How Long Does It Take to Learn to Windsurf?


Windsurfing is a fascinating water sport that piques the interest of a considerable amount of people throughout the world. For those interested in learning how to windsurf, one of the first things that they want to know is how much of a time commitment to expect before they can become proficient.

You can learn the basic windsurfing fundamentals in one day. However, to be considered skilled at windsurfing, it is standard to invest 3 to 5 years into the sport. These timeframes may vary depending on your local conditions, windsurfing gear, and schedule.

It is more practical to analyze how long it takes to reach certain windsurfing skill tiers instead of generally asking how long it takes to windsurf. There is a comprehensive table that below that presents this information in a clear, understandable manner.

Table Summarizing How Long It Takes To Reach Different Windsurfing Skill Levels

Windsurfing Skill LevelExpected Learning Time
Basic1 Day
Intermediate6 to 12 Months
Skilled3 to 5 Years
Expert6 to 8 Years

This table provides the normal expectations for how long it takes to reach different windsurfing. Of course, some outliers fall short of or surpass these expected learning times. These numbers are only meant to offer a general guideline of what sort of time investment to anticipate for those unfamiliar with the sport.

The majority of us will only ever be concerned with the amount of time it takes to reach the basic and intermediate level of windsurfing. However, it is nice to aspire for more and be aware of the necessary workload to reach the windsurfing pinnacle.

In the subsequent sections, we will analyze the following aspects of how long it takes to windsurf at each skill tier:

  • Average Timeframe
  • Reasons Why This Timeframe is the Norm
  • Skills You Can Expect to Learn Within This Timeframe
  • Conditions You Can Expect to Handle After This Time Commitment
  • How Fast You Can Expect to Go At This Stage

How Long It Takes to Learn the Windsurfing Basics

Average Timeframe

Learning the windsurfing basics takes approximately one day.

Reasons Why This Timeframe is the Norm

Generally, it only takes about one day for individuals to learn the basic windsurfing fundamentals because most people are not out there to push the sport to the extreme.

Typically, novices opt to learn from a windsurfing instructor. When they take a lesson from a windsurfing instructor, they can learn all of the proper fundamentals firsthand. In addition, if their form ever falters, they have someone there to critique their every move. This prevents them from forming bad habits from the get-go, which foregoes the tedious process of trial and error.

In addition, the windsurfing gear that people utilize during these lessons is built specifically with the beginner in mind. For example, the sailboards available typically feature a wider, more stable base so that you do not have to concentrate on balancing nearly as much.

Luckily, with the modern, lightweight equipment offered nowadays, it is not as hard as you would think to get up and moving for your first windsurfing outing.

It is a lot like snow skiing in this respect. Physically learning how to be confident in light, easy conditions is not that laborious of a task. But as you progress up the skill ladder, it becomes much more time-consuming to master the more advanced skills.

Skills You Can Expect to Learn After One Day of Windsurfing

Within a single day, it is hard to imagine that anyone could learn more than just the simple basics of the sport.

After this one-day experience, you can expect to identify the essential pieces of windsurfing gear with ease. Examples of equipment you will identify are the mast, sail, boom, uphaul, and fin. This is a valuable skill that beginners commonly overlook.

You can also expect to learn how to transport the windsurf gear out to the water safely. It is a little known fact the majority of beginner windsurfing injuries occur at the shore break. If you learn how to carry your equipment correctly, you can substantially minimize the potential risk for injury.

In terms of the actual windsurfing itself, you can expect to learn how to properly use the uphaul to bring the sail up and out of the water. From here, you will learn basic the body positioning and stance of windsurfing. For example, you will learn how to properly harness the power of the wind by placing your hands on the equilibrium point of the boom.

Before you actually attempt to get going, your instructor will teach you how to stop safely. Once you learn all of these prerequisite skills, you will finally be able to apply your newfound knowledge to actually windsurfing on the water!

This may seem like a lot of skills to cram into such a short amount of time. But with an instructor there to answer your every question and constantly offer pointers, you would be surprised what you can accomplish within the span of a single day.

Conditions You Can Expect to Handle After One Day of Windsurfing

With just one day of windsurfing experience under your belt, you will only be able to handle the lightest of conditions. This means flat water with little to no choppiness, along with a vast amount of open water to work with.

