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| Windsurfing Glossary
What is Windsurfing?
In brief, windsurfing (also known as Sailboarding) is a
water sport using a board powered by the force of the wind.
Windsurfing is an extremely pure, if not the purest, form of
sailing. A windsurfer uses his or her body as a conduit for
the natural force of the wind which propels the board.
Unlike surfing, where only the wave is the power source,
windsurfing can be practiced wherever there is a body of
water and wind. This means lakes, river gorges, estuaries,
and yes, heavy surf can be ample playing ground for the
windsurfer. Unlike most other forms of sailing, a windsurfer
is close and personal with the water.
A windsurfer is flooded with sensations the second they step
onto the board; the sound of the wind whirling into the sail
and the churn of water splashing by, the feeling of chop a
few inches below your feet, the spray of wave-mist against
your skin, and the invisible tug of the wind against your
body – your phantom dancing partner and source of power in
the sport. With all this sensory input control over the
smallest details can be achieved. Unlike boating, the board
and gear can be easily transported on almost any vehicle you
have available; no trailer or large SUV is required.
Since the appearance of windsurfing in the late 1970's to
early 80’s the principles of the sport have remained the
same, however the technology, variety, and fun factor has
evolved to amazing heights. Whether you are a beginner or
expert, your cup of tea may be high-speed race or slalom
sailing on flat water, bump & jump in the chop, radical
freestyle tricks, wave sailing in the surf, or just a
leisurely, relaxing light wind cruise on the lake.
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Windsurfing is difficult to learn.
Windsurfing is only difficult to learn if the learner has
insufficient information. Modern boards are designed for
stability and ease of use. Boards have become much wider,
lighter, and more durable over the years. Most beginners
should learn in light to moderate wind (5-15 mph), on a
large 'floaty' board with plenty of volume, and a small
sail. Also, learning to windsurf without knowing about the
fundamentals can be frustrating and exhausting – this is
when lessons, a good instructor, and possibly a video will
go a long way to get you sailing in a short time. Most
windsurfing students with a good instructor will be able to
windsurf on their own by the first or second session on the
Windsurfing is physically demanding.
Men, women, and children of all ages, body types, and levels
of strength can windsurf in a variety of conditions. In
windsurfing, the sail and rig can easily dump the wind if
you begin to feel over powered. An instructor or windsurfing
shop can evaluate your body type and help you decide on the
right sail size for you. The sail can also be adjusted for
maximum power or minimal power while setting-up (rigging) on
the beach. With proper technique and practice you will find
that you gracefully dance with the wind rather than wrestle
Windsurfing is a dangerous sport.
Any sport can be dangerous, but most beginners are nervous
about being on the water, or the power of the wind
intimidates them. Remember - the windsurf board itself
serves as a flotation device. Stay with the board and even
if you forgot your life jacket you can hang onto your board
for support, or sit on top of it to rest. Impact damage is
another fear as windsurfing can be a very speedy sport. In
the event of a wipe-out you are unlikely to impact anything
but water. If your mast or rigging falls in your direction
your hands and arms should protect you by default. Such an
impact is very rare; the wind will tend to blow the sail
away from you. Helmets in extreme conditions are sometimes a
popular choice. Ultimately, you have great control over how
the board and rig react.
Windsurfing is expensive.
Compared to most water sports, windsurfing is relatively
inexpensive. Unlike power-boat sports (like jet skiing, wake
boarding, or water skiing), you do not have to pay for fuel,
registration (in most states), insurance, or endless
maintenance. Your fuel is clean and completely renewable -
the wind! Most windsurfers will own one or two boards, and
one to three sails for many years without needing to buy new
equipment. Boards today are designed to cover a wide range
of conditions; this is a throwback to the 80's when
windsurfing was most popular. Today the idea is to own an
all-around board (like the Exocet Kona or Bic Techno 293)
when you first begin, which will keep you busy indefinitely
until you can move on to something more extreme or
You can only windsurf where there is coastline and a beach.
The most popular places to windsurf are inland lakes.
Coastline gets the spotlight because of the variety of
conditions and high winds found there, but not everyone can
take time to drive to the nearest coastline.
