View Full Version : How to get women into windsurfing

28th June 2012, 05:44 AM
When Svein Rasmussen was interviewed by Windsurfjournal (a french online website dedicated to windsurfing news), he told about how important it was to Jim Drake that women were included in the sport too, and he asked to the website readers if the had any ideas on how getting more women to windsurfing.

This is an issue that is rarely tackled, so I launched a debate on a french forum (Windsurfing33), and interesting things came out

_ first of all, not every woman will like it: at any rate, they have to be a litttle sporty and persevering; few of them like to push their limits like most of the men do.

_ the adapted equipment already exists (rdm for more comfortable and manoeuverable rigs, light sails, large and stable boards). Lightness seems to be a must, along with easy rigging and comfort. A heavy equipment along with a difficult rigging discourage most of the women if they don't have anybody to help

_ women don't like to practice alone, and most of the time their boyfriend or husband is already gone miles away at full speed. So they have to make an effort too and not leave their girlfriend by themself in the car everytime! The other solution would be practicing regularly in a club with friends.

_ they need good conditions, such as a sunny spot, not too cold, not too much waves, to be able to touch the bottom if possible. Cold and rain are a quite repulsive factors... Women actually catch cold more easily than men because their metabolism is in general lower and blood don't circulates as well in the hands and feet.

_ a young and handsome windsurfing instructor will also help ^^

All of this implies brands to make an effort in their ads: you have someting like 95% chances for the rider on the photograph to be planing, at top speed, to be a man, and to be alone on the water. (depending on the brands but that is still a general trend).

Once you have convinced your beloved one to try that wonderful sport of yours, there are still a few things to do so that she won't quit a month later:

_ women need attention and coaxing when trying this, because even if the gear is described as above, the progression can take a long time and the conditions not always as idyllic!

_ when she is good enough to practice by herself - with friends - do not leave her coping with all the house chores and babysitting that will eventually prevent her from sailing, and make her quit; if both of you want to sail, that requires teamwork!
If the whole family can be involved all at once and not everyone having his own little selfish pleasure separately everytime, that would be great too!

_ a nice trip on sunny spots from time to time is encouraging too

If you have any more ideas or experiences you would like to share, go ahead :)

nakaniko unreg.
28th June 2012, 08:52 AM
Oh, I would like to know the secret to make become windsurf fascinating for my girl-woman. It's a long time that I'm looking for the simplest way to teach her, ut I still haven't found it
About the rig I've set up a very light rig, with a special superlight mast, a Fiberspar Breeze, bought on sale in Germany, the same place I've bought a triangle dacron sail vith the nice picture of a cat (also design matters for girls...). Finally a no-extension boom, very light and with small diameter tubes. I don't fully agree that an rdm mast could be the solution, as rdm are thicker and not lighter than high carbon sdm masts, as they are made stronger for waves.
The problem is the board, especially with not so much enthusiast for ws women like mine, even the widest and more stable board of mine (Fanatic Sting Ray 138 lt, 73 cm wide) has shown to be too difficult for an absolute beginner. So one should buy or rent a proper wideboard for beginners, but they never are cheap even on the 2hand market...
Now I've just get an old Bic Jazz for free, it isn't really wide (68 cm) but is large and with a big volume, 240 lt, and therefore, in my opinion, as all longboard it could offer some satisfaction int first days of sailing as it glides much better than a wideboard. So I'll try with it.
A thing that I've learned teaching snowboard to gilrs-women is that they learn in a different way compared to men. I mean, I've seen that men they "dive" into the sport and quicly need to find emotions from sailing, no matter the way they go and no matter the mistakes and falls, so they (we) can learn somehow quickly even if with a lot of bad attitudes. Women they need to be more progressive, and get the control of the situation BEFORE going, otherwise they simply refuse to keep trying, so it's better avoid even slightly difficult situations otherwise the will give up forever; a teacher imho has to keep in mind this and do all he can tho make feel the woman in perfect control and command of what is around her... Just like for life, isn't it?

