Choosing a new windsurf board, despite the wide variety available, need not be confusing if you follow our straight forward buying guide. First, think about the type of windsurfing you will be doing:
The most important thing to look for when buying your first windsurf board is the board’s volume. You need one litre of volume for every kilogram you weigh PLUS between 50 and 100 litres extra. So if you weigh 75Kg, your first board should ideally have between 125 and 175 litres of volume. The more volume you go for, the more stable the board will be – making it easier to balance and easier to up haul the sail. The downside of going for a high volume board is that, once you progress to an intermediate level, it can be more difficult to control in high winds and rougher seas when travelling at speed. If you pick a board at the lower end of the volume range, it will be more challenging to learn on because it will not be quite so stable but, if you are a quick learner and an adventurous windsurfer, it will enable you to reach higher speeds and to sail faster in higher winds with rougher seas.
You also need to consider the width of the board. The wider the board, the more stable it will be and the easier it will be to learn on but try to avoid getting something as wide as a formula board which is designed for a specific competition style (see below) because it will be difficult to control when you start going fast.
Some words of caution:
1) Many of the characteristics described above also apply to Formula Race boards. Please make sure you do not buy one of these unless you are sure it is what you want!!!
2) Make sure you buy a modern windsurf board. Many older boards may have a lot of volume but it can be in all the wrong places! Windsurf design has advanced enormously in recent years. The volume and width is now located where you need it most, i.e. where you stand to up haul the board and where you stand to ride the board. Older style boards tend to have too much volume at the front (where it is not needed) and not enough volume or width in the tail of the board – which is really important to promote both stability and early planning, this could really slow down your progress.
If all you care about is speed and you have the brute force and skill to keep one of these boards under control when the wind picks up, then a formula or race board is the beast for you. With dimensions and looks not dissimilar to a front door, they are up to one meter wide, formula boards are designed to carry massive sails, up to 13.0m. It was only racing regulations that stopped them getting any wider. The width and high volume promote early planning but at a price - when the wind gets underneath at speed, it will require considerable skill and effort to stop the board flipping like a 1970’s formula one racing car before they invented the rear wing! Joking aside, these boards are seriously fast and very stable and controllable in light to moderate wind conditions – it is only when the wind hits force four or five that they get a bit mental! At this point you’d be better off jumping on a freeride board.
Once you have progressed beyond the beginner stage and you want to start going fast in stronger winds, a freeride board will be high on your shopping list. Freeride boards are ideal for flatish water blasting with big sails – between 5.5 and 7.5m depending on your weight and the wind conditions.
A freeride board should be the board you select if you want to learn to carve gybe. This manoeuvre is possible on any size freeride board but it will be much easier to learn if you select a board at the higher end of the volume range. Take your body weight in Kg and add 20 to 50 litres. So, if you weigh 75Kg, a board closer to 125 litres would be ideal to learn to carve gybe on. The most important consideration, however, is not the overall volume of the board but where that volume is located. Make sure the tail area of the board has plenty of volume because this is where your body weight will be during the turn. All modern boards have plenty of volume in the tail.
Freeride boards have significantly less volume and less width than a beginner’s board so choosing the correct size becomes much more important. If you want to up haul the board without the board sinking under your feet, you will need a board equivalent to your own body weight plus at least 20 litres. So, if you weigh 75Kg a 95 litre board should be uphaulable for a competent intermediate windsurfer. If buying your first freeride board, you should go for more volume because the board will feel very unstable at first and will require some getting used to. The more volume you go for the easier it will be. But, if you go for too much volume, the board will be difficult to handle in very strong winds.
Because of their reduced volume and reduced width, freeride boards are much more manoeuvrable and give a nice smooth ride even in choppy conditions. Compared with bump and jump and wave boards their volume, however, is still relatively high making them quick to get up on the plane and blasting along even in moderate wind conditions.
There has been masses of development in freeride board design in recent years, making them more fun and easier than ever to sail.
For higher winds and rougher water conditions, bump & jump windsurf boards combine the best features of a freeride board with those of a wave board. A Bump & Jump board is ideal for those who like to go fast but also like to get some air time and slash a few waves! Most riders will choose a board with little more volume than their own body weight. So, if you weigh 75Kg you will be looking at a board with between 75 and 95 litres of volume. Uphauling becomes a challenge to all but the most experienced riders because, with up to 35kg of down force generated by the rig, pulling the sail up will force the board under the water. With good timing and good balance the board will, however, resurface and power away once the sail fills with wind. You should, however, have mastered the waterstart before buying a bump and jump board. Ideal sail sizes range from 4.5 to 6.5m
Pure Wave boards are the boards of choice for those of you lucky enough to spend the bulk of your time in Hawaii! OK, they are good in for the UK too! Board speed is often generated by the wave as well as the wind. Speed, however, is not as important as manoeuvrability. For this reason a wave board tends to have very ‘soft’ rails (edges) and have very low volume, often less than the weight of the rider. A 75 Kg wave sailor might have a board in the 65 to 85 litre range. Ever wonder why these boards are often referred to as ‘sinkers’? It is rare to find a wave sail as big as 6.0m, most are smaller than this and can go right down to 3.0m for nuclear wind conditions.
Compared with a bump and jump board, freestyle boards are slightly shorter and significantly wider but have a similar volume. The volume distribution is also totally different – being much more evenly spread across the board. This provides a much bigger and more stable platform for freestyle manoeuvres, without making the board significantly bigger. They plane up quickly, are really easy to turn and are quite stable for their volume. They are specifically designed for radical freestyle manoeuvres in flat water or on waves.