How to Windsurf

Illustrations by Kevin Hand

The Laguna Madre, near Corpus Christi’s Padre Island National Seashore, is known as one of the nation’s best windsurfing sites because of its shallow waters and consistent breeze. It’s also a perfect spot for beginners, says Angela Hurley, an instructor for Worldwinds, a local windsurf shop. “With good instruction, the basics can be learned in a few hours,” she explains. Before starting, determine the wind’s direction and speed; ideal conditions range from 5 to 15 miles per hour. Next, with the help of an outfitter, choose your board and rig. Boards are measured in liters and centimeters—more volume and width provide better stability—so Hurley recommends a board that is between 150 and 200 liters and at least 75 centimeters wide. Attached to the board is the rig, which includes the sail, the mast, and the boom. The sail powers the board, and newbies do best with a small one, about three to five square meters. The mast is a long pole threaded through a sleeve on the sail’s edge and clipped to the board. And the boom, which helps control speed and direction, attaches to the mast. When your equipment is set, you’re ready to get the wind in your sails.

1. Lead the board and the rig into the water and position the mast so that it is perpendicular to your body with the sail pointing downwind and your back to the wind.

2. Climb aboard on your hands and knees. Slowly stand up, keeping your feet along the centerline of the board, and place one foot on either side of the mast.

3. Bend your knees, keep your back straight, and grab the uphaul, which is a rope attached to the mast. Using a hand-over-hand motion and your body weight, pull the sail out of the water.

4. When the sail is close enough, grab the mast. Slide your feet into the straps, and with straight arms, lean the sail toward the board’s back, or snub-nosed end. Pull the mast toward you and the board’s center. Then, with the hand closest to the board’s back, gently grab the boom. The sail will begin to fill, and you’ll be under way. “The boom is like the gas pedal,” Hurley says. “Pull the boom in to go faster and let it out to slow down.”

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