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A History Of Windsurfing

Compared to most sports that have become popular through the years, windsurfing enjoyed an explosive beginning. Though it was introduced in 1968, it achieved mass appeal quickly. Veteran surfers and sailing aficionados gravitated to the sport. Its unique mixture of both disciplines attracted a rapidly swelling base of fans from both sports. Within 10 years, the fever for windsurfing had stretched across the coasts and was starting to penetrate Europe. It wasn't long before the Olympic committee was reviewing the sport for official inclusion in the Olympic Games. Below, we'll describe windsurfing's origins, promotion and how its creator found himself embroiled in court.

The Inspiration Of Drake And Schweitzer

Jim Drake was an aerospace engineer by vocation and a sailor by passion. By contrast, Hoyle Schweitzer was a businessman who had a flair for surfing and skiing. Both approached their work and their recreation with equal fervor. Before long, they realized that marrying their respective passions would produce a new sport unlike anything that was currently practiced. Drake formulated the design for a usable mast and sail. Calling their creation the "Windsurfer," Drake and Schweitzer quickly filed for a patent in 1968. 2 years later, they were awarded the patent. Their hybrid sport became known as windsurfing.

Aggressive Promotion Of The Sport

Schweitzer and his wife, Diana recognized early on that the popularity of windsurfing would ultimately depend upon promotion. In order to grab the attention of other surfers and sailing enthusiasts, they need to market their "Windsurfer." Within months after filing for their patents the Schweitzers founded Windsurfing International. It's goal was to produce the the "Windsurfer" board, aggressively market the sport and eventually license the board's design.

This move was instrumental in the sport catching on throughout the United States and Europe. By 1973, the "Windsurfer" design was being manufactured in Holland. Within a few years, European sales of the unique board had surpassed those in the U.S.

The Dark Undercurrent Of Litigation

Drake, wanting to pursue other endeavors, eventually ceded his half of the "Windsurfer" patent to Schweitzer in 1973. Though owning the full patent would imply that credit for the sport's creation and the board's design would rest easily with Schweitzer, his troubles were just beginning. They manifested on multiple fronts. First, manufacturers throughout Europe were selling unauthorized versions of Schweitzer's board. Second, a man named Newman Darby had published an article in 1965 that described the design on a windsurfing board. Within a few years, Schweitzer and his company, Windsurfing International found themselves in court. They spent a significant amount of time defending their rights to the board's design and by extension, credit for inventing the sport.

Ebb And Flow Of Popularity

Despite the litigation that darkened the sport, windsurfing continued to capture the favor of millions of fans. It enjoyed such massive momentum and popularity that by the early 1980's, the Olympic Committee had begun to review the sport. By 1984, windsurfing had become recognized as one of the official Olympic Games. But, the sport's popularity would suffer dramatically during the 1990's. Possibly due to the litigation surrounding the board's design, manufacturers began to produce models that were more complex than previous versions. As the equipment became more complicated to manufacture, prices escalated. Windsurfing began to lose favor.

Over the past several years, manufacturers seem to have taken note of the sport's decline in popularity. In response, they've begun producing board designs that are more welcoming to beginners. The shift in focus is having an effect as new fans are beginning to show interest. While windsurfing has experienced a meteoric rise, its short past has been tumultuous. As a result, its future remains a mystery.