You've taken a lesson and got stoked! You've
begged, borrowed, or rented gear to get out a few times;
and, now you're sure -- THIS IS IT! -- I'M READY TO GET
INTO THIS SPORT FOR REAL. You're thinking --I gotta
get my own stuff, but... just what do I need?
Well... you need 5 pieces: (1) a board (with
fin).....(2) a sail.....(3) a mast.....(4) a boom, and.....
(5) an extension with mast base/universal joint assembly.
(Oh, that's right...you need two other things -- wind
and open water -- but those are free.)
(And, oh yeah,
you'll want assistance rigging up new gear the first time.
I ALWAYS deliver "first gear" personally. We'll
set it up together and go over everything in detail.)
Let's consider the five components individually;
but, if you don't want to read my advice below, then just
click on these suggestions, then call or e-mail me to get
a price and delivery quote:
Best first Boards for '09:
VIPER-- "BIC's "CORE"
Exocet's CRUISER -BIC's
"NOVA 240d" -- KONA "Link"
SUP option: Stand Up Paddleboards
Mistral's PACIFICO <>
much more on the SUP revolution HERE)
Aerotech's "GLIDE" and "AIR-X"
or value-packaged as complete rig with mast, boom, base/U-joint)
board to start on?
That question is easier to answer in 2009 despite
a wider field to chose from in "first boards"
than ever before. This is because we've just had
our 2nd revolution in windsurf
boards in just one decade! "Whoa!",
you say, "I don't even
know about the first revolution -- I missed that
-- and now there's a 2nd? I don't really care about
either. I just want a proper board for me...Heyyyy,
is this going to be a long story?"
Well...sort of...but the story explains a lot along
the way, even though I'm going to skip around as
I tell it.
Windsurfing boards used to be
long, heavy, narrow, and very tippy. They slipped
through the water efficiently in the hands of the
expert but they were a disaster to learn on. The
sport suffered severly. Then there was a revolution
in entry-level equipment in the very late '90's
-- the "wide-style" revolution -- in which
width-wise stability was "discovered".
Boards were made much, much shorter and
the volume (floatability) was built into the middle
to the rear of the boards where the rider stands.
Things were better for the beginner. But, of course,
that was followed, in the early '00's, by the obligatory
experimentation with good ideas carried WAY to the
extreme. (There is something not-right about a board
wider than the top of the car it's being carried
on.) Initially, I was worried
about this whole revolution -- I feared the whole
sensation of surfing would be lost
to beginners on these huge, door-like platforms.
But, board designers calmed down by '05-'06 and
have learned how to enhance the wide designs to
achieve higher performance boards that are quite
stable, get on a plane easily, cruise comfortably,
and are lighter feeling underfoot. Life for the
beginnner was now, well...SWEET! . This, the
1st revolution, was now mature.
Then, two years ago, in '07, windsurfing
had another revolution sneak in the side door. This
time it came from from the regular wave-surfing
scene: the stand-up paddleboard (or
SUP, for short.) . The SUP is really
an old Hawaiian surfing concept: a big, wide, easy
board one can stand on and with a special long paddle,
catch any kind of wave while already up on the board
and relaxed to enjoy the ride. People also found
out they were a delightful way to get exercise and
enjoy "walking on water" even on dead
calm, flat waterways. And, then next thing...whadayaknow....
windsurfing manufacturers thought, "Huhm,
let's try a mast track for our sails on one of these
things" and, there you go...Revolution
#2: an awesome, fun, very beginner-friendly, multi-purpose
board! A LOT of bang for your buck, dude!
For windsurfing, these boards are excellent, ultra-stable
learning platforms, sail upwind and plane delightfully
(in enough wind). They glide in light-to-moderate
winds with a simplicity of elegance that delight
even high-wind snobs (such as myself). SUP's, as
designed by windsurfing brands, are true multi-purpose,
multi-mode, multi-venue boards. But, there are trade-offs
with a SUP, so your first decision is,
Do I want to only windsurf with this new board,
or might I also want to surf waves, explore calm
flat-water venues under paddle power, and maybe
even teach windsurfing to my kids and buddies on
this thing? Don't say "no"
until you give it a look. SUP-ing is the fastest
growing watersport in the world. The SUP is such
a big story it gets it's on page...<<<>>>
Any way you go, life for the beginner is better
So... if you're still with me,
let's look into 5 critical characteristics of "first
board" design and how they might impact your
The 1st revolution in "first
board" design, 10 years ago, was
Board designers quickly realized that the ideal
beginner's board would be even better if it was
and capable of intermediate
skills (so you don't outgrow it
so quickly.) Manufacturers sought to make boards
with all five of those characteristics, or at least
4 and 1/2, in one board. That ain't easy. "First
board" choice often was all about where you're
willing to make a trade-off, i.e., lightweightness
means less durability,
or greater initial
stability (width and bulk)
typically means sacrificing
future intermediate skills performance
(manuverability and speed). But, as I said
before, by about 2005 board shapers had come much,
much closer to understanding and dialing-in the
most-maximized, all-round shape. There are
still some design trade-offs to consider but they
aren't nearly as extreme as way back when, at
least not among any boards I endorse.