Windsurfing is mostly slow and leisurely, like boat sailing.
Windsurfing can be slow and leisurely in light winds on a
large board. But, the most radical windsurfing takes place
in heavy surf, rough chop, or high winds on flat water where
sailors routinely reach speeds near 40 mph.
Windsurfing is mostly a fast and radical sport, like
Windsurfing can be fast, wet, and wild. But if you are
looking for a relaxed cruise on the lake break out your long
board, or any large floaty board that does well in light
wind, and you will be fine.
Myth: There is no wind in North Texas.
Certainly the best places to find wind in Texas are the
Panhandle, and the Texas Coast. Closely after the Texas
Coast is North Texas. Like the Texas Coast, the pressure
variance between cool gulf air and the warmer air on land
draws the wind to the north, mostly in the spring and fall
(although not as much in fall). Unlike the coast in North
Texas there is much more storm activity from the southwest,
west, and northwest, creating gusty conditions. Sometimes
this works to our advantage, sometimes not. Either way, the
winds in North Texas are some of the best in Texas.
Myth: The Dallas/Fort Worth Area has a small windsurfing
With an active windsurfing club, several events throughout
the year, and a consistent windsurfing presence on local
lakes, the DFW area has a windsurfing community that is one
of the largest in Texas, if not the largest. The only other
community that is comparable is the one in the Corpus
Christi area. However Corpus Christi is more of a
windsurfing destination, not a place where a lot of
windsurfers reside permanently. The windsurfing community
here is exceptionally friendly. The community wants to see
more people out on the water. Therefore there is ample
encouragement and support for beginners.
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Windsurf in North Texas
The Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex is surrounded by several large
lakes. All of these lakes are man made and have launch
points with room to rig up your board and sail. A great
resource for information on launch spots is the North Texas
Wind Rider's website at
www.ntwr.org. There you will find a map and guide to
launch points in detail. Here are a few of the most popular
places to windsurf in the area.
east of Dallas on Interstate 30, is arguably the most
popular place to windsurf in the area. Windsurf Bay Park is
a well known learning spot. There is an enclosed bay about 2
miles across protected by curving rock jetties – if you have
any trouble here you are likely to be able to get to a
nearby shore safely.
is northwest of downtown Dallas and just North of the DFW
airport. It is the other popular lake for windsurfers; known
for its steep banks and cliffs. There are a variety of
places to launch on this lake, such as Rockledge Park and
Oak Grove Park.
is a very popular lake for all manner of water sports.
Despite its reputation as a dangerous lake due to boat
traffic in the warm season, there are several good launch
points such as Sailboard Point, Hobie Point, and Stuart
Creek Park. Most powerboat traffic will stay off the lake in
high winds. However it is advisable to be mindful of your
There are several other excellent lakes within an hour's
drive of Dallas, such as Lavon, Ray Roberts, and Texoma.
Some lakes in the inner city (such as White Rock and North
Lake), are restricted to windsurfing for various reasons. If
you are unsure whether a lake is restricted to windsurfing,
it is always a good idea to contact Texas Parks and Wildlife
One of the most popular places to windsurf in Texas is Bird
Island Basin. It is located in the National Seashore
approximately thirty miles south of Corpus Christi on Padre
Island. This is an excellent place for all skill levels,
including beginner, as you can easily touch bottom in most
places. Another popular destination is South Padre Island –
on the southernmost area of the Texas Coast. The winds there
are perhaps the most consistent in Texas, and comparable to
Bird Island Basin. Generally anywhere on the Texas Coast has
consistent Gulf-driven wind. There are also many fine lakes
in the Austin and San Antonio areas, such as Lake Travis and
Canyon Lake. We cannot discount the areas on the border of
Oklahoma and west – where the winds are very good
approaching the Texas panhandle.
