A BOARD IS A BOARD IS A BOARD ........

...... rephrases a famous quote by Gertrude Stein, a highly regarded poet of the last century. She was referring to the essence of roses rather than boards (much less windsurfing boards which wouldn't be invented until well after she died at 74.) In referring to roses she pointed out that while roses come in almost infinite varieties, they are all essentially the same -- lush delicate petals with a pleasing and distinct scent -- features that make roses the gift of choice for almost any occasion.

Boards also come in wide varieties and are also essentially the same, sharing features no other watercraft have. They are remarkably light in weight, a tenth or less the weight of the sailor they carry. They are remarkably fast; most are faster than any other sailing watercraft. And they induce a special form of meditation because of the mental focus required by Mother Nature to unlock her secrets -- wind and wave -- and transform them into power.

My view is that windsurfing is only one member of that class of watercraft which is distinguished from all others by (at least) the three features described above - light, fast and focus. And I also think all members of this class have and will benefit by being crossbred. This is demonstrated dramatically through the recent emergence of stand up paddling -- SUP -- as a very popular sport in its own right. It borrowed and adapted technical features from two of its three cousins, surfing and windsurfing. The third cousin -- kite boarding -- can and will, I believe, contribute, for example, with a compactly packaged kite to expand the envelope of conditions suitable to SUP as well as kites.

But what is to become of windsurfing, the original break-away sport from surfing and sailing? How will it benefit from the new kid on the block? One very good bet is that windsurfing, the sport, will benefit from the board design features developed for SUP and mostly neglected by windsurfing in its passion for the spectacular -- a trait shared with kite surfing. This is because SUP is limited to the meager thrust a man-powered paddle can deliver. Thus board design for SUP treasures low drag at low speeds (3 mps or so) above almost anything else. Contrast that with windsurfing which has spent zero effort developing boards for light winds -- with Serenity the sole exception -- despite the fact that light winds are far more frequent than their dramatic relatives on North shore Maui and elsewhere.

So this is how it can play out. SUP puts long boards back in play on waves that short boards can't catch. SUP returns the favor to windsurfing by expanding its wind window and hence its market. And kites start to serve a wider audience. But, of course, it doesn't much matter what it is called - surfboard, windsurfer, kiteboard or SUPboard - so long as it works. Shakespeare said it best: "A rose [board] by any other name would still smell [sail] as sweet."

Jim Drake