Windsurfing has been a popular outdoor sport for decades. If you live near the ocean, then there is a high chance that you or somebody you know has braved the waters on a sailboard. However, there are not windsurfers all over the place like there used to be, which leads to concerns about modern laws and regulations.
You can windsurf on oceans, lakes, and spacious rivers. However, this does not mean that people can windsurf anywhere they want. There must be adequate wind and considerable room for an individual to windsurf properly. It is also important to note that certain water locations prohibit windsurfing.
Throughout this article, you will also learn about the following info:
- The best places and conditions to windsurf
- What and where you should avoid
- Additional tips to get the most out of a windsurfing location
Where Can You Windsurf?
Many people think that oceans are the only place to go windsurfing. Furthermore, they are thoroughly convinced that it has to be incredibly windy for you to fit in some good cruising time. The opposite couldn’t be more true!
There is a multitude of water locations that windsurfers have the luxury of choosing from. It is just a matter of physically going out and finding them.
Oceans are obviously going to be #1 on the list. After all, windsurfing was born on the waves, so it should not be a surprise that it is found there most often. If you are fortunate enough to visit a small beach town, then there is no reason to not pull out a sail and hop on your surfboard to soak in the waves.
Rivers are another great place to try windsurfing. If you are worried about being out on the open sea, then the confined shores of a river will be perfect for your beginner lessons. What makes rivers perfect for windsurfing is that they have a natural current for you to follow, so you do not need as much wind to get moving.
Lakes cannot be forgotten on the list, either. Although most lakes are stagnant, you can try out the windy, wavy shores of the Great Lakes, or wait until your local hometown lake has a few waves to try out. Wind is the main ingredient of the sport, so you will be good to go on any lake that has it.
Gorges provide some of the most beautiful, exciting windsurfing experiences of all. If you have ever been to a canyon with water flowing through it, then you will love windsurfing on it as well. You will be surrounded by views and assisted by the natural flow of the water moving through it.
Finally, estuaries are also a fun place to go windsurfing. Since they are usually filled with currents going in different directions, you will be able to cruise along while staying close to land. They are ideal for beginners and pros alike since they can come in all speeds and wave sizes.
Where Shouldn’t You Windsurf?
While there are plenty of places to go windsurfing, that does not mean you can grab your gear and head out to any body of water. Unfortunately, certain places ban windsurfing since it is fast and dangerous to do around swimmers. For example, family campgrounds are usually a no-go, though it is worth asking the office beforehand.
Here is a quick rundown of some places and situations that you should not windsurf in.
Locations With Minimal Wind
It comes as no surprise that wind is of the utmost necessity in windsurfing. You will never be able to generate enough power to reach any sort of speed on the water without wind. This should go without saying, but the wind speed should always be tested prior to committing to a specific location.
The last thing you want to do is set up all of your gear, put on your wet suit, and venture out to the water just to realize that there is not even enough wind to get moving.
According to marine biologist James Douglass, there should be at least 5 miles per hour of wind (slightly more than 4 knots) to go windsurfing. You might be able to make it work otherwise, but who wants to barely get by when you can cruise around at high speeds?
If you are unsure whether a particular location is suitable for windsurfing or not, you can use this Anemometer by AOPUTTRiver to test the wind.
Off-Limit Areas on the Beach
Always look for signs around the beach. Most oceans allow windsurfing, but some places prevent you from doing so for one reason or another. For example, densely populated beaches that have children running and swimming usually do not allow you to go windsurfing too close to the shore.
It is better that you take the extra fifteen minutes to check with the locals whether or not windsurfing is strictly off limits in the area. Assembling all of your gear only to find out that windsurfing is not allowed can make for an unnecessarily frustrating experience.
Shallow, Tiny Bodies of Water
Small bodies of water, such as swimming pools and ponds, are a bad idea for windsurfing. We have all gotten crazy ideas on windy days, but there is simply not enough room for you to move around without getting in an accident. Throw your gear on the roof of your car and take a quick drive to a bigger body of water.
Not to mention, shallow bodies of water also has a high probability of disaster, particularly if there is a fin on your sailboard. If you unintentionally venture into shallow depths, you will likely ruin the fin and get catapulted off of the sailboard. Obviously, this is something we want to avoid.
Water That is Filled With Debris
Look around for floating logs and other debris that might prevent you from going windsurfing. Never push your luck. You might end up ruining your gear or getting yourself hurt.
Find a new spot nearby that is clear of debris and windy enough to catch a current. At the end of the day, it is better to be safe than sorry.
