Getting started in windsurfing
Introduction to windsurfing
Want to get into windsurfing but don't know where to start? Here is the lowdown on the basics of windsurfing, from what kind of kit you will need to where you can learn.
Windsurfing instruction techniques and skills in the UK have advanced at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world, under the management of the RYA. It's never been so quick or easy to learn to windsurf. The basics can be mastered in a couple of hours or a weekend will see even the most cautious first-timer sailing comfortably.
For the more adventurous, a fortnight spent at a dedicated windsurf camp could easily see progression from raw beginner on day one, to sailing confidently using a harness and the footstraps by the end of the holiday. There are lots of specialist water sports tour operators these days, many of which offer windsurfing instruction as part of the holiday package.
To follow are the windsurfing levels you could progress through with the RYA.
Level one: Learn to windsurf course
This consists of around six to eight hours of intensive instruction, covering dry-land simulator practice, rigging, carrying and launching the board and rig, tacking and gybing, self rescue and general safety, sailing theory and an introduction to understanding weather and water conditions.
On completion of the level one course, the student will be able to rig their windsurfer, sail it in any direction in light-medium winds, and turn around. The average cost for this will be about £65, although prices may vary depending on which school you choose. The school will supply all equipment, including wetsuit and buoyancy aid.
Once the basics have been mastered, the next things to learn are more efficient control, handling and turning techniques, how to sail in slightly stronger winds, and other manoeuvres such as beach starting. From there on, the student moves into the world of planing conditions, higher speeds and more advanced manoeuvering skills. From here the way is also open to progress to shorter boards, and/or competition skills.
Level two: Improving
This covers launching and landing with board and rig connected, introduction to the beach start; improved reaching skills, running and beating; basic harness technique; using the daggerboard; the right stance; better tacking and gybing; understanding the rig; fitness; rights of way; tides; types of boards, wetsuits and accessories; windsurfing competition, courses and formats.
Level three: Stronger winds
Carrying the board and rig assembled; beach-starting in a variety of conditions; uphauling in stronger winds; harness and line adjustment; planing stance; using the mast track; tacking in stronger winds; gybing exercises with and without daggerboard; types of sails and their rigging; mast types; towing another sailor; alternative methods of self rescue; weather patterns; dangerous tidal areas; location choice; railing upwind; planing techniques, and an introduction to shorter boards.
Level four: Planing techniques
Launching and landing in waves; rig recovery; the water-start; key points of planing technique; stance exercises; use of footstraps, mast track and harness to best effect; tacking shorter boards; non-planing gybes; carve gybe exercises and progressions; rigging rotational and camber induced sails; emergency repairs; weather patterns and effects on a location; tidal and wave-driven effects; choosing locations for different types of sailing; different types of sails; board design features; spin-out; fin shapes and materials; looking after equipment.
Level five: Advanced windsurfing techniques
Advanced methods of water starting and launching in surf; stance refinements; controlling excessive power; sailing in waves; jumping and wave riding; different types of short board gybes; rig selection and tuning; self rescue on a short board; types of jumps and landing; tide and wind effects; shipping forecast interpretation; short board designs and applications; use of helmets.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) oversees the interests and management of all sailing and boating interests in the UK, including windsurfing. Their tuition schemes are world-renowned, and they run a comprehensive range of windsurfing courses at 250 recognised centres in the UK and Europe, which cater for beginners through to experts, with all equipment provided.