Windsurfing Parts Explained & How They Improve Your Surfing

I just counted over 14 parts of my windsurf kit. Next to a board and a sail there are big parts like the mast. Moreover there are a few small, but essential parts like the outhaul, that you can’t do without. This blog describes the individual parts. Moreover it explains how parts work together and how that affects windsurfing.

What parts does a windsurfer consist of? Basically there is a board and a sail. The sail is built up of a sail, a mast and a boom. Two lines are used to trim the sail. These are the outhaul and the downhaul. The first pulls the sail at the back of the boom. The latter pulls the sail more tight over the mast. Together they enable the windsurfer to trim the sail for more or less power.

At the bottom of the mast, the mastbase connects the sail to the board. A board has a fin attached to it and foot straps. Some boards have a dagger board. This functions as an extra big fin in the middle for more stability and ease of sailing upwind and close haul.

Many windsurfers face the challenge of buying the right parts. Not only is it important to know which parts are required. A little more understanding of their function and how they cooperate can really help improving your windsurfing. Actually there is a lot to understanding windsurf parts and selecting the right ones.

Board and Parts on It.

Board: The board is the biggest part of a windsurf set. There is a huge variety in boards. A few factors when choosing a board are: the level of experience, the type of conditions and the type of windsurfing one wants to do.

Boards are roughly categorized in wave, freestyle, freeride, slalom or race and formula boards. These categories have different shaped outlines. Of course there are special beginner boards. There is a dedicated blog  about them on this website.

Lately crossovers between windsurf boards and Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boards have entered the marked.

Waveboards for example have round edges at the tail to enable the windsurfer to make turns on a wave. Formula boards are very wide to make them plane extremely early in lighter winds.

Even within a category there are different models. Different models often can be bought in different volumes. A board with a larger volume provides more floatability. That can be useful in lighter winds or for heavier surfers.

For example the brand Fanatic Windsurfing offers two different  freeride  boards (2018). The ‘Gecko’ and the ‘Blast’.

The Gecko is offered in five different volumes like 100L, 110L and 146L.  To get a feeling of the differences between the Gecko’s with different volumes, like recommended sailsize going up when volume goes up, you could check the Gecko webpage.

The website also shows that the same Gecko board is offered in three types: ‘LTD’, ‘ECO’ and the ‘HRS’ (construction types and building materials used). Each with different characteristics. The 100L LTD version has an indicated weight of 6,8kg. The webpage tells us that the HRS version weights 8,0kg. The lighter and more stiff a board is, the more fast it is likely to go. And ofthen the moer expensive it becomes.

Fin: the fin is an essential element. Without it windsurfing is impossible. The board would just slide over the water. Most boards are delivered with a recommended fin(s) that comes with it when delivered.

  • Fins vary for different types of windsurfing. Just like boards do. Race and slalom fins are long and straight. Build to generate much upward lift and work with large sail pressure.
  • Freestyle fins are short and wide. Short fins are easier to lift out of the water when doing tricks. To compensate for the surface the fins are wider.
  • Wave fins are rounder, making turning easier.
  • While most board types have a single fin at the tail. There are two exceptions.
  • Beginner boards often have a dagger board. This is a large fin placed under the board just behind the mast. It provides extra stability and support while maintaining course.

Waveboards often have a multifin setup. Either a thrusters, meaning a bigger fin in the centre and two smaller fins at the railside. Or a quad fin setup: two in the middle and 2 ad the railside. While single fins are known to be faster, the multi fin setup provides more agility. Personally I feel that the multifins feel as if they are less sticky to the water. That makes jumping easier.

Examples of fins and fin setups:

An entry level board for beginners with a daggerboard fin in the middle:  At Naish Windsurfing the Kailua is presented.

Waveboard with a thrusters setup: The Dyno.

Wave board that can be set up with both a truster and a quad setup: The Mako.

Waveboard with a twin fin setup: The Nuevo.

Race board with a characteristic long straight single fin:  . At the Starboard website the Ultrasonic is shown

Foil: Foiling boards are the new kid in town. This website has a special blog about the difference between windsurfing and wind foiling.

