Windsurfing is an aquatic sport which combines the disciplines of sailing and surfing. The sport emerged in California in the 1960s, and spread rapidly to many regions of the world from there. Today, windsurfers can be found on a variety of waterways, from the open ocean to indoor pools, and there are a number of competitions dedicated specifically to this sport, including Olympic events.
In this sport, people use a modified surfboard with a movable mast. Most windsurfers utilize boards which have been customized for windsurfing, with a variety of long and short board designs available for different types of activities. The windsurfer stands upright on the board, controlling the sail on a boom to catch the wind and maneuver. Ideally, the surfer finds a spot with brisk prevailing winds to get the full effect, although people can windsurf in calmer environments as well.
To become skilled at windsurfing, someone usually needs to understand the basics of both sailing and surfing. The sail operates much like that on a sailing boat, requiring a knowledge of how sails work, and how to work with the wind to achieve a goal, such as a particular speed or destination. Standing on a board necessitates experiences with the water, and a great sense of balance, as it is easy for the sailboard, as it is known, to get out of control, causing the windsurfer to fall. Needless to say, windsurfers need to know how to swim so that they are prepared for accidents.
This sport is also known as boardsailing or sailboarding. In a variation called kite surfing, the surfer uses an aerofoil, rather than a fixed mast and sail. Windsurfers are capable of reaching very high speeds, and of reaching remote and interesting areas which are inaccessible to conventional surfers. They can enjoy the waves, zip across the surface of the water at high speed, or complete challenging slalom courses which require a high level of control.
Instruction in windsurfing is offered in many regions of the world. Some people start indoors with the basics, eventually graduating to rivers, lakes, bays, and the open ocean. Instructors should be able to provide a thorough grounding in surfing and sailing practices to people with no experience in this discipline, and they should also be safety-conscious and happy to provide information about their qualification and experience. People of all ages can go windsurfing, including very young children: if you can stand, you can windsurf, with some practice.