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Understanding the Most Common Windsurfing Terms

Asian Beach Games at Serangan Island day 4 photo taken by Cameron Spencer

If you’ve decided to learn to windsurf, the first step you must take is to, well, take windsurfing lessons. When you decided you wanted to get a driving license for example, you didn’t just jump in the car and drove away, now did you? You took lessons first. The same applies to windsurfing – you need to take windsurfing lessons to learn how to windsurf.

Your teacher will talk you through what you need to know. He or she may use a few words that you may not understand. If you take the time to brush up on your windsurfing lingo, you will not look like a complete newbie. Here are the most common windsurfing terms you will hear:

Sail and other words that start with S
I bet you know what a sail is. In windsurfing it’s not the big white thing you see on ships; it’s a lot smaller and looks more like a wing. The sail is your source of power, it is what gets you moving.

The term sail throw refers to letting go of the boom (we’ll get to that in a moment). The term slog refers to the fact that there isn’t enough wind for windsurfing, the wind isn’t strong enough to get you planning. The term stick refers to the windsurfing board.

Mast and mast foot
The mast is the bit that supports the front edge of the sail. The mast foot is the bit if equipment at the bottom of the mast, the bit you use to attach the rig to the board. The term rig refers to the sail, mast, mast foot and boom put together.

Boom and other words that start with B
The boom is the bit that lets you steer the rig directly the sail in the direction you want to go (it’s similar to your car’s driving wheel). The board is what you stand on; it’s buoyant, so it will keep you above water.

The term batten refers to the carbon or plastic that adds stiffness or shape to the sail. To bear-off means to turn downwind; to bear-up means to turn upwind. The term beam reach refers to sailing at a right angle to the wind and the term broad reach refers to sailing not directly downwind, but away from the wind.

Rash guard and other words that start with R
The rash guard is what protects you from rashes. Okay, that explanation is not very clear. The rash guard is a thin shirt that repels ultraviolent rays and protects you from the sun. It’s what you’ll want to wear if you’re riding in a hot location where a wetsuit is not necessary.

As mentioned above, the term rig refers to the sail, mast, mast foot and boom put together. The term rocker refers to the bottom of the board, the part that is shaped like an arc.

Foot straps and other words that start with F
The foot straps are what keep your feet in place and allow you to better control the board when going a bit faster. When your feet are not in the foot straps and you are riding unhooked, it’s called free position. On the bottom of the board there are fins; they provide better stability and keep the board going in a straight line. When the board bends it’s called it flexes.

Harness and helmet
The harness looks like a jacket and you wear it like one. The purpose of this piece of equipment is to lessen the strain on your arms by transferring the sail’s power through your body. Make sure you get a harness that fits you, a harness you feel comfortable with.

The helmet, which I’m sure I don’t have to explain what it is, goes on your head to protect it should you hit it against something or should something hit your noggin.

Universal joint
The universal joint, which is sometimes called U-joint, is the piece of equipment that attaches the right to the board. It allows the rig to move and because you can move the rig, you can steer.