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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:

Fanatic VIPER-- "BIC's "CORE" Mistral's MALIBU Exocet's CRUISER -BIC's "NOVA 240d" -- KONA "Link"

The first-board SUP option:  Stand Up Paddleboards

Mistral's PACIFICO  <> (and much more on the SUP revolution HERE)

Sails*

Aerotech's "GLIDE" and "AIR-X"

(*alone or value-packaged as complete rig with mast, boom, base/U-joint)

 

What 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 than ever.

So... if you're still with me, let's look into 5 critical characteristics of "first board" design and how they might impact your decision...

The 1st revolution in "first board" design, 10 years ago, was about width-wise stability. Board designers quickly realized that the ideal beginner's board would be even better if it was also lightweight, durable, low-cost, 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: stability. In 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.

 

I(Note #1: 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 length, 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.

(Note #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 centerboards.)


   
 
So...I 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.
   
 
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T BUY A USED BOARD THAT IS NOT FROM THE WIDE REVOLUTION OR IS FOR ADVANCED WINDSURFERS.
   
   
   
Board Recommendations
 


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.

 
   
 

Fanatic 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!

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Bic 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 windsurf boards.)

Trade-offs: less wide and stable (width-wise) than some here; no super-easy footstrap position options; no EVA deck protection

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Mistral "MALIBU" -- (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

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Mistral's 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)

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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.)

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Bic "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.

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Exocet's "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.

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  Freight and shipping concerns:
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 right here.
   
   
   
Rig 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 whenever?

   
 

There are a couple of really good values out there on quality "first" sails in complete rigs that include mast, boom, and extension.

From 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.)

Consider 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.)

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Mast and Boom
 
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.

   
   
Mast base and Universal joint
   
 

U-joints 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 $110.

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 board.

Hand-held rigging tool -- $14

That's all, folks!

Chuck Hardin
(706) 860-0639

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