29th June 2012, 10:27 AM
I see 3 things

-It will help if it is part of a social activity. Bring friends along for a group intro session.

-A wetsuit is quickly needed. I think 5-10 knots are the best conditions to begin, since the wind can be felt easily. If it is not really hot, the windchill will cool a lady too fast. I did a regatta last weekend. It was maybe 27C. All guys were in T-Shirts. More than half the women were in full length wetsuits. I was toasting just looking at them.

- I guess most women have no interest for technical stuff until they are proficient with a sport. Make sure you have access to an easy to rig triangular sail. And then wait until they request for more advanced equipment, because it will be harder to rig and trim too.

29th June 2012, 10:09 PM
Wot a load of patronising drivel...
According to this junk women need warm water/easy boards /light winds etc etc... BS They want to be taken as equals .Its just that not many are interested..They prefer other things...
Doubt wether JD had any of this in mind when he spoke about getting more females interested...

Women I`ve had anything to do with in sailing would find first post totally insulting... Wonder what Helen McArthur would think about it !! Think she sets off on her travels thinking she needs conditions engineered by chauvanistic males...

nakaniko unreg.
2nd July 2012, 08:23 AM
Absolutely Unregistered, I don't agree to your point of view. This is a windsurfing forum, and the statement that many girls-women aren't interested in windsurfing simply ends the topic. Obvioulsy we are here starting from the point that our girls-women show some interest in it.
And about some if not many of the things said here you can easily find proofs. Therefore small sail-calm water-low wind is something that is needed also for men! The difference is that we (men) are more enthusiast and able to bear a lot of hits and falls for the purpouse we want, for women I see it's different.
About metabolism I've tested by myself what has been told by windalchemist, really my woman seems to feel 5 degrees less than me. Now in our italian nasty hot and wet summer (here in northeast) I'm at the "danger" level, when she still is fully dressed and wants to shut off the air conditioner.
And they say that the lower metabilism is the same thing that makes women live longer than men...

2nd July 2012, 09:39 AM

There are an awful lot of men not interested in WS aswell... I wasnt saying dont try and attract women into WS; would be great but you sure as hell arent going to do it working from premise that girls need some kind of special treatment;conditions and care which "us blokes" can cope with.. Its patronising to the extreme and in this day and age completely uninformed.. I`ve been involved with coaching/ teaching/ education all my life... Girls are just as tough ;determined and determined as any bloke; infact its been my experience probably more so. Yes they tend not to be as egotistical and probably have a more enlightened view towards other competitors but to start off implying they need warmer water;lighter equipment; smoother conditions is just showing the original posters own chauvanistic stand point..

And thread is not talking about attracting women.. Its talking about attracting men`s partners whih is a completely different argument...

I`ve coached girls to national standard in another water sport. (One made UK champion) Similar attitudes to those expressed in this thread used to infuriate entire team..Positive side was however the"weak" girls had something to prove and always managed to do so !!!
Watch girls in Olympics in sailing/running/WS/gymnastics (any infact) and then go and ask them what special allowances a "girl" needs...
Unbelievable !!!!!

nakaniko unreg.
2nd July 2012, 12:05 PM
Unregistered, I don't want to say that we must be protective to that strange and nice creature called woman. I want to simply say that IMHO nature has made men and women different also in the (phisical and mental) approaching to sport.
Therefore consider that we say women but for sure "mine" italian women have different attitudes compared to english women. It could probably be that english women are stronger and more interested in sports, here italian women are for sure pretty and gentle but not so many times interested in outdoor sports.
Therefore the thing I wanted to focus on is that they seem to have a different approach, listen to me, not worster, I mean different. In the past years I've friendly theached snowboarding to women and to some men and every time men were "fast and furious", reaching the first curves in even few minutes, but at the same time learning a lot of mistakes difficult to change over the years. Women has always shown to be more progressive even if slower, but usually learning BETTER without errors to correct. But everytime I've seen that an hard fall can stop most of the women (at least italian), so in windurfing the first correct approach with right board and sail is pheraphs much more important with a woman than with a man; yes italian woman and italian men, I mean.
For example in windsurfing first attempt I've seen that a man wants to GO even if without a decent balance on the board, so if on is lucky he can start even with a too small board; a women usually wants to feel to have the balance AND THEN to start going.
But I'm not a professional instructor, these are only my two (euro) cents, not a much affordable coin nowaday...;-)

