A few weeks ago I read this Windsurfers to know post on James' blog, and one name immediately popped up in my mind.
He's a good friend of mine and a great guy overall. He's also my only gear supporter, which makes him particularly smart... ;-)
But, other than that, here are the reasons why I think Hot Sails Maui founder Jeff Henderson is a person that really gave a lot to windsurfing.
1. Kids rigs
If Darby/Drake/Schweitzer invented the sport, Jeff recently gave it a future, being the first one to come up with super light COMPLETE rigs for kids. Previous kids sails attempts didn't work because they were rigged on heavy adult masts and booms.
That was a huge shift in the sport, since now kids can start as young as 5! The new generation of young guns has to thank Jeff for his kid's rigs.
2. Sailing longboards
After the sport was invented, all the development in board shapes went towards speed and planing hulls. There was an unfortunate shift towards faster and more manouvrable shortboards that almost killed windsurfing, making 16 knots the lower limit of wind to have fun. Planing on a shortboard was such a newer and much more fun sensation that almost all of us got rid of the good old longboards. Consequently the number of worldwide windsurfers went radically down. Why? Because 16 knots don't blow as often as 4...
In 1998 Jeff was having a tandem surfboard shaped for him and his wife and he told the shaper to throw a mast box in the middle... why not? He so discovered how much fun was to wave sail in light wind on a board not shaped to go fast and plane, but to perform well on a wave. He started spreading the stoke through interviews on magazines and websites, and now, thanks to the return of Standup Paddle surfing, sailing longboards are starting to appear back on the beaches. Again, a huge contribution to the sport, since you now don't need 16 knots to have fun anymore... 4 will do it again!
And in this case he doesn't even have a personal interest, since his company doesn't make boards! He did it (and still does it) just for the sport's sake.
You guys have probably seen this video already, but I never get tired to watch it again...
About 6 years ago, he had another "re/de-volutionary" idea. Sails in dacron, like the good old days. He just used newer technologies and designs to control the amount of stretch under pressure and came out with a full dacron sail (and pvc window) called Superfreak, that finally had the need for comfort (typical of 90% of the windsurfers) as its main focus rather than the one for immediate/unfiltered power (typical of the 10% of pro/high performance windsurfers).
I personally know a few sailors that were about to quit windsurfing because of too stiff sails that transmit the power too directly and were "saved" by a Superfreak.
I know others that had already quit windsurfing for the same reason and got back into it just becuase they had a go on a Superfreak.
I always use the Alberto Tomba example to describe this. Back in the 90s, when I was young and stupid (hey, I can say "was" because now I'm 45...), I bought the same exact ski boots as our national ski hero. The boots were fantastic, super responsive, but hard as marble and I couldn't ski in them for more than an hour. So I had to buy a pair of softer, recreational ski oriented boots and they felt like slippers in comparison... I could ski six hours straight!
AND, you can order a Superfreak either in one of some 500 already available color schemes or you can design your own. That brings windsurfing back to the colorful image it used to have, doesn't it?
This is Thomas enjoying super cold conditions in Denmark on his electric black Freak. Meeean looking sail...
There's other things I could mention (for example this revolutionary boom design that greatly reduces arm fatigue) and I'm sure there's also others that I am not even aware of, but I'd like to finish this post, mentioning a skill of Jeff that probably not many know. And being italian, I take credit of being able to judge...
He cooks a mean pasta! Here he is (first one on the right) on the job in a recent party with some of his company staff/friends...
Jeff, thank you so much for all of the above!
PS. Better practice a little more before calling me back for that ping pong return match, though...