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From Beginner to Advanced -

 Progressing from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced

What tools should a windsurfer have to quickly learn new skills, to progress into the reams of intermediate and advanced windsurfing? What board will transform the life of the windsurfer-to-be?

 The hybrids, a good alternative?

A hybrid (short, wide, with a centerboard) theoretically is suitable for a person from the beginning of his windsurfing career until race-like blasting with big sails. And up until the emegence of the "next generation longboard" it was the best, or even only, reasonable alternative. However, wide and short hybrid board has lots of drawbacks, only partially moderated by their advantages.

A wide and voluminous hybrid is stable and easy for the beginner. It typically is equipped with a smallish fin to make stearing easier, and to allow the beginner to use shallow water. When the wind increases, as well as skills, then planing becomes the next step. However, the relatively short fin of the hybrid isn't enough to power the board. A 90 cm wide hybrid needs a 55-60 cm deep fin in order to function properly as a planing board. But big fins complicate life in many ways, especially close to shore going out, coming in, resting, etc.
When a hybrid is trimmed for planing windsurfing it requires straps fairly far out in the edge of the board. These straps are difficult to use. The wide board also tends to create habits (e.g. foot placement, jibing technique) that are counterproductive when trying to move down in boardsize.

The natural downsizing from a hybrid for an improving windsurfer is a large freeride board. A board with some 70 cm of width starts to behave like a small board. it turns, carves and steers similarly to a smallish board. With a next generation longboard, an allround board with a step tail (that overlaps the 70 cm wide freeride), the natural next step down is a 62-64 cm wide, just above 100 liter. This is then already a true shortboard.

The ideal progression taking up windsurfing is to start on a wide hybrid, get an understanding of the basic sailhandling and steering, and then after about 4 hours to move on to a longboard. The next generation longboard will hone lightwind cruising skills, manouvers, and make the first planing runs happen. This same longboard will also be ideal to tutor harness use, planing skills, fottstraps, carving jibes, speed runs and general high performance windsurfing (except jumps and new school sliding freestyle tricks).

Thus, a good quiver for the windsurfer that wants to cover all conditions is a KONA Style/ONE and a 100 liter Freeride.

A definitive advantage of a longboard compared to a hybrid is that the former works well with relativly small sails.

 Easier to learn to use footstraps on a narrower board

Getting into the most aggressive outboard strap positions on a wide (more than 85 cm) board, and entry level or racing model, actually takes more skill than sailing a smaller board with more inboard footstraps. On a wide board lots of skill and sail power control is required to move to the rail of the board and to get the feet into the straps (without tilting the board to windward, or dropping the foot into the water). There are lots of opportunities for catapults. On a narrower board (like 70 cm), that does not require such aggressive strap placement, it is far easier to find the straps, while balancing the rig power, without upsetting board trim.

Balance between board size and sail size

Each windsurfing board has an ideal sail size range. If the sail is too big it will overpower the board and make the combination heavy and underperforming. If the sail is too small it will make the board slow in light winds and uncontrollable in high winds.

A 5.8 board on a 75 cm wide 140 liter freeride does not work well. The board becomes bouncy and the sail does not have weight and power to stabilize the nose of the board. The sails center of effort is far forward due to the short boom which makes the trim awkward. 

The Exocet S-Cross 130 at 74 cm wide has a sail recommendation of 5.8-9.8, while the S-Cross 145 at 81 cm wide has a sail recommendation of 7.0-11.0. Do these in fact describe the sails somehow possible for planing windsurfing on boards with different widths?

This could (should?) be understood so that for planing windsurfing an Exocet Cruiser M (and similar boards), at 90 cm wide, never should be used with a smaller sail than an 8.0. And to cope with the power requirement associated with the width a fin length of at least a 55 cm would be needed. However, most wide style non-race hybrids have powerboxes that cannot handle such big fins.

There is evidence that a longer board can cope with a larger range of sails. The Kona Style works in both planing and subplaning conditions well with a 5.8 sail for a lightweight, as well as with a 10.0 sail for a heavyweight.

The KONA Style works particularly well for planing windsurfing with sail sizes between 9.0 and 7.0. Some short tests have shown that even a 11.0 works in in subplaning conditions. The question is if it still trims well with a 5.8 sail for a lightweight? There are reports from people who use the KONA with 5.8 sails and the 40 cm fin, and they say that it is comfortable and exiting for blasting.

Misguided recruiting

A number of designers and brands have proclaimed that their goal is to get the beginner planing as early as possible. Then the beginner will be hooked, and a new windsurfer will be born. The unfortunate truth is that this would be a planing focused windsurfer, a wind neurotic that has to rearrange his life to be able to hit the beach when it is windy. The statement "I windurf regularly and only in planing conditions"  is impossible for most people. Between family committments, work, hobbies and everything else it is very unlikely that average Joe will be able to hit the beach when it is windy. Average Joe needs to be hooked on a sport that he can practise whenever he has time. Out of the mass of average Joe's a number of radical Ricks will emerge, forming the hard core of the windsurfing community. But in order for average Joe to have fun in all conditions, and to step up to high wind windsurfing at his own pace, he needs very versatile equipment. He needs a next generation longboard!

"Windsurfing together" is an underappreciated flavour. The social aspect of "together" makes a lot to feed the need to windsurf "regulary".


For a beginner or improver I do think that the only sensible recommendation is a KONA Style/One (or similar design) that works well in a very large wind band, from 2 to 25 knots. It tutors the beginner in light wind technigues, and will later allow him to learn to use harness, footstraps, carving jibes, etc. It is even possible to get into racing using the same board. In fact, there is really no need to ever purchase a large freeride as the KONA fulfills that role very well.