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Windsurfing - Humble Beginnings
Most people feel the history of windsurfing began around the year 1965 when two Southern California boys realized that the big problem with surfing was that you had to wait for a wave to come along. The two men were named Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake. They developed the idea of combining the sports of sailing and the sport of surfing. The result was a fiberglass board with a sail attached by the universal swivel joint. They called their invention the "Windsurfer" and began promoting and marketing it.
Schweitzer was a businessman and Jim Drake was an aeronautical engineer. Between them they not only developed a practical product, but promoted. It caught on quickly and before long interest in windsurfers spread to Europe. The men were not satisfied with the fiberglass boards and began a search for a new material. This search led to polyethylene boards which has been the most common material ever since. In 1973, Schweitzer bought Drake's share of the patent for a mere $36,000.
Through the 1970's and 1980's, windsurfer continued to grow in popularity. The sport developed competitive classifications and was even made into an Olympic sport. The success story developed a snag, however, as Schweitzer became embroiled in a battle to preserve his patent rights to the windsurfer design.
In 1965, around the same time that Schweitzer and Drake were developing their first windsurfer, a man in Pennsylvania named S. Human Darby had invented a variation of the windsurfer. He called his board a sailboard and published an article about it in Popular Science Magazine. Although it appears that Schweitzer and Drake had never seen the article or even heard of Darby or his sailboard, the patent rights of the Windsurfer were restricted. Another case involving a British man who had been wind sailing on a similar product also was lost by the Windsurfer company.
In the 1990's, windsurfer suffered a bit of a decline as the products became more expensive and not as easy to learn to sail. In recent years, windsurfer is making a come back as new products are introduced making the sport more beginner friendly. Windsurfing has caught the imagination of both sailboat fans and surfers. It was the perfect combination of two popular sports and it seems likely it will remain a recreational and competitive water sport for many years to come.