There are heaps of reasons why I would say that windsurfing is the best sport ever. All you have to do is ask any windsurfer “Why windsurfing?” and they will give you 20 minutes worth of explanations of what makes windsurfing great.
I have compiled my own list of the advantages of windsurfing which I think should convince you to take it up or at least try it out.
Advantages of Windsurfing
Windsurfing is Easy
There are tons of sports that are hard to learn. Riding bikes, snowboarding, rock climbing and the list goes on. Windsurfing has a great advantage in that you can make the learning environment ideal. To take your first steps in learning how to windsurf you usually go to a spot where there is flat water and light constant winds (El Médano is not the “ideal” place to get initiated to windsurfing).
Another thing that is great in windsurfing is that you get pretty much immediate results. Because you start off on a big board and a small sail you can be sailing back and forth with help in the first hour and on your own (and safely) in less than 5.
And when it comes to the equipment, big wide boards and light sails have been lowering the barrier to entry in terms of strength necessary.
It’s great exercise
Obviously all sports end up being good for fitness. Some are more focused on cardiovascular performance whereas others will require more strength instead. Some are rely on endurance and others are centred around bursts of energy.
Windsurfing has all of these and the great thing is that the intensity varies along with your level. As I have seen many times, people that are overweight get into shape pretty quickly with a couple on sessions on the water. They start off getting out of breath quickly because they have to get on to the board a lot after falling off. Then, as they stay on longer they have to work on more precise movements and reflexes while still falling in the water with more complex manoeuvres.
And then as you progress in experience your stamina also improves. The reason for your exercise keeps changing with the things that you are learning but the fact remains, you will get physically tired and find that windsurfing is a great workout for people of all fitness levels.
If you want to get into motocross you have to invest quite a bit before you can practice the sport properly. The same goes for sailing. Sure, there are plenty of other sports where all you need is a ball to kick or throw about.
Nevertheless, in terms of windsurfing equipment (wetsuit, board and sail rig) you can start relatively cheaply. Once you have some basic gear you will gradually upgrade individual components like board, sail, boom and mast.
Anyone can do Windsurfing
The only restrictions that I have found to windsurfing is for children that weigh less than 30kg and people who can’t swim. And the latter is basically just based on principle as a life vest could do the trick in preventing you from drowning.
Naturally major disabilities can make it hard or impossible to learn windsurfing but once you know how to practice the sport there are ways to compensate for a number of physical restrictions.
Windsurfing is Safe (for you and for others)
Windsurfing is an extreme sport. The reason is that you can go pretty extreme if you want. The beginnings however are very safe. If you keep to some essential safety principles you will not get into dangerous situations. The gradual improvement of ones windsurfing level allows you to develop a vast amount of experience at each stage which provides you with a good knowledge of what conditions you are capable of handling.
Aside from not being dangerous for you it is also not dangerous for others because as soon as you let go of the sail you stop advancing immediately. The only time where people can get injured is when windsurfers sailing in bathing areas or when beachgoers go swimming in areas designated for water sports.
No fuel, no noise, no damage to the environment. Of course there are many sports that don’t contaminate the earth, water and air of our planet. I’m just saying, it’s another plus for windsurfing.
It never gets boring
Not only is the list of things that you can learn pretty long but each one of those items also takes a while to learn, some more attempts to perfect and a few more tries to succeed with different wind speeds and waves. It really is a never ending journey on which you can either go learning new tricks all the time or spend hundreds (if not thousands) of attempts perfecting that one move like a samurai perfecting a sword stroke.
Aside from that you also have a wide range of disciplines in windsurfing which will keep you learning and engaged for a lifetime. The current trend I have been seeing lately is young kids starting with basic freeride, moving on to the radical freestyle, applying that talent in waves and then, when they are no longer “as young as they used to be” they move on to slalom where experience is just as important as physical performance.
It’s a very social sport
The communities that are created around windsurfing are among the most helpful and social I have come across. Everyone is willing to share their knowledge with you if you are stuck or having trouble at the sport.
Whether you are unsure what sail to choose, unable to get your mast unstuck or need a hand with getting back to the beach with a broken boom: there will nearly always be someone (or a few someones) there to help you out.
