Windsurfing Board Types
In the 1970s and 1980s, windsurfing boards were classified as either shortboards or longboards. Longboards were usually longer than 3 meters, with a retractable daggerboard, and were optimized for lighter winds or course racing. Shortboards were less than 3 meters long and were designed for planing conditions. However, this classification of two boards based on length has become irrelevant, as new techniques, designs and materials have taken the sport in new directions.
The majority of modern windsurfing equipment (particularly from the 1990s and later) are derived from the shortboard design. These boards are intended to be used primarily in planing mode, where the board is mostly skipping over the surface of the water rather than cutting through and displacing the water. Planing is preferential by the majority of windsurfers, as it is generally faster and gives more maneuverability. Generally, smaller (defined as lower volume, shorter length and narrower width) boards and smaller area sails are used as the wind increases.
While windsurfing is possible under a wide range of wind conditions, most recreational windsurfers prefer to sail in conditions that allow for consistent planing with multi-purpose, not overly specialized, free-ride equipment. One of the reasons why the sounds of North Carolina have become so popular with windsurfers from around the world is because these conditions are present on a regular basis.
While there are varying degrees of intricacy and specialization, modern windsurfing boards can be classified into a few different categories.
A Freeride board is meant for comfortable recreational cruising (mostly straight-line sailing and occasional turning) at planing speed, mainly in flat waters, like on a sound, or in light to moderate swell.
The Formula Windsurfing Class of boards are shorter boards up to one meter in width and are intended for Formula Windsurfing races.
A wave board is a smaller, lighter board that is easier to maneuver while breaking waves. Generally, windsurfers turn to wave boards for indulging in high jumps while sailing against ocean waves, and/or performing surf tricks like cutbacks or top-turns. Wave boards are generally between 230 and 260 centimeters long and between 50 and 60 centimeters wide. In recent years, the average width of wave boards has increased slightly, as the length has shrunk. Board designers attest that this makes wave boards easier to use under a wider range of conditions by windsurfers of different abilities.
A freestyle board is similar to a wave board in maneuverability, but these boards are wider, higher volume boards geared specifically for performing acrobatic tricks (jumps, rotations, slides, flips and loops) on flat waters, like the calmer conditions on the Carolina sounds. The boards are usually 240 to 250 centimeters in length and over 60 centimeters wide.
There are a variety of other specialized boards, including slalom boards made for high speeds, beginner boards that can be as wide as a small boat and long boards for racing. There are also an equal number of hybrid varieties that try to take qualities of these categories to make an efficient design for varying wind conditions. On the coast of North Carolina, a board that incorporates varying characteristics of these classifications can come in handy, as the wind and water conditions change often.
For beginners, today's learning boards are remarkably stable, allowing just about anyone who can stand upright to ride. Most newcomers to the sport will stay dry throughout their first lesson, standing on the board with ease.
Sails are equally user-friendly and lightweight with light materials like monofilm and carbon components common in modern designs. One of the most noticeable changes from the original basic design is that current sails for learning are shorter. This makes them easy to pull out of the water and easy to control, as well as more stable. Even in challenging wind conditions, these sails stay put and digress from waving wildly in the wind. Match these sail upgrades with a wide board, and windsurfing becomes easier than ever.