Foot Straps. As soon as speed goes up a bit the board can start to bounce a little over small chop. Footstraps prevent the feet from bouncing of the board surface. Thus giving more control. When gibing or turning on a wave, and of course when jumping, the straps can be used to lift the board.

Freeride, race, slalom and formula boards often have four foor straps. Two at the tail, two more up front. Most wave and freestyle boards have three footstraps. They only have one at the tail side. Placed on the center line. The links above that show examples of boards lead me to web pages with pictures. The different pictures showed different foot strap setups for different types of boards.

Air screw: Why write a few lines about a single little screw? Ask the guy who entered the water with a brand new board. Full carbon, the most expensive and most light model he could buy. Just spend a few hundred dollars to buy the version that weights 1,2 kg less. He sailed for less than 20 minutes when the board felt very heavy.

Yes… you guessed correctly. He forgot to close the air vent. More than a kilo of water entered the board. Away went all the advantages of the more expensive construction. Salt water is harmful to many constructions. The board felt heavy, planing was more difficult and because the weight distribution of the board was unbalanced sailing was less fun.

So, keep the airscrew closed when sailing! Most boards have a air vent to avoid damage to the construction while being transported or exposed to large temperature differences. I check the little rubber ring at the screw. When in doubt I replace it.

 The Rig and the Parts it Consists Of

Sail: the sail is the part of a the kit that ads the ‘wind’ to wind-surfing. Sails, like boards, come in many types. Again there are wave, race, freestyle, etc sails. Each with different characteristics for their typical use. They differ in many things like:

  • outline
  • power
  • ease of handling
  • number of battens
  • many materials used.

Apart from the type the SIZE is very important. If a sail is too big, for the windsurfers bodyweight and the wind speed, the windsurfer will be overpowerd. Sailing overpowerd is a lot harder since you lose control. Personally I start crashing my gibes if there is more power in the sail than I can handle. Jumping also is a lot harder to me when out of control.

If the sail is too small it is impossible to get planing. On low volume boards with fins less than 35cm it even is impossible or very hard to sail upwind.

Mast: I think the mast is probably the most underestimated part of a windsurfer. Especially by entry level windsurfers. The mast is the long pole that goes into the sail to keep it upright. But it does far more.

The mast has a significant effect on the performance of the sail. Not only should the length be right. Bending curve and stiffness ((IMCS values differ per mast length. 400CM mast often have a 19 IMCS value while the 430cm masts often have a 21 value. More info on this webpage.)are also important. Of course weight is an important factor. This blog has a little more inside info on masts if you like.

Boom: Booms are the things windsurfers hold on to when holding a sail. They also help to keep the sail in the right shape. At the end of the boom the sail is pulled away from the mast by the outhaul. More outhaul tension stretches the sail more. This can be used for tuning the sail.

As a result of more outhaul tension, the wing shape, that creates the aerodynamic power in the sail, becomes less round at the mast. Thus creating less power when the air flows over it. If a more power is required the outhaul at the end of the boom can be be released a bit.

Booms have flexible length so if more or less outhaul is required the length of the boom can be adjusted. If you have more than one sail it is nice to use one boom for all. That is, in my experience, something to think about when choosing a boom.

Mast extension: the mast extension enables the windsurfer to adapt the length of the mast to the exact requirements of a specific sail.

If you have a sail with a recommended luff (that is where the mast goes in) of 417CM your 400CM mast is too short. A 430CM mast could do the trick but is probably a little too stiff. Moreover there would be more than 15cm/6inch of mast sticking out under or at the top of the sail.

So, the solution is to use a 400CM mast and adjust the extension to ad 17 cm to it. That way the right mast length is used with the recommended IMCS value. If you want more or less downhaul tension the extension can be set a little longer or shorter. Easy does it..

Personally I like mast extensions that can be set to 0 extra length. Some have a minimum of more than an inch. If a sail requires exact 400CM of mast I don’t like an inch of free space under my sail. The more compact it is, the better I like the feeling when sailing.

