Just like windsurf boards one can distinguish different types of windsurf sails. For each disciplin one can find adequate constructions. For wave sailing you can find wave sails, for flatwater tricks you find freestyle sails and for slalom, speed or formula races you find adequate race sails. Sails for the average sailor for fast planing and stunning jibing are mainly called freeride sails. Additionaly you can find special sail types like kids sails or entry level sails for example.
Most important characteristics of a suitable beginner sail are: lightness, handiness and controllability. Above all at the entry level light sails are recommended because every gram counts when doing the uphaul. Less, lighter and softer battens as well as the usage of thinner monofile materials (modern sailcloth used for windsurf sails) not only help to make a sail lighter but cheaper, too.
Handiness is very important especially at the beginning because who almost falls into despair when rigging the sail can't have fun on the water afterwards. Extremely wide mast bags can absorb a lot of water when falling down which makes the restart even harder. This is the reason, why entry level sails usually do have tiny mast bags.
After having mastered the first steps on the windsurf board or maybe having attended a complete windsurf course sailing with the harness, planing and using the footstraps are top of one's wish list. At this time advancing sailors do think about many things but mainly not concentrate on the correct position of the sail. Forgiving sails therefore are suitable for beginners and advanced sailors and help to achieve progress quickly. Smaller wave or freestyle sails might also be the appropriate equipment for this stage, but such sails are mostly much more nervous and harder to control.
Basically there are three different groups of suitable beginner sails:
1. Entry Level Sails
Pure entry level sails are focussing on non-planing conditions. They are made to work also in very light wind conditions and help sailors to advance to the planing level easily. Modern sails of this type do have nothing in common with old-school triangular sail shapes, even if still same schools use such antiquated rigs for their classes. In terms of design recent beginner sails do not differ from other sail types.
Lightness is one of the main characteristics of a entry level sail. This is the reason why such sails often do have only four battens instead of five like a freeride sail of the same size. Another important aspect is the handling respectively the easy rigging of the sail. Less features but simple, solid rig components which can set up easily with almost no biceps needed.
Many surf shops have special offers for entry level sails, coming with an appropriate mast, extention and boom. Such combinations are cheap and perfect for your first kit. Find all relevant information about the rig components needed and a rigging guide here.Board & Rigg
2. Sails for Advanced Sailors
There are many sails available which are focussing on the advanced level. They are meant to bridge the gap between uphaul and planing. Designed for easy handling such sails offer a bit more power to lift the sailors over the planing barrier. Nearly every serious sail brand does have such a sail model in his product range. Such sails are perfect for all the beginners who attended a complete windsurfing course and now want to progress rapidly to the planing level.
NeilPryde offers with the Solo the perfect engine for all advanced beginners.
Sail brand Severne has with the Focus the right tool for the jump into the planing level.
3. Small Wave-, Freestyle- and Freeride Sails
Every time kids of ambitous windsurfers start sailing, or your best friend or boy-friend was the one who brought you to this wonderful sport, the easiest way to get your first own rig is to carry over the small wave or freestyle sails of your friend or father. Second hand wave sails are popular, whether bought in a surf shop or via internet, when it comes to purchase the first own equipment.
As mentioned above there is one important aspect one should not forget. Even if such small wave or freestlye sails might fit perfectly in terms of size this does not mean that they fit in terms of handling and controllability, too. Such sails are designed for strong winds and not for light wind conditions.This is the reason why they have to be built more stabil which makes them heavier. Also such strong wind sails must react much more sensible which make them nervous in the eyes of beginners and hard to control.
For all advanced sailors who already use the harness, are able to plane from time to time and focus on getting into the footstraps such sails might be a good alternative because while making progress the sail is still perfect for your level. An adequate small wave or freestyle sail so can grow with your skills and be your favourite engine for many years.
Find here the complete sail range of NeilPryde.
Find here the complete sail range of North Sails.
Find here the complete sail range of Severne.