I started windsurfing back in the early 80s when I was about 14. I started on a Mistral Competition Club with a massive non-retractable daggerboard.
This board was replaced with a newer version which had a retracting daggerboard and was constructed from a slightly lighter material.
For a long time, I sailed a Mistral Garda, a slightly shorter board with less volume. It was a heavy board – made from polyurethane but was quite fun in light to medium winds.
My favourite board was the Mistral Malibu from about 1985. We actually owned two of these as the first was stolen from the roof of the car in the south of France.
The best windsurfing was in the warm waters off the coast of Le Lavandou in France. (If you follow the link and zoom in, you will see a line of rocks to the La Faviere end of the bay. This is where we lauched from year after year whilst on holiday). In my teens, we went Windsurfing pretty much every weekend from the spring, and some years through to November. (I can still remember turning up at Minster on the Isle of Sheppy on a bleak November day and wishing I was somewhere warm.)
A back injury in 1995 prevented me from windsurfing and I got completely out of the scene.
Despite continued back problems, I am keen to get back into windsurfing. An evening of web-surfing got me a bit more up to speed with the current situation.
I was shocked to discover that Mistral does not seem to have an official UK importer, and seems to have slipped from the top-spot. They do not have an entry level – non-planing board with daggerboard.
Board design has changed to short, wide boards – very different from the ‘long boards’ that I learned on and sailed for years.
It would seem that, for a time, boards were very wide, but have returned to a slightly narrower design with more parallel sides. Apparently it is a good time to be getting back into windsurfing – now that the boards have got better straight line tracking.
Starboard seems to be the leading company now. The Starboard Go is said to be the “world’s most stable freeride board with a daggerboard” The Rio is a good entry level light wind board. The boards come in different sizes / volumes.
The Fanatic Viper is widely recommended as an entry level – all rounder. A 2010 board with rig is available second hand from around £550.
Whistable Windsurfing has become www.board-worx.com Apparently Olly or Mark at the guys to talk to.
Xtremity Boardsports in Rochester is at www.xtremityboardsports.com
Mistral is now at www.mistral-boards.com. Anders Bringdal is now the new license holder of Mistral Boards. He intends to “return to Mistral’s best years”,
Boards Magazine was apparently grabbed from the jaws of death in 2009 and has quite a good website. Reviews of the magazine itself are mixed.
www.boardseekermag.com is a good online magazine with tips, videos, photos and reviews.
A useful blog post about Windsurfing on a tight budget is here.
The National Windsurfing Festival is held annually in September in Haying Island. The 2011 NWF will be held at Hayling 3-4 September.
It goes against my windsurfing DNA to buy anything other than a Mistral board, but I think a Fanatic Viper 80 will be the most appropriate choice – for value for money and all round fun and usability.