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to windsurf is generally considered much easier to learn
than most extreme sports. There are a few things that are
essential to a proper first lesson or sailing session.
large, stable, 'floaty' windsurfing board
you first learn your foot placement and balance tends to
be uncertain – this is typical. A large board will help
you to gain essential balancing skills without falling
into the water every few seconds. This is usually
dependent on the learner's body weight and size. Any
board in the vicinity of two hundred liters of volume
with a dagger board is adequate for most large adults.
small windsurfing rig (sail, mast, and boom)
- To begin sailing
you will need to 'uphaul' the rig, this means pulling
the rig out of the water into an upright position. If
you are just learning the proper techniques to uphaul
your rig, you want something light and easy (generally
something less than 5 square meters, and closer to 4 for
small women, junior rigs for youngsters are also
available). Larger sails also tend to be far more
powerful and much harder to control. After you have
learned the fundamentals of windsurfing you can move to
a larger rig easily.
Life vest and foot protection
- For most of us,
it is a good idea to wear a life jacket while beginning
to windsurf. Even advanced sailors will often wear a
life jacket, which can be of great help with certain
techniques like 'waterstarting'. Most instructors will
require that you wear one. The general rule of thumb is
to always stay with your board. Should your board
somehow get away from you, your life jacket will be your
fail-safe. In strong currents it is sometimes impossible
to swim fast enough to catch the board if it floats
away. Water shoes will prevent you from injuring your
feet on hidden obstacles like shells or broken glass.
Also, if the water is very cold hypothermia can be a
danger, be sure to have a wet suit if necessary.
- Instruction in
some form or another is usually required. Official
lessons are the best. An experienced windsurfing
instructor can help you master the fundamentals in a
clear and easy way, and will usually provide gear that
you can learn on. If you are unable to secure lessons,
sign up for a windsurf clinic, and/or befriend an
experienced, trustworthy windsurfer (preferably one with
beginner equipment) to help you get started. There are
also many fine windsurfing instructional videos
available (Windsurfing 101 and Windsurfing
Fundamentals are excellent videos.) If you are
really serious, go for all of the above!
Where to Find Lessons
to Windsurf Clinics
- North Texas
Windriders offers Learn to Windsurf Clinics every summer.
Boards are provided by Mariner Sails and the local
windsurfing community. Experienced NTWR members will spend
time with those who want to try out a first lesson. Although
the lessons are extremely basic, they will help you to
determine if windsurfing is going to be something you enjoy.
- Keep your eye
out for other upcoming events, such as the Texas State
Championships and Windsurfing Festival. There are often
beginner clinics offered at these events.
When windsurfing began its global meteoric rise to
popularity in the late 70's and early 80's there was mainly
one kind of windsurfing and one kind of board. Today the
sport has evolved into several different branches and
specialties. The type of windsurfing in which you will be
most involved depends on your skill level, the local sailing
environment, and the gear available to you.
Wind Cruising -
When we refer to light wind
we generally mean winds under about 15 mph or when a board
is not on a plane. In this kind of wind you would sail a
large, high volume, 'floaty' board, with a dagger board
(also called a centerboard to help you point upwind easily.
This is ideal for learning. You have time to decide what you
want to do, recover from mistakes, and the rig is easy to
control. Even advanced windsurfers often enjoy a nice,
relaxing cruise in light wind.
Slalom, or Speedsailing
- Simply put, go fast! The goal is to get your board
hydroplaning, much like speed power boats, almost all boards
are designed to skip over the water's surface while barely
touching it, which means a great increase in speed. When
intermediate windsurfers begin reaching planing speeds they
discover a whole new and extreme sport, and this is often
what hooks people into windsurfing for life. Certain boards
are designed solely for this purpose (like Formula Race
Boards). Turning and jumping is not usually the emphasis
here, although some sailors need a lot of speed to do
- If you get involved in freestyle windsurfing you
will quickly be hearing terms like Vulcan, Spock, Duck Jibe,
and Flaka. Simply put; radical mind-blowing tricks unlike
any you will see in any other water sport. Many of these
tricks can be performed in light or heavy wind. Most people
(sadly including many windsurfers) have no idea what can be
accomplished in windsurfing. To get an idea yourself, go to
your favorite internet search engine or internet video
archive, and search for 'windsurfing tricks', or
'windsurfing freestyle'. These tricks do not come easy, but
require practice. If you have the right instruction (such as
an ABK Windsurfing clinic), you may find you can do much
more than you thought possible.
