Windsurfing is the fastest growing water sport in the world. It's fast paced, colorful, and exciting. In canada, with our cold water and rapid changes in weather, it can also be dangerous. Commen sence safety practices can make windsurfing enjoyable and safe for experienced sailors and novices alike.
Each person is required to have an approved personal flotation device or an approved lifejacket. It should be comfortable and designed for active use. Approved PDFs also are available with built in harnesses for windsurfing. Just keep in mind that wetsuits are not an approved PDF. Its flotation is inadequate and it is not brightly coloured. It does however, provide good protection against the effects of cold water.
The largest single danger to sailors is hypothermia or loss of body heat, through exposure to cold water and wind. The unprepaired sailor, chilled to the bone, rapidly becomes incapable of operating a sailboard. If the heat loss is not arrested, unconsciousness and death will follow. To prevent temperature-related problems, dress accordingly. Always watch for weather changes, because they can mean trouble and should be watched, so check the weather forecasts before you head out to the beaches. Wind direction should be determined before heading out. Offshore winds will blow you away from shore and make it difficult to return. Wave direction, flags and trees all indicate wind direction.
Play it safe, know your personal limits. You can get into trouble by overextending yourself. Sail with a buddy for support and assistance in case one of you can't continue. In bad weather, stay close to shore as you will get tired faster working against the elements. If you do get tired, head for land immediately. On long distance outings, use an escort vessel. Its always good to know the area where you are windsurfing. Be fully aware of local hazards.
Avoid heavy traffic ares, including shipping lanes, marina entrances, swimming beaches and narrow channels. It is very difficult for other vessels to see you. Try to keep your sail out of the water so you may be seen. While a sailboard is very manoeuvrable, other larger vessels may not be. Give them a wide berth at all times. Rules of the road. A sailboard is legally defined as a vessel and must be operated in a thoughtful and courtous fashion.
Normally, a power vessel must keep clear of a sailing vessel. However, in situations where a large vessel is operating in a restricted channel or shipping lane, and has difficulty in manoeuvring, this rule does not apply and a sailing vessel must keep clear. In situations where two sailing vessels meet, the following rules apply:
1. A sailing vessel with the boom to the port has a starboard tack and right of way over vessels on port tack.
2. If both vessels have the boom on the same side, the one most downwindhas the right of way.
3. In an overtaking situation, the overtaking vessel must keep clear.
Note: All vessels have an obligation to avoid collision, regardless of right of way.
So having covered the most important parts maintenance is next. Keep your board and rigging in good shape and pay perticular attention to your outhaul rigging lines. Sails and rigging deteriorate if not stored out of the weather. When transporting your board, ensure it is properly secured to your vehicle to prevent it from being damaged or injuring someone else.
Always leave your sail plan with a relative or friend so someone knows where you are sailing and when you are expected to return. Self rescue, if you are in trouble, furl your sail, place the mast and sail on the board and paddle to shore. This is the preferred method to use, especially if you have a long distance to go.
To signal distress from a sailboard, use the recognized arm signal, you can also have a personal flare set or distress strobe attached to a PDF. Safety leashes are a good thing to avoid completely losing your sail rig in rough weather, use a strong leash. It must be anchored firmly to the board and mast. For Beginners the easiest and safests way to learn windsurfing is through a reconized and ceritfied school. For further information contact:
Canadian Coast Guard, Western Region
1661 Whyte Ave, Vancouver, BC, V6J-1A9, Tel: 1-604-666-0146