In order to get a handle on what you will need for your first trip out into the water, it is essential to be familiar with all of the different equipment that a windsurfer requires.
The sail's job is to provide the power that gets a windsurfer moving in the water. Beginners should start with a smaller sail, as they are easier to control. As the skill of a windsurfer progresses, the sail gets larger and larger, and provides more power and subsequent speed.
The mast is the framework which holds the sail upright, beginning at the foot of the sail and extending all the way to the head. The boom, also connected to the sail, enables a windsurfer to steer in a particular direction and helps to reinforce the mast in keeping the sail's upright shape.
Many windsurfers also opt to use rash guards, a comfortable and thin shirt which is resistant to UV rays. In cooler weather, a spring or full wet-suit might also be necessary to keep the windsurfer warm in cold water.
Foot straps located on the board are essential for staying put and keeping comfortable while flying across the water, and a harness will lessen the pressure on your arms and hands by transferring the power of the sail directly through your body. Be sure you try on both of these items at the equipment shop to make sure they fit comfortably, because they are essential for all levels of windsurfers, from beginners to experts.
The universal joint (sometimes referred to as the U-joint) attaches the rig to the board and allows it to turn in any given direction, letting the sailor use the sail via the boom to steer the board.
Beginners to the sport obviously have a lot of choices that can be a bit confusing at first, second and third glances, but there are a few guidelines to follow when seeking out the right equipment for a modest skill level. As for boards, a good rule of thumb for beginners is that the more width and volume in the board (with the volume generally measured in liters), the easier it is to stand on and hold your balance. Look for especially wide boards with a volume of 180 liters or more.
Beginners should also consider a centerboard or detachable fin, which improves stability for free fall learning. While the used boards might be a good deal, try to avoid older boards (about 5 years old or more), which tend to have slick decks from lots of use, and can subsequently hinder a sailor's balance. Also, early on, it is best to steer clean from smaller or low volume boards because they are narrow and generally unstable for first-timers.
As for sails, most experts recommend that newcomers start with a 6-meter sail or smaller, although this can change from region to region, even along the different towns located along the Carolina coast. Many sails will have an accompanying recommended mast, which saves the guesswork out of deciphering what mast equipment to purchase. Beginners should also be wary of older sails which are generally heavier and more unstable.
Equipment can be equally confusing, but unless the manufacturer of the sail suggests otherwise, it is a safe bet to purchase a high-carbon content mast, which is lightweight and easy to maneuver, and clamp-on booms. Clamp-on booms easily adjust up and down the mast to accommodate to the windsurfer's size and comfort.
When it comes to things to avoid, again, older equipment is best left on the rack. The old tie-on non-adjusting booms are hard to maneuver, and it is much harder to learn the sport if the boom does not fit properly.
Many shops offer entry-level packages, which can run from $1,000 to $1,800. These packages include a board and rig, a sail, mast, mast base and boom. As a package, the gear is sold at a lower price than the new items cost separately, making it a decent deal for beginners on a budget.