- This is sailing in relatively high wind and
moderately choppy conditions. On big lakes these conditions
are not uncommon; they allow a windsurfer a nice playground
of moving obstacles and ramps (in the form of waves).
Intermediate and advanced sailors on small, light boards
will find it easy to chop-hop, jump, and possibly throw in
the occasional loop (aerial).
Sailing is windsurfing in
large waves and surf. It is a combination of surfing and
windsurfing, where you will use the power of the wind
(rather than paddle) to get into position, and then use a
combination of wind and wave power to maneuver. The most
radical jumping is found in wave sailing, and this is also
the closest the sport gets to surfing. We also want to note
that wave sailing is windsurfing at its highest of heights.
Many sailors, including professional windsurfers, travel the
world to find good wave sailing. Unfortunately North Texas
is not Maui; there is no true wave sailing here. The best
you can hope for in North Texas is good bump and jump
Types of Sailing
- The difference between sailing styles is sometimes
a fuzzy line. For this you will see 'Freeride' or
'One-design' boards that try to cover all the areas with as
much versatility as possible. New types of sailing are bound
to appear in the future.
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When windsurfing first began there was little deliberation
in choosing a board. With only one or two types of boards
available there could be no indecision. Now with hundreds of
different boards available, and several generations of board
evolution, choosing a board can sometimes be daunting. If
you are a beginner things can be simplified down to a few
basic features to look for.
Your First Board:
One feature of your first board should be stability. The
best determination of stability is not so much length and
width but volume. Volume is how much space the board would
displace when placed in the water, as well as a determiner
of how 'floaty' the board will be. Most beginners of large
stature can easily find stability on a board in the vicinity
of 200 liters.
Smaller sized people, like children or women weighing under
140 lbs, can often do well on boards with volumes as low as
about 160 liters. However, there are many factors that do
not make these numbers absolute, such as your sense of
balance. Balance is something that will come with time even
if you feel you have none.
Wide boards are considered more forgiving for uncertain
foot-work, and are great for your first session on the
water. However, some will make the argument that wide boards
are so forgiving that they do not allow you to correct bad
habits. For this reason many beginners will have their first
lesson on something extremely wide, and when the
fundamentals are learned they will get something a little
more narrow. Ultimately it will depend on your comfort
level. Ask an instructor, windsurfing shop, or experienced
windsurfer about beginner boards for details on which is
best for you.
to Other Boards:
You have mastered the fundamentals of sailing in
light wind, you are sailing in moderate to heavy wind, you
are using the harness lines, you are able to turn
confidently by tacking and sometimes jibing, and you are
ready to look for something faster, more specialized, and
people believe they are ready to move onto an intermediate
board after their first lesson, and occasionally they are
right, but you must ask a few questions first:
if you lose the wind will the new board get you home
will you be able to stand on the board and uphaul the
sail, or will you have to learn the skill called 'waterstarting'?
this board perform at all in lighter winds?
and in what conditions will you be sailing this board?
Some people make the mistake of choosing a board that is far
too extreme for their skill level and environment. For
example, what use is getting a small and relatively unstable
wave or slalom board that only performs in winds over 20
mph, and the winds rarely reaches the optimum speed in your
area? Time on the water (not board configuration) is the
best way to progress to higher levels – so choose a board
that will allow you to spend more time on the water and
establish skills with confidence.
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refer to large, wide, and stable boards that are
ideal for beginners. These are modern boards, usually come
with a dagger board (centerboard), very wide (usually about
a meter), and they have volumes in the vicinity of 200
liters. Modern fun boards are designed to establish a plane
early, which means a great burst of increased speed. They
are ultimately not as fast as long boards in light wind, and
slower than race or slalom boards in high wind. Jumping or
maneuvering in large waves is not the emphasis here.
are designed for some speed but otherwise do not fit
into any one specialty - to ride freely is the idea. This is
popular among intermediates who want a board that can do a
little bit of everything. Freeride boards range in volume
were most popular in the eighties and early nineties,
but have seen a recent resurgence among beginners and
racers. They are generally longer than eleven feet, much
narrower than a fun board, and come with a dagger board.
