View Full Version : Another question on board choice for beginner

the 5thMan
6th May 2010, 11:20 PM

I'm interested in getting into windsurfing and have had only one experience thus far. I'm hooked and want more!!!!
I'm 6'1'' at 175 lbs very athletic 49 years old.
I live next to a number of lakes here in northern Vermont USA that typically have moderate / light winds.

I want to make one board purchase that will allow me to continually progress without selling then re buying.

The obvious recommendation for me as a beginners is something like the Rio M which has a center board but I'm in an area that will be difficult to sell the board once I get to the stage of not needing the CB to keep upwind.
Is it unrealistic to start out with something like the Go 155 and deal with the longer learning curve? By going this route am I being overly optimistic/confident in my ability to learn this activity ?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you

7th May 2010, 09:26 PM

It's always a little difficult to make a one board recommendations to beginners because there are so many variables.

In Vermont your season is pretty short, so you will not likely get a lot of time on a board. This also begs the question, how committed are you? If you get out at least twice a week, then you may progress pretty fast. If it is 2-4 times a month, progress will be slow. Lessons will cut your learning curve significantly.

I see four options. The higher the number, the better the board will meet your needs if you are the agressive type.

1. A longboard with a centerboard for light to moderate wind cruising/sailing
2. The Rio, but it will not cruise as well as a longboard, but will do better in moderate winds, and will offer better planing than a longboard.
3. The Go, but it will not cruise in light winds and will be a little difficult to keep upwind as you learn. I will be a pretty nice planing board in moderate winds.
4. A Hybrid like the Phantom Race, it does everything pretty well, but nothing exceptionally well. It will plane and cruise as well as or better than the Go and Rio, but not as well as other higher performance boards.

In my terms, "cruise" means slicing through the water, capable of pointing high and running deep without plowing through the water or sliding downwind (no dagger board).

For the most part, everything above is designed to work best in winds under 18 knots.

Knowing what your typical wind conditions will be will help with the decision, and if you are compelled to push yourself to be challenged by stronger and stronger winds. What board were you on for your one experience and how easy or difficult was it?

Hopefully, Roger will jump in and provide some additional advice. He is an expert at this sort of thing, and if you go the Phantom route, he can give you the differences between the 320 and 380. I am thinking that this may be your best option at this time.

I hope this gets the ball rolling.

7th May 2010, 11:06 PM
Hi Dennis,
Ken has given you some good choices and the reasons why he is suggesting them.
Having sailed on some Maine and Vermont lakes in the past, I wonder why you seem
so concerned about the ability to sell the board when your skills improve?
In the beginning, you will want a smaller sail, so you learn sail handling techniques and transitions easily and quickly.
Something in the 5.5-6.5 m2 size range perhaps?
But, since you are on fresh water, @ 175 lbs, you won't do much planing with a sail that size until the wind gets to a minimum of 15-16 knots.
And, as Ken suggests, the amount of time on the water is going to have a significant effect on how fast your skills improve to the point where you are planing.
Once you have the skills, you will most likely buy a larger rig (in the 7.5-8.5 m2 range
would seem good for your lake conditions) and then you can plane whenever there is around 12 knots of wind.
My experience on the the NE USA lakes suggests you will not see even that much wind
much of the time in the summer.
So, you are going to want to keep a longboard/Hybrid for the light wind days, and at some point get a short board without a centerboard for higher wind days.
Of the boards in the current Starboard product offerings, the Rio M is probably the board that will give you the widest range of use. It's pretty good in light winds with a smaller rig (I use mine with a 5.0 m2 Sailworks Retro Ripper trainer sail most of the time when I'm teaching) and it powers up and planes quite well in shortboard mode with the center board up.
You could, of course, get a GO (I do not think the GO 155 would be your best choice for a fresh water beginner) and simply deal with a narrower overall range of use.
As Ken suggests, slogging around on a big shortboard in < 8 knots of wind is not much fun, so even a larger GO 175 is not going to be real exciting in really light winds as you cannot "rail it" up on the center board to get good upwind angles. This is an advanced technique, yes, but one that anyone sailing in ultra light and fluky winds soon learns.
Getting an regular old style longboard might be good as it will give you many hours of cruising enjoyment, but they tend to be fairly narrow so the learning curve is not as easy as the modern wider, more stable, longboards/transition boards like the Rio M.
The Phantom 320/380 could be good as well, but they are not quite as good in shortboard mode when compared to the Rio M.
Take a real hard look at your windspeeds..... mostly < 10 knots...... mostly 8-12 knots....
occasionally more than 12 knots?
If your winds are mostly < 10 I suggest the Rio M as it works, even with smaller sails,
pretty well in very light winds where a short board (GO 175) would not be much fun at all.
And, if you get something that's good in light winds, but works well in shortboard mode, you can take advantage of the little gusty windy periods that often occur on your sort of lakes.
Cruise around in longboard mode until the gusts come, switch to shortboard mode while there is some wind, switch back to longboard mode to get yourself home when the winds subside.
And, you will probaby never really want to sell such a board for use in your conditions as it suits so many conditions.
When you are ready for a shortboard, then you can get one, but remember, they only work well when the winds are over 10 knots, even with huge => 9.5 rigs.
Hope this helps,