You can do it alone or with friends
To windsurf you don’t rely on other people unless they are giving you a lift to the beach in their car. In some sports (like team sports) you depend on others to join you in the activity. Not so in windsurfing. You can be completely independent.
While it is an individual sport (except on tandem boards), you can also go sailing with a group of friends much like bikers take over the roads in groups. Cheering each other on and having an audience for your tricks and many, many crashes as you try them. Or you can go on your own to spend some quality alone time.
Or why choose? When I go windsurfing it is usually on my own but once on the water I am constantly saying hi to familiar faces (in my case, sail and board colours because I don’t windsurf with contact lenses). Never mind who you are or where you windsurf, you end up knowing everyone after a few sessions on the water. In short, introverts and extroverts can go about the sport whichever way they want.
Windsurfing is Fun
The most essential part of any sport is that is has to be fun. I frequently joke with my students that once they are up and sailing that they should smile since “it’s supposed to be fun”. I always get the same reply “it is really fun, I’m just frowning because I am really concentrated on staying on”.
As soon as you are up on the board and advancing the first few meters you understand why this challenging activity is such a great sport. The feeling is so very different to any other out there. And once you experience planing for the first time… you are hooked my friend!
Disadvantages of Windsurfing
Up to know I have focused only on the advangtages of windsurfing but we all know that everything has it’s pros and cons and I have always been clear that I want to give all sides to the story. The good, the bad, the ugly. So, for balance, here are the downsides of windsurfing.
Can only be done where there is water and wind
Each sport is tied to its environment and windsurfing belongs to the water. However, you also need wind. While for the beginning stages you can get away with very light winds, once you get more advanced and start planing you need either large (and heavier) equipment or stronger winds. Sadly these conditions are not available all the time and everywhere, and when they are there is a range of winds for which we need different sail sizes to adapt.
Then comes the issue with temperatures. You have to really love the sport to rig your sail in ankle deep snow and head out into 1 degree water in a drysuit.
Sure, people have attached windsurfing sails to skateboards, skis and snowboards but that is the equivalent of attaching skis to a dirt bike and surfing waves with it.
The biggest downside to windsurfing is and always has been the cumbersome nature of the kit. Lugging a 30 kilo board-bag halfway around the world is what has turned many ex-windsurfers to kiteboarding (more on that im my article on windsurfing vs kiteboarding). The alternative is to rent the equipment at surf centres with the downside being that you are possibly not sailing the brand you are used to.
Add to that that airline companies have been increasing their prices for the transport of sports equipment over the last decade and travelling with windsurf gear becomes unattractive.
Still, compared to sailboating or motorsports that are much more of an issue to transport, windsurfing is still relatively easy to take along on a trip.
Cost of broken kit
When my students ask me what gear they should buy I always recommend that the first set should definitely be second hand. This is because while we are learning we will fall on the sail, do catapults onto the boards nose, make the fin blunt by sailing onto the sand and the list goes on and on until we get rid of all the major mistakes.
On second hand gear we can afford to do simple and unaesthetic repairs which make the board heavier and the sail perform less well. Since we are still learning, this is an acceptable tradeoff.
However, as we get better we want to get the most out of our equipment and so the repairs need to be somewhat more professional, which costs more. Depending on how much we push our limits this will happen more or less.
We are talking about an extreme sport. Sure, it will only be as extreme as we push ourselves and with which conditions we decide to windsurf. That said, even in the early stages of windsurfing we can end up with the mast cracking down on our head or with our leg trapped between the board and sail. Although, if I am honest, in all my years of teaching I have had about 10 instances where these happened and only a handful of occasions on which I have had to cut off the lesson because on an injury.
This is my list of why I think windsurfing is awesome. It is the rational way I have come up with to explain why I love this sport so much but as with all passions, in the end there is a big emotional component which can only come from experiencing the thrill of gliding over the water and playing with the waves. If you need a small push to motivate you, check out this video:
If you have any elements that you think are missing in this list of advantages of windsurfing, just let me know in the comments so that I can include them.