Windsurfing (also known as boardsailing) became possible with the advent of new materials in the 1940s. The sport was born in Pacific Palisades, California, where a group of sailors, surfers and skiers sought to devise a craft combining the best elements of all three sports.
In 1969 Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake succeeded. The hull was a plastic shell filled with polyurethane foam. A fibreglass mast and sail was joined to the board with a pivot that could move in any direction. The rider steered by tilting the mast and sail rather than by using a rudder as on a boat.
New Zealand’s first windsurfers
The first windsurfers arrived in this country in 1973, and in the summer of 1974–75 John Bangers produced the first New Zealand board. The New Zealand Boardsailing Association was set up in 1980 and organised races. The sport became more popular with the development of short boards which could cope with bigger waves.
From the 1980s New Zealanders began to make their mark:
- 1982: Santha Patel became World Women’s Champion.
- 1984: Bruce Kendall, who had graduated from small boats, won a bronze medal at the Los Angeles Olympics.
- 1988: Bruce Kendall won an Olympic gold at Pusan, Korea.
- 1994: Aaron McIntosh won the world championship.
- 1992–2000 Olympics: Barbara Kendall (Bruce Kendall’s sister) won New Zealand’s only gold at Barcelona (1992), silver at Atlanta (1996), and bronze at Sydney (2000)
- 2008: Tom Ashley won an Olympic gold at Beijing.
As with boat sailing, the international success of New Zealand windsurfers kindled further interest in the sport.
Windsurfing is a minority sport, with only 300 club members in the early 2000s, but it attracts enthusiastic devotees. They are to be found in harbours (especially Auckland and Wellington), on lakes such as Wakatipu and Wanaka, or on the coast in Bay of Plenty and Taranaki. The premier event is the slalom nationals, which is hosted by a different centre each summer.
Some participants focus on going fast – up to 45 knots – while others are interested in freestyle acrobatics. In 2018 there were eight windsurfing clubs and associations, and about 50 retailers catering for the sport.