White Water Rapids
If you are a windsurfing novice, it is highly recommended that you avoid white water rapids when windsurfing. It might seem like a fun time, but it is much harder to navigate unpredictable water. Not only that, but it delivers a much greater impact on your knees and joints. You will feel much better if you avoid the rapids altogether.
As you can see, there is a wide variety of places that you should and shouldn’t windsurf. Whether you are looking for a good time on the weekend or you want to compete, make sure that you are at the right place before you start getting your gear assembled.
Actual Examples of Windsurfing Hot Spots Around the World
To give you an idea of some tangible locations where windsurfing can be performed, I have compiled a list of some of the most popular windsurfing destinations below.
Of course, there are plenty of places that are prime for windsurfing besides these sites. However, these locales are renowned for routinely having near perfect conditions for windsurfing.
Outer Banks, USA
Although the sports of kiteboarding and stand up paddle boarding have picked up in recent years in this area, windsurfing was one of the main attractions that put this location on the map.
With miles and miles of shoreline, it is not difficult at all to find a solid location to windsurf. The best part is that this spot can accommodate both novices and experts alike, given that there are both recreational activities and serious competitions available to the general public.
Outer Banks even features windsurfing celebrations such as Frisco Woods Windfest and Hatteras Island Windfest to promote windsurfing to locals (source).
This windsurfing hot sport has been a staple in windsurfing for several years. One location in particular, Sotavento Beach, is an acclaimed site in the windsurfing community. This beach hosts the Windsurfing World Championships in July of every year (source).
What also separates this location from the rest is that this location is open year around to windsurfers, so tourists need not worry about the prospect of the beach being closed off. They can simply wander right over to the shoreline, assemble their gear, and go! The captivating scenery of this hot spot also adds the overall allure of the windsurfing experience.
The most popular windsurfing hot spot is none other than Maui, Hawaii. This should come as no shock, considering that Maui is well known for its influence in the sphere of surfing.
With its beautiful rolling waves and consistently warm temperatures, it is no wonder that windsurfers flock to this location on a consistent basis. The best part is that there are so many optimal shoreline locations for windsurfing, that it is not difficult to find the perfect area to settle down and enjoy the waves.
Maui also showcases one of the toughest challenges in windsurfing yet, commonly referred to by the locals as Jaws. Only the cream of the crop are able to tackle this beast of a location. To see windsurfers taking on Jaws, check out the video below!
This just goes to show that windsurfing can be performed nearly any place where sufficient wind and space are available, even if the waves do look like something out of a nightmare.
Helpful Tips on How to Make the Most Out of Your Windsurfing Location
The location in which you go windsurfing is half the battle, but you also need to make sure that you make the most out of the present conditions. Windsurfing is heavily based on skill and handling, but you cannot make use of either of those if you do not make the necessary preparation efforts.
Pick the Right Time of Day to Go Out
It should be early morning or afternoon when you go windsurfing. You need a good amount of light to illuminate the waves and the current, so you know where you are going. It’s also important to know if there are people, animals, or anything else in your way that you need to avoid.
Use the Appropriate Board for the Present Conditions
You need to choose the best board for the occasion. Short, lightweight boards are better for high wind since they are easier to control, and the wind moves them further. On the other hand, long, medium weight boards are ideal for maintaining optimal control during low wind days.
Choose a Spot on the Water with Sufficient Space
There should be enough room to move around in the water. Whether you are falling over, turning a sharp corner, and drifting around, you need to make sure that the body of water is wide enough for safety purposes.
You want to be as comfortable out on the water as possible. Confining yourself to a limited space or venturing to a crowded area will take away from the quality of the windsurfing experience. Not to mention that wide water makes it more fun for tricks too!
Slip on a Wetsuit to Keep Warm
Wear a wetsuit if you need to. Regardless of the type of water you are windsurfing in, it is essential that you stay warm during the entire outing. Hypothermia can set in quickly if you do not take the necessary precautions.
You can windsurf anywhere that the conditions are right and it is not against the law. If you are not sure about the latter issue, contact local authorities to prevent yourself from violating the rules.
Remember that lakes, rivers, gorges, estuaries, and oceans are all viable locations when it comes to the sport of windsurfing. To check whether the wind is sufficient enough, you can use an anemometer to measure the wind temperature.
Stay away from narrow, still, or otherwise dangerous water, and you will be good to go. Implement some of those additional tips mentioned earlier and you will have a blast!