the 5thMan
8th May 2010, 01:34 AM
Thanks for the excellent responses.
The Rio M seems like its going to be the right choice for me which was obvious at first but I had to hear it from you guys. I get juiced up reading about everyone else experiences and wanted to make sure. The reality of not being in an area that offers optimum conditions had to set in
Local conditions dictate the choice.
Can you offer some sail recommendations ? Too many choices out there make it difficult to determine.
Also my wife at 5'8" 130 lbs is chomping at the bit as well. I figured the Rio S for her.
Again thanks for the help. We are getting excited about getting involved in a watersports activity that challenges us!!

8th May 2010, 07:19 AM
i am having a déjà-vu :-)

many years ago a fellow in CT offered to rent me his board when i was in town
i never stayed long enough there @ the out-laws to warrant a rental

wonder if any-one in your area either teaches or would be willing to rent out a kit?

when i started 15 years ago on an old longboard i used a 6.4 - for my 100 kilos
the beauty of that sail was - as i got better i used the same sail in bigger winds
on the lake i loved my longboard and probably would have remained longboarder
2 years ago i bought a floaty shortboard - 160 liters {remember 100 kilos}
this board works in higher wind and the lake :-)
my most used sail is now an 8.5 - much more modern sail than my 6.4
i also have a race 10.0 which gets me on the water
now, my smallest sail is a 6.0 which i use in winds over 20 knots/40 kph

if the lake is close - you have access, and winds are light = LONGBOARD
if u get a 6.5 - you can still use it in the future
if you buy used - with the help of someone who knows, you can save $$$
as they said - not old stuff - although some boards like mistral superlight, bic dufour wing, even the bic samba {just saw one for $200} work to start with little investment - there is an 84 superlight in kingston now for about $500 - also an equipe -

what do the experts think of these options? 84 superlight, equipe ??

GOOD luck

8th May 2010, 01:22 PM
Hi Joe,
I learned on a "Blue Marlin"..... remember those?
I bought a 1983 Mistral Superlight shortly afterward to teach others on and to race on occasion.
The Equipe is still a competitive racing longboard (I have an F2 Lightning Race which
I like better).
But.......have you sailed a modern "transition" board like the Rio M?
They do nearly as well in light winds as the older narrower longboards, but they
also sail in shortboard mode much more like a modern fairly wide shortboard.
So what do I think of an older longboard (Superlight/Equipe/F2 Lightning/Fanatic
Ultra Cat) for Dennis to use to learn all his basics on a lake?
They would certainly work, but they are heavier, not as stable, and involve significantly
more falling in the water than is necessary when compared to a modern (wider) board
like the Rio M.
So, if Dennis wants, at some time, to go racing, go for the older longboard..... if Dennis wants the best platform to learn and help his wife to learn... he will be far better off with the Rio M.

8th May 2010, 01:34 PM
Hi Dennis,
Unless you want to have your wife sailing alongside you, having a Rio M and a Rio S
is really not necessary.
Just be sure to get your wife her own ultra lightweight rig (I suggest the Sailworks Retro Ripper as it's one of the lightest and has very good light wind power in a very small package. Pricey, yes, but worth every penny as it will be so easy to use.)
Get her the 4.2 m2 (or a 5.0 m2 if you can find one).
Also, trying to teach your wife may not be the best idea.
It often works, but just as often it can cause problems.
Better for both of you to get some lessons in the basics, to get you started, then decide
how many boards and rigs you will need to buy.
As with everything, there are good schools and there are less good schools.
If you sign up for a lesson, and it's not easy, the conditions are not optimum (wind in the 8-12 knot range is the best) and you are not having fun, find another school.
I've taught hundreds of newbies in the "A Taste of Windsurfing" program and I would say the student success rate is > than 95%.
Wish we lived nearer, as I would love to teach both you and your wife on the 2 Rio M boards that I have.
If you can make a trip to Cape Hatteras sometime, let me know.
Or, I know someone who teaches the same way I do that's in Rhode Island.
Hope this helps,

Del Carpenter
10th May 2010, 10:01 AM
I live in a state with light wind summers and with springs and falls that have strong to high winds. I'd guess Vermont is like that. Eventually you will want a longboard for the light wind summers. When you and your wife reach that stage you can buy an older relatively inexpensive longboard. AND you will still want to keep whatever you start with as a wide beginning board for it's stability and planing in the strong and high winds of spring and fall. The easiest way to increase your time on the water is by extending your season into the somewhat colder weather of spring and fall.

My advice, start with a board like the Rio for two reasons: it will make your start as successful as possible and it will extend your season for years or decades to come.

the 5thMan
10th May 2010, 09:10 PM
I wont be teaching my wife. We intend to get lessons over on lake Champlain in July. Neither one of us wants to wait that long to get started. As Del pointed out we understand the issues with the short season and already have neoprene to deal with the cold.
Elke has excellent balance and agility. She is the one who got me started in Freestyle Skate Cross-Country Skiing. I have total confidence in her but I will let her do her own thing under the instruction of someone else. It wont surprise me if she catches on quicker than I.
Elke is a engineer, I'm an electronic technician so we are interested in the technical aspects of this activity too.
Elke will not be a happy camper sitting on the beach while I'm out giving it a go so we will spend the money and purchase two boards and two rigs.
I know this is a Starboard forum and I do intend to buy the Rio M for me but should we be looking at something else for Elke? Something that would suit her as good if not better than the Rio S?
We might take you up on a trip to the Cape. We have never been there.
Who is this fellow in RI? I spent my youth at beaches in that state. I grew up in CT and didnt like Long Island Sound .(no waves) My grandparents took me to Charleston Beach RI often.
Actually after we gain some confidence the ocean is an option for us. Not too bad a drive. About 4 hrs to the closest beach in southern NH.

10th May 2010, 10:52 PM
Joe, Dennis,

I raced a Mistral Superlight, F2 Lightening and Mistral Equipe XR and still have my '85 Superlight. All are great long boards, but I would not recommend any for beginners.

The Superlight is pretty tippy but super efficient in light winds (under 10 knots). The F2 and Mistral are race boards, but finding one in good condition and a working dagger board gasket will be almost impossible. Neither will be as stable the Rio, but both can be a lot of fun in light and strong winds once one achieves an intermediate sailing level (planing, tacks, jibes/gybes, foot strap use, harness use, beach starts, and possibly water starting).

11th May 2010, 01:49 PM
You WILL be doing much or most of your sailing in subplaning conditions. That is how the real world. You have to have gear that makes it FUN in those conditions, that is what generates pleasure, generates Time-On-Water, generates skill growth.

The tool to do this is a Phantom 320 (if you buy from the Starboard range). It will take you from a beginner stage with a 6.5 m2 sail (or smaler for your wife) straight up to 8.5 m2 sails for effective lightwind, or blasting in high winds with your 6.5. Based on my experience with long boards (Kone One) I can tell you that speeds up to at least 28-29 knots are perfectly doable on the 320 (and that is fast!).

A P320 is perfect for your wife as well. No worries about that. And if you get a second one you can sail together, cruise all over the lake (a P320 is effective upwind as well), and hone your skills against each other.

the 5thMan
11th May 2010, 08:52 PM
I did look at the P320 and wondered about it.
I'm curious why the P320 is not the typical recommendation for someone in my position. Is there something I need to further understand about the Rio vs. Phantom ?
I do have visions of occasionally getting out to the ocean once I get my skills far enough along. Is the Rio better suited for both light wind and occasional ocean use? How does the phantom fare in ocean conditions?
The P320 seems to be a good choice for optimizing light wind flat water lake use.
I need to understand more fully the compromises/advantages of each board and apply this to how I intend to typically use the gear. I realize 95% of my time on the water will be on the lake that is 2 miles from my home.
I've been living next to 3 beautiful lakes within 30 min. drive for over 15 years and almost never get out on any of them except for some fishing time.
I want to get started ! Maybe the thing to do is buy one Rio and one Phantom?
Can someone else chime in here?

11th May 2010, 09:46 PM

Don't get both boards, too much duplication. Roger is the expert here and I have seen him work with beginners and intermediates on many occasions. I would put a lot of trust in what he says.

There is no perfect answer here, just feedback from a broad range of experiences, so you have to consider that we all have our biases.

Ocean use is a double edged venue. Open water or bay cruising, or surf sailing?

the 5thMan
12th May 2010, 12:03 AM
I do realize that there is no concrete answer in this venue. I'm looking to maximize my money and fun. I just need to understand what is the best compromise for myself and wife Elke.
As far as ocean use I probably would stick to bay cruising. I'm pushing 50 so no acrobatics for me. Although the wave thing sure sounds like fun!!
I eagerly wait for more feedback from others willing to share their experiences and advice that will help me in my decision.

12th May 2010, 12:41 PM
The ocean is really no different from you lake back home. Especially if it is a protected bay.
Sometimes an ocean can produce waves that are breaking close to shore, but also then it is just long swells outside the break zone.

I cannot see any reason why a Rio would be any better in Ocean conditions than a P320.

I think the reluctance to recommend the P320 comes from the fact that almost everyone that provides these recommendations
- dont't themselves sail any board longer than 250 cm
- Don't themselves ever sail in non-planing conditions
- Have not tried, nor can comprehend, what a longboard with a dagger can do

A bit pointed, but basically true.

When you get to owning two boards it should probably be a P320 and a largish GO. Or then two 320 to go cruising together with your wife on the Lake (it is MUCH more fun to windsurf with someone else!)

