Introduction to windsurfing and the weather

Amy Carter jumps a wave

Windsurfing is a sport intrinsically linked to mother nature. Wind surfers are not only affected by the weather, but whole heartedly rely upon suitable conditions being provided by the wind.

In the first of three articles, Amy Carter editor of Boards magazine and three British windsurfers, George Shillito, James Cox and Steve Thorp guide you through their beloved sport and how it is affected by the weather.

Taking your first steps

From those taking their first steps on a board through to windsurfing addicts who follow the forecasts daily, we are all eager to find the right conditions and enjoy them to the fullest. Luckily for us the UK provides a brilliant range of windsurfing weather and locations for everyone, but first things first, what is windsurfing?

A windsurfer basically consists of a board, mast, boom and sail. The principle of windsurfing is simple; you stand on the board, with your feet roughly shoulder width apart, and hold the sail up with your hands. The aim is to control the board and execute all the different manoeuvres with a variety of techniques. When you learn to windsurf it will be in a safe, calm environment where you can get to grips with the theory and techniques of the sport. After mastering these you can move onto sailing in more challenging conditions and continually improve your windsurfing ability.

The weather will affect your first, and all future, sessions on the water

George Shillito, a regular on the BWA (British Wave sailing Association) Tour and manager of a successful water sports centre, knows all about introducing new people to the sport. George shares his knowledge on getting started in windsurfing, as well as how the weather will affect your first, and all future, sessions on the water.

George Shillito George Shillito blasts a wave (credit: "For windsurfers, checking a forecast is the blood line that links the first-time novices to the international-travelling, wind-battered professionals. For each and every windsurfer checking the forecast kick-starts a chain reaction of religious routines, preparations and difficult deliberation as to what kit to take, where to take it and why take it there.

Just a few days ago I found myself explaining to a group of keen beginners that their ideal forecast which they should be searching high and low for is a steady force three (on the Beaufort scale) and a Northerly wind making the water nice and flat down here at Polkerris Beach on the South coast of Cornwall. As I found myself uttering these words I was quickly confronted with the question "what's the windiest you've ever been out in?" to which I had to answer "a good force nine to ten!!"

As you can imagine this opened the flood gates to a barrage of questions which got me thinking; what is it that windsurfers look for that make an identical forecast spell disaster for some, but offer perfect conditions for others?

Enhance your learning experience

For your first steps on a windsurf board, flat water with a constant light wind (Force 2-3) are more or less ideal to enhance your learning experience, as at this stage you are what is referred to as unconsciously incompetent. You know don't know what you're doing as you have never done it before, but then again you have nothing to compare yourself to and your brain is working over-time to ensure you stay upright and resemble something similar to what the instructor is saying nearby. In short, there is much too much to be thinking about to worry whether a small gust maybe just about to collide with your sail as everything you are doing requires thought. For this stage the safer the water the better, so learning at any  RYA training centre will insure certain, high quality standards are met.

Bitten by the windsurfing bug

Once you've been bitten by the windsurfing bug you'll quickly succumb to the excitement and intrigue of learning more and it will soon have you back out on the water. As your experience grows so to do your limits and the gentle winds no longer produce the new arousal levels you are now accustomed. This is due to the fact that as you do more, more of what you are doing becomes subconscious and you do things without thought. Whereas previously you worried about where your hands and feet were, now it comes naturally to you, so your brain has more space to start thinking about new quarrels that it has not encountered before, such as water state and wind inequalities.

As time goes by what once was you perfect forecast is now just seen as a light bit of fun on the water with friends or used to learn new skills for windier days when things happen much faster.

Once you reach planing level (when you overtake your bow wave ie go pretty fast!) you will naturally find yourself well on your way to becoming a fully-fledged wind surfer and will have no doubt chosen a discipline you want to focus on.

Windsurfing, like any other sport, has a few main disciplines one can focus their attention on and for each the dream forecast is always slightly different. Read more about the different styles of windsurfing including the Olympic discipline RS:X.

Last updated: 1 August 2012

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