Windsurfing or sailboarding is a surface water sport that combines elements of surfing and sailing. It consists of a board usually two to four metres long, powered by the orthogonal effect of the wind on a sail. The rig is connected to the board by a free-rotating universal joint and comprises a mast, wishbone boom and sail. The sail area ranges from less than 2.5 m2 to more than 12 m2 depending on the conditions, the skill of the sailor and the type of windsurfing being undertaken.
The history of windsurfing began in 1948 on the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania, USA when Newman Darby invented the sailboard which incidentally, he did not patent. In 1964, Darby began selling his sailboards.
Windsurfing can be said to straddle both the laid-back culture of surf sports and the more rules-based environment of sailing. Although it might be considered a minimalistic version of a sailboat, a windsurfer offers experiences that are outside the scope of any other sailing craft design. Windsurfers can perform jumps, inverted loops, spinning maneuvers, and other “freestyle” moves that cannot be matched by any sailboat. Windsurfers were the first to ride the world’s largest waves, such as Jaws on the island of Maui, and, with very few exceptions, it was not until the advent of tow-in surfing that waves of that size became accessible to surfers on more traditional surfboards. Extreme waves aside, many expert windsurfers will ride the same waves as wavesurfers do (wind permitting) and are themselves usually very accomplished without a rig on a conventional surfboard.
At one time referred to as “surfing’s ginger haired cousin” by the sport’s legendary champion, Robby Naish, windsurfing has long struggled to present a coherent image of the sport to outsiders. Indeed, participants will regularly use different names to describe the sport, including sailboarding and boardsailing. Despite the term “Windsurfing” becoming the accepted name for the sport, participants are still called “sailors” or “board heads” and not “surfers”
Windsurfing is predominately undertaken on a non-competitive basis. Organised competition does take place at all levels across the world and typical formats for competitive windsurfing include Formula Windsurfing, speed sailing, slalom, course racing, wave sailing, superX, and freestyle. These events are exciting to watch as sailors push the limits both physically and creatively with moves that look as impossible as thinking them up in the first place.
The boom of the 1980s led windsurfing to be recognized as an Olympic sport in 1984. However, windsurfing’s popularity saw a sharp decline in the mid-1990s, thanks to licensing battles, and equipment becoming more specialized and requiring more expertise to sail. Now the sport is experiencing a modest revival, as new beginner-friendly designs are becoming available.
Reference: Wikipedia Wind Surfing