History of Windsurfing
The Past, Present and Future of Windsurfing

The entire history of windsurfing reveiled, from the first windsurfer, to the shortboards, to the short and wide designs that made windsurfing fun and easy again.

newman darby

The history of windsurfing started in 1948 when Newman Darby, a 20 year old American created a floating platform which looked more like a catamaran than a windsurfing board on which he mounted a sail.

In 1964 he invented a universal joint, which he used to connect the mast of the rig to the board, which by now had a dagger board, a tailfin(to steer it around Trailwood lake, Pennsylvania) and a kite shaped sail.

He called his invention sailboarding after he wrote an article in 1965, but he never patented it. In that time he and his brothers were manufacturing the boards in their own company Darby Industries.

Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer

In the mid sixties Jim Drake, an aircraft engineer had this idea of some kind of a water ski which floats when you could stand on it, and which would be driven not by a boat but by a wind filled kite which could steered by hand. After brainstorming on his idea, he found out that the kite was not the best solution for his idea, he was now thinking towards a sail which could steered by hand as well.

He discussed this with Hoyle Schweitzer, who was his neighbor, Hoyle liked it as well and together they started brainstorming about the boards, which were build not that long after they brainstormed the idea.

They had a board, a sail and a boom and went to the ocean, tried it and found out that once the sail was in the water and got wet, it was hard to pull it out of the water, so they had to help each other to lift the sail.

Not much longer after that session they mounted a rope attached to the boom to pull the sail out of the water, this was the birth of the first uphauling rope ever.

Windsurfer patent

They called their invention the skate, later on they renamed it into the Baja board, and finally it was renamed one more time. The newest name they gave their invention was “the windsurfer”.

This was the beginning of the chapter in the history of windsurfing what a lot of people see as the true birth of windsurfing.

Windsurfing international

They patented the windsurfer in 1970, Hoyle Schweitzer begun marketing the windsurfer and as Jim Drake did not see the possibilities of the windsurfer and the impact his idea had on the history of windsurfing.

Hoyle did see this possibility and was very happy that Jim sold the patent to Hoyle for 36,000 USD who changed the name into windsurfing international and earned millions with it.

Hoyle was producing polyethylene sailboards in big numbers and specially in Europe it was a very big hit. It was such a big hit that by the end of the seventies 2 of the 3 families had a windsurfer.

In those ages windsurfing really was a booming business and different brands were founded, some brands which still are on the windsurfing market nowadays like Mistral and F2.

The Olympics

Olympic logo

Windsurfing was undergoing a steady growth from a trendsport into a full-grown sport which eventually by 1984 was accepted as an Olympic sport.

In this year the Olympics were held in Los Angeles, USA where the Dutchman Stephan van den Berg won a gold medal.

Stephan van den Berg later switched from the Olympic contests to the funboard contests which are now known as the PWA (Professional Windsurfers Association).

He now owns one of the biggest windsurfing shops in the Netherlands.

On the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain in 1992 women were allowed compete in the windsurfing class where Barbara Kendall from New Zealand won the first ever female windsurfing Olympic gold medal.

Windsurfing disciplines

The history of windsurfing has seen a lot of different disciplines come and go. Course racing which was a development of the olympic triangle course is no longer a PWA discipline, it has changed into the formula windsurfng discipline which has it own series of contests.

Slalom windsurfing has made it's revival after some years. It used to be very popular but when the freestyle and super cross came slalom was no longer a serious discipline.

It's now once again one of the big PWA disciplines and is very popular all around the world from smal lakes to ocean shores.

Freestyle is the discipline where you perform tricks anywhere from flatwater to surf, it was freestyle that gave windsurfing the so needed boost.

The most spectacular windsurfing discipline is waveriding also referred to as wave performance, where jumps, waveriding and transitions are performed in the surf.

Booming ages of windsurfing

The late seventies and the eighties were the booming ages of windsurfing. It became a mainstream sport in Europe. It was in Europe where of every three households at least one of them had a windsurfer.

With this popularity, development didn’t stand still either, a lot of new ideas were introduced, some good, some bad. Even more brands were founded, they all had a team of professional windsurfers testing, promoting and doing contests all over the world.

Around that time the professional windsurfing association was born, which was another big chapter in the history of windsurfing.

Windsurfing Legends

The men and women on the tour became well known all over the world but especially in Europe where enormous amounts of people where coming to see there windsurfing legends at work, or have their autographs. They are a part of the history of windsurfing.

I remember having a new o'neill windjacket and going to Scheveningen,Holland to a leg of the professional windsurfing tour and had as much autographs as possible collected and writen om my windjacket.

I thought it was so cool to have them on my jacket and i was so stoked with this new collectors item, my mother, though, wasn't that thrilled about this "screwed up" windjacket.

These people's autographs on my jacket were true windsurfing legends, and some of them still have that status. People like:

  • Robby Naish
  • Björn Dunkerbeck
  • Britt Dunkerbeck
  • Jason Polakow

Return from History of Windsurfing to Windsurfing Guide