2nd July 2012, 12:09 PM
Think we have to be really careful on this thread...With all the right motives we can easily be seen as sexist
"The difference is that we (men) are more enthusiast and able to bear a lot of hits and falls "

"I guess most women have no interest for technical stuff"

"otherwise they simply refuse to keep trying"

"few of them like to push their limits like most of the men do".

"when she is good enough to practice by herself - with friends - do not leave her coping with all the house chores and babysitting that will eventually prevent her from sailing, and make her quit"

To be honest cant really believe what I`m reading on here !!!

My daughters (both of whom could out wakeboard/ski/sail/snowboard/mountain bike me in any conditions) me by the time they were 14.

My elsdest daughter was a top slalom water skier.(Retired through injury) We were once at a national event and male skier swam ashore infront of a group of all female skiers (amongst them were ladies U17 champion and ladies outright ) He threw his ski on the banking disgruntled at his very poor performance; climbed out and exclaimed to the world " I skied like a girl"...Everyone around burst into fits of laughter which got even louder when over the tannoy came the reply

" No;you wish you could ski like a girl !"

Our society has inbuilt discrimination in many areas...

PS on the cold issue ..
I`ve seen girls braking ice on ski lakes so they can go out and ski. whilst the lads were shivering in the changing rooms...
I`ve snowboarded in blizzard conditions with both my daughters,at therir request, when hardy male mates have stayed in the cafe...
We are all different.
Think we should leave out the male/female divide. The sport will attract those of the right disposition.Male or female.

2nd July 2012, 04:03 PM
nakaniko gets my point, it's not about sexism guys...

Being a girl and windsurfing myself, I don't feel concerned about 99% of the stuffs I summed up. Really a matter of individuals and habits, with general trends that separate the 2 genders. It's hard not to make generalities when raising such issues.
I was the first on my spot off the wetsuit, then without lycra while guys were still in shorties, many of them asking: "ain't you cold?" well, if I were, I wouldn't be wearing a boardshort... X)
I quite feel like an outsider myself now that I've realized that there are actually not that many girls really into windsurfing. The spirit doesn't "grow" on everyone. On the other hand, I know I shouldn't feel so special with that level of mine... Anyway.

Probably the right answer was simply this: "The sport will attract those of the right disposition. Male or female."
Too bad then if there's only 15% women/85% (approx) men in windsurfing and probably the same in kitesurfing? The current situation is absolutely not a problem for me, I'm getting along pretty well with most of the windsurfers I meet. I was only wondering why it was uncommon, if there were "solutions", and curious to have men's points of view, to see how they see us.

And sorry for all the grammar mistakes, feel free to correct me!

2nd July 2012, 06:04 PM

Agree with your last post (not so much your first) but with greatest respect comments from other posters along lines of...

"The difference is that we (men) are more enthusiast and able to bear a lot of hits and falls "

"I guess most women have no interest for technical stuff"

"otherwise they simply refuse to keep trying"

"few of them like to push their limits like most of the men do".

