Windsurfing disciplines

James Cox windsurfing

Amy Carter editor of Boards magazine continues her guide to weather and windsurfing.

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. Most windsurfers don't necessarily chose which discipline they want to take part in, rather the local beach, lake or area of water set the parameters for what is possible. So below is a list of the main disciplines and for each one I have explained, in short what each require in terms of forecast and kit.

Freeride / Bump and jump: This is the main type of discipline recreational windsurfers take part in. Ideally they look for about eighteen to thirty knots and use non-specific, go anywhere, do anything boards allowing them to make the most of any wind-blown chop for jumping or sheltered flat water areas for carving manoeuvres.

Wave: The more extreme end of the windsurfing spectrum. Wave is when windsurfers use waves as stunt ramps for high jumps and tricks such as forward or backward loops. They then surf the wave on the way back in combining bottom and top turns. They have to be on the brink of planning as the boards they use are much smaller (70 - 95 litres) to allow for control on the wave and in the air, ideally twenty-three knots (plus) with wave size anywhere from waist to four metres high or bigger!

Steve Thorp c Sarah Jane Owen Steve Thorp (credit: Sarah Jane Owen) Freestyle: The skateboarding of the windsurfing world. It relies on doing explosive, sliding and spinning manoeuvres on completely flat water, the flatter the water the better. Again this relies on the windsurfer planning but it uses slightly bigger boards (90 - 105 litres) than wave so they can get out in similar winds to freeride, about eighteen knots plus. Freestyle is normally best when a stretch of water, across the wind is sheltered by a low lying wall, sand bar or spit of land for constant wind but has no fetch (area for chop to form on the water).

Race: This discipline is in itself split into many different categories which incorporates almost all wind strengths from RS:X which is used in the Olympics designed specifically for use all over the world at different venues, inland and costal. Formula which has kit that can get planning in about eight knots of wind and Slalom which can be done in some of the highest wind speeds nature can put out.

All of the aforesaid disciplines do at some stage interlink and defining them can sometimes be difficult. I have used wind strengths for a typical windsurfer but that is not to say that for all of the above there will be many exceptions. Lighter/more skilled sailors will be able to get going earlier, slightly different conditions will allow different opportunities and as kit progresses people are able to get out more and more. So a forecast to a windsurfer is like opening a book with the same content, yet arriving at an infinite amount of different endings. Depending where you are on your windsurfing journey be sure to check the forecast so you can arrive at your own conclusions as you can be sure the person next to you at your local spot will have arrived at a slightly different one!"

As you progress with windsurfing and sway towards one or other of these disciplines, following the forecast becomes a little more exciting. While it maybe easy to get out on some flat water to go freeriding, you may crave a perfect wave to improve your wave riding or some ultra flat water to learn the new freestyle move.

For many following the forecast and searching for their own personal ideal condition becomes an addiction, James Cox an avid competitor well known for his meteorological knowledge explains why and what many look for in a forecast.

James Cox c Duncan Dumbreck James Cox (credit: Duncan Dumbreck) "Windsurfers do not have the luxury of booking a court or scheduling a regular after work slot of leisure activity; we wait for the weather to decide when the games can begin. And as a keen windsurfer I know, and thoroughly enjoy, the process of being finely tuned in to the weather forecasts in anticipation of the next brewing storm and the next chance to hit the water. We wait for the latest forecast updates to plan our week ahead. Most often work and social engagements are planned around the windsurfing and the weather.

A chase makes life more exciting

A chase makes life more exciting and following the weather is exactly that. As a windsurfer you will have your own ideal conditions that you will be looking for - your own idea of perfection! For Steve, George and Amy this will most likely be something such as raw big surf and strong winds; whereas for another individual it might be moderate winds on a secluded and sheltered lake. So we will all be concentrating on the weather forecast, but we might be hoping for different things.

This is just one of the reasons why Windsurfing is such an incredible sport. The weather constantly changes the playing field making every session unique. There is no good or bad weather in windsurfing - only good weather! But as suggested above, it's the extreme weather conditions that keep the most experienced windsurfers perpetually hooked.

Finding the right weather for your ability is only a part of what we look for (and something that the Met Office  website does very well), it is also very important to know which locations handle those conditions the best and which are most suited to you ability level. This is something that Bigsalty Weather focuses on. So in unison these websites allow you to track the weather and locate your ideal location based on the conditions.

Understanding the weather is part of the rich and exciting experience of being a windsurfer. You will never completely master either of these things, but this means there is always something new to keep you hooked.

Read more about how the environment, including the weather, affect windsurfing together with a first hand account from Steve Thorp.

Read the introduction to windsurfing by Amy Carter editor of  Boards Magazine.

Last updated: 1 August 2012

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