Buying a board can be pretty confusing, specially if we don’t know what to look out for. Be it in a shop, surf centre, garage sale or some guy on the internet, there will always be a gap between our knowledge on what we need and the seller who wants to get rid of his board. Let’s try to close that gap a little today.
Here I have compiled a checklist for you to know what to take into account when going to buy a new or second hand board.
Buying a new windsurf board
Where are you going to sail?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. The answer will have a very big impact on what you need to look for. If you are going to windsurf in El Médano you will not be needing the same kind of gear as if you usually sail on Lake Garda. In El Médano we usually have 20-25 knots (and more in the summer) which for my 75 kg means 80 – 100 litres waves board whereas in Torbole (Lake Garda) the average is 15-17 knots where I would need a freestyle or free-ride board in the 100 – 115 litre range.
As mentioned before, the wind conditions will determine the size of the board. The second factor to take into account is your weight. A larger person will need a bigger board than a lighter person to get the same planing opportunities (OK, and they will need a bigger sail; but more on that in another article). Remember that a bigger board will make it easier to start planing but that the maximum speed will be more limited due to more board surface touching the water (more friction).
Also, your level will play a role in how small a board you want to commit yourself to. A smaller board will mean less stability and a more nervous board. With this I mean to say that it is harder to balance on a small board when you are not planing, having to rely on the buoyancy of the board. Staying on in these cases is pretty exhausting as it involves having to keep your body stiff to keep the board on course or risk falling in backwards slowly because of the board luffing up which results in having to water-start again. Here is an article by SurferToday on the volume/windsurfer-weight ratio.
Again, this is related to where you will sail. Usually the best option for your first purchase is a freeride board. They are the general purpose option that works in nearly all conditions. Especially if you have not yet experimented with specific windsurfing disciplines, a freeride board is the way to go.
Once you have a little more experience under your belt you can think about getting a wave board for riding waves (or at least play around with thr chop more), a freestyle board for jumping on flat water or a slalom board if you’re a speed junkie.
One of the key aspects to look out for in a board is the weight. A heavy board will be a huge setback if you are learning how to plane. A light board will be easier to get out of the water and start to glide over it.
Only during the pre-planing steps is a heavier board only a nuisance but not an impediment to our windsurfing progress. I say nuisance mainly because we will have to carry/transport it and there a lighter board is more practical than a heavy board (especially if we are getting on a plane).
A board is not usually too big for any given sail. The problem comes when we try to sail a too big sail on a board. For example: a 6.0 m2 sail will still work fine on 100 litres, maybe even on 90 litres if you are careful not to put too much pressure on the back foot. However an 80 litre board will be really uncomfortable to sail with such a big sail for various reasons.
Firstly, if the wind is so light as that we have to use such a big sail, it will probably sink when we are at a standstill. The exception is if you are really light.
Secondly, a small board will have the tendency to luff up into the wind with a big sail. This is due to a big sail having the pressure point further back from the mast-foot than a smaller sail. On a big (longer) board this doesn’t matter, but on a small board, the fin is further forward with regards to the pressure point of the sail causing it to luff up into the wind. It is the same problem people face when switching from old windsurf gear to new equipment.
Buying a second hand board
Up until now were the general things to look out for when buying a windsurf board. There are a few extra details you should know however if you are going to buy one second hand.
Dings are essentially holes in the board. Normally, when you have a ding in the board you will wee the splinters of the fibreglass and possibly the wood sandwich or foam. If this occurred on dry land (falling on the curb, etc.) all you have to do is put some ding repair on it. If it happened in the water (on the reef, etc.) you want to make sure the water is extracted before closing the hole. Simply putting it in the sun for a few hours will do the trick.
These are more subtle than dings. They usually come from the mast hitting the board nose during catapults or a too hard hit on the floor on the rails. If you spot one of these, make sure the cracked area and the area around it is not soft. If it is, it will require opening up the board and repairing the foam to set it right. Not doing so will cause a lot of damage and delimitation to the board in the long run.
If the area is not soft, it may be that it is only chipped paint. In any case, I would get that looked at and repaired if necessary.
Dings and cracks are not necessarily deal breakers but I personally would have the seller get them fixed before I bought the board or reduce the price by the reparation cost.
In this case you not only want to avoid buying a heavy board just because it is made of heavy materials. There is another reason for which it might be heavy.
If a board has a crack in it, it will absorb water. The foam below the wood, epoxy, carbon fibre (or whatever the layers of that particular board are) will soak up the water which makes the board heavier. Aside from the downside of making it harder to plane and transport, it also means that the board has a hole somewhere. This means that it will only get heavier.
The hole is not always evident. It can be a small crack on the rail, a ding on the nose or harder yet, a crack under the footpads coming from trampling on the deck too much. This usually causes the board to delaminate and go soft in the area between the foot straps.
Get a feel of what a new board or (some well kept used boards) usually weighs so that you can notice if the board you want to buy feels a little bit too heavy.
When water gets into the board it is soaked up by the foam. However, when we finish our session, we leave the board in a warm environment. This will cause the water in the foam to evaporate, which means that it expands, causing the fiberglass to separate from the foam. It may even cause the foam to go soft if it continues over a long time period. This is how a board delaminates.
A delaminated board is a hard fix, specially if it is in the foot pad area. I would avoid buying such a board simply because it reduces sailing quality and it will very likely get heavier over time.
I hope I have given you a helpful guide to buying a windsurf board both new and second hand. If you have anything else which you consider should be on this list or any bad surprises during a board buy, please let me know in the comments.