By and large around the world, the sport of windsurfing has drastically declined in popularity to the point that many people consider the sport to be “dead”.
This claim isn’t entirely true – there are pockets of vibrant windsurfing scenes around the world, but by and large the windsurfing trend does look like that of a dying breed.
Further proof of the decline of the sport is that windsurfing is being removed from the 2024 Olympics and being replaced by windfoiling.
But what happened? Why was windsurfing so popular in the 1990’s and seemingly died off overnight?
I don’t believe there’s just one reason, but there are a combination of many reasons why windsurfing has fallen out of fashion (and is unlikely to make a comeback).
Sunglasses designed for watersports!
Use code WINDFOIL-NATION at checkout for 5% off.
Reasons Why Windsurfing is Dying
Too Weather Dependent
The truth is not many areas around the world can support many days of consistent high winds that make windsurfing a fun sport. People got sick of lugging all of their gear to the beach, only to sit around and hope the wind picks up enough to get out on the water. Especially back in the day when you didn’t have surf smart watches to monitor the winds.
This is why windsurfing has become so concentrated to just a few beaches across the US. If you take a look at the Google Trends, you’ll see the top windsurfing spots pretty easily.
There’s Hawaii, Hood River (Oregon), Lake Champlain (Vermont), and the Gulf region of Texas.
This dependency on strong winds is the main reason why windfoiling is growing in popularity so quickly. You can windfoil in light winds – much lighter than you could ever go out without a foil, meaning more days on the water.
The ultimate board protector that doesn't get in the way.View Today's Price
Getting starting in windsurfing is just very expensive, and there aren’t many local shops around where you can go try the sport or that offer rentals.
To get started windsurfing you’ll need a board, mast, boom, quiver of sails, harness, and other miscellaneous gear which is likely going to add up to at least $2,000.
Storing all of this gear and transporting it also becomes a massive pain! The boards and masts can be quite long. Many windsurfers use a van or pull-behind trailer of some sort to get their gear to the beach which becomes another expense.
Competition from Kites and SUPs
Other watersports have come in and taken over many of the young riders that might have been windsurfers in the past. Kitesurfing seems to be the main culprit. It just looks so much more extreme and cool from the observer when you’re doing massive jumps, spins, and loops.
The boards are also smaller and there’s much less gear to carry around, along with less time sitting on the beach rigging things together. Kites can also work better is less wind than a sail.
Standup Paddleboards also grew in popularity and are attractive as a sport you can do with any amount of wind or waves.
The Learning Curve
Windsurfing is pretty hard to master, there’s a long learning curve with a limited amount of “fun” to be had without surfing larger waves. Some people windsurf for years before they can do a proper jibe. Compare this with other sports like surfing and kitesurfing where people can advance to more fun aspects quicker and with less work.
Learning to properly rig up your kit on the beach and know what sail you need can also be part of the frustration.
Not Dead Everywhere
While that’s a lot of negatives about windsurfing, it’s worth coming back to re-emphasize that windsurfing isn’t dead everywhere and doesn’t really show a sign of truly going away for good. There are still companies in the space and enthusiastic communities around it.
The real “threat” to windsurfing is actually windfoiling. Riding a foil lets you surf with much less wind, much more consistently. It solves one of the biggest problems of windsurfing, while admittedly adding to the cost and space requirements – though you do get to use much smaller sails.
While I won’t say windsurfing is dying, I do think it’s evolving into windfoiling and eventually windsurfing will make up a small minority in comparison.