"when she is good enough to practice by herself - with friends - do not leave her coping with all the house chores and babysitting that will eventually prevent her from sailing, and make her quit"

--- are without doubt sexist. I admire your standpoint of either ignoring it or looking for best etc etc but many women in nearly every sport (and work) have been (and still are) subjected to this type of discrimination.(Actually utter BS)

It starts at home.(I had comments from relatives "what is he doing taking his girls skiing?")
If we are to more attract people into our sport we can not do it paying homage to the stereotyping seen in this thread. There are no great sportspeople who have achieved the outstanding by somebody somewhere making "allowances". We are all individuals needing certain help;praise . cajoling and at times contructive criticism. Being a "girl" should neither bring advantages or add barriers. There are females who can tolerate cold ; there are some that cant. There are men who push themselves ; there are many that dont. The most driven individual I ever coached was a girl.The least tolerant to water temperature was a bloke. I can not say from that women are driven and men dont like the cold..It varies within both groups.

Getting more females into sport is about changing stigma in society and not about changing the sports. (Same arguments apply to getting more women into engineering/law/surgery/politics etc etc.)

IMHO comments on here reflect this..

3rd July 2012, 01:18 PM
I totally agree with you Floyd, unfortunately nowadays brands and ads plus old and new prejudices contribute to make us oversexualized and stereotyped human beings, instead of human beings first. Men and women are not different species as they are marketized. However I don't think you could say that they are exactly the same either, a few individuals apart.
I consider myself more as tom boy than a delicate creature on some aspects and never really was subject to discrimination, being a little bit "special" (I don't really know how to say this...).

So this all comes down to changing minds and societies in the end! Same old story, as old as the world itself. Some told me that at the beginning of the sport, there was no discrimination against any age or gender, the ads only showed young people having fun together in all kinds of conditions? Things look less bright now...

Any Starboard marketing pro in there to explain how stereotypes won over time?

PS: about "when she is good enough to practice by herself - with friends - do not leave her coping with all the house chores and babysitting that will eventually prevent her from sailing, and make her quit" it's not from me, it's from a female windsurfer complaining about her husband not involving himlself as much as he should to enable her to go windsurfing more often and relaxed.

The other statements are generalities that tend to be more or less true depending on the customs and countries, again, relax! If I compare with a friend of mine, they are all true! And I sometimes envy his strength and his ability to go 100% any time, any conditions. I try harder, try to level up my technique, and in the end I'm still no match for him most of the time (yet ^^). It's ennerving, it's not fair, I didn't develop enough skills to compensate my lack of big muscles (and maybe I don't have these skills) but it's the way it is for now.

3rd July 2012, 03:46 PM
Hi Windalchemist
Think we are saying similar things. Do agree with much of what you say. Being father of 2 girls I have witnessed discrimination against them. In their case its only served to make them try harder.

The physical thing you mention about competing with your male friend is not exclusive to just females and its not necessarily a male female thing..Ofcourse men tend to be stronger and build muscle quicker. But dont forget you arent competing with him; you are competing with yourself (as he also is) The important issue is the relative gain of both...Not one matched against the other.. Endurance wise things are much closer than we tend to think anyway.. Big muscles consume loads of energy...(Compare male/female results in sprinting then in long distance running.Relative less difference the longer the event) Sail your own style.Dont copy his.
If we examine male/female performance over the entire spectrum of ability its quite likely that the top female s would only get towards the top 10% in males; however this also means that if a female gets towards the 75th percentile in female performance; she is well above the 50th (roughly) male..
This is just a complicated way of saying a good female sailor will beat an average male. (And that applies in all sports) Unfortunately the media only report on the top 1% of performers so the public are led to believe women are always poorer than men..Look at it another way. The top female tennis player at wimbledon would wipe the floor with your average male club player.Only thing is he doesnt know it !!!

My point is male or female need individual approaches and equipment. If this is done correctly the male/female issue is irrelevant.. The perfect kit for a 75kg sailor of a particular standard is the same be it for male or female...

I often wonder how many differences are actual nature and how many are society driven nurture..

