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How did YOU start windsurfing?
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Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 677

PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:45 am    Post subject: How did YOU start windsurfing? Reply with quote

Hey everyone,

The time has come for me to begin introducing a little project I've been working on for a couple months now.

It's called the L2W Project - short for "Learn To Windsurf".

At it's most basic, the goal is to create a national Learn to Windsurf day, where every shop, school, club, and windsurfer in the country takes one day to share the stoke of their sport by teaching others.

The website is still under construction, but to build out a part of it, I would like a little help from you: I want to find out how you learned to windsurf - and who helped you do it.

If you'd like an example, here's a quick riff on some of the things that happened on my personal path to learning to windsurf:

I'd love to hear your stories. The best ones of them could possibly even end up in the magazine. You can post them here, or, if your prefer not too share on the forum, email them to the L2W Project at Yes, we'd love to see your pictures!

I hope everyone is getting ready for a very exciting 2012 - I know I am Wink

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Joined: 17 Apr 1995
Posts: 1386
Location: Maui

PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In 1979 I moved to S.F. from the Gulf Coast where I was a Hobie 18 racer. I had trouble finding a crew (and motivation) to get out in the cold water so in 1982 I took my boat to Baja. Had my old racing partner from Louisiana meet me in San Diego. We had never heard of "El Norte". The second to last day I we were there it hit in full force. We were flying a hull, both out on the wire when a loud "CRACK" came from the hull. I said "Did you hear anything?" "No, I didn't hear that". We kept sailing. A gust hit and "CRACK!". "I said did you hear that - sounded just like what we both didn't hear a minute ago". "No, I didn't hear that one either".

Next day as we broke camp, I decided to go out one more time. Wind was light and I was flying the hull solo like I liked to do. A little puff hit and I went over. This seemed odd because I was a master at holding that thin line just on the verge of going over. While trying to arrange the lines to right it, it became obvious that the leeward hull was full of water. After an hour struggling with it I finally got it up, luffed to the beach, popped open the inspection port and saw the damage.

Back in S.F. I went to the local Hobie shop and traded it in for an Alpha board, complete rig with 2 sails, and a wetsuit. It was probably a big loss for me, but I never looked back. (They fixed my boat and sold it to a blind guy who made good use of it, so I felt good about that.) I had no lessons, just help from all the local sailors. Sailed Larkspur, Petaluma River, Lake Del Valle and even Bel Marin Keys, learning all the basics the wrong way, but becoming a competent sailor in the process. The following winter I was back in Baja, but this time with my sailboard.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was always a small boat sailor as a kid (in Phoenix of all places) and always had an awareness of windsurfing in the back of my mind but spent everything I scrapped together on sailboats and never made it past reading about windsurfing. At ASU I was on the sailing team where I met my girlfriend who grew up near Portland and learned to sail in Hood River a few years before. She picked up a cheap board the next semester and brought some gear from home. I got really excited that I could finally try some windsurfing Very Happy .

So... first day out, gusty 20-25 on a 6.5 and a neon Bic E-rock....You can guess how that went. Sort of like a montage of a medieval trebuchet assault. But I stayed with it all day and did manage a "waterstart" or two complete with rides of at least 15 feet! Shortly after I picked up some vintage longboards and sailed(drifted) around on Lake Pleasant near phoenix every chance I got and even brought a board on a college racing weekend in San Diego (to also drift, but in fog at least). A couple times I even convinced the rest of the sailing team to have practice at Lake Pleasant instead of in Tempe Town Lake so that I could take the board with me on windy days.

Then a couple summers ago I was able to come to Hood River for a few days and try some wind out. I was determined to learn waterstarting in the little time I had, so I went out for about 8 hours straight and got thrown around near the sandbar. Finally an awesome surfer looking dude doing some freestyle nearby took pity on me and gave me some tips. That was probably one of the biggest turning points. I was close to packing it in and sticking to boats, but the smile on that guys face as he was cruising around and doing tricks around me and the awesome attitude made all the difference. It was just infectious and turned it from an impossible challenge to something I knew I could get with a little help and a little more work. By the next day I was able to get going and even got some planing in. Then back to the desert for some uphauling and drifting Mad

Then finally I escaped from AZ and came up to Portland. What a difference. Equipment everywhere and everyone willing to help out. There are so many people here willing to help people who want to learn and I make new windsurfing friends every trip. Whenever I see a beginner trying to get a waterstart or struggling to sail more than a few yards I have to go over and tell them not to give up, and that it gets better. Cant wait for next summer..