Long boards are faster than other boards in non-planing or
light wind conditions. They can be very fast once a plane
has been achieved, but it takes longer for them to reach a
plane than most modern boards. Some long boards, like the
Kona One and RRD Longrider, are once again becoming popular
on the modern market.
and High Speed Boards
are designed for speed. They sometimes cross the line as
race boards, however they do not achieve a plane as easily
as a most race boards such as Formula race boards. They are
usually small, light, and narrow.
Formula Race Boards
are distinctive race boards that made their first
appearance at the turn of the century. They are wide, with a
blunt nose and a hard-edged tail. They are light and
designed to achieve a plane in wind as little as about ten
miles per hour. Formula boards are considered great
performers while on a plane, however somewhat lacking in
speed and responsiveness if not on a plane. These are purely
for speed and racing, turning and maneuvering are not the
Race and One Designs
- to correct some of the drawbacks of the Formula
Race Boards, in recent years hybrid boards have appeared in
the racing scene. They are a combination of the Formula
design with a somewhat wide body and blunt nose, but also
come with a dagger board. This allows for better performance
when not on a plane. Additionally, this allows for better
performance in a much wider variety of conditions. They are
now the board of choice for Olympic racing. These boards are
also popular with beginners who want a board that will let
them easily progress to intermediate stage.
are designed to use wave power to generate forward
drive (much like surfboards), maneuver easily for cutbacks
and quick turns, and jump. Most wave boards need a lot of
wind for optimum performance. They are small with little
volume, and certainly not for beginners. Wave boards come in
a variety of designs; some have multiple fins (often called
thrusters), an irregular shape (this was tried for a while
in the early 90's), and some are wide while others are
somewhat narrow. They all turn well, and although they can
be very fast they are not designed to be speed or slalom
High Speed Boards
Formula Race Boards
Hybrid Race Boards
- as long as windsurfing exists there will be boards
that do not fit into any category at all. Some boards use a
foil to elevate the board completely out of the water. There
have been boards that are cylindrical or torpedo shaped.
There are a variety of custom made boards; they perform
according to the designer's whims. Unless you are an expert
in board design or windsurfing, one rule of thumb when
examining a board is to go with what is well established and
Popular Boards for North Texas
- the wind in North Texas can often be shifty and
gusty. This is why the smallest boards (about 100 liters or
less in volume) will only make an appearance on those rare
days when the wind consistently blows over 20 mph. The best
boards for this area are ones that can maintain speed
through the lulls, establish a plane early, and perform on
flat to moderately choppy water. Therefore you will see a
great deal of fun boards, long boards, freeride boards,
Formula race boards, hybrid race boards, and occasionally
high speed slalom boards. The presence of wave boards on the
local lakes is rare and often a fluke (but some people do
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The sail type is just as important as the board type. Sail
sizes can range from two square meters up to twelve or more.
The right sail size will depend on the sailor’s size and the
conditions. It does no good to have a large twelve sq.m.
sail in thirty m.p.h. winds if it is uncontrollable, just as
a small sail can leave you lagging behind your buddies. It
is also important that the boards fin is not too small for
the sail (this causes spinout), or too large for the sail
(this can cause instability). To briefly summarize, most
sails will come in three categories: race, wave, and
are very full towards the bottom. They are designed
for lower-end control and to pull through lulls in the wind.
They commonly come with cambers which help the sail hold its
are designed for surf or heavy chop. They catch wind
a bit higher in the air, and the bottom of the sails rise
high to clear the water. They are easy to flip, but do not
usually come with cambers.
cover anything between race sails and wave sails.
- just like boards,
there are a wide variety of sails that do not fit into any
one category. When choosing a sail, go with something that
is in great shape, and proven in the industry,
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- local DFW windsurfing association for launch site info,
forums, and local events.
Austin Windsurf Club
- Austinites often travel here to sail and visa versa with a
Corpus Christi Windsurfing Association
- a mecca for windsurfing in
the continental U.S. is Corpus Christi.
windsurfing launch site guide with social interactive tools
for local communities.
