Windsurfing is a wind-propelled watersport that requires participants to employ surfing and sailing skills. This makes it one of the most demanding sports, both physically and mentally. Maintaining board balance while controlling the ride is not always straightforward.

However, once you learn the basics, the thrill and fun that comes with the water sport is unmatched. Today, windsurfing attracts participants worldwide and is part of the Olympic Games. But how did it start? Where is the best place to surf? Here are some fascinating windsurfing facts to get you started.

1. It Started in the 60s

Undoubtedly, the U.K. and the U.S. were the first people to entertain the idea of windsurfing. However, it’s not clear who got their first. Records show that Newman Darby (an American) created the first windsurfing equipment in 1948, but that’s about it.

What we are sure about is that it was not until the 60s that windsurfing became a sport. Thanks to California’s aerospace and surf culture, Jim Drake and Henry Hoyle Shweitzer developed the sport’s first company in 1968. From there, the water-based competition evolved into what it is today.

2. First Olympics Windsurfing Event was in 1984

After its invention, windsurfing’s popularity grew so quickly that it became part of the 1984 Olympic competitions. At the time, it was the newest addition and the youngest sport. However, competitors were strictly male for the first two competitions.

The first windsurfing event featuring women in the Olympic Games was held in 1992. Over time, new rules and guidelines have been introduced in the sport to ensure and facilitate fair competition. For instance, sailors must use a standard, one-design board.

In the 2024 Olympic Games in France, we anticipate the Marina in Marseille will host some new sailing events. There are plans for the organizers to introduce the formula kite and IQ foil windsurfing.

3. Suitable Windsurfing Spots Are Available Worldwide

Fortunately, windsurfing isn’t only for the professionals. With passion, anyone can take part. Even though many people consider Maui, Hawaii, as the windsurfing capital of the world, you can do so in other parts of the world. They include the following:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • North Carolina
  • Canary Islands
  • France
  • Egypt
  • California
  • Florida
  • New Caledonia

4. Two Classifications of Windsurfing Are Available

Sailors interested in competitive windsurfing events can do so in either shortboards or longboards. The choices here depend on the weather and the type of competition. For instance, longboards are usually more than 3 meters and are suitable for course racing in lighter winds.

On the other hand, shortboards are less than 3 meters long. They are perfect for stronger winds and freestyling. Sailors using shortboards must have valuable skills to help them navigate because these do not have enhanced buoyancy like longboards.

5. There Are Different Types of Windsurfing

When Jim Drake and Henry Hoyle Shweitzer created the first windsurfing company, there was simply sailing – no different disciplines whatsoever. However, as time passed, more people understood the sport, and resources trickled. Today, there are several types of windsurfing, including the following:


Freestyle windsurfing is just that: freestyling. Participants surf around, showcasing their skills, which include jumping and other combinations. This windsurfing discipline is suitable for flat water and is among the most entertaining for onlookers.


As of the time of writing, freeride windsurfing is not a competition category. Sailors with limited skills or those not in the mood for showboating usually freeride for fun and sea exploration.


RS:X is the official windsurfing representation in the Olympics. Before 2008, the discipline was the Mistral One Design Class, but that soon changed. It involves all the sailors racing on a single board to level the playing ground

Two types of slalom windsurfing are available. The first involves all the sailors racing against each other on set lanes. Overtaking is allowed, and whoever reaches the finishing point first wins. Like the wave, this is a recognized category requiring optimum preparations from the participants.

The second type of slalom windsurfing involves each racer sailing individually and recording the time taken to reach the finish line. Other participants must go through the same channels, and whoever has the best time wins.


Formula windsurfing is similar to slalom racing, only that it relies on ultra-light wind. The boards that compete in this category are about a meter with massive fins and can sail to over 9m2.


Wave windsurfing is almost similar to freestyling. However, as the name suggests, wave requires waves to exist. Sailors ride against them, showcasing their tricks. It is a recognized competitive category, so surfers always try their best to earn points.


This is perhaps the newest addition to windsurfing. Using hydrofoils in kitesurfing has proven successful, so enthusiasts are exploring the possibility of doing the same with windsurfing. The main advantage of adopting hydrofoils is that it allows sailors to sail quickly, even with low winds.

Some think incorporating hydrofoils in windsurfing allows sailors to navigate choppy waters smoothly. As aforementioned, the idea is still in its early stages.

6. Dennis Klaaijsen Holds the Record for the Greatest Distance Covered in a Day

The Guinness World Records recognize Dennis Klaaijsen as the record holder of the longest distance on a windsurfer in 24 hours. He set the record on flat water at 695.7km (about 432 miles). Set on August 10-11, 2014, in Zeeland, Netherlands, nobody has done better since.

7. It is governed by the International Windsurfing Association (IWA)

Like most sports, windsurfing has a governing body known as the International Windsurfing Association (IWA). Its role is to help spread awareness about the spot, represent the interests of its members, and promote the sport.

Since its formation, IWA has continued to lead and present the interests of its members to the media, world sailing, event organizers, and the general public. It holds information about everything you need to know about windsurfing.

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Last Update: August 6, 2023