Ideal conditions for the novice windsurfer are steady 7 to 9 knot (8 to 10 mph) winds with teaching gear. However, you may be surprised to know that basic windsurfing is possible with as little as 3-knot (3 mph) winds. Anything beyond 13-knot (15 mph) winds will be too much wind for the average beginner to handle.

If you would like to learn more about how much wind is needed to windsurf, check out my comprehensive article here.

How Fast You Can Expect to Go After One Day of Windsurfing

Although everybody wants to test their speed limits as soon as they hop onto the windsurf board, it is unlikely that you will manage to break 13 knots. To reach these speeds, it is necessary to learn how to plane properly.

For those of you who do not know, planing refers to the ability of windsurfers to skim on the water’s surface to reduce water drag and move at high speeds. To dive more deeply into this windsurfing concept, you can visit my in-depth article What is Planing in Windsurfing? (Definition & Examples).

In summary, it is far more likely that you will stick to non-planing windsurfing techniques by moving at speeds well below 15 miles per hour.

How Long It Takes to Reach the Intermediate Windsurfing Level

Average Timeframe

It takes anywhere from 6 to 12 months to reach the intermediate windsurfing level.

Reasons Why This Timeframe is the Norm

After reading the average timeframe to become an intermediate windsurfer, you are likely asking yourself, “How can it take one day to learn the windsurfing fundamentals but take several months to reach the intermediate level?”

It is a valid question. Although actually physically getting up on the windsurf board may only require one day of proper instruction, reaching the intermediate windsurfing level indicates that you are sufficient at windsurfing independently.

To acquire this level of proficiency, there is a great deal of knowledge that you have to take the time to learn on your own through trial and error.

Windsurfing independently calls for a thorough knowledge of windsurfing equipment. This means that you may have to go out and invest in a sailboard of your own. It also demands that you physically venture out and find the best windsurfing spots befitting your skill level. This knowledge may already seem like a whole lot of effort, and we haven’t even discussed the actual physical part of the windsurfing itself!

This is why it takes so much longer to acquire a base level of proficiency in windsurfing. It is a somewhat challenging hobby to break into because of the amount of time, effort, and funds you have to pour into seriously committing to the sport. This can be intimidating for a lot of people.

So to answer your initial question, it takes a matter of months for people to gather all of the knowledge and resources they need to establish themselves as intermediate windsurfers.

Skills You Can Expect to Learn After Several Months of Windsurfing

By investing several months to a year into windsurfing, there are a ton more skills that you can pick up.

For one, you will be able to differentiate between ideal windsurfing conditions and hazardous windsurfing conditions. For example, you will learn that windsurfing in cross-onshore wind conditions is ideal when browsing through potential locations.

In addition, you will gain a solid grasp of the lingo of the sport. After a good several months of windsurfing, you will be throwing around words like beam reach and gybing like a regular old windsurfer.

Furthermore, the importance of windsurfing equipment will begin more and more apparent as you progress through the intermediate stages. You will learn how board dimensions, sail size and fin structure impact speed and control. Such treasured knowledge really only comes through firsthand experience.

The most important windsurfing skill you will learn is how to plane on the water. Learning how to plane for the first time is what keeps windsurfers coming back to the water week after week, month after month, year after year.

There really is no comparable sensation. Feeling the power of the wind course through your body as you slice through the water at high speeds is what every novice windsurfer seeks out when they first touch a sailboard.

Conditions You Can Expect to Handle After Several Months of Windsurfing

Once you are a full-fledged intermediate, you can expect to manage slightly more adverse wind conditions.

Since you will likely have acquired the skill of planing, taking on 13 to 21 knots (15 to 25 mph) winds is within the realm of possibility. Depending on where you are in terms of skill level, you may fall higher or lower in this range.

Moreover, you will be able to maneuver through a bit choppier conditions. Spending several months on the water will teach you how to absorb the jolts of the waves better while still maintaining adequate control over the sail.

At this level, you shouldn’t expect to windsurf in near stormy conditions. However, it is definitely a level of improvement.

How Fast You Can Expect to Go After Several Months of Windsurfing

With your newfound knowledge of planing, you should be able to reach speeds of up to 13 to 21 knots with no problem.

As you refine your technique, you may find that you will be able to go faster than the wind! This can be a complicated concept for people to wrap their heads around. If you want to learn the basic gist of why windsurfers can sail faster than the wind, check out my in-depth article Can a Windsurfer Go Faster Than the Wind?

