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How do you choose the right windsurfing board? One Size Does Not Fit All!

Buying the right windsurfing equipment is fundamental to enjoyment and progressing in the sport, and having some basic understanding of equipment, terminology and windsurfing disciplines will help you avoid the vintage and get you blasting quicker. How do you choose the right windsurfing board? One Size Does Not Fit All!


A rider’s ability, chosen windsurfing style and location will often dictate their choice of board design and characteristics. Take time to consider which describes you, and what type of board might suit you the best:

  • Beginner: Stable platform with high volume, which is often fitted with a daggerboard, designed specifically for learning to windsurf

  • Freeride: Early planing, ease of use and for a variety of conditions

  • Freestyle: highly manoeuvrable, loose design, which is lively under foot and early planing, used for tricks and rotations

  • Wave: short manoeuvrable board designed to be used in waves, generally with multiple fin options

  • Race/Slalom: Designed for straight-line speed and hard turns

  • Foil: Short, wide boards designed to be fitted with a hydrofoil

By Amanda Buggy and Emma Nicholson.

Ross Williams putting a UJ in a windsurfing board
Windsurfing Legend Ross Williams getting his board ready for an epic session!

Let's start at the Beginning;

If you are new to windsurfing and just starting out, the board you learn on can ‘make or break’ your enjoyment and progression. A wide, high volume board with a daggerboard will give you a stable platform helping you make your first runs and get you progressing to the next level in no time at all. The wider and bigger volume the board, the more stable it will be.

At this level its best to invest money into lessons rather than equipment, as progression happens quickly.

What is the best board to learn windsurfing? There’s a great range of beginner boards available, here at The Official Test Centre we use the Sealion board made by AHD, known for its ability to track unwind beautifully, turning well, and responding positively to shifts in weight.

Mia OTC Instructor shows a beginner windsurfer how to windsurf
The Sealion board perfect for beginners, at The Official Test Centre this is our board of choice for your first time stepping on board!.

Turn up the Volume;

Time to get you afloat! When considering a board many factors will dictate your choice including ability, wind strength and style of windsurfing, but one key consideration to most windsurfers is volume.


A boards volume dictates how much it will ‘float or sink’ underfoot, with the distribution differing dependant on performance and rider requirements. Windsurfing boards are measured in litres, with ‘one litre supporting one kilogram of weight’.

When learning to windsurf, the board should be stable and buoyant, with plenty of extra volume in addition to a riders personal weight, as ability progresses a board with less volume is required and often desired.

For example a rider wishing to sail in waves or stronger winds, will choose a smaller, even negative ‘reserve’ volume, whilst for light wind cruising, with some reserve volume increasing comfort and marginal planing ability.

Any additional volume above the riders personal weight will enable the board to ‘float’, this is referred to as ‘reserve volume’. In contrast, a board with volume lower that the sailors weight will sink.

The sailors weight and level will roughly determine the reserve volume required to ensure adequate buoyancy. To figure out how much volume you need in your windsurf board a helpful guide is calculating your weight, , the rig and a small addition for wetsuit and harness.

For example, a windsurfer weight 85kg, plus wetsuit, harness and rig around 15kg will need 100 litres (85+15=100) of volume just to stay afloat.

For further information check out the Surf Doctor Windsurfing Board Buyers Guide

A girl lifts a windsurfing board on the slip way at The OTC
Here you can see the fin on a beginner windsurfing board.

What other characteristics do we need to consider? Time to break it down..

Daggerboard;

When learning, boards tend to have a retractable daggerboard, a long thin blade in the centre of the board which helps with lateral resistance and stability

Width;

Wider boards provide stability, especially at beginner and improver levels. As competency increases, the rider naturally ventures out in varying conditions and choppier water states, which can then make a wider board feel unstable and harder to control.

Rocker;

The word ‘rocker’ is used to describe how flat or curved the shape of a board is ‘nose to tail’, but generally rocker is more prominent in the nose. Rocker dictates ability to turn, as well as how well it copes with confused and choppy water states or waves. For example, a wave board has increased rocker in the nose and sometimes tail, enabling the rider to perform tighter turns, whilst also preventing the nose submerging when wave sailing.

