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Main \\ Outdoor Activities \\ Water \\ Windsurfing \\ Beach Starts and Water Starts \\
  Windsurfing Equipment Tips for Beginners

Overview
With all the equipment on the market it seems almost impossible for the beginner to make the proper decision when it come to buying windsurfing equipment. These series of help screens were put together to aid the beginner in determining which equipment is right for them.


Boards
Windsurfers come in three basic catagories: Longboards, Transition boards, and Short Boards. These boards are measured in Liters of flotation and by Length in Feet or Meters.


Longboards
Longboards are typicaly over 195 liters and may go as high as 260 Liters. They are usually over 11 feet and are excellent for cruising on a lake. Generally in central North Carolina longboards will rule from mid May through mid September. Basicly wetsuits come off during that same period. (this year was the exception, cool until the first week in June.) So if you plan to spend most of your time sailing in the non-wetsuit time of the year in central North Carolina and wish to sail a lot, you will probably want to own a Longboard. Racing Longboards: (Mistral Equipe's, One Designs, Mega Cat's, Tiga Race, F2 Lightning, and similar racing longboards) are also designed for high winds and their ability to go up wind in addition to serving as a training boards. They typically go a lot faster, provied you have the wind for it, however, they are a lot more expensive.


Transitions
Transitions are usually 145 liters to 195 liters and typically from 10 to 11 and a half feet. Transitions offer a little more of a challenge (because they are shorter and have less flotation.) Some Transitions are faster than Longboards, and Transitions almost always have foot straps. A Transition is usually the next logical progression in the windsurfing experience. Moving back in the straps and using the harness can be accomplished on a Longboard however, on a transition you can also achieve that Shortboard feel. Some people recomend them, others do not. I believe if you move to a transition, it may force you to be a little more selective in the wind you go out in. That is, you will be less inclined to sail unless the forcast calls for at least 10-15 mph. You may sail less, but your balance will improve faster (maybe) and you may move to a short board a little faster.
Keep in mind that transitions are not Short boards, therfore they will never be as fast as a Short board. If you put straping monofilm tape over the center board you can make them conciderbly faster. and you are a light weight you can go almost as fast as a Shortboard. You will however, be hard pressed to keep the board on a plane through a Jibe. In conclusion the bigger the board, the more it leans toward lighter winds, and the smaller the board, the better it is for higher winds.
Longboards and Transitions have two charactistics that set them appart from Short boards, they have centerboards. Centerboards are designed to provide lateral resistance in the water, to aid the sailor in going upwind, as opposed to going down wind (farther away from launch point.) Again, they are almost always much slower than Shortboards. The good news is the can always be uphauled and with a little practice you can almost always return to launch point, provided you leave the centerboard in the down position.


Shortboards
Shortboards do not have centerboards, they are usually anything less than 145 liters and shorter than 9 feet 10 inches in length. They are almost always more difficult to sail upwind, however they are extremly fast and by far the most fun. They also require the most skill to sail because of the low volume of floatation. The one thing that sets shortboards apart from the longer boards is the fact that they will stay on a plain through a Jibing turn. If you plan to do much sailing on a shortboard in central North Carolina you better plan on buying a wetsuit . Shortboards are also so fast in high winds, so that you really need to wear a harness. In addition you will most likely need to be in the foot straps just to stay on the board. If you plan to sail a Shortboard in the non-wetsuit months, you will need to travel to the North Carolina coast.
Lake winds in central North Carolina tend to be gusty. In North Carloina, if a front passes and the ISOBARS show a little packed on the weather map. Get ready for your wind experience. First It will cloud up and the wind will start to increase out of the South. Gradually it will get nastier and the winds shift South West. Finally the clouds will begin to break up and the winds will switch, West-North-West. Then it will clear, turn bright, and become markedly cooler as the winds shift out of the North. The wind strength varies but, you can usually count on at least sailing (7.5) on the south. As the wind begins to switch it will pick up. You may feel a lull, then blast in from the north. Again, the central North Carolina winds tend to be very gusty.
When you buy a board think about a couple of factors. Your overall weight has a lot to do with the board you select. At my weight of 195 lbs, my 100 liter board is almost a sinker, and my 120 liter board just will handle, me and my 7.5 Cambered sail. If you plan to lake sail most of the time you may want to add 5 to 10 liters of float to you ideal volume just to be able to ride out the lulls. You may bounce around a little in the higher gusts, but you my just be able to up-haul out of a jam or to avoid lull pain.
If you are going to the NC coast a lot you may want a shorter less volume board, (like the FOX board that is built for NC coast conditions or a proven production performer.) If you are just learning the planing jibe avoid the no-nose and look for a board with softer rounder rails. The no nose are somewhat more difficult to hold on a planing jibe. The sharper rails may cut a sharper jibe but as long as you don't over sink the the rails the softer rail board will come out of the jibe smoother and if you lean forward a little and avoid sinking the rail too much, you can turn like the pros with a little practice. Also, the rounder rails will hold the board on the water and allows for eaiser turning in lighter winds.