PS thanks again for the fin Josh, after reading your version I can see why you would have a soft spot for someone with a broken fin and no money!

For those of you saying ASU...sailing? Yep... heres me driving 39 in Long Beach
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll try to make it short; 1986; bought an Alpha windsurfer and took a lesson in Denver. Moved to New Mexico. Spent the summer with my wife struggling. Found my new business partner had an old (not so old then) Windsurfer. We dinked around all summer on the two boards. Then, one day in the fall, the wind came up. The guys who could really sail showed up and were ripping it up on the local lake. I stood there staring with my mouth open. I was dumbfounded. So this is what all this is about? I've been hooked ever since.
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Joined: 21 Dec 2008
Posts: 6409
Location: The eye of the universe, Cen. Cal. coast

PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Living on the central coast of Cali. (San Luis Obispo county), hard core surfer, had been since the early 60's, the local spots were getting more and more crowded every year, so the frusturations of that were getting worse every year. I had my favorite spots, but they were being taken over as the area continued to grow, so an increase in aggression seemed to be the call of the day, and I was getting tired of it.

1984, and I was seeing the first pics of windsurfing in the waves, then witnessing it starting out at Lopez Lake, they were flying, well flying for back then, it's all relative. I became hooked even before ever setting one foot on a windsurfing board. A local sporting goods store was running lessons out at the lake, so me and some friends signed up, we all only took one lesson, just the basics, but it saved a lot of time on the learning curve.

Want to continue? Time to rent or buy, so I bought, it was an O'Brien, can't remember the model name, but it was big, and it came with a rig and one sail, a triangle with only a few half battens. Mastered that board and sail in about 4 months, then dumped it all on a friend for a fraction of what I spent on it. Went to a fiberglass semi-custom and started buying components seperately, and never looked back. Spent 3 more seasons at Lopez Lake, it was close to where I lived, and with better equipment, the speeds and fun just went up exponentially. But there was always this calling, so I went to where I always wanted to go, into the waves.

I'm still in the waves some 28'ish years later from first learning, by far, the best sporting move I ever made. I try to average about 80 days per year windsurfing at my choosen spot on the north coast of the county, and I now live only 10 minutes away from there. It's a strategic move that I made back in 1990, to live by where I play.

Life is very good, and windsurfing is one of the main reasons why, and thanks to it, I'm 61 years young, with a garage overflowing with used, and some broken, windsurfing equipment. The good stuff is in the van where it stays, all year long.

Last edited by nw30 on Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Circa 1986 I worked with someone who had windsurf gear on top of his car, and who said that he sailed on SF Bay frequently at the end of the day.

I did not think much about windsurfing until 1993, when I was looking for a vacation, read some magazine with an article about Maui, and very likely saw something there about windsurfing. Then I found Windsurfing magazine on the newsstand, read a few issues, and caught the bug.

I arranged instruction with one of the Maui outfits that advertised in the back of the magazine, and went for a trip of several days. My poor physical condition, Maui conditions, and the beginner gear of the time (narrow, heavy O'Brien boards), had me making little progress, but I still had the bug.

A few years later, I took some more instruction on similar gear on Kauai, and again did not make great progress, but had fun as part of a vacation, apart from some of my vacation pictures being X-rays.

Finally, beginning late 2009, I spent a lot of time in the gym and vastly improved my condition. In May of 2010, I went back to Maui, and took instruction from HST. Modern wide gear and my better physical condition, made a big difference. When I got back home, I started doing stupid things like reading Maui real estate ads.

By June, the bug was driving me to distraction. I finally located compatible instruction and good rental gear in the SF Bay area from Boardsports, got some more instruction there, and sailed weekends for a few months on rental gear.

Late in the season I figured out roof racks and related questions, bought gear, and made decent progress on things like staying upwind. I then lost my board and one rig while stupidly trying to sail in fiercely gusty and frigid winter storm clearing conditions that were well beyond my competence.