How Long It Takes to Reach the Skilled Windsurfing Level

Average Timeframe

It takes anywhere from 3 to 5 years to become skilled at windsurfing.

Reasons Why This Timeframe is the Norm

The jump from intermediate to skilled demands a tremendous amount of commitment and dedication.

To be skilled at windsurfing, you have to possess a mastery of the fundamentals. They should be second nature to you at this point. Pure repetition is the only realistic means of developing the windsurfing fundamentals to this extreme. This amount of volume takes time.

For most windsurfers, several years are needed to reach this milestone. Many aspiring windsurfers do not even reach this stage because of the amount of commitment involved.

It is tough for windsurfers to obtain this level of mastery if they regularly take extended breaks from the sport. Therefore, consistency is key for steady, week-by-week improvements.

This is also where most windsurfers ramp up their windsurfing gear to the most high-caliber equipment the market has to offer. Every little edge counts during this phase because speed and control are of the utmost necessity, even more so than the intermediate phase.

Why are speed and control a necessity you may ask?

Many individuals begin to experiment with various windsurfing disciplines during this time period. As they gravitate towards a discipline, such as slalom or freestyle, they need to have superior speed and control even to stand a chance at succeeding in their chosen discipline. The margin for error gets extremely slim as individuals continue to hone in on specialized windsurfing movements.

Testing what windsurfing gear works best and discovering a passion for one specific windsurfing discipline is a process that takes several years to accomplish thoroughly.

Skills You Can Expect to Learn After 3-5 Years of Windsurfing

One practical skill that you can expect to learn with a couple of years of experience is how to water start.

Most novice and intermediate windsurfers will predominantly utilize up-hauling or the beach-start to get the sail in a proper position. These techniques do work; however, it detracts from the time that riders can windsurf.

The process of up-hauling requires the rider to use excess energy lugging the sail up and out of the water. The beach-start demands that riders venture out to shallower waters. With this additional expenditure of time and effort, riders are not capable of progressing as quickly.

The water start allows windsurfers to get themselves and the sail up and out of the water in one swift motion. With this method, a windsurfer can get back up and moving if they accidentally fall, regardless of whether the water is shallow or deep.

Although this method does save a tremendous amount of time in the long run, it takes several years to master. This is because a windsurfer has to elevate themselves out of the water, lift the sail out of the water, establish their balance on the board, and properly position the sail all at the same time. In summary, knowing how to water start is a solid indicator that you are a skilled windsurfer.

Conditions You Can Expect to Handle After 3-5 Years of Windsurfing

A skilled windsurfer that has spent 3 to 5 years on the water can expect to handle most conditions thrown their way. Anything short of 30 knots (35 mph) of wind should be manageable.

After this amount of time, windsurfers can also expect to overcome very choppy conditions. They may even be able to take their sailboard airborne and perform basic tricks in these choppier conditions.

How Fast You Can Expect to Go After 3-5 Years of Windsurfing

As far as speed goes, it is not a stretch to say that windsurfers should be able to reach maximal speeds from 21 to 30 knots (25 to 35 mph).

Over this 3 to 5 year period, windsurfers will learn how to improve upon their technique, and better trim their sail to fit the present wind conditions. They will also learn how to utilize accessory windsurfing equipment like the harness and foot straps to maximize speed.

Day by day, windsurfers will continue to push their limits and improve their control at extreme wind velocities. All of these efforts over this multiple-year timeline will directly translate into miraculous speeds.

How Long It Takes to Learn the Expert Windsurfing Level

Average Timeframe

It is standard for windsurfers to take 6 to 8 years to reach the expert level.

Reasons Why This Timeframe is the Norm

An expert-level windsurfer lies within the top percentile of the entire windsurfing community. These windsurfers are the best the sport has to offer. Unfortunately, it is rare to witness a true windsurfing expert at work because virtually all windsurfers lack the discipline and natural talent to reach this skill tier.

Many expert-level windsurfers compete at the sport’s highest level, whether it be big wave or slalom racing or some other windsurfing discipline. On the other hand, there are also expert-level windsurfers with an unparalleled passion for the sport.

But the real question is… how does this pertain to the timeframe of 6 to 8 years?

