Windsurfing is a surface water sport that combines elements of surfing and sailing. It consists of a board usually 2.5 to 3 meters long, with displacements typically between 60 and 250 litres, powered by wind on a sail. The rig is connected to the board by a free-rotating universal joint and consists of a mast, 2-sided boom and sail. The sail area generally ranges from 2.5 m2 to 12 m2 depending on the conditions, the skill of the sailor, the type of windsurfing being undertaken and the weight of the person windsurfing.

Some credits S. Newman Darby with the origination of windsurfing by 1964 on the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania, USA when he invented the "sailboard", which, incidentally, he did not patent. In 1964, Darby began selling his sailboards. A promotional article by Darby was published in the August 1965 edition of Popular Science magazine.

While Darby's "sailboard" incorporated a pivoting rig, it was "square rigged" and suffered all the associated limitations. You operated the sailboard with your back to the lee side of the kite shaped square sail. Darby's article boasted that " can learn to master a type of manoeuvering that's been dead since the age of the picturesque square riggers"

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[by whom?] a minimalistic version of a sailboat, windsurfing offers experiences that are outside the scope of other sailing craft designs. 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 surfers do (wind permitting).

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. As a result of attempts to claim the word "windsurfer" as a trademark, participants have been encouraged to use different names to describe the sport, including "sailboarding" and "boardsailing". The term "windsurfing" has persisted as the accepted name for the sport, and the word "windsurfer" persists for both participants and equipment.

Windsurfing is predominately undertaken on a non-competitive basis. Organised competition does take place at all levels across the world, including in the Olympics. Typical formats for competitive windsurfing include Formula Windsurfing, speed sailing, slalom, course racing, wave sailing, superX, and freestyle.

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. The sport experienced a modest revival, as new beginner-friendly designs became available. Further pressure came as a proportion of avid windsurfers took up the similar sport of kitesurfing.

Modern windsurfing boards can be classified into many categories:

Boards meant for comfortable recreational cruising (mostly straight-line sailing and occasional turning) at planing speed (aka blasting), mainly in flat waters or in light to moderate swell. They typically fall into the volume range of 90 to 170 liters. The so-called freeride sailing movement diverged from course racing as more recreational sailors chose to sail freely without being constrained to sailing on courses around buoys.
Formula Windsurfing Class: Shorter boards up to one meter in width, for use in Formula Windsurfing races. See below for a more detailed description.

Wave boards:
Smaller, lighter, more maneuverable boards for use in breaking waves. Characteristically, sailors on wave boards perform high jumps while sailing against waves, and they ride the face of a wave performing narrow linked turns (bottom turns, cutbacks, and top-turns) in a similar way to surfing. Wave boards usually have a volume between 65 and 90 liters, with a length between 230 and 260 centimeters, and 50 to 60 centimeters in width. A general rule is for a sailor to use a wave board whose volume in liters is about the same as the sailor's weight in kilograms – more volume providing additional flotation for sailing in light winds, and less for high winds, where less volume is needed to achieve planing. In recent years, the average width of wave boards has increased slightly, as the length has shrunk, while the range of volume has been maintained the same more or less—according to board designers this makes wave boards easier to use under a wider range of conditions by sailors of differing abilities. The most common sizes of sails used with wave boards are in the range of 4.0 to 6.0 square meters, depending on the wind speed and the weight of the sailor.

Freestyle boards:
Related to wave boards in terms of maneuverability, these are wider, higher volume boards geared specifically at performing acrobatic tricks (jumps, rotations, slides, flips and loops) on flat water. Usually 80 to 110 liters in volume, and about 240 to 250 centimeters in length, with widths frequently in excess of 60 centimeters. Freestyle boards began to diverge more noticeably in design from wave boards in the early part of the 2000 decade, as aerial tricks (the Vulcan, Spock, Grubby, Flaka, and related New School maneuvers, almost all involving a jump-and-spin component) became the predominant part of the freestyle repertoire, superseding Old School moves, in which the board did not leave contact with the water.

Slalom boards:
Shortboards aimed at top speed, rather than maneuverability or ease of use.

Speed boards:
In essence an extremely narrow and sleek slalom board, built for top speed only

Beginner boards:
(sometimes called funboards) these often have a daggerboard, are almost as wide as Formula boards, and have plenty of volume, hence stability.
Racing longboards: Mistral One Design, or the Olympic RS:X class race boards.

Tandem Board:
Most popular tandem board on the market is the 'Starboard Gemeni II'


A sailboard will move, depending on wind conditions and the skill or intentions of the rider, in two entirely different manners, with two different displacements; it will either sail or hydroplane (referred to as "planing"). A sensation likened to low-level flying may be experienced by the hydroplaning windsurfer.

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Supported by a grant from Norway through the Norway Grants.