How to Learn Basic Windsurfing

Three Parts:The KitBasics of StartingTurning

A quick and easy guide to getting started in the world of windsurfing

Part 1
The Kit

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    Knowing your kit is helpful as when others give you advice you need to know what they are talking about. The kit is divided into two parts; the board and rig. The board is the surfboard-like part you stand on, and has one or more fins and daggerboards (on some models) underwater.
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    Remember that when starting the daggerboard, it should be down at all times. You can do this by pulling the big nob towards the rear, or stern, of the board to lower and towards the front, or bow, to raise when packing away.
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    Know that there will also be foot straps and a deck plate to hold the rig on. The rig consists of a sail, mast and boom. The boom is the bit you hold on to, but the mast can be used for support. A cord should run from the boom to the bottom of the mast, this is the uphaul and is used to pull the sail up. The boom often has harness lines hanging from it.

Part 2
Basics of Starting

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    Push the board out into deep water until the fin is clear of the bottom.
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    Get a sense of the wind direction, and maneuver the board so that the sail is downwind of the board.
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    Swim or walk to the upwind side and clamber onto the board - elegance is not required! Stay on your knees and grab a hold of the uphaul, without pulling up the sail yet.
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    Raise to your feet at a slow pace. Using a beginners board should mean you are pretty stable - rock back and forth on your feet to get a feel for it.
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    Bend your knees slightly and pull the sail up from the water with the uphaul, hand over hand like hauling in a rope. Try to keep your back and body somewhat upright. If you feel your lower back starting to ache, you are bending over too much.
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    Take hold of the mast with both hands and let it swing. This is called the "safety" or "control" position: total control with next to no power.
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    Practice steering(called Center of Effort Steering) in the "safety" position. With the mast straight up tilt the mast to your left. Your body should transfer this imbalance(the center of effort of the sail is not balanced with the center of lateral resistance of the board) to the board and make the board turn(or spin) clockwise. Tilt the mast to the right and the board will turn(or spin) counterclockwise(anticlockwise). The stronger the wind and the further you tilt the faster the board will turn(or spin). In a stiff breeze you may be sailing very slowly at this point. Another steering description is as you tilt the mast to the stern the board will head up in to the wind. This is also described in the turning section of this doc. Tilting the mast to the front makes the board bear off from the wind.
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    Start moving. Look and see which side the bow of the board is in relation to you, and place your lower hand on the boom so the mast is leading the sail towards the bow(front). When you feel ready, transfer the other hand to the boom. Don't let the sail pull you down - the mast should be perpendicular to the board, so lean back and keep the arms straight. This is called the Number 7, and that should indicate the posture to you!
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    Pull with the stern wards hand (the back hand) to accelerate - let it out to slow down. Keep your feet behind the mast foot, with the toes of the front foot facing forwards.
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    Relax! If you need to stop, return to the safety position, or drop the boom if it is safe to do so. Make sure it goes in front of you, and bear in mind you will get very tired if you have to keep on picking it up!

Part 3

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    Tilt the mast, from the safety position, towards the stern to turn the nose of the board upwind (behind you) or towards the bow to turn downwind (in front of you).
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    Step around the mast, as the nose comes around, to get to the other side. Now you can sail away! This principle works whilst sailing too - tilt the mast forwards and back using the boom to adjust your course!
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    Enjoy yourself!


  • Try not to land on the sail! It can make a very expensive hole
  • Buy a learning board that is appropriate for your wind conditions. If you live in a windy area a wide board ( Mistral Malibu for example) will give you good value when you add a larger high performance sail to your quiver and learn how to plane. Eventually you'll want a short board to use the 5-meter sail that likely came with your board. Such a sail WILL NOT power your big wide board up onto a plane easily in usual wind conditions. If you sail in lighter winds a LONGBOARD is a good first choice, and good investment that you'll likely keep as long as you windsurf.
  • As you work your way to getting more proficient, change one thing at a time, such as the board or the sail size. Not both together!!! This will completely throw you off windsurfing.
  • Experiment with balance, make yourself fall in a few times to learn the boards limit
  • Be aware of other water-users. Powered craft must give way to you but pleasure gives way to business; don't do anything stupid. Port gives to starboard - sailors with their right hand forward have the right of way. Shout 'starboard' to remind an on-comer if you have right of way, but maintain your course and speed so they can avoid you. Avoiding a port sailor may seem helpful, but not if they are doing the same. Its not a game of chicken! If you are the port sailor, go downwind of them.
  • Lessons are best if one-on-one, and aren't too expensive
  • Helmets and life jackets add confidence and are required in many places.
  • Avoid buying progression boards older than 15 years (unless a longboard) and less than 60 centimeter (23.6 in) wide! Dave's neon purple garage sale 80's wave sailing board is not a good deal for most people at any price, unless you live in a place that regularly features gale force winds.
  • Check E-bay out for equipment ... you may go through equipment changes very quickly if you get the hang of it and it could become very expensive if you buy new - but ask an experienced windsurfer for brand types and its use.
  • Try to sail with someone - their experience will always help, especially if they spend a lot more time out of the water than you do. It is always good in case you get into difficulty.
  • If you go with someone try to 'follow my leader', you will pick up a lot about posture and movements.
  • Don't choose a board with too little volume.
  • Suit up - its cold out there
  • Be light on your feet


  • Make sure you can swim at least 50m.
  • Beware of local wildlife and, if applicable, tidal conditions including riptides.
  • Never sail in a wind that carries you away from shore until you are much more experienced.
  • Yield to ferries, although they are powered craft (see above: pleasure gives way to business). Same applies to container ships etc.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Windsurfing