Popular American Pastimes: Windsurfing and Sailboarding

Popular American Pastimes: Windsurfing and Sailboarding

Windsurfing takes the concept behind surfing, riding the wave and then adds in a sail to pump up the thrill. Newman Darby is credited as the creator of the first windsurfing board. In the late 1940s, he began to experiment with the possibilities of steering a vessel in the water without using a rudder. Darby took a catamaran, a small boat and used a universal joint to attach a hand operated sail. Darby would continue to refine and develop the ides through the 1960s, even briefly starting a sailboard design company and selling his boards. It would be Californians Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake, however, who would patent the first sailboard in the 1970, which also featured a universal joint.

Since Drake enjoyed sailing and Schweitzer was a surfer, the term windsurfing was used to describe the new hybrid. The pair also named their new company Windsurfing International and quickly began to mass produce boards. Windsurfing caught on quickly, especially in Europe. Enjoying its biggest popularity in the ‘70s and ‘80s, windsurfing would become a part of the Olympics by 1984. Today windsurfing is enjoyed as a professional sport and as a recreational activity. In fact, windsurfing is described as one of the easier water sports or extreme sports to learn.

Understanding of the equipment and some basic sailing knowledge, however, is required when getting started. The craft of the windsurfer is called a sailboard. The sailboard is similar in shape to the surfboard and features fins for steering and to aid in lift. Sailboards are also designed to increase the stability of the windsurfer while on the water. The addition of the sail allows the windsurfer to sail without being in a sailboat. Sails come in different sizes, the larger the sail the faster the vessel can move. The sail attaches to the surfboard with a mast, a long pole that can be moved around within its base to operate the sail. For beginners, there is a significant amount of upper body and core strength used in maneuvering the sail and remaining balanced. As beginners improve at this and other areas of technique, however, the sport can be less physically taxing and is appropriate for all ages.


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