Whew!...we're almost done, but
not quite yet. Let me elaborate on that
"capable of intermediate skills"
thing. If you call me to discuss board choice, we'll
talk about this for sure. Once you become an advanced-beginner
level windsurfer, you would be able to notice, if
you had alternatives to test, that a given board
will have natural capabilities that another
may not -- relatively speaking. Some boards seem
inclined toward easier
manuvering and upwind ability while
other shapes are built for early
planning and speed in light winds. This
distincton is endlessly discussed in the world of
windsurfing board design. You might as well be aware
it's out there. Your
personality, goals in the sport, and general athletic
ability will determine which factor concerns you
most. However, in the meantime..
....There are a couple other things
you need to think about. 1) the usual conditions
you can expect to sail in most of the time, and
2) your lifestyle -- how often will you be able
to get out there on the water? This highlights the
other design characteristic worth some elaboration:
most cases you will be able to get to the lake or
beach only when you have scheduled time off -- which
is not necessarily when the wind is blowing at 15+mph.
It may be 5 mph and puffy or it might be a steady
"lake wind advisory", yet, that's the
day you're off and ready to go. You want the equipment
to "work" as well as possible in whatever conditions
you encounter. I want you to have fun the first,
as well as each and every time thereafter you go
windsurfing. Also, the frequency with which
you get on the water will greatly determine how
fast you progress. If it can't be weekly, you need
gear that is forgiving and doesn't require all your
attention on balance each time you get out.
Stability -- which
comes from volume and width (obviously), but also
length -- is the key to (1) drastically
reduce the learning curve and (2), more importantly,
have fun from the very beginning.
A Word on Width
and Length: As 7or 8 years have
gone by since the wide-style revolutuon, some brands
thought boards couldn't get too wide. Pardon this
pun, but the went...um, overboard. If 100cm is OK,
why not 110?; why not 120? They are wrong-- boards
can get too wide to perform "all-around"
as they say. Too much width = excess drag, weight,
and bulk that will hold you back in several categories.
You can get all the stability any reasonable person
needs without going there. I do list one of these
"too-wide" boards here simply because
they still meet certain needs.) And, concerning
a board can definitely be too short, also. Stability
is affected by the length axis significantly, but
of even greater concern is how a too-short board
narrows the margin for error in the critical sail
trim, or angle, that all beginners work hard to
maintain in order to sail comfortably across the
wind. I NEVER ever teach first-day lessons in the
sub 280cm boards for that reason (although your
first board can be a little bit shorter than that
in light of your future developing sailing abilities.)
I have a "too-short' model listed below due
to its one patented, unique feature that certain
individuals might value.
#2: A word on Centerboards:
In the first 2 or 3 years of this revolutionary
change to shorter, wider boards, the board shapers
eliminated the centerboards, or daggerboard, that
had traditionally been in the very long boards beginners
started on. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Upwind ability,
the beginners biggest challange, was heavily sacrificed.
Manufacturers tried to correct this by adding center
fins, side fins, and junk like that with questionable
results. However, one brand, F2, in 2002 realized
this and their first "revolution" board
-- The DISCOVERY -- had a standard retractable
centerboard. Why not? Indeed. Since then, almost
all the "first boards" have retractable
said all that to say this: My goal is to help you
get a board that is (a)
stable platform for learning and carefree light-air
cruising at the lake, (b)
has high-performance characteristics so you can
progress through all the intermediate skills, such
as planning in the footstraps, getting in the harness,
going FAST under control, and perhaps carving your
first jibe, (c)
is easy to handle and durable out of the water,
and (d) a good value,
and, oh yeah, if a SUP is right for you, add (e)
possibly useful for other fun activities on the
water. So, relax! -- It's easier
than ever to get the right board and be successful
in this sport -- for everyone! I'm ready to discuss
any of these factors mentioned here with you personally.
