Zipping through the water on a windsurfing board brings joy and excitement, but, as with all sports, some people make risky mistakes. Here are 6 common mistakes and our tips on how to avoid them. Enjoy the wind and the water — safely!
1. Not taking water breaks
Warm weather is perfect for windsurfing, but Florida's heat can land you in hot water (no pun intended) if you don't hydrate. Sufficient water intake and skin protection are always important, but even more so when you're playing outside. High heat can quickly wear out the body and put you at risk.
Dehydration is a common concern in any exercise. Luckily it's easy to avoid! Make sure to take water breaks, even when you feel like you may not need them, to restore your body’s resources. In periods of intense activity, sports drinks can also help replenish key electrolytes to keep your body going. Avoid caffeinated drinks, such as iced coffee and soda, as they can actually worsen dehydration. And never drink alcohol when you're out on the water. Common signs of dehydration are muscle cramps, dizziness, rapid breathing, and dark-yellow urine. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to stop your activity and get water.
2. Not respecting the sun
We all want that glorious sun-kissed tan, but too often turn out like lobsters, fresh from the pot. Skin protection is invaluable and often forgotten until it is too late. Within 15 minutes of exposure you can be sunburned, but may not know it, as the burn will gradually develop over the next few hours.
On days when the heat index is high, it is especially important to lather on the sunscreen (with recommended SPF 30-50) to prevent damage to your skin. Damage from the sun can cause premature skin aging, sun poisoning, and skin cancer. If you do get burned, be sure to drink plenty of fluids and apply moisturizer to your skin to aid in recovery.
Here is our favorite sunscreen, which is safe for reefs and ocean life. But since you'll be getting wet, your safest bet is to wear a good hat and a rash guard. You'll have a lot less skin to cover with sunscreen after that.
3. Trying to learn on a board that is too small
When first learning to windsurf, it is tempting to buy a board that you can "grow into." that actually means a smaller board, which is more equipped for cool tricks. This can be a huge mistake!
Trying to learn how to windsurf on a small board is like trying to learn to ski on the black diamond runs — it is hard and frustrating. There are a lot of options for boards that will enable you to progress and give you several seasons of great performance. Don’t take all the fun out of it by trying to start on a board that is designed for expert windsurfers to use in high wind. For all of your board sizing needs and questions, come visit us and we’ll find you the perfect board.
4. Not enough downhaul tension on your sail
Having your sail rigged correctly makes a noticeable difference in how everything feels on the water. We often see new windsurfers trying to use a sail that doesn’t have enough downhaul tension – 90% of the time, if your sail doesn’t look or feel quite right, more downhaul tension is the answer. If you have horizontal wrinkles running across your sail, or if your battens don’t rotate from one side of the mast to other when you tack or jibe, you need more downhaul. To fix this, add tension to the line that holds the sails to the bottom of the mast — you really can’t over tighten it. You will need to pull as hard as you can with both hands while pushing on the mast base with your foot to get the proper tension.
5. Choosing the wrong sailing location
Often times, newer windsurfers want to find a spot to windsurf all by themselves because they are worried they will be in the way or embarrassed to be around the "good" windsurfers. This is totally untrue! The spot where other windsurfers are launching from is likely to have the best and safest conditions.
Windsurfers are a friendly group who love to meet new people who also love to windsurf — go out and join them! If you sail with everyone else, you will get good advice and meet new friends and will be less likely to end up in a spot with a difficult launch or strong current.
6. Thinking you aren’t good enough to appreciate modern equipment
Modern windsurfing gear makes every part of the learning curve easier, from the first few hours on the water all the way to learning to sail in the waves and go big on your jumps. Staying on gear that is 10 (or 20 or 30) years old will just make your learning curve more difficult. It’s kind of like an old computer — a 10 year old computer will still work and a dial-up connection can get to the worldwide web....but would you want to use it?Ultimately, the best way to avoid mistakes is by learning with an experienced guide. Sign-up for a windsurfing lesson today.