When learning to windsurf, it is important to make sure you are using the right gear. If you start learning on high performance kit, you'll find the whole sport way more difficult than it needs to be. You also don't want to fork out a shed load of cash when you're not entirely sure whether windsurfing is a sport you want to commit to for a few years.
Beginners tend to start on bigger, more stable windsurf boards and smaller sails before progressing onto smaller boards and different size sails depending on the weather conditions.
Don't just go and buy the cheapest board you can find on eBay. Book a couple of lessons first, rent kit and eventually you'll be able to work out what kind of board and sail you want to buy.
Here's a couple of tips to get you started – we would recommend going into a windsurf shop and asking them for some proper advice before embarking on buying windsurf kit.
When you start windsurfing, you should go for a bigger, more stable board, as I mentioned above. These are mostly sized between 140L and 200L – they provide more stability and are easier when you're learning to sail.
If you are only looking to go windsurfing occasionally, it's a good idea to buy a high volume 'wide style' windsurf board that's at least 75 to 95cm wide. They are easier to control and a good place to start planing from.
It's also a good idea to go for a board with a retractable daggerboard, particularly if you are sailing inland as it will help you stay upright in light winds.
SAIL, MAST AND BOOM
There are three factors you need to think about when choosing a windsurf sail: your level, your size and the wind strength. When you are just starting out, it's best to pick a small sail that is in keeping with your size – it will be much easier to pull up out of the water.
You will probably learn to windsurf using a training sail (under 5m) but it isn't worth buying a training sail, as once you come to the point where you are ready to purchase kit, you want it to help you progress. You don't want it to be too big otherwise it is too heavy and hard to control.
As a general rule, most beginner adults buying their first sail would look at a 5m to 6m sail, but it really does depend on your height/weight and ability.
Different disciplines also use different sails. When building up your first quiver – a basic structure would be one larger sail for light winds and a smaller sail for strong winds.
Masts again vary a lot. If your sail size is less than 7m, it is often preferable to choose a skinny mast – or a reduced diameter mast – as it is lighter and therefore easier to handle.
Most booms are made out of aluminium – they are sturdy and lightweight. Further down the line, you might think about investing in a carbon boom.
Everyone should wear a buoyancy aid when learning to windsurf. It's important to stay safe especially when there's moving water involved.
Some people might think it's not necessary, but this cautionary tale from the UK Windsurfing Association will make you think twice. It might just save your life.
There are great lightweight buoyancy aids you can wear now that aren't too bulky and work as impact vests at the same time. Neil Pryde have a rad selection to choose from.
WETSUIT AND WINDSURFING SHOES
There are loads to choose from – most people opt for a long-sleeved wetsuit in winter and sometimes drop down to a shortie wetsuit or neoprene shorts/leggings in summer.
If the water temperature is below 15°C, it's best to wear a 5/3mm or 4/3mm wetsuit. Even in early June, water in the UK can be well below this temperature. If the water temperature is above 15°C, then a 3/2mm wetsuit should be fine.
You want to make sure you get a wetsuit that fits properly – if it is too big, the water will just flush straight through and won't keep you warm at all. Too tight and it will feel like it's cutting off your blood supply to your hands and feet.
Should you just buy a wetsuit from a surfing shop? Well, no. Most people would argue that it's best to buy a windsurf specific wetsuit as it is cut to suit windsurfers, such as more flexibility around the forearm for holding the boom.
Neil Pryde make excellent windsurfing wetsuits - they are always innovating their wetsuits to suit sailors in all conditions.
Mormaii Windsurf make windsurf specific wetsuits with smooth skin on the body, arms and calfs to reduce windchill.