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Is windsurfing difficult?

Posted by on in Windsurfing
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Is windsurfing easy or difficult?

I’m often asked if windsurfing is difficult and most assume that you need to be super strong to “hold the sail”. Understandably, it’s a reasonable question for anyone who hasn’t tried the awesomeness of this sport.

Obviously there are different levels of the sport each with its own level of skill and fitness demands.

Almost every “physical sport” on a professional level requires skill, practice and excellent fitness. Fortunately windsurfing covers all the extremes from easy to “just hanging on”.

Let’s look at some of the things that make windsurfing easy or difficult.

The harness

Sometimes a bit more wind helps to make windsurfing a whole lot easier because you can use a harness. Those who have never windsurfed are usually surprised to hear that a windsurfer doesn’t hold the sail up, but instead the sail holds the windsurfer up.

The fact of using a harness means you can lean back against the wind which changes everything and allows you to recover while having fun.

When the wind is lighter or not strong enough to hold you up, then you’re forced to unhook and handle the sail with your body.

Also, if the wind is blowing gale force then you’ll obviously find it more physically demanding to hang on and hold the sail down, because you’re using more than just your body weight.

Equipment

Using old or heavy stuff makes it much harder while lighter and newer gear easier. Today windsurfing is far more user friendly compared to 20 years ago. Another common mistake is when first timers buy big and expensive gear. Sails that are built for speed require more rigging experience and can be technical to sail especially when doing things like tacking, jibing or water-starting.

Race boards can be just as technical and often easily damaged when going through those catapult stages.

Shops may be pressed to sell the big expensive stuff but I always recommend something that is light, easier to handle, simple to rig and likely to last longer. Performance is the last thing leaners should be focusing on, more performance could raise the difficulty bar.

Sadly, the image of fighting floppy sails and dragging heavy boards across the sand still sits in the minds of those who have never been introduce to how far we’ve come today. Which is why so many students say “I’ve never seen a board so wide and short!”, or “I don’t remember it looking like that”.

Yes, new stuff costs more so for those who don’t have much to spend, they might have to settle with a single piece mast full of water. In my view, if the equipment isn’t user friendly, don’t buy any of it at all.

The challenges

As with other sports if you wish to learn something new it will require some work. Don’t expect to be jumping waves after a few weeks in the water. It takes time and if you’re serious about starting up it will become a lifestyle anyway, so what’s the hurry.

Sure, if fancy tricks and loops are the reason you started windsurfing in the first place, then of course you should aim to reach that level one day, but just be realistic and admit to yourself that it will take time and practice. Expect those days that “don’t go your way!” and punching your sail could get expensive. In that case just pack up and go home.

For those happy with jumping on a board and floating around, then windsurfing is simple. If all you want to do is go out, turn the thing around and come back, then it’s as easy as cooking your own breakfast. However, a lot of us will tell you that windsurfing is not fully experienced until you’re hooked in and planing. To reach a level of comfortable planing is not so easy, it requires time and effort. For some it may take a few weeks or months and for others it could take 2 years, it depends on how often you practice and how quick you learn.

Some sailors are fortunate enough to live 5 minutes from their sailing spot and can get out every day but there are those who can only get out once in a while. Time on the water makes a huge difference and knowing what windsurfing does to a person, it’s best you move close to water.

Friends

Learning the basics on your own is like getting lost and trying to find your way back home without a map book. You try this and that and hope to get it right but really, you’re going about it while blind folded.

Get out where the other windsurfers are, you’ll learn how they rig, read the wind & gusts, ask for tips or even just watch what they do on the water.

The more time you spend with top level sailors, the faster you’ll progress.

Confidence

If you’re insecure then the level of difficulty will increase double fold. Hesitation, tension and nervousness are recipes for brute failure. The hesitation sets you up for wipe-outs, the tension causes you to tire and the nervousness causes you to focus on the things that could go wrong.

Confidence makes windsurfing a lot easier, that’s because you’re more relaxed, have more energy and don’t hesitate when you commit to something.

If you’re scared then stay away from the water, any moment of panic will cause you to fall and tire. You have to be confident in what you know.

At the same time, don’t be scared to head out into conditions a little more challenging than what you’re used to. I don’t mean put yourself in danger, I simply mean that if you’re comfortable in 15 knots of wind, give 20 knots a go and make sure friends are close by. Suddenly the 15 knots conditions become a walk in the park.

Remember why you started

Your reasons to start windsurfing could be to become professional, a new hobby, for fun, to try something new or just to get outdoors and into some water. So it's up to you on how to approach learning, you could take it the slow and easy way, or go faster and harder up the ladder to which you'll face solid challenges.

Looking back to why you started will also help motivate you to not give up after those off days and help you realise that it's so worth it to keep on practicing. It's also not normal to have bad sailing experiences day after day, if that's the case then something is wrong and don't be shy to ask for some tips.

Hopefully this helps someone who is new to the sport!

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