SURE YOU DON'T BUY A USED BOARD THAT IS NOT FROM
THE WIDE REVOLUTION OR IS FOR ADVANCED WINDSURFERS.
For guaranteed success, here are my 2009 "First
Board" recommendations. (Click on the hyperlink
to see the board and specs.) Remember, MSRP
may not be my price -- there is room for discounts
on some models -- and NO national catalog mail order
house beats me or would dare, in reality, to match
my no-hassle guarantee of satisfaction.
VIPER -- (MSRP: $1149) Developed after extensive
testing and feedback on all major entry-level boards
on the market, including classic "old school"
beginner boards up to the latest, most extreme "wide
body" designs, the '09 VIPER's are, all things
considered, perhaps the very best all-round first
board choice in '09 for advanced performance capability.
As first boards go, it has decent length and reasonable,
moderate width in two sizes: 220 liters and 190
liters. The larger 220 VIPER is 10cm longer than
the Mistral MALIBU (below) at 285cm x 85cm wide.
The 190 is 280 X 80cm wide. Both VIPER's have an
outline that is not only a little bit longer, but
it is "straighter" which gives improved
rig steering. The even-volume distribution helps
sub-planing performance and counterbalance to the
sail rig when you progress to the point of hooking
in a harness and using footstraps on a plane. Overall
EVA deck, High Resistance Skin, retractable centerboard,
multiple beginner-friendly foostrap positions. But,
what really makes this board unique and a great
value is the optional tuning kit.
When your skills improve, with this $120 kit, you
can close the daggerboard case on the bottom and
fill the cavity with a foam insert and put on the
high-performance 50cm fin to rev this board up to
performance levels previously unmatched in boards
of this size.
Trade-offs: Not cheapest, but
otherwise, this is it!
back to top
CORE 293 D -- (MSRP: $999) It's a classic, windsurf
board outline shape upsized to beginner friendliness.
And, least expensive First Board!! A board on which
you can both learn the basics of windsurfing and
then progress right through to your first shortboard.
Unique among the other first boards shown here in
2ways: (1) it does not have the
EVA (synthetic rubber) deck; and (2) it is a lighter
weight, similar shape to advanced boards. Based
on the shape of the tremendous world-wide success
of the BIC Techno 293 One Design, the CORE is a
proven performer in a wide variety of conditions.
(293cm X 79cm wide and 205 liters volume.) For a
beginner, the high volume, stability and a
fully retractable daggerboard make it an
ideal learning platform. When the wind picks up,
the Core 293 D becomes a true "free-ride"
board on which you can learn how to plane, sail
in the footstraps, waterstart and gybe! It's an
ideal first board for the aggressive-minded
beinner and one that many keep forever
into their advanced years as their light-wind, big-sail
freerider. (Note: The CORE has a regular, non-skid
top deck construction like all smaller, performance
Trade-offs: less wide and stable
(width-wise) than some here; no super-easy footstrap
position options; no EVA deck protection
back to top
-- (MSRP: $1299.)
Refined in 2009, this model has all the essential
elements of first board design without complications,
gimics, or extremes. The MALIBU is a board of superior
performance in planing conditions. Mistral focused
on maximizing the correct length-to-width ratio
to provide stability on both axis,
upwind pointing, and improved high-wind control.
The '09 MALIBU comes in is 274cm long by 85cm wide
with 220 liters which will give anyone, from light
to heavy weights, plenty of float in a manuverable
package! Wow. Add a, comfy and protective EVA rubber-like
deck all over, High Resistance Skin, many footstrap
positions, and a traditional retractable
daggerboard for "get-me-back-to-home" ability
Note: If you're trying to bring
a child or spouse into the sport, and you want that
new board to do some double duty when you need a
light-air big-un...and you're not inclined to do
the stand-up paddleboard thing...then, this is it!)
Trade-offs: Not lowest price of
all boards here
back to top
PACIFICO (the stand-up paddleboard, or SUP) -- (MSRP:
$1299) -- This is the multi-purpose revolution!
A super-friendly beginner's windsurfing board that
also brings you into the world's fastest growing
watersport: stand-up paddleboarding. As a windsurfer,
it's first name is STABLE. It's long: 350cm (11'
4") X 78cm wide (30") and 207 liters.