At the end of February, I traveled to Bonaire, sailed for a week there, and came back exhausted and eager for the local season to begin again. I bought new gear at the beginning of the season, then began to re-learn to sail on a more challenging board, and continued that process through the season.

I did an ABK camp at Sherman Island, in part to see what sailing at that site might be like, and in part to try to make some progress toward waterstart. I did make one beachstart, but no waterstart.

As the season progressed, I sailed every weekend that I could, moving toward larger sails, in great part because the wind was not delivering on weekends. During a few fortunate intervals, I was able to get planing: exciting, but more skill development is definitely needed to maintain good control.

A couple of weeks ago I went back to Maui for 10 days, took some more instruction from HST, got exposed to 2:1 gusty winds and challenging chop, and learned that my sail control is inadequate for these conditions.

Contrast in conditions: I had been sailing mostly 7.3 at home by the end of the season... more like 4.2-5.5 on Maui. Wow, this little sail on this 370 toothpick of a mast sure is easy to uphaul ... [gust] WHAM ... fail.

Also, I learned that I had developed some sloppy and unworkable jibe habits while sailing in less challenging conditions at home. I had hoped to make more progress toward waterstart, but did not quite make it.

Agenda for next season: waterstart, sail control, harness, try to have more fun while doing less work.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I bought a Hobie 16 right out of college, 1981, and moved to So. Cal, where I sailed out of Belmont Shores. I could not always find a crew, so I bought a BIC dufour wing. Big Big Big. Windsurfing would let me get in some time on the water after work.

First day, tacks in Newport Harbor. Second day, jibes in Newport Harbor. Third day, time to wave sail! I headed to Seal Beach and rigged. (took three trips from the car to haul the gear down to the beach). Stepped on the board, dagger board in hand, due to shallow water, sucked it up after the little shore break, slid in the dagger board and sheeted in for the wave. Really bad idea!

The first wave broke over the bow. I went one way, thankfully, and the board and rig the other way. It took me half an hour to gather the detached rig and bent boom. As I loaded up the car a surfer came by and told me if I came back he would "key" my car!
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Joined: 09 May 2003
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Location: Burlington, VT

PostPosted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Always had a minor fascination with windsurfing. Had one brief attempted session on a friend's gear as a kid. Based on that experience and stories from others, I knew enough to avoid the "trial and error on borrowed equipment" approach to learning. So when I sold a co-owned sport sailboat back in 2003 or so, I decided to give windsurfing a go for real, and booked a slot in a 3-day ABK clinic. I was instantly hooked. Also learned a ton, and avoided much frustration and bad habits. Bought gear, sailed every chance I got for a full season, then went back for another ABK camp and learned a TON more. Really feel like I developed a great foundation that way that's been incredibly valuable as my sailing skills have evolved. Haven't had a lesson since, but would love to go back for another ABK clinic soon.
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Joined: 13 Oct 2002
Posts: 385

PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great idea Josh.

I had an 18' Sol Cat in college. Then with my first paycheck of my first "real job" after school, I bought a HiFly 300, threw it on the old Volvo, and ventured out on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. It was so great to be able to sail for a hour or two after work on those long, hot summer days. Not much wind usually, but there were dozens of people windsurfing on that lake in 1983. I was bummed when I moved to Oregon a couple years later - not many lakes around, where would I go windsurfing? Then a buddy took me to the Gorge - my jaw dropped. Neon colors (sails, boards, and wetsuits) and such tiny glass boards. Who knew you could sail on a river! The first time I planed I was hooked for life.
- BobG
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Joined: 21 Dec 2008
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Location: The eye of the universe, Cen. Cal. coast

PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's interesting that many came from a sailing background, cats mostly, knew quite a few of them myself. I've also met many who came over from hang gliding, they were attracted to the equipment because it was similar to what they were using (late 80's), except it didn't kill you when it broke.
Back in those days, I'd say around me anyway, only about a half of us came from a surfing background. And to this day, you can look out into the surf zone at the windsurfers, and see who came from a surfing background, and who didn't. But everyone that I sail with now days are all very competent in the surf zone however, no matter what their background was.
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