you buy! Any person is different and what feels good for somebody recommending something to you might just not be it for you. Try boards in conditions you will sail in. That great board on a vacation with perfect flat water might not be your favourite in the choppy, gusty conditions you sail in at home. Or it might, but just in the 10 liter bigger version.
Windsurf board size calculator: A little online research can deliver several board size calculators. Several recommend to add 30kg to the bodyweight and then multiply it with a factor to get an amount of liters as a board volume. Online research showed me factors varying from 1,3 up to 2.
Depending on the windspeed and your level of expertise you can question the addition of 30 liters. Many experienced windsurfers sail board with volumes about their body weight in kg in high wind conditions. In (very) light winds, or if you are a beginner, you might want a little more than 30 liters in volume on top of your bodyweight. This will make early planning easier. It also adds stability and extra flotation for beginners
Windsurfing board types: Different types of windsurf boards are produced for windsurfing in differend conditions. Allthough several brands use different category names, they can rougly be devided in:
Depending on the brand sub categories or crossovers are offered.
Freeride Windsurf Boards: Free Ride Windsurf boards are an often used type. Their features are easy planing, good control at high speed, sailing easily through lulls. Because freeride boards are a little less radical than raceboards they are more easy accessible than pure race boards.
Does InstructorJ give personal advice about buying a board? Unfortunately Not. Although I am honoured by the comments I get on this Blog, I won’t advise on individual board choices. There are just too many variables that influence the choice. That makes it to risky to just chat a few lines and hope the advice will work.
My experience is that it requires quite a bit of desk research (reading test for example) and some testing to make a choice. Moreover I have always found it helpful to ask local dealers. Local heroes ,that have sailed the spot of yout choice for many hours, can also be a great source of info. If you find them prepared to chat with you about the subject, that is.
Windsurf dealers close to the spot you want to go windsurfing often, know the spot well. Asking a few of them might get you valuable knowledge. Be realistic about your level and if you have the chance.. try before you buy!