Pics: JP/Pryde/Thorsten Indra
As individuals we love to pigeonhole stuff, give everything a label and box it all up neat and tidy. Windsurfing’s no different. In the past terminology such as wave-slalom, convertible freeride and so on have been used when categorising kit. These days you’re more likely to hear freestyle wave or slalom muttered on beaches.
For some time, however, there was a distinct lack of description for the everyman’s way of doing things. Or, to put it another way the type of sailing we all do. Nowadays you’ll no doubt refer to it as freeride, but what is freeing your ride all about?
Well, it’s just that…
Rocking up at your chosen launch (forecast allowing of course), rigging accordingly and selecting the board of your choice. For some it could be their favourite 130L cruiser, for others it may be that trusty 100L (or so) blaster, as depicted in the accompanying images, while riders elsewhere may opt for something more sporty and manoeuvrable.
The fact is: we’re all freeriders at heart. Whether you have a penchant for chucking the latest whirling and twirling move, busting loose through a contorted top turn, legging it round a race course or cruising the coast, chances are for the majority of the time on the water you’ll be blasting, enjoying the ride and simply feeling the exhilaration as you skim across the water’s surface. It’s the reason we all got bitten by the windsurfing bug and still, to this day, pour over weather forecast data, tide charts and eye up windows of opportunity in diaries.
Cast your minds back to those first steps you took. At first the uniqueness of standing atop a board with a multi-rotational rig in your hands was interesting enough to keep your focus. During windsurfing’s inception this was the sole hook. But in time the lightbulb went off and riders realised that more wind = more speed. You too will have probably had that Eureka moment as a gust of wind billowed your sail and projected you forwards at an increased rate of knots. It may have resulted in a big splash, after a few short seconds, but the seed will have been sown.
Progressing, learning and nailing down windsurfing’s fundamentals sailors will have begun to get even faster until one day, hooked in and happily cruising along, Mother Nature’s blow sees fit to lift your kit, push the board past its bow wave and get you fully planing – yet another epiphany! OK, footstraps may seem like a long way back towards the tail but zooming along you can’t help but grin and realise you’ve entered into a different windsurfing realm.
Next comes acceleration. With perseverance those far off straps are located and feet tentatively slotted into. Feeling yet another release your speed increases and you imagine yourself as Han Solo would’ve experiencing the Millennium Falcon’s warp drive for the first time. A wave of euphoria washes over and although you’re not strictly in control 100% (check behind and you’ll see your instructor chasing you down as you fly off on a broad reach!) there’s not a care in the world save for enjoying the moment.
Over time, as all windsurfers do, technique is consolidated and before long regular pilgrimages are being made to anywhere with water and wind. These days bigger, more powerful sails are used and turboing about your local stretch is par for the course. A thing called carve gybing (what?!) has entered your vocabulary and every now and again you experience the sensation of air and space between water and kit ala chop hops – a whole new ball game!
Does this all sound familiar? It should. As said at the start of this article it’s the type of windsurfing we all love and do. With all the stresses modern life can throw at us there’s simply nothing better than cutting loose and going for a blast. If you’re not yet at this stage then have no fear. Keep going and you’ll get to that magic planing stage quicker than you can blink – especially if you have a qualified instructor guiding you.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the simple things windsurfing can bring. Open any magazine (ours included), hit up any windy website or check out the various (and many) online windsurf portals and images of big waves, gravity defying stunts, twisted moves and talk of performance will greet all. But dial it back and understand that this is just one part of windsurfing’s broad palette. There’s no pressure to go out and break yourself just because you spot some teenage trickster bending into impossible shapes. Of course, it’s good to not stand still, and the more we learn and improve the more we enjoy our sport, and the wider the plethora of conditions we can use opens up. But going for a simple blast is fine. You’d be surprised how many of the pros, without a lens trained on them, will do just that.
Whizzing back and forth, even on the greyest and dampest of days, will brighten your mood – there’s no question. Freeriding is in us all as windsurfers and there’s nothing better. After all, being a windsurfer is about having fun and leaving life’s hassles on Terra Firma – at least for a short while.
So the next time a forecast pops up and comes good go for a blast. Hook yourself in, slot feet into straps and shoot for the horizon (obviously turning round at some point!). Enjoy the ride and love the fact you’re a windsurfer, which is one of the best things in the world!
Big thanks to Andy ‘Bubble’ Chambers and JP Australia/Neil Pryde who helped out with this article. Also stay tuned for Windsurf UK’s kit review of JP Australia’s Magic Ride 130 and Neil Pryde Ryde 7.5m – how much freeride goodness can you handle?