Harness lines: These are two little helpers that almost every windsurfer can benefit from. The harness lines are the lines on each side of the boom that enable the windsurfer to hang his or her body on to the sail. Using body weight instead of (arm) muscle power to hold the sail.

Using the lines efficiently can really prolong the duration of the windsurf session. The blog about harnesses ends with related questions about line length and adjustment. That info really helped me to improve my windsurfing.

Uphaul: The uphaul is the rope that windsurfers use to pull the sail out of the water. It is attached at the head of the boom. That is where the boom is attached to the mast. It also has an elastic connection to the sail at the mast base. That way it stays alongside the mast so the windsurfer can find it easily. Of the there are knots in the rope to make it easier to hold on to it.

Not all windsurfers use an uphaul. Some have mastered the technique of water starting. They swim with the boom in their hands and let the wind pull them up on the board. If you are not sure you can do this it wise to keep the uphaul with you. Making sure you can always restart.

Downhaul. I talked a little about downhaul when discussing the mast extension. The downhaul is a little rope connected to the mast base or mast extension. These lines can take a lot of pressure, especially when used for racing sails that use great amount of downhaul tension.

Using a system of several pulley’s the windsurfer is able to get more tension with less force. As a result downhaul lines are often pretty long. Mine is over 160CM/64Inch. I use 3 pulley loops. That way I have to pull three times more rope length. But as a reward I only have to use one third of the force to pull the outhaul out. This makes small adjustments in the tuning of the sail easier.

Outhaul: the outhaul is a little line at the back of the boom. It is used to attach the sail at the back end. Usually pulley’s are not necessary since the forces required are smaller. Since they can be exposed to quite some wear, due to sand grinding them when pulled through the sail loop, I replace the regularly to avoid one snapping when I am on the water.

Mastbase: No matter how great your board and sail are, If you can’t connect them you will have a hard time windsurfing. The mastbase is the device that is attached to the board with a screw. A click system connects it to the mast extension. There are several types of mast bases. If you would like a little more specific info you can check the recommended gear section on mast bases.

 

Accessories

Wetsuit: Wetsuits are great if you want to improve your windsurfing. They enable you to sail much longer in cool conditions. Even with 77°F/25°C a 2/3mm wetsuit can make a lot of difference. Not in the least to avoid hypothermia because of wind chill or cold water. Personally I prefer to always where a wetsuit. Even if temperatures feel great it has protected me from cuts in my shins and feet many times when I hit my fin while water starting in rough conditions. If you would like more info the blog about wetsuits might be a great start.

Board bag: boards are designed to take impacts when landing a jump on water. In my experience they can be very vulnerable when hit by hard or sharp object. Especially boards with a carbon skin can crack easily when you hit a doorframe or so, while storing them in a shed. That is why I always put them in a board bag after sailing. The padded skin protects them while travelling or storing them.

Winch or downhaul tool: As mentioned sails can require a lot of downhaul tension. Many surfers I know, use the handle bar of their harness to pull the downhaul. Especially racing sails can require so much force that a special winch can be a great solution. If you don’t need a winch a special downhaul tool can be nice to avoid damaging the protective sleeve around the harness bar.

Harness: The harness is needed when one wants to make use of the harness lines. It has a hook on it that can be used to connect to the harness lines. If you want to know more about harnesses and how to choose them perhaps this blog will help you a lot.

Other accessories: there are a lot of things windsurfer can benefit from. Water proof car key holders, helmets, multi tools and wetsuits are just a few examples.

Tips

In case you read this because you are looking to buy kit: There is a special blog about choosing the right equipment. Click here to read it.

Disclaimer

I have tried to be as helpful as possible explaining about windsurfing parts. I shared knowledge that I have would have given to a friend in case he or she asked me about my experiences with different parts. To be more helpful I have added links to websites of windsurfing brands. Just so you can easily find examples etc. They might change the content and I have no control over that. So, if I say a certain website shows a certain part, that was the case when this blog was published.

Leave a Comment