Windsurfing – the sport where you glide effortlessly across the water using just the wind as propulsion – sounds simple right?
Windsurfing is one of those sports that when done right looks so simple. Stand on any windy beach and watch these sailors fly up and down it makes you wonder, is windsurfing hard and really that difficult?
You only ask that question because at the same time you’ll see other windsurfers struggling in the shallows trying to get to grips with the basics.
If you are typing the question into Google ‘is windsurfing hard?’ chances are you are thinking about learning this sport and wondering whether you’ll be able to do it.
There is a common misconception that windsurfers have to be really strong, have cat-like agility and balance or that it’s only men who find windsurfing easy, this simply isn’t true.
Windsurfing equipment is very light and really easy to use. Children from the age of 6 to people in their 80’s windsurf, which shows this sport is for all ages and fitness abilities. There are some awesome people with prosthetic limbs who are able to windsurf comfortably – so no excuses!
As long as you have some kind of fitness and your balance is ok, the short answer to ‘is windsurfing hard’, is no. If you plan to have a lesson with a good instructor you will be able to stand up, windsurf, turn around and come back within the first 2 hours of your lesson.
What makes windsurfing hard?
If windsurfing was easy, why doesn’t everyone look like a professional every time they hit the water?
Going out in stronger winds and testing your ability is what makes windsurfing hard.
Windsurfing can be a very difficult sport at different stages of the learning process. If you are a beginner learning to windsurf for the first time, you won’t find it too difficult and you’ll probably have a lot of fun trying something new.
The difficulty comes from when you want to go from a beginner to intermediate windsurfer, this is when you start testing your limits and seeing how quickly you can fly across the water in high winds.
When a windsurfer is going quickly this is called planing. Getting planing is one of the hardest stages of windsurfing progression because everything has to be aligned for you to be going quickly and in control. Whereas beginners only have to worry about balance and steering by leaning the sail.
Reach a plateau of windsurfing, then pushing yourself to the next level again is what makes the sport so hard yet so addictive. People can spend most of their life windsurfing and it’s guaranteed they are always looking to progress, whether that’s going a little bit faster or jumping that little bit higher.
How to make windsurfing easier
Windsurfing is so much easier when you have the correct equipment and are learning in suitable conditions for your ability.
If you want to make windsurfing as hard as possible then grab your dad’s old equipment from the 80s, head down to your local beach and just give it a go – surely it can’t be that difficult.
This is probably the biggest mistake people wanting to windsurf make, because boards from this era are extremely wobbly and the sails are very heavy. It can almost be guaranteed you will not have a good time, and I’m almost certain you will come off the water disappointed that windsurfing is not for you.
The old saying a bad worker blames his tools doesn’t really apply in windsurfing. Trying on very old, retro equipment, or using the wrong kit for your ability level will really impact your progression of this sport..
Use a wide and stable board
If you’re learning windsurfing for the first time, you need to find a board that is suitable for Beginners.
A beginner board will be extremely wide. It’s this width that will make the board stable and not wobbly.
There are so many things to think about when learning windsurfing like sail position, feet position where your hands should be, thinking about the wind, the waves and trying not to hit other people.
If you can remove at least one element that can potentially make windsurfing hard, then you have a better chance of progression.
One of the biggest worries when learning windsurfing is balance so if you can remove that from the equation by having a wide and stable board, your chances of success will increase significantly.
Have the correct sail size
Using the correct sail size makes all the difference when you’re learning to windsurf for the first time.
Sails are measured in metres squared and beginners should use 3.5 to 4.5m2 sizes. This size makes the sail light enough to pick up and control, but big enough that you’ll feel its power and start to understand how a sail works.
A windsurfing sail is the engine and we can compare learning to windsurf with going on a motorbike for the first time.
It would be reckless to try a 900cc bike for the first time you ride, as much as you like to dream you are not Valento Rossi. Chances are you’re not able to control the power and may find the speed and high performance totally overwhelming. Whereas sticking to a small 125cc offers enough power so you definitely feel like you are moving forward but not too much where you are completely out of control.
It’s important for beginners to remember that a bigger sail doesn’t mean you are a better windsurfer.
Sail size is more relevant to wind strength than ability.
Make windsurfing as easy as possible for yourself and do not feel disheartened if you are using a small sail.
Find suitable conditions
Along with equipment, the conditions will have a huge impact on how hard you find windsurfing.
Similar to what we have alluded to so far, how hard you find windsurfing is relevant to your ability level.
Beginners will find it really difficult to learn if they are trying to go out in strong winds and wavy conditions.
The ideal scenario for a beginner to start windsurfing and pick it up quickly will be a wind speed of between 6 – 12 knots with perfectly flat water. The flatter the water the easier it will be to learn how to turn around and you can just concentrate on steering the board with the sail.
To find flat water beginners should go looking for locations in harbours or on lakes. It is possible to learn how to windsurf in the open sea but chances are there will be waves and it will make the board very wobbly.
If your only option is the ocean and there is perfectly flat water, then be wary that this might be because there is an offshore wind.
An offshore wind is when the wind blows out to sea, so if you are looking out to the ocean the wind is hitting the back of your head.
Beginner windsurfers should avoid these conditions at all cost, because you may get blown out to sea and find it very hard to get back to shore.
Take some lessons
The ideal situation to make windsurfing as easy as possible is to have a lesson or 2 with a qualified instructor.
The instructor will make sure you have the perfect equipment for your ability and they will take you out in conditions that will make learning simple.
Their knowledge of the sport means you can be confident they will set you up for success. During the lesson the instructor will give you hints and tips that make windsurfing so much easier. It’s quite amazing what an instructor can pick out to make you improve, whether it’s looking where you want to go, getting the sail upright or your foot positioning, they will provide invaluable tips.
The instructor will try their hardest to help you succeed because if you have fun and progress, chances are you will book another lesson with them! It’s a win for both of you.
Although you can get windsurfing within 2 hours of learning, mastering the sport can take years.
It’s an incredible feeling to get to a level where you can cruise around the water at 25 mph with a smile on your face. It requires a lot of patience and falling off, but we promise it is totally worth the effort.
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.