(Notice, it ain't THAT big: it's not even as wide
or as much volume as some other first-board choices
here. Or heavier.) An overall EVA deck for barefoot
(and bare shin) comfort. High resistance skin for
durability underneath. Super easy beginner platform
-- that's obvious -- but what amazes is how shockingly
lightweight it feels underfoot! As you improve it
really planes smoothly -- even in bad, crazy chop
in high winds -- and delivers a rewarding, floating
ride. But, if there isn't any wind, then what? Go
surfing, dude! Grab the stand-up long paddle and
get on the water! Ride waves, paddle the still waters
at sunset, glide in light air, zoom when it blows...
and you can still send the kids out to play on it
while you take a break. (A specialized stand-up
paddle is about $260 additional.)
Trade-offs: it's long (but not
heavy, however, can be a handful to transport and
cartop); only one footstrap position; may take more
wind to plane than some models here; Be
aware: no daggerboard!! (but the long out
line largely compensates for that)
back to top
KONA "Link" --
(MSRP: $1249) An excellent entry level performance
hybrid! Traditional longboard-like performance due
to it's round nose shape and fittings, yet it's
not hugely long so that it can have reduced bulk
to enhance speed and manubverability in higher winds.
220 liters and 300cm long x 80 wide. A very easy
board to control under full power. Those retro,
island-style good looks don't hurt either!
Really, a sweet choice for multiple users of various
sizes, abilities and agressiveness, especially in
a flat-water venue (i.e., lake or protected bay).
Shares much in common capability- wise with the
NOVA240d below but less thickness and apparent mass.
Full EVA deck and removable integrated wheel at
rear for easy transport. Trade
offs: Not cheap. No super-easy foostrap
options (but several moderate progressive positions.)
"Nova 240d -- (MSRP: $1099) This NOVA model
is my #1 choice for heavyweights
to smooth out the learning curve, from day one to
planing in the footstraps with comfort and control.
This is a 240 liter, longer first-board that's not
so wide, either. I guarantee this shape is a major
frustration-reducer for the big person. (See my
notes above about the issues with too-short, too-wide
first boards.) 308cm is, first of all, not really
long -- it's WAY shorter than what the 90's generation
learned on -- nor is it really narrow at 82cm. That
reasonable length gives the board a SUPERIOR rating
in every category of learning accessibility
and in the categories of windsurfing performance
that matter to a novice as he advances. We all learn
in lighter winds and then progress to stiffer breezes.
This shape evolves with you from a positive-tracking,
gliding lightwind board with centerboard down, and
then spiffs up nicely in higher wind. EVA deck.
Central footstrap options. Durable daggerboard.
Trade-offs: Less width-wise stability
on your first day (but, after that, no problem there.)
More board to handle out of the water.
"Cruiser" -- (MSRP: $1199) A very
successful selling design primarily due to it's
ease-of-transportation feature, a roller on the
tail and a handle cut-out at the nose. Roll it around
like luggage! You don't have to carry it. Another
great family or lake/beach house board.
It shares a lot of features with other boards here:
overall EVA (rubber) deck, very durable. Large size
is super wide at 100cm, volumizing
at 205 liters, and has a retractable daggerboard.
Medium size is 175 liters and 90cm wide -- suitable
learning board for lightweights, kids only. These
boards are in the "short" range,
no doubt, at 252cm in length. Stability from front-to-back
can be an issue and also requires more precise sail
positioning to track across and upwind.
Trade offs: a bit heavy in the
water; short shape creates sail handling issues.
||Freight and shipping
Prices are plus freight which can be from $65 to$95.
(The nationwide windsurfing mail order catalogs charge
freight too. When they don't, they are making it up
somewhere else on you.) For first-timers, if at all
possible, I personally deliver and lend hands-on help
to set up the rig and make sure it's right. If distance
requires direct shipping to you, I am still resposible
for handling any problem issues, damage,etc. It's
a full-satisfaction guarantee you have in writing
and Sail Recommendations
A complete sail
rig has 5 main parts:
1) the sail, (2) the mast, (3) a boom, (4) an extension,
and (5) the mast base/U-joint.
Sails from the last few years are also much better
than the old beginner's rigs. They are lighter
weight and without mechanical cams (cup-like
devices that grip the mast where the battens (ribs
of the sail) meets the mast) so they rig
easier, uphaul (lift from the water)
easier, and transition
from one side to the other on turns much
easier. Most men should start with something in
the 6.2 to 6.7 sq. meter range. Lighter women, something
closer to 5.5. I often have good close-out deals
on some sizes of ' 08 and ' 07 sails. Some used
ones out there are quite suitable. Things I would
want to talk with you about: Should you get
one or two to begin with? Which size(s)?
