Getting Started

So you've been wowed by this hip and happening site, the thought of blasting across an ever changing surface at terrifying speeds thrills you, and you're not afraid to spend the next years of your life ploughing cash, time and blood into something that kicks, bites, scratches back just when you least expect it.

Yup, it sounds like your regular intimate relationship. And though it may not seem like it now, it's going to compete with any other intimate relationships you're thinking of having.

Debate is still hot on whether a threesome is possible. I'm currently doing some research in this area and I'll let you know.

And despite all of this you still want to learn to windsurf. You've looked at kitesurfing and decided it's not for you. Too easy to learn, too flashy, too many chicks ogling you.

Congratulations. Welcome behind the curtain. You're determined, you're tough. That's what it takes, and you've got it in spades. If you don't, I'm afraid you'll have to do a google search for "Jetskis R Us" because I don't have a link.

Getting Started

Yes, I was talking rubbish when I said tough & determined was all you'd need. You're going to need some kit too. This is the windsurfer's biggest dilemma, especially in this country. While living in a raging socialist state has all the advantages of widening the gap between rich and poor, it also means that 90% of all the competent, intelligent people in the country are leaving faster than talented musicians from a "Michael Learns to Rock" concert.

Bang goes the windsurfing target market, up go the prices.

But all is not lost. Firstly, there is a plethora (collective noun for windsurfing kit) of second hand stuff out there if you can drag it out of someone's rafters. Beware, though. Any board you can't lift, you should not be paying more than R20 for. In fact, the guy should probably be paying you to take it. I'm not saying it's useless.... it's just a supply and demand thing. There is tonnes of this stuff out there (from the 80s) and no-one wants it. When you get good, you're not going to want it either and a 5m 20kg board can't be tucked away under the Welsh dresser.

You can learn on anything. The factors that will vary are:

The old "longboards" of the 80s are millions of nautical miles away from the flashy, fast, maneuverable, light boards of today. But many principles remain the same. Balance, sail angles, uphauling, points of sail, fins, sheeting in and out etc.

But an old longboard has the following advantages:

So, all that drivel above is saying the following: Don't knock that old longboard kit. It really isn't that bad to start on, can be a lot of fun and should cost you next to nothing. Just remember to make sure you get a complete working set (board, mast, sail, boom, fin, centre-board) and make sure all these items connect together in what seems like a semi-logical fashion. You will not be able to get any spares for this stuff!

That is option number 1. It will get you to the point where you can uphaul, sail on both reaches, do basic tacks and gybes. Heck, you may even get to do a little harness sailing or footstraps. You can forget jumping, carving lay-down gybes, waterstarts (?) and down-the-line wavesailing, though. For that, you're gonna have to take the next step.

Option 3 would be to buy your target board right away, assuming you have any idea what that would be. You can be sure, though, that if you're planning to sail waves, do forward loops or carve insane gybes, learning on your target board is going to be about the most frustrating thing you have ever ever EVER experienced. So do yourself a favour and beg, borrow, steal a board that is good for learning on.

What have I missed? Oh, Option 2. Option 2 is the windsurfing manufacturers' solution to the problem of learning kit vs blasting kit. The widestyle stuff. Yup, there are boards in between these two. Basically, they have the volume (read flotation, stability) of bigger boards, but are shorter and wider and hence far more maneuverable and similar to your target board. In fact, some of these boards can practically *be* your target board if you're going into the formula / race side of sailing.

The only problem with option 2 is the cost. You may be forced to buy new. Even second hand, this kit is likely to be a lot newer than option 1 and therefore get ready to make a few budget adjustments.

I can't believe I'm rambling on like this. Here is the long and short of it (heh heh):

What you need to start: