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Indoor Windsurfing: Art, Sport, Or Spectacle

When you hear someone say "windsurfing," you might instantly imagine the blue, open waters of the ocean. The sun is bright and the winds are brisk. The waves lap over each other with a gently pulsating rhythm. The beaches are smooth and white with clean sand and overhead, seagulls can be heard. Experienced windsurfers will describe the breathtaking feeling of being close to nature while skipping along the surface of the water. Because of these things, the concept of transporting this experience into a large tent seems odd. But, indoor windsurfing has attracted the attention of thousands of spectators and participants. In this article, we'll describe what indoor windsurfing is and the reason why it was started.

What Is Indoor Windsurfing?

At its simplest form, indoor windsurfing is nearly identical to conventional windsurfing. The equipment used for the sport is the same. Each windsurfer who participates uses a board, sail, mast and harness. The primary difference is in the manner in which the windsurfers are propelled. Outside, they use the wind to move their boards, gain speed and perform tricks. Inside, the wind is generated by massive turbines. These turbines are typically 2 meters wide and can simulate winds that reach 30 knots.

Windsurfers descend a ramp into an enormous pool. They compete in tournaments where each participant is judged on speed, form and their performance of a number of tricks.

Why Do People Participate?

According to the promoters of indoor windsurfing competitions, the reason for creating the events are mainly for spectators. Outdoors, it's often difficult for people to watch windsurfing competitions. The perfect conditions for windsurfers entail strong gusts of wind that they can use to propel themselves and perform tricks. Unfortunately, these same conditions make it all but impossible for people on the shore to observe the contestants.

Bringing the event inside allows people to watch the windsurfers compete without having to cope with the wind gusts. The windsurfers are able to perform most of their maneuvers due to the dozens of large turbines blowing wind.

Indoor Windsurfing Events

Indoor windsurfing was started in London. Initially considered a novelty, it quickly gained attention from sponsors and many of the world's top windsurfers. Today, an annual competition is held during January at Schroders International Boat Show. Thousands of people descend onto London's Excel Centre to watch professional windsurfers compete with others. Some of the events include freestyle tricks where the windsurfers perform aerials and other maneuvers. Other events include slalom racing, where dueling competitors race across the massive pool, navigating between obstacles along the way. Today, many other indoor windsurfing facilities are being constructed throughout Europe.

It's Not For Beginners

Many of the competitors who participate in indoor windsurfing tournaments suggest that the experience would be difficult for beginners. While winds on the ocean can be gentle, those generated by the turbines are more aggressive. Plus, avid windsurfers note that it's easier to see gusts of wind approaching outside due to winds' effect on the water. They can simply look upwind and modify their approach. Inside, looking upwind is rewarded only by the sight of the turbines. Therefore, it's much more difficult to anticipate the wind.

Indoor windsurfing isn't nearly as popular as traditional windsurfing. But, in many places (such as Europe), it receives enough attention from fans, competitors and sponsors to maintain its momentum. While it continues to strike many as odd, the spectacle may one day achieve mass appeal.