If you’re buying windsurfing gear for the first time, you’ve probably spent hours checking out the best booms and comparing different sails and boards. Shopping for a windsurfing board and rig is a lot of fun, but booms…
Buying a boom clearly doesn’t always inspire the same excitement, but it is an important piece of kit, and so it is important to get the right one for you.
The boom is a vital part of your set-up. It is the metal bar that goes around the sail, giving you something to hold onto when sailing. It allows you to control the sail. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to windsurf.
So, it’s worth spending some time choosing this very vital piece of kit, rather than seeing it as an afterthought.
History of the boom
Boom construction has come a long way over the years. When windsurfing first emerged in the 1960s, the unwieldy booms used were much wider than today’s and made of wood. They were attached to the mast using a rope. These booms were not adjustable, meaning that you would need a different sized boom for every sail size.
Thankfully, these impractical booms were soon replaced by adjustable aluminium booms. The early aluminium booms still had to be connected to the mast using a rope, which meant that it was difficult to get them tight enough.
Modern booms use a clamp attachment (called an inhaul) to fix them to the mast. They are much easier to use and to adjust than older booms. Aluminium booms are standard, but some are made either partly or completely of carbon. Carbon booms are more expensive, but they can offer better performance.
They are stiffer, which means that they are not prone to warping as aluminium booms can be. In practice, if you’re booking windsurfing holidays it’s likely you’ll have to make do with what’s provided – and most windsurfers will still happily sail with cheaper aluminium booms.
Where carbon is useful is for those who like to speed-sail with sails that are large for the wind speed. In those circumstances, aluminium booms can warp or even break. For most sailors, an aluminium or hybrid (a mixture of aluminium or carbon) boom is fine.
Booms are adjustable to different sizes of sail, but not every boom will fit every sail. Check your sail before you buy a boom to fit: you will see the right boom size printed on the sail.
You also need to check that your boom will fit your mast. Some windsurfers use skinny masts, which can offer better performance than standard sized masts. If you want to use a skinny mast, you need a boom to match.
The final choice you need to make when buying a boom is its thickness. Racing sailors tend to use thicker booms, as the materials are under more pressure, so prone to breaking. If you’re not planning to race, go for thinner, easier to hold booms. Your own body (and especially hand) size is also a factor. Smaller hands need thinner booms.
Buying a boom might not be as exciting as buying a sail or mast, but it’s worth taking the time to make sure you get the right one for you.
For more windsurfing blogs and guides, check out: Windsurfing Gear: How to buy a wetsuit / Windsurfing Equipment: Choosing new sails for your board / Top Ten Windsurfing Locations in Egypt / Windsurfing Equipment: Buying your board and gear
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