What’s With Today’s High-Wind Windsurf Boards?

For “mature” Gorge riders, our showroom of the latest high-wind windsurf shapes sparks lots of head scratching.

Short, wide, thruster, quad? What gives?

Here are the 11 questions we hear most, along with their simplest answers.

By Eddy Patricelli
Why are today’s boards so short and wide?

Think shape skis. Shorter, wider outlines enhance control and turning prowess. Riding today’s shapes (pictured right), you’re the pilot, not passenger, through a broader range of conditions. No more tail walking, or getting bucked off the water. Today, one modern multifin high-wind board canvases conditions that required two boards from the distant past. An 85-liter board in 3.7 winds? Yes!  


Left: 1989 Mistral Challenge Flex 8’8″ (263 cm), 95 L, 57 cm wide

Right: 2023 Starboard Kode 95, 7’6″ (229 cm), 62 cm wide

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What are the drawbacks of short, wide multifin shapes?

Planing power and top speed. Compared to single-fin predecessors, some argue that modern multifin boards sacrifice a touch of planing power and top speed. Neither shortcoming feels dramatic for recreational riding here in the Gorge. In fact, some Big Winds’ customers claim they’re faster on a multifin shape thanks to the added control they feel in rough water. It lets them keep the pedal floored.


Connie Ozimek, Co-Owner, Big Winds

2022 Fanatic Freewave 75, 220 cm long, 56 cm wide

What happened to single fin wave and bump-and-jump boards?

They all but vanished. The driving force in board design has been expanding a board’s wind range. Getting more from less. Multifin boards improve high-wind control. Also, today’s shapes feature wider tails compared to their single-fin predecessors. Wide tails risk a bouncy ride through chop. Enter thruster and quad fin systems. They enhance grip, creating a “planted” riding sensation that tames a bouncy ride. 


2007 Fanatic Freewave 77, 237 cm long, 56 cm wide

What’s With Today’s High-Wind Windsurf Boards?
I’ve ridden a single fin board for 25 years. What stance adjustments will a modern multifin board require?

A Light Back Foot

When riding an older single-fin board, you drive off the fin, load your back foot, and tweak it in search of a flat, fast board trim. Modern multifin boards trim flat more naturally when underway, without as much back foot loading or coaxing. You ride with a relatively relaxed back foot. Less is more. 

Patience With Planing

Riders accustomed to long, single-fin shapes often overload short, multifin boards as they drive off the fins to get up to speed. Planing on today’s shapes, especially when underpowered, requires a light back foot, and a touch of patience. Let the board accelerate to full speed on a beam or broad reach before loading the fins with back foot pressure. Wait a beat.

Get Forward While Shlogging

On modern short, wide shapes, the standing area for slogging has shrunk. Where you put your feet, and how you weight them, becomes more critical for balance and board trim. In general, the adjustments riders must make is to slog with more weight over the front foot, and to tilt the sail forward. Doing so puts more weight over the widest, most stable part of the board, and prevents the board from rounding upwind.

Can I rest my boom on the back of the board for waterstarts with a modern board?

Maybe. The answer varies from board to rider. Some high-wind models are more accommodating than others. If in doubt, shoot us a text or call. Share your boom height measurement. We’ll find a perfect fit! 

What’s With Today’s High-Wind Windsurf Boards?
I own an 8’4” Gorge board from 2002. What’s the modern replacement?

An 85-liter freewave board with a thruster setup. But that’s a guess. It helps us to know your old board’s volume, and the sail size you envision using most on your new board. Let us know here.

What’s With Today’s High-Wind Windsurf Boards?
What if I don’t like a thruster setup? Can I ride a modern board as a single fin?

Yes, and most board makers accommodate this wish by providing plugs to cover the thruster slots not in use. Note that to ride a thruster shape as a single fin demands a larger center fin than provided. What size single fin will you need? We can help!   

What’s With Today’s High-Wind Windsurf Boards?
Which is better for me? Thruster or quad?

Choose a thruster setup for … 

planing power, speed, maneuverability

all water use, bump and jump and waves

intermediate to expert riding skills

transitioning from older, single-fin shapes

Choose a quad setup for … 

control and maneuverability

swell slashing and wave riding

advanced to expert riding skills

embracing modern multifin shapes

Some board makers list a board’s sail range as  “Up to 5.7” or “Up to 6.0”. They don’t offer a minimum sail size. Is this “Up to” language realistic, or marketing B.S.?

Board makers are famously generous with sail range listings. That said, last summer I was stunned to be riding an 86-liter board with a juiced 3.4 sail in complete control. In my opinion, the usable sail range of a modern high-wind board is staggering. It is better than it has ever been. 

Friends tell me I can “size up” with today’s boards. That my ancient 72-liter board could be a new 80-liter board, or bigger. Is this true?

Yes, generally speaking, this advice holds true. The “big board” penalties of the past – tailwalking, limited maneuverability – are long gone. Simply put, it’s tough to get blown off a modern, multifin board. Likewise, an 80 or 90-liter board of today is insanely fun for swell riding. There’s very little risk involved by adding more foam under your feet.  

Today’s boards are spendy, requiring a big leap of faith. Do you offer demos?

Yes, if the board is here in our showroom, it is yours to take for the day at no charge. If you like it, it’s yours to purchase. If not, we kindly ask that you demo it gently. 

Eddy Patricelli was the editor of WindSurfing magazine from 2001-2007. He has been sailing the Gorge for 30 years. See his best video tip for getting your kid hooked on windsurfing here.