Surfing vs. Windsurfing: What Is the Difference?

Surfing vs. windsurfing, which watersport is better for beginners? It’s a burning question that has been a topic of debate since the 1960s. The feeling of controlling the waves and wind from under your feet is equally amazing. But which one resonates with you?

How is surfing and windsurfing similar? What sets them apart? These questions are going to be discussed today. Contrary to popular belief, you simply can’t put a pole on a surfboard and immediately use it for windsurfing.

This article will feature a brief overview of what is there to expect when you start surfing or windsurfing. By the end of it all, you should have an idea whether you favor the waves or the wind… or both.

Equipment and Gear

Just like with any sport, spending on gear is both exciting and frustrating, depending on your budget.

With surfing, the bare essentials needed are much more affordable than windsurfing. For starters, you would just need a quality surfboard with fins and a traction pad, and your choice of clothing can vary depending on the climate.

For windsurfing, you would need more than a board. You would also need to haul a mast and sail. As for the size of your sail, that would depend on the wind conditions expected. Unlike surfing, it’s very important not to cheap out on your mast and sail as your life depends on it.

How much does it cost to Surf/Windsurf?

If you choose surfing, the minimum amount you would spend is around $1,500. You can save more or get better equipment by scouring the secondhand market. As for windsurfing, prepare at least $3,000 bucks as you need more equipment (and a bigger vehicle) to get started.

Skills and Techniques

Surfing requires a lot of preparation and positioning before doing the actual deed. Apart from paddling, reading the waves and learning how to ride them while maintaining your balance is very important. As you improve, you can learn different tricks to spice things up.

With windsurfing, knowing how to control your sail is a very vital skill. People who have a background in sailing will only need to focus on keeping their balance on the board as the wind propels them. Once you are proficient enough, there are various tricks you can master.

Learning Curve

Surfing: learning how to surf depends on your locale and the wave conditions. For beginners, catching small waves can help establish confidence, balance, and control. As your skill progresses, the learning curve becomes steeper as you tackle bigger and stronger waves.

Windsurfing: this sport has a steeper learning curve as opposed to what people mostly believe. Having the ability to control the sail as you maneuver your board can be quite challenging for first-timers. Learning how to respond to wind conditions is a very important skill to learn.

Ride Feel

One sport relies on your ability to control the twists and turns, while the other is all about positioning yourself in the right wind direction and making the most out of it.

Surfing gives you the sensation of wading through the waves as you pick and choose your line based on the limited options presented. Being able to gracefully maneuver around the chaos is what makes surfing both beautiful and gnarly.

Windsurfing is a whole different beast. It heavily relies on the wind forecast and direction to guarantee a worthwhile session. Each session can be quite dynamic and adrenaline-inducing, depending on the intensity of the wind and how you’re able to master it.

Safety Precautions

Surfing is relatively safer than windsurfing as it's categorized as a low-impact sport. Then again, the dangers presented are still something you see regularly. Expect bruises, cuts, and scrapes, as well as possible concussions along the way.

Windsurfing has higher safety risks due to its speed and the complexity of the equipment being handled. There’s always a high risk of mishandling the sail at high speeds, especially with crosswinds at play. Being able to control and maneuver yourself is of high priority.

Minimize these risks by learning from certified instructors and bringing medical essentials before venturing out into the sea.

Culture and Community

Both sports offer plenty of opportunities for social interactions anywhere you go. Surfing used to dominate the beaches, but windsurfing has started its own following for almost half a century.

The surf community is one of the biggest communities around the world. It features different cultures from East to West, and it often has plenty of experiences and memories to share. There are always people to meet and surf spots to conquer with other passionate individuals.

The windsurfing culture is filled with very passionate individuals who will eagerly share their experiences and knowledge with anyone willing to learn about their sport. Their festivals have a very welcoming yet competitive atmosphere akin to big surf competitions.

Health and Fitness Perks

Both surfing and windsurfing provide similar health and fitness advantages, even if only done occasionally. Both sports promise a satisfying cardiovascular workout, improved body strength, and dopamine hits with every session.

Both sports provide tremendous benefits when it comes to mental health and well-being. If there’s one thing that surfing does better, it’s improving your core and balance. What windsurfing offers is unrivaled endurance training from controlling and holding on to your sail.


Personal biases aside, you can’t really say surfing is better than windsurfing and vice versa. In reality, these are two complex water activities that have their good and bad sides. Having the ability to tackle both sports is a remarkable skill to have.

Surfing is more suitable for people who enjoy the calm before catching a wave and riding it. Windsurfing is perfect for folks who love fast-paced action that provides a huge dose of dopamine every time you complete a trick.

Regardless of your choice, the real winner here is you. There’s nothing more exciting than experiencing what nature has to offer once you have the right tools to control the outcome. Are you up for the challenge?

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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