The History of Windsurfing
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- Published: 08 January 2008
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The History of Windsurfing.
Windsurfing is a relatively new sport. A number of people have claimed to have invented windsurfing but many believe that Pete Chilvers from Hayling Island built the first windsurfer in 1958. However, the first patent was granted to Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer in 1970 after 2 years with the patent office. There was some contention with Newman and Darby who fought bitter legal battles making the lawyers a fortune. This was due to Newman and Darby describing how a 3 metre boat could be sailed with no rudder just by heeling the boat. The main breakthrough was the universal joint that attached the board to the sail and it was this that won the patent for the Drake/Schweitzer team.
The original windsurfers were made of wood but later Drake and Schweitzer, unhappy with the wooden boards, began making much lighter polyethylene boards. The manufacturer of polyethylene, Dupont, was so impressed with this new use for their material they produced a number of articles for magazines and used it in their marketing of the time. This brought the attention of windsurfing to the masses with the sport becoming hugely popular in the early eighties.
Development soon stepped up with windsurfing companies springing up worldwide. The harness and footstraps took the sport to a new and exciting level. There were many longboard racing fleets but soon the development of the shortboard spurred new wave and speed competitions. With Robby Naish doing amazing tricks and jumps the sport was growing faster than ever. In 1980 windsurfing became an Olympic event and it's growth seemed unstoppable.
Unfortunately, by the mid 90s, following a global recession and the introduction of many other less wind-driven sports and activities to its target audience, windsurfings popularity began to wane. The sport had become inaccessible with mostly shortboards dominating. Longer, less wind-reliant boards had become unpopular due to competition rule changes regarding minimum wind speeds and fleets began to shrink because of the inherent unreliable nature of requiring a minimum windspeed. Plus, the lack of introduction and tuition of newcomers which previously had been easily available on friends equipment.
A resurgence is now in progress, thanks to the development of wider boards with their volume concentrated in a shorter overall length. This has made learning far easier whilst also increasing performance. With most brands going down the short and wide route, and sails also became lighter and more stable, to the point that for the first time in recent years windsurfing board sales actually increased year on year 2005-6 in a previous key market France.
Whilst here at home thanks to the efforts of Trevor Funnel amongst others, the London Boat Show featured Indoor Windsurfing for the first time, bringing the excitement, colour and spectacle to crowds of show goers who might otherwise not have realised the new versatility of modern windsurfing.
1977 Derk Thijs sailed at 17,1 knots.
1993 Thierry Bielak realises 45,34 knots