Watersports in general are a place women CAN compete on equal terms.. Dont ever think any other.. You are giving your psyche a reason and justification to fail; for him to be better. Sure he might do higher jumps; he might go a bit faster (thats pure physics and nothing to do with ability) but make sure your gybes are neater; tighter; smoother. Work on finesse and precision. (Again not a male/female thing a simple weight/strength one !!! I`d be saying same to a lighter male)
If you tire early dont put it down to a female thing. Check your diet; your fluid intake..Work on relaxing whilst sailing..Look for cheats whilst sailing/dropping into lines. Are your lines too long/short. Are you over working a particular area.Improve your stamina and efficiency then see how things look later. Dont just accept it that males are fitter !!! They aint.. He`sworked to get where he is.. To beat him unfortunately you will just have to work that bit harder or more cleverly !!!
Train to your own limits; expectations and goals. Forget his..Sail to your strengths.
And dont think he has all benefits.. His big arms use up energy at an alarming rate. His ego will insist he sails a board thats just a touch too small and his sail just a touch too big. He`ll probably have a hangover if its sunday. He sinks in lulls way faster than you; he has to enter gybes faster to plane out. Look for your positives and train to them. When he`s in a lull ; glyde past him and make sure you wave !!!

Good thread on a topic that has been a bugbear of mine..Sorry if it sounds like a crusade. Its an important issue.

3rd July 2012, 04:04 PM
To answer original question.


Cos they CAN !!!!

They dont need any special allowances.. They`ve got the trump card. More intelligent; smaller ego`s and lighter weight... Just do it !!!

7th July 2012, 05:51 AM
careful here, you're falling into stereotypes XD (I wish I were lighter ^^)

but yeah, I'll be working on it, I definitely want to try forward loops, I see so few people sticking or even attempting them, my windsurfing insrtuctor told it was even easier than jibes (technically speaking!)

9th July 2012, 06:34 PM
Yeh you might be right ... Nobody`s perfect and all that..
I`m in better mood now booked for Kos !!!

And I do agree... There arent enough females involved in our sport.. If you compare with other similar sports (Wakeboarding/water skiing/Snowboarding etc) I do suspect there are relatively fewer.. Not sure why..Go on a skiing holiday and its probably 50/50 on slopes.. Sailing holiday and its more like 90/10 ?? And I dont think ski schools make any allowances or offer different approaches??? Perhaps some skiing instructor might know???
Any ideas ???

Good winds

Take care..

10th July 2012, 07:17 AM
These are just my 5 cents but... my wife was sailing much better than me when I met her. For a few years we enjoyed windsurfing together, then she gave up almost completely after our first kid. The main reason was that she didn't like it to become addictive... watching trees all the time, planning nothing on weekends just in case, waiting for gusts all day long, changing board/sails every year, reading stupid magazines (not talking of stupid forums). This is not an explanation because other sports are addictive as well. Maybe there is something special in windsurf that makes you a bit selfish.

3rd August 2012, 07:53 PM
I've taught a few girls, but I think the major thing that causes people to lose interest is the cost of everything.

4th August 2012, 07:35 PM
There are a lot more women now sailing at my home spot here in Finland. I think there was some sort of culture change a few years ago: there were more demos & basic windsurfing courses at the beach and we got a whole lot of new people into the sport. In addition to the demos & courses, the local club also started improving the shared gear that the club provides for members.

From what I have seen, women seem to prefer to plan well ahead, so they don't mind that they have to reserve the gear on a web calendar. The calendar also allows them to be more social: they can book the same time slot as their friends and do the rigging and sailing together. Most of the women who started a few years ago are now on their first or second board of their own. A few of them are still using the club gear.

So, my advice would be to improve the social aspects of the sport. A simple web calendar goes a long way in achieving that.

Mark Martino
7th May 2016, 11:37 PM
One of the best ways to get anyone to consider doing anything is to use comedy.

To see what I'm talking about, take a look at the ebook Beach Baby at: