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How To Buy Your First Windsurfing Gear
by Jerry Mcewen

I wrote this article several years ago as a guide to first-time buyers of windsurfing gear on eBay.

There are sometimes great deals to be had on eBay, but you’ve got to know what you are buying. Someone who is new to windsurfing should never buy windsurfing gear on eBay unless they have an experienced windsurfer to advise him or her. It is not just a matter of price; the main concern is that you will buy something on which you cannot learn. The wrong gear will quickly make you hate this sport. There is often gear which the seller claims is perfect for learning and it couldn't be farther from the truth, and there is also gear with "slight damage" that is unrepairable. This is most often the case when the board is made from plastic; nothing will adhere to it, so a plastic board with a “tiny crack” in the hull will soon be delaminating, 20 lbs. heavier, and a prime candidate for the dumpster.

Windsurfing is very equipment-intensive and the gear evolves rapidly. Next year’s popular $1,500 board will go on sale next fall for $1,000-1,300 and, come the following spring, you can find them for several $$ less. Furthermore, what may look great today may get huge changes in next year’s model.The next version will probably be easier to sail, easier to turn, and faster, but we’ve also seen the latest $1,700 wunderboard being dumped a few years later for less than $500.


Windsurfing used to be very difficult to learn, but with the right gear and a few lessons, that is not true unless you are in terrible shape.

For my first board, I bought a used setup for $100 and knew nothing about it. I spent three months by myself and made some progress; then I stumbled across our local windsurfing club. The first time my gear got rigged correctly, a piece broke and the gear was so old you could not get parts. I still see boards just like my first one on eBay occasionally and they almost always want way too much for them.


In the early 90’s, mail order windsurfing shops started killing the small retailers with drop shipping and deep discounts. It was tough for most retail shops that were not near a beach to survive, but the smart ones started carrying roller blades, kayaks and other items to keep alive.

Since these mail order shops were always near someplace windy and warm, they specialized in shortboards, which are great for advanced sailors, but are not for beginners (or they weren’t before they went through major changes). Windsurfing magazine photos played their part too. What is more exciting to look at? A 12-foot board cruising slowly across a lake, or a neon 9-foot board jumping waves in Hawaii?


I don’t want this to sound like an ad for Starboard, but they really revolutionized windsurfing. The Starboard philosophy is simple: To make windsurfing easier, and help more people enjoy the sport, yet still being involved at every level. Starboard is concentrating heavily on the Formula concept, as windsurfing today is rapidly turning towards fast 'easy to sail' boards. The Starboard Formula boards designed by Jim Drake, Tiesda You and Svein Rasmussen, have over the years been winning more titles than any other boards and took the 6 first places in the worlds when they were first introduced in 2000.

The Starboard GO was and is a huge success and never have we seen a board retain resale value as the original GO has. You simply could not find a deal on a used one because no GO owner wanted to sell theirs. The design was so good that this year’s new model was identical to last year’s model, so last year’s model was just barely discounted.

Now that they GO is 4-5 years old, you can find deals on used ones.

Starboard also came out with the Start model, which is even better for learning. The older Starts had a removable center fin, while the new ones have a retractable centerboard. In low end areas, a center fin is almost useless except for your first day. If you plan on sailing much in anything less than 11-12 mph, I would go with a newer centerboard model.

The one drawback of the Start is that it is pretty much a beginner board and once you learn the basics, you may want something more challenging. On the other hand, rare is the windsurfer who does not want to spread the stoke by teaching his kids, spouse, beer buddies or whatever and the resale value on these baords is great.

While these two boards are unbeatable for learning, there are other good boards for learning. From the 80’s the Mistral Bermuda and its lighter (otherwise identical) sibling the Superlight were great for their time. The Bermuda is about 45 lbs. and 12 feet long, so few women (or men) will enjoy carrying them to the beach. The Superlight was 35 lbs., but is fragile and a beginner will either quickly learn how to repair an epoxy board, or will melt their board because they used the wrong materials. Use epoxy resin only on an epoxy board - NEVER use polyester resin.

Both the Bermuda and Superlight were good learning platforms at the time and can still be used for that, but there are far better choices. Experienced windsurfers in light wind locations still hang on to their Superlights for light-wind cruising.

Newer models which are good for learning include the F2 Phoenix, Mistral Stance, and AHD Zen, but the Zen is pricey and factory support is unreliable.

In summary, you can find a good deal on windsurfing gear on eBay, but unless you know what you are doing, you may throw away your money and hate the sport. Get some advice in choosing the right gear and eBay can offer great deals, and strongly consider taking a lesson from a reputable school.

Jerry McEwen has windsurfed both competitively and recreationally since 1987 and coordinated Instructor Training at the Boy Scouts of America's 1,600 acre Boxwell Reservation in Tennessee in the mid-'90s. He sails year round in Nashville and takes extended vacations to Corpus Christi, Texas when time permits. Visit his windsurfing blog at http://lakesailor.blogspot.com


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