SB’s KitWise – Beginners’ Set-Up Guide - Boards Windsurfing

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SB’s KitWise – Beginners’ Set-Up Guide


WINDWISE BEGINNERS’ GUIDE – PART 2: KITWISE. Photos: Karen Bornhoft / WindWise

Last time we considered board style and volume choices, so now it’s time to look at kit setup and planning your sail quiver.

You’ll get all sorts of suggestions on how to rig, tune and set everything up, which can be a little daunting, so we’re going to strip away the beach banter with our KITWISE guide to ensure that gleaming new board and sail are working for, rather than against you. So don’t rush out onto the water – set up properly and away you go!



In non-planing winds, keep the daggerboard down to sail or keep upwind. When gybing or starting to plane fast, retract the daggerboard.

2 – FINS

Fins provide directional stability and act as a pivot point for steering. A fin should be large enough to stop the tail slipping sideways, but not so huge that it makes the board cumbersome to turn.

Beginner-Improver Fins: Initially use a fin somewhere between 35-40cm.

Improver-Intermediate Fins: When you move onto freeride boards (below 170L in volume) and can plane in the harness and straps, you’re more reliant on the fin.


Freeride Fin Formula (Improver-Intermediate on 115-170L boards)

Take the sail size you’re using, multiply it by 5, then add 4.

E.g. 6m x 5 = 30 + 4 = 34cm (+ or – a couple of centimetres).

For boards over 75cm wide, larger stature sailors or in marginal light winds add 1-4cm.

For smaller stature sailors or very strong winds subtract 1-4cm.


Inboard Training Footstraps: Initially use the inboard and forward ‘training’ positions with a single back strap to ease ‘getting in the straps’.

Outboard Straps: Once you start to plane in the harness, reposition the straps in more ‘outboard’ positions to give added leverage and control.

Footstrap fit

Poke the whole foot through, so you can curl those toes up and dig the heels down when the board goes fast!

4 – MASTBASE (also known as the universal joint or ‘UJ’)


For 170-200L boards place the centre of the mastbase 135-140cm from the tail.

For 115-170L boards place the centre of the mastbase 135cm from the tail.

Move the mastbase forward 2-3cm if the wind is light, you’re using larger sails, or the nose keeps lifting.

Move the mastbase back 2-3cm in stronger winds, when using smaller sails, or to turn more tightly.


Beginner boom height

Beginners & Non-planing winds: In non-planing winds, stand on the board and set the boom between shoulder-chin height.

Freeride boom height

Improvers and Planing Winds: Once you start to sail freeride boards (sub 170L) in the straps and harness, use the back of the board as your guide.

Sailors 5’ 0” – 5’ 7”: Underside of boom sits within 0-10cm inside the tail.

Sailors 5’ 7” – 5’ 10”: Underside of boom sits from 0-10cm past the tail (pic example set for a 5’ 9” sailor).

Sailors 5’ 10” – 6’ 5”: Underside of boom sits 0-15cm+ past the tail.


Rig components

1 – Sail: Made of reinforced Mylar and Dacron in various colours, styles and sizes (from 2.0 sq.m-11.0 sq.m).

Boom: Gives the rig rigidity and you something to hold on to. Telescopic adjustment fits varying sail sizes.

Boom clamp: Simple clamp system to fix the boom at your desired height.

Mast: Long carbon rod (often two pieces) that slides inside the luff tube to support the sail.

Mast Extension & Downhaul: Pulley system tensions the downhaul to give the sail stability and shape.

Head: Top of the sail.

Clew: Section of the sail that’s attached to the boom end.


* TUNING TIP – Outhaul: Line that fixes clew to end of boom. If you have sufficient downhaul, you’ll only need 1-2 inches of outhaul.

Foot: Lower part of the sail below the boom.

A loose leech

* TUNING TIP –Leech: Trailing edge of the sail. Tension downhaul until the ‘leech’ is ‘loose’ until the third batten. Yes – just like this!


* TUNING TIP –Battens: Carbon rods remove creases and improve stability. Apply lots of downhaul to ensure that they ‘rotate’ easily around mast. The top two battens should come straight away from the mast, and the bottom battens should rotate about 50% around the mast.

Luff Tube: Narrow sleeve into which the mast slides to support the sail. Length of ‘luff’ depicts the length of mast required.


Q. What sort of sail should I get?

A. Go for freeride ‘rotational’ sails with 4 – 6 battens. Avoid ‘camber induced’ slalom / race sails. These have plastic inserts (camber inducers) to give the luff more depth and rigidity, and are much heavier and more awkward to handle.

Q. What type of mast should I go for?

A. On sail sizes below 7.0m, ideally go for ‘skinny’ or reduced diameter masts (RDM) as they make the rig feel very light and easier to handle. For large sails over 7.0m, standard diameter masts (SDM) are best.

Q. How much carbon content do I need?

A. 60-75% carbon content is adequate – anything above that is a treat! Skinny low carbon content masts will feel lighter than higher carbon content wider diameter masts.

Q. Do I need a different mast or boom for each sail?

Using an adjustable mast extension will allow you to use one mast on a couple of sails. Sails of 5.5m to 6.5m will most likely fit on a 430cm length mast. Smaller sails (around 4.5m and below) will need a 400cm mast. But your telescopic boom will cover 3-4 different sizes of sail.


You might vary slightly from the recommendations here (+ or – 0.25-0.75m), but it represents common quivers.


  • On sails below 6.0m you want approximately a 15% gap between sail sizes (e.g. 5m and 5.75m)
  • On sails above 6.0m you want approximately a 20% gap between sail sizes (e.g. 6.5m and 7.8m)
  • Lightweight refers to sailors under 80kg
  • Heavyweight refers to sailors over 80kg
  • Small ladies/teenagers under 65kg would shift the whole range size down 0.7m -1.0m from the lightweight recommendations
  • Date a windsurfer to share your quiver!

Level                                    Board                        Stature                        Number of sails             Suggested Sizes

Beginner/Improver            170L+                        Lightweight            2 sail quiver                        5.0m / 6.0m

Beginner/Improver            170L+                        Heavyweight            2 sail quiver                        5.5m / 7.0m

Beginner/Improver            170L+                        Lightweight            3 sail quiver                        5.0m /6.0m & 7.0m

Beginner/Improver            170L+                        Heavyweight            3 sail quiver                        5.5m /6.5m & 8.0m

Freeride short board            140-170L            Lightweight            2 sail quiver                        5.5m & 7.5m

Freeride short board            140-170L            Heavyweight            2 sail quiver                        6.0m & 8.0m

Freeride short board            140-170L            Lightweight            3 sail quiver                        5.0m/6.0m/8.0m

Freeride short board            140-170L            Heavyweight            3 sail quiver                        5.5m/7.0m &8.5m

Freeride short board            140-170L            Lightweight            4 sail quiver                        4.2/5.0m/6.0m/8.0m

Freeride short board            140-170L            Heavyweight            4 sail quiver                        5.5m/7.0m & 8.5m


Beginner: Using a small training sail (below 5.0m) and still counting the number of days on a board.

Improver: Has spent a few weeks on a board and learning to plane and harness.

Intermediate: Sailing in harness and footstraps while planing.


For Beginner-Improver courses both in the UK and abroad get wiser by contacting [email protected]

Seeing as he wrote the national coaching system and provides incisive technique features for BOARDS, it’s worth checking out Simon Bornhoft’s for beginner improver / intermediate / advanced books, courses, fabulous holidays and advice.


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