Are you planning to take it in the ocean? Are
you going to go out whenever it blows...or just
a couple of really good values out there on quality
"first" sails in complete rigs
that include mast, boom, and extension.
the world-renowned Aerotech brand,
the all-monofilm GLIDE in 5.2
at $591 up to 6.5 at $652 in a semi-complete
rig* with appropriate two-piece Epic Gear
brand epoxy mast and boom. It's a lightweight, performance
shape with features like a pulley down-haul and
grid luff panel to reduce mono wrinkling.
(*Price does not include extension and mast base/U-joint.)
Aerotech's AIR-X if you want a
full-on performance sail with greter durability
and state-of-the-art features. I specify this as
a best "first gear" choice due to it's
light-weight, easy-rigging, all-round freeride design
-- and price. For beginners, I'll do a 5.2 or 5.8
at $459 for sail only. Scrounge
a used mast or boom, base and extension, or let
me complete a reasonable package. (You get the increased
durability of "all X-ply" construction
in this sail model. Easily worth it if you live
or sail in the ocean.)
back to top
I have in stock the boom you ought to get.... $119
to $139. A super value in a quality aluminum boom
by Chinook or Epic Gear. These are exactly like the
boom I started on and often still use; they're $30
cheaper than other manufacturers and way less than
hi-tech carbon ones you don't need.
The mast: For years, most beginners started
with a basic epoxy for $139. I did for my first
2 years. But, the other lighter option is the carbon-composite
which, for the basic 40 % carbon one I would recommend,
you jump to about $290. They are lighter and more
responsive and someday you will want one. For now,
choose between the epoxy or 40% carbon, unless you
can easily afford a higher percent carbon and lightness
of the rig is very important to you.
base and Universal joint
and mast bases are really simple, but there are
several systems out there. Only two are really standard.
Let's go over it....
The mast base extension sticks into
the bottom of the mast. It has two purposes: (1)
It has the imbedded pulley wheels on it for
downhauling the sail, and (2) it adjusts
the lenght of your mast to fit sails
of various sizes. Extensions come in 3 or 4 standard
lengths and each is adjustable in the amount of
length they add to your mast. You only need one.
This allows a given mast to adjust to fit a variety
of sail sizes. Get a longish one. Why not? It only
costs a few bucks more and then you have more flexibiity.
>>> Both pieces together: approximately
An extension is made to accept a U-joint/mastbase
(also commonly referred to as just the
mast foot or mast base) of the
same style. There are only two current styles:
(1) the double push-pin cup , or (2) the Euro-pin.
Either is perfectly fine and readily available in
shops, etc. but the base and extension styles must
match. This universal joint top piece inserts
into the bottom of the mast base extension and locks
in place. The flexible piece of the U-joint comes
in two shapes and materials, the black rubber hourglass
or the urethane tendon. Either is
fine. The bottom of the U-joint assembly usually
has a threaded bolt and stainless or brass square
washer to insert in the mast track of the board.
Then, there is a mechanism to tighten down the whole
assembly to the board, usually by twisting, which
pulls the washer up tight inside the mast track.
(Yep, can you believe that?! -- it all comes down
to that washer holding the sail to the board!) I
sell, and use myself the Chinook, and Streamlined
brands of extensions and U-joints. Expect to pay
about $58 for the longest mast base extensions.
The Chinnok rubber "Twist-On" is a twist-and-release
U-joint that is simple, reliable, inexpensive ($57)
and great for beginners (and you'll still be using
it when you're an expert).
A WARNING: If
you get this fantastic used-board-with-sail-and-everything-deal
from your brother-in-law that has an old,
obsolete mast track and mast base/U-joint
system, you will be very mad when you realize that,
if a piece of this system breaks, that's it --
the board is worthless.The sail, mast, and
boom should work on another board, but if you can't
find the obsolete replacement U-joint parts -- and
I'm pretty good, but I can't work miracles --just
toss out the board. To prevent this from happening,
call me before you buy that used stuff. I'll go
over it with you.
||Other minor necessities
Up-haul line -- The basic bungee
one is $11. (Or, the braided rope for easy grip
-- $23.Or an E-Z-Uphaul for $32
Boom bra pad --
$13. Attaches to the boom at the mast clamp to cushion
the blow if the boom slams into the nose of the
Hand-held rigging tool
That's all, folks!