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History of Windsurfing

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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Windsurfing uses a one-person craft called a sailboard.

Windsurfing or boardsailing is a sport that combines sailing and surfing and uses a one-person craft called a sailboard. The basic sailboard is composed of a board and a rig.

In 1948, twenty-year old Newman Darby first conceived of using a handheld sail and rig mounted on a universal joint, to control a small catamaran. Darby did not file for a patent for his design, however, he is regonized as the inventor of the first sailboard.

Californians Jim Drake (a sailor and engineer) and Hoyle Schweitzer (a surfer and skier) received the very first patent for a sailboard. They called their design a Windsurfer. The early Windsurfer boards measured 12 feet (3.5 m) long and weighed 60 pounds (27 kg).

Later in the 1980s, Newman Darby did file for and receive a design patent for a one-person sailboat, the Darby 8 SS sidestep hull.

According to Newman & Naomi Darby in their article The Birth of Windsurfing: "Newman Darby found he could steer a conventional 3 meter sailboat by tipping it fore and aft enough to make turns even without a rudder. This is when (late 1940s) Newman got interested in steering a boat without a rudder. Several sailboats and 2 1/2 decades later (1964) he designed the first universal joint to go along with a flat bottom sailing scow. This sailboard was fitted with a universal joint mast, a centerboard, tail fin and kite shaped free sail and thus windsurfing was born."

Naomi Darby, Newman's wife, was the first woman windsurfer and helped her husband build and design the first sailboard.

Jim Drake's and Hoyle Schweitzer's patent for a sailboard was granted in 1970 (filed 1968 - reissued 1983). Drake and Schweitzer based the Windsurfer on Darby's original ideas and fully credited him with its invention.

According to the official Windsurfing website "The heart of the invention (and patent) was mounting a sail on a universal joint, requiring the sailor to support the rig, and allowing the rig to be tilted in any direction. This tilting of the rig fore and aft allows the board to be steered without the use of a rudder - the only sail craft able to do so."

Hoyle Schweitzer began mass-producing polyethylene sailboards (Windsurfer design) in the early 1970s. The sport became very popular in Europe and by the late 70's windsurfing fever had Europe firmly in its grasp with one in every three households having a sailboard.

The first world championship of windsurfing was held in 1973. Windsurfing first became an Olympic sport in 1984 for men and 1992 for women.

Patent Abstract

Wind-propelled apparatus in which a mast is universally mounted on a craft and supports a boom and sail. Specifically a pair of curved booms are accurately connected athwart the mast and secure the sail there between, the position of the mast and sail being controllable by the user but being substantially free from pivotal restraint in the absence of such control.

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