Explicitly defining the expert level windsurfer is an elusive task because of how rare it is to see. There is really no clear-cut distinction between a skilled windsurfer and an expert windsurfer. This is why the time range for reaching the expert stage is so vague.

Since so few people make it to this level, it is hard to judge how long it really takes to become a windsurfing expert. There are plenty of outliers that skew the timeframe one way or another. Only one thing is true for certain… windsurfing takes a day to learn but a lifetime to master.

Skills You Can Expect to Learn After 6-8 Years of Windsurfing

The skills that an expert windsurfer learns throughout this 6 to 8 year period are contingent on what sort of windsurfing discipline they pursue.

If they solely concentrate their efforts toward windsurf racing, they acquire a skill set strictly geared toward speed. On the other hand, if they exclusively devote their time to big wave, they will become experts in maintaining control despite monstrous waves looming around.

With that being said, there is one reliable indicator of an expert windsurfer that stands out in my mind. And that is the ability to perform the planing gybe.

Put simply, the planing gybe provides a convenient means of turning the sailboard completely around to move back in the direction that you came.

With this skill, you will no longer have to purposefully fall into the water to redirect the board in the opposite direction. Instead, you can transition the momentum of the sailboard into the gybe and ride in the opposite direction while staying dry throughout the entire process.

Many windsurfers never accomplish this feat in their lifetime. If they have, they likely cannot do it consistently. A whole laundry list of things has to go right for the planing gybe to work, which is why it takes years to accomplish.

But with 6 to 8 years of windsurfing experience, there is a pretty good chance that you will conquer this complex maneuver.

Conditions You Can Expect to Handle After 6-8 Years of Windsurfing

Expert windsurfers will be able to brave the toughest of conditions. There will be few times, if ever, that the conditions will be too harsh. What may seem like near-hurricane conditions to the average person will be a welcome challenge to this hardened pack of windsurfers.

If you want to see just how far expert windsurfers can push themselves when it comes to the elements, check out the video below!

In the video, Thomas Traversa said the winds got up to 100 kilometers per hour. That equates to 54 knots (62 miles per hour)! So if you thought handling anything above 30-knot winds was a stretch, you are probably second-guessing yourself right about now!

How Fast You Can Expect to Go After 6-8 Years of Windsurfing

With handling such extreme conditions, expert windsurfers can reach beyond 30 knots on their windsurf board. That is as fast as a moving car!

If you have a hard time believing this statistic, keep in mind that the fastest windsurfing speed ever recorded is 53. 2 knots (61.3 miles per hour; source). So if windsurfing at 53.2 knots is within the realm of possibility, windsurfing at 30 knots should not be so implausible.

Factors That Influence How Long It Takes to Learn Windsurfing

Several contributing factors influence the total amount of time it takes to learn how to windsurf. The most prominent of these reasons are outlined next.

Standard Local Conditions

In an ideal world, all of us would be on the shoreline of Maui, enjoying the steady sea breeze while windsurfing. But, unfortunately, this is not the case for most of us.

Consequently, the amount of local wind available plays a tremendous role in how much an individual can progress in this sport. In the absence of sufficient wind conditions, the windsurf learning curve will inevitably get protracted.

Accessibility to Quality Windsurfing Gear

In addition, accessibility to quality windsurfing gear also plays a considerable role in how long the windsurfing learning phase will take.

If an individual does not possess high caliber windsurfing, they may have to make do with what is available. Individuals fitted with the wrong gear may never be able to get themselves up and out of the water, even if their technique is somewhat decent.

This frustration may prompt them to quit the practice session outright, which ultimately prolongs the learning stage.

Flexibility of Schedule

Lastly, the schedule of the individual concerned has a tremendous impact on how quickly an individual can take up windsurfing.

The windsurfing community places a heavy emphasis on hitting the water on consecutive days whenever possible. During these consecutive streaks, the most progress is made since riders do not have to squander time re-learning fundamental skills.

People burdened with a heavy schedule may be lucky to get out to the water once a week. As a result, their learning process will be considerably longer than someone who has a free schedule.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, everyone learns windsurfing at their own pace. The only real thing that matters is whether or not you are enjoying the learning process. If you are enthusiastic about getting yourself out on the water and windsurfing, the length of the learning process should be of little concern.

Sources: 1

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of HydroPursuit. I enjoy kicking back and getting out on the water as much as I can in my free time.

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