Materials


Windsurfers come in a varity of different materials, that is, what they are actually made of. There are three main types of materials available: Polyethylene (like a frisbee) , ABS (like hard plastic), Epoxy (Glue resin with a varity of different binding mats.)


Poly Boards
Polyethylene (PE) is the most durable of all the materials, some manufacturers claim they are bomb proof. Just remember that fin boxes are almost never bomb proof. These PE-boards are not as stiff as other materials; stiffer means faster in the water, also usually PE-boards are a little heavier. The downside to the boards are they are very dificult and time consuming to repair. Don't give up on these boards because of some of the qualities listed above. PE boards make excellent training boards, hold their resale value, are by far the least expensive, ultimatly PE boards usually out last all the other boards because the hulls are can withstand more impact and abuse than another hull. I have sailed PE Hi-Fly long and short boards, Tiga short boards and Bic longboards , Hi-flys Jibe fairly easy, and Tigas are very fast. My favorate teaching board is the PE Hi-Fly Revo, I also like the Bic Melody, great first board because it's not too heavy and it's not too big. Early PE boards were rotation-molded in a closed mold, which was heated until polyethylene chips melted and coverd the inside of the mold to form a hollow shell. The shells were then put in a retainer mold and filled with foam.


ABS Boards
ABS Boards (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) have for the most part been totally replaced by PE or Epoxy. ABS boards are lighter, stiffer and faster than PE. They are a little heavier than the epoxy but they are more durable. PE, however can not withstand impact dings as well as the PE boards. The drawback is, they (like the PE boards) are a little more dificult to repair. Epoxy does not bond well to ABS, and most repair shops repair with polyester or epoxy resins. ABS does repair a lot eaiser than PE. I have had a lot of success with the ABS boards, and as I stated they are very durable, resist stains, and weather very well, also, one of the biggest factors is, they are usualy a lot less expensive than the epoxy boards. They are usually vacuum-formed with the foam, bonded together, and sealed at the edges.


Epoxy
Epoxy (epoxy fiber composite) boards are by far lighter, stronger, and of course faster than the PE or ABS. There are lots of different fiber mats that bond with the epoxy resin (epoxy resin gives the adhesion, and the fiber mats gives the tensile strength.) The most common mat is Eglass and its (more expensive) cousin Sglass, both are fiberglass mats. Sglass is lighter and has much more tensile strength than Eglass(about 30 percent stronger tougher and stiffer than the same weave of Eglass.) However an Eglass board is less likely to break in half, both are nearly the same when it comes to impact dings. Then there are the more exotic mats like Kevlar. Kevlar is a special type of nylon fiber that is lighter and stronger than fiberglass (kevlar is the stuff they put in fiber optic cables, very strong..) , and Carbon (carbon speaks for itself..light and strong.) The 3 main types of carbon cloths available are carbon, carbon strip, and carbon graphite. There are also many different weaves that actually comprise the mats. This is the actual weave in the mat cloth itself. The four main weaves: woven, uni-directional, bi-axil, tri-axel. By mixing and matching the different mat-materials with different amounts of epoxy resin spread over lower and higher density foams thus determines the weight and strength of the epoxy boards.
There are some manuafacturers that take to the leading edge by starting with low density foam then carbon/epoxy then high density foam (devinisil) then another layer of carbon/epoxy. Anyway I don't want to get too carried away with materials but, a couple of note worthy comments. The reason why a board delaminates, its the thinner outer layer of high density foam becomes un-glued from the lower density inter foam core (this is usually caused by a lot of heat.) Secondly it costs alot of money to get a board just little lighter.
ASA plastic is used is a thermoformed plastic shell that wraps some of the production epoxy composite production boards. This fine layer protects the structure of otherwise fragile Epoxy composite board structures. It also protects the board from ultra violet rays and to help seal out water. Bic and Mistral, and a few others, use this technology.


Board Selection
Board selection is usually based on the experience level of the rider and the location where most of the sailing is going to be done. Obvously as beginner you don't want to go out and buy a short board, as you need plenty of flotation to learn the sport. Also, since 99 percent of us don't live in, Aruba, the Gorge, Hattaras, or Corpus. we have to work, 8 hours a day and live well inland of any form of steady wind; ok, now that you are sold on a long board...Let me say that Short boards are by far (this is a huge margin) the most fun...but, you are going to have to comute to the coast on weekends, buy a wet suit (most of the best wind is in the cold water months,) be a very patient person or, get find job that lets you take off any time the wind blows. Most dedicated (die hard) windsurfers are, have, or do most of the above.
Here are a couple more note worthy items; you are going to have to transport the board you buy from the house to the car and from the car to the water. You may not always have someone around to help you carry the board, therefore weight could be an important factor. PE and ABS boards are less expensive but they are heavier. Epoxy boards are lighter and faster, but you have to shell out more money at purchase time.

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