Back to Home††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† GET THE RIGHT SAILBOARD

For some 30 years as a sailboard instructor and 20 years as a sailboard shop owner the first question I have been asked over and over again is: How hard is it to sail one of those things? A customer says looking at a shortboard on one side of the store. Well you don't start here I say as I would guide them over to the wall with longboards which have been supplanted by a wall of wide medium length wide boards. While these new Shorter Wide Boards (9 to 10ft) like the Longboards (12 ft +) of old are where you start. The misconception that Shorter Wide Boards (SWB) are only for beginners is one that may cheat many sailors out of enjoyable sessions in light to moderate air. Just because they're wider and longer than high wind shortboards doesn't make them slower. Their light and stiff construction yields a high-performance board that can sail as fast as any shortboard in many conditions, faster in some conditions. This is because the SWB planes with a lot less wind than your standard high wind shortboard. Unless you live in an exceptionally windy place, a high wind shortboard should be your second board. Most windsurfing locations experience a variety of conditions that a SWB will deal with quite adequately, while the use of a high wind shortboard in those places are hit or miss at best. The SWB with itís stability has the added advantage of being a board you can learn and teach on, just have a smaller sail for this purpose. Remember my basic rule: buy a first board that will guarantee you can sail in your local wind conditions. In most places that means a SWB. Even when you have progressed to proficient jibs, harness use and water starts your SWB will keep you fit as you sharpen your windsurfing technique in 5 to 15 mph wind rather that sit on the beach with a high wind shortboard. It is one thing to be hoping for enough wind and knowing you'll have enough to be able to sail.

I've noticed for years experienced sailors have at least two or more boards on top of there cars. A longboard he knows he can sail and the shortboards he hopes he can sail. And instead of sitting on the beach waiting for wind the longboard equipped sailors puts up a rig and gets right on the water. When the wind comes up he can just switch his rig to the shortboard. If the wind comes up a lot more he rigs a smaller sail. Some would have a Floater Shortboard and a Sinker Shortboard to go through the transition to higher wind conditions that make three boards.

Shorter Wide Boards: Board No.1 & 2. all in One Now the SWB can replace the Longboard and the Floater Shortboard. In fact I can say with the SWB I sail it in winds from 5 to 25 mph and it is the one board I can sail 80% of the time based on average Cape Cod conditions. Jibs and waterstarts are easier to learn on this board making for the easiest transition to the highwind sinker short board.


Board No.1 Longboard: The configuration that started the sport known by the brand name Windsurfer. You can pretty much find them only on the used market now. The high performance longboard will provide you with an intense workout both mentally and physically and if the wind in your area blows mostly between 1 and 18 knots, itís a good choice. You may be able to get a good deal on a used one if you look hard enough. Be careful that you get all the parts, some mast foot parts, skegs and dagger boards are hard to come by for these boards that are no longer made. Higher performance longboards usually are around 12' in length light epoxy-carbon construction with a large dagger board. The performance attributes of a performance longboard, include quick acceleration, excellent upwind ability and lightweight. Some of the models out there include the Mistral Equipe and Superlight, Fanatic Cat, Tiga Race, F2 Lightning, and F2 Strato. The more basic longboards are rotary molded polyethylene thus somewhat heaver than the high performance longboard. If your sailing time is severely limited or you simply enjoy sailing out and back and relaxing on the shore with friends and family: You may want what I call a "low maintenance" longboard, not too technical and easy to rig. This group includes the old Windsurfer one design, Mistral Superlight, HiFly 355, Bic Melody and Calypso as well as many others. Here again be sure you get all the parts or know you can get them somewhere.

You're a lightweight sailor 150 lbs. or less: A long board for you may mean a board 328 to 310 cm and about 150 liters or more using a daggerboard. With a sail in the 4.0 to 6.0 m range generally works well. They are lighter making them easier to control and car top. In this category are boards like the Bic Veloce 328, Bic Rumba Race 310, Mistral Malibu 325 and the old F2 comet. Here again be sure you get all the parts or know you can get them somewhere.


Board No.2 Floater Shortboard: The wind is consistently more than 15 knots and your friends are zipping along on their shortboards. You have learned to use a harness you can use foot straps you may or may not waterstart. You are ready for that first shortboard. My general rule is go at least 30 liters in volume more than will just float you. (Check out my chart at the end of this page.) Follow this rule and you will have a fighting chance of up-hauling your sail if you need to. You'll have to if you have not quite learned to waterstart or when the wind drops below waterstart velocity for your weight. I know there are those out there who may dispute my +30 liter rule. I can't count the number of times I've zipped past someone schilogging along on a low volume board while I was on a full plane making two or three tacks to their one. In general the new larger freeride boards with their higher volume in the rear half will allow you to jibe smoother and keep your board up on a plane throughout. However the Slalom boards are usually a bit faster over all.

Board No.3 Sinker shortboard: Suppose you get a fair number of days with the wind in 20+mph range you can get into the straps, jib and waterstart. You want the ultimate in control and speed in high wind conditions. You're ready for what I call a sinker. Go to the chart and find the volume equal to float your body weight, this is the volume that would just float you with the deck level with the surface of the water. Now look at boards around this volume to as much as 30 liters less but I recommend staying very close to that figure. a sinker.

In this category of board you'll find slalom, freeride and wave boards. I would say go for the wave board only if you really will have the opportunity to sail surf often. There is a style of board dubbed convertible, which seems to try and combine the best of all traditional board designs in the 105 to 85 liter range. There are a lot of boards to choose from and a wide Varity of conditions from one area to another so consult local sailors and board shops where you will sail.

Now you do not have to own three boards. Just one Shorter Wide Board (SWB) you can probably sail enjoyably 80% of the time. If crave that adrenaline high wind rush the High Wind Short is your next accession. This is when the shortboard addiction starts. Just donít forget there are times when it is good to just get away form the land no matter how low the wind and let you mind flow with the sea, the sky, and perhaps a setting sun or a rising moon.

As for sails consider a simple R.A.F. sail in the 5.0 to 6.0 range to start. If you already can sail in the straps and use the harness, or weigh more than 180 pounds, I'd recommend a 6.5 to 7.5. A camber sail has a slightly larger luff pocket and uses camber inducers in the sail up against the mast to create a more wing like profile, this design is usually used on 6.0 square meter and larger sails. The camber sail will give you more power to perform well under lighter wind conditions. When you realize you are getting blown away with your present sail my rule of thumb is go to a 1 sq.-meter less in sail area. Say you are do just fine using a 6.0 the wind is blowing 20 mph. When the wind picks up to between 25-30 mph your arms are getting pulled out of their sockets, try a 5.0 meter sail. When going smaller use an R.A.F. unless the wind is up and down a lot a single cam may help power you through the lulls. Some sail have removable cams which will flatten and de-power the sail in stronger winds.


(Volume in Liters.)