Windsport Magazine -
great source for information.
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of Windsurfing Terms
– a long, flat rod, usually plastic, that slides into the
sail structure to add rigidity and shape to the sail.
– a technique for stepping onto the board in knee deep water
while holding onto the rig.
– the boom is what the sailor holds and controls the rig
with. It fits across the sail and latches onto the mast.
– water shoes that provide protection against dangerous
– the retractable wing shaped board or elongated fin that is
inserted into the center of the windsurf board and provides
stability for the board. Also commonly referred to as the
– the imaginary line that runs through the center of the
board from front to back. The center line is often
emphasized when learning new techniques.
– the back corner between the bottom and the back of the
sail, this is where the outhaul line is threaded.
– the center board. Technically a dagger board must be
pulled or pushed straight up or down to be extended or
retracted unlike a centerboard, which extends and retracts
from a hinge. In windsurfing they are usually referred to as
the same. True dagger boards are now obsolete in
– the amount of downward tension on the sail – this affects
the mast curvature, sail shape, and ultimately the power of
the sail. This also refers to the line that runs from the
lower end of the sail into the pulleys and cleats in the
– the direction the wind is blowing, opposite of upwind.
– the plastic or fiberglass wing that is mounted on the
bottom of the tail of the board. Fins come in a variety of
shapes and affect how the board maneuvers.
– the slot in the back of the board where the fin is
– the nylon straps near the back of the board. When
establishing high speeds the sailor inserts his/her feet
into the straps which allows for even greater speeds while
sailing on a plane.
– one in the same as a jibe. This is a 180 degree turn
across the downwind direction.
– these lines attach to the boom and hook into the harness
that the windsurfer is wearing. This allows the sailor to
use his body weight (rather than just the arms) to control
the sail and achieve more speed.
– the section at the very top of the mast and sail.
– to turn across the downwind direction (across the 6
– the back edge of the sail.
- a versatile piece of technology, consisting of a
carbon-fiber stick resembling a small club. This stick is
used to bludgeon windsurfing salesmen who have not yet
grasped political correctness, diplomatic service, and
mature behavior. Affectionally designed for Ligon Krohn.
– the front edge of the sail from the foot of the mast to
the head or top of the sail.
– the long rod that goes through the sail to give the sail
its basic shape – modern masts are made from a combination
of carbon and fiberglass.
– this cylinder slides into the bottom of the mast. It is
adjustable to alter the mast length for different sail
– the base of the mast, this assembly fits into the mast
extension, contains the U-joint, and locks onto the board.
– the section of the sail where the mast is inserted. Also
called the luff sleeve.
– this refers to wind that is blowing away from the
– this refers to wind that is blowing into the shoreline.
– 1] the amount of outward tension on the sail. 2] the line
that is threaded at the back of the boom through the sails
clew (back corner).
– when a watercraft skips speedily over the surface of the
water with a minimal area of the hull touching the surface.
– the edges of the board, the softness or hardness of the
rail determines how the board performs.
– 1] the assembly that consists of the sail, mast, and boom.
2] to prepare your gear for sailing.
– often considered one in the same as a windsurf board.
– 1] the plastic or nylon sheet that captures the wind for
propulsion. 2] in windsurfing, this is the same as 'to
– in windsurfing, this is synonymous to someone who
– to pull the sail inward from the trailing hand.
– to let the sail outward from the trailing hand – usually
to dissipate sail power.
– this refers to a wind that blows parallel to the shore –
this is considered optimum in most cases.
– when a board designed for planing is not on a plane, but
slowly plows through the water.
– to establish a turn in the opposite direction by turning
across the upwind direction.
– the universal joint; this joint at the mast base allows
the rig to pivot in any direction, and is what makes
– 1]to pull the rig out of the water. 2] the line attached
to the boom used to pull the sail out of the water.
– the amount of space the board displaces when placed in the
water and a determiner of how easily the board floats.
Volume is measured in liters.
– a technique for getting onto the board in deep water by
allowing the rig to pull the sailor onto the board.
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