12th May 2010, 01:08 PM
Hi PG,
I have owned and sailed the first generation Phantom. (I think it was 308 long).
I now have a 2nd generation and a 3rd generation Rio M. I also had the older Rio M that
was simply a Start without the roller wheel on the back.
The 2nd and 3rd generation Rios are much more like a longboard/transition board than the
older Start based Rio.
In my opinion the Rios make a much better transition to a giant shortboard than the Phantom I had.
Please do not put me in your "categories".
I spend at least a hundred hours a year teaching newbies in the "A Taste of Windsurfing".
I sail a Rio M for 4-6 hours per day when teaching.
I sail alot (again a hundred hours or more) in non-planing conditions.
My students learn more (during their first time on the water) in non-planing conditions.
I sailed and raced (got a few trophies to prove it) longboards for several years, and vintage longboards (Tiga Swift, F2 Phoenix 340, F2 Lightning Race and 380 Race, Mistral Superlight) so I miss your category here as well.
Your points are well taken.
The Phantom is a very nice board, I'll have to see if I can try one of the newer ones.
I have tons of experience on the Rio M, and find it exceptional for beginners (once past the super wide early Start with a center fin stage).
I also have sailed the Rio M with a 6.5 m2 in about 20 knots, and not very many shortboards seemed to be getting by me.
So I guess the Rio M might be as fast (faster maybe?) than the Phantom.
Also, I do not know about the availability of the Phantom 320 in the USA.
I do know that there is a stock of Rio M boards.
Hope this helps,

12th May 2010, 08:47 PM
Sorry Roger, I wrote "ALMOST everybody" to be able to exclude you, as I know you have lots of experience of boards with daggers.

It is quite possible that the Rio M offers the same speed as a P320 and a Kona One (which is my board) in 20 knots of wind. I don't see any reason it would not. And I have the same experience as you do, shortboard freeriders need to be pretty good to overtake me on my Kona!

And I do believe that the RIO is an excellent beginners board. And you can take it out in planing conditions.

My point was that I believe it falls well short of a P320 for regular use on a lake in non-planing conditions. There the P320 can benefit from longer waterline, glide, a big and effective centerboard that promotes railing when going upwind.
I feel that the Rio is an excellent stepping stone for shortboard windsurfing, but it is not the end game in the way a P320 can be in a lightwind location.

12th May 2010, 09:14 PM
My biggest tip to you, if you want to start sailing before getting lessons, is to buy Jem Hall's "Beginner to Winner" DVD. With it you will learn SO MUCH.

Basically, Jem doesn't miss anything, and I mean anything. You've got chapters for everything from the very basics all the way to jumps and duck jibes, enough to keep you busy for years!

I know how much this DVD helped with my learning curve, as I've never been coached before, and am now jumping, waterstarting, jibing, quicktacking all after 2 years.

I think that with your motivation to start early, this DVD will seriously help you out as you can learn just about every tip a coach can give you and take them with you on the water every time you're out.

Good luck with your windsurfing journey.

12th May 2010, 09:43 PM
It all comes down to "typical sailing conditions".

Since I can get at least 60-80+ days a year in planing conditions, I only get on my 1985 Superlight longboard when I race in less than 8 knots. My Formula gear certainly helps with those 8-12 knot days.

If I lived in an area where 75% of my sailing opportunities had winds less than 10 knots, I would no doubt buy a new longboard of some type. If I were a novice and lived where 75% of my sailing opportunities had winds over 10 knots, I would get a board that was easy to learn on, but could also offer "short board" type performance when the wind picked up (Rio?).

the 5thMan
13th May 2010, 01:23 AM
Well put Ken ...... It all comes down to "typical sailing conditions".

To me this seems to be the biggest consideration.
I'll have to do some homework.

13th May 2010, 07:54 AM
I have recorded all my sailing outing for the last 4.5 years, including gps readings (top speed, average speed, distance and time). Below are some of my stats from 2009 when I sailed 66 days. This will give you an idea of "my typical conditions".

Sail sizes and number of times used (there were a number of occasions where I used more than one sail during a day, but I just recorded the most used):

11.0 = 9
9.2 = 15
8.4 = 5
7.6 = 10
6.6 = 17
5.7 = 6
5.0 = 1
4.5 = 2
4.0 = 1

Boards and number of times used (there were a number of occasions where I used more than one board during a day, but I just recorded the most used):

Starboard Formula 160 - 30
Starboard iSonic 111 - 26
Hi Fly Move 105 - 9
Tiga 263 - 0
Mistral Superlight - 1

Number of days with winds gusting over 23 mph (20 knots) - 24