In contrast, boards designed for Freeride and Slalom are flatter in design, with less rocker. This shape encourages early planing and higher speeds, but impacts tightness in which they can turn.

Tail;

A boards tail design can be quite complicated with multiple features assisting its end riding objective. Keeping it simple:

- Thin and sharp, for example a wave board gives increased water release, providing good carving characteristics, slower onto the plane.

- Wider and curved, such as a freeride board encourages early planing, gripping the water, with volume in the tail providing increased stability.


Underside;

The underside shape of a board, also referred to as the ‘hull shape’, impacts how early a board planes, efficiency through water states and manoeuvrability. There are three under-hull designs which are most common; Concave, double concave and V-shaped.

Take a look at our Windsurfing Board Buyers Guide to find out more in this area.

Rail Shape;

The rails or ‘side’ aspect shape of the board are generally referred to as ‘hard or soft’. ‘Hard’ rails have more of an ‘edge’, cutting through and releasing the water, causing minimal friction, ’soft’ rails are more ‘curved’, gripping the water and providing more control for transitions and manoeuvres.

Fin;

Windsurfing fins have several characteristics, and it's easy to get confused. They feature multiple lengths, shapes, and thickness levels because they were designed for multiple purposes. Fins provide directional stability and some lift at speed. For more information on fins and how to choose the right fin, check our our ‘Windsurfing Fin Buyers Guide

Three men watch OTC Instructor Luke showing them how to windsurf
Learning to windsurf at The OTC involves using the simulator.

Putting the jargon into context;

Having learnt the basics of windsurfing you will quickly progress. Once you’ve mastered skills such as planing in the footstraps and using the harness you might think of buying a board.

Scotty windsurfs at Portland Harbour
The OTC Pro-Rider Scotty Stallman windsurfing on his Tabou board.

At an intermediate level you'll be starting to blast around, crack the skill of waterstarting and the range of boards opens even wider and it becomes easier to use lower volume boards, with your choice dictated by the conditions at your regular sailing spot, and the sail size you have access to or are planning to use.

Let us look at the different types of windsurfing boards depending on what discipline you are most excited about, understanding the different shape, sizes and features can become overwhelming, let us help guide you pushing the complex jargon aside and make it a smooth ride for you.

Free your ride;

So what is a Freeride board? This board is designed for recreational riders who want to enjoy windsurfing in a variety of conditions. The designs are generally fairly wide, stable and suited to blasting over flat, choppy water and rolling swell. Depending on your weight and rate of progression your first freeride board could be anywhere from 135lt up to 180lt of volume. Usually a first time freeride board between 145-160lt will be a good compromise between fun & stability.

Slalom boards;

Windsurfing slalom boards are designed specifically designed for straight-line speed and racing, and less forgiving than freeride boards.

Windsurfing in Portland Harbour
Scotty on his slalom board.

Freestyle boards;

Compact boards specially deigned for tricks and rotations, which are highly manoeuvrable, loose design, and feel lively under foot and early planing

Wave boards;

A wave windsurf board is exactly how it sounds—it's made to ride, carve and jump waves with rocker, rails and tail shapes for optimum slashiness!

Sam carries his board out of the water
The OTC Team Rider Sam Anstey in the waves with his Bruch Board

Designed to be fitted with a hydrofoil in place of the fin, foil boards tends to be wide in design with characteristics to assist easy takeoffs, steady flights and touch downs.

Emma foils
Windsurfer Emma Wilson Olympic Medalist on her foil board.

Your windsurfing experience will be less choppy and calmer if you’re using the right windsurfing board to suit your ability, riding style and chosen conditions. To get the fair winds and that feeling of contented connection with the sea, you need the right gear to make it easy for you to progress. Ask us for bespoke tailored advice on finding your perfect board, call our team at Surf Doctor on 07944 254561 and we will help guide you, advise you and answer any questions. Remember you can also ‘Try Before You Buy’ at The Official Test Centre, try out that board before you commit to buying!




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