Origins of Windsurfing

Origins of Windsurfing
Developed in the 1960s and still going strong today, windsurfing is the acrobatic hybrid of sailing and surfing. The gear minimizes the sailboat to its dynamic essentials, allowing the sailor maximum freedom to cleave the wind and waves.

The First Board

Most historians agree that American surfer S. Newman Darby was the first person to build a windsurfing rig. In 1964, he built the first one by connecting a hand-held mast with a sail and fastening it to a surfboard with a universal joint. He called his new sport "sailboarding."


The First Manufacturer

Darby published his designs in Popular Science Monthly magazine. Soon after, Darby and his brothers (Ron and Ken) formed Darby Industries and began to manufacture and retail the "sailboards." Unfortunately, the Darbys never applied for a patent.

"Sailboarding" to Windsurfing

The sport of windsurfing derives its modern name from Windsurfer International, the company that completed the patent process for engineering that essentially duplicated Darby's earlier work. The company was very aggressive in protecting its patent and it was met with great success. Darby was unable to legally challenge the company for rights to the design.

Development of the Windsurfing Sport

Windsurfing was granted Olympic status in 1984, furthering the global reach of the sport. The Professional Windsurfer's Association now recognizes five sub-disciplines in the sport: Wave, Super X, Freestyle, Slalom and Indoor.

Original Board Shape

Darby's original "sailboard" was wide and short. Though the intervening years have seen windsurfing boards get longer and thinner, many manufacturers are returning to boards styled closer to the original shape because they often go faster than newer styles.


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