Here is when the choice gets a little trickier. The sail that you’ll choose will depend on a large variety of factors. For a beginner, the primary factor to be concerned about is the size. The sail should be fit for your size, otherwise it will be too hard to handle. You will likely be dropping it a lot, so pick something that you can pull out of the water with minimum effort. Training sails are made according to this principle, and are usually about five meters tall at their largest. You’ll grow out of a training sail very quickly, however, so they are really only made for surfing schools, rather than individual surfers.
The type of sail you’ll end up buying will also depend on two primary factors – your surfing environment and your skill. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you are an intermediate surfer who is looking to do some light-wind surfing in a nearby lake. This is a great place to start, since a lake will help you get a feel for the wind without the crashing waves of the ocean. For this scenario, the best sail to have is a large volume, high-draft sail with a skinny mast. The larger volume, or surface area of the sail, will enable you to surf upright at low wind thanks to added lift. The draft of the sail will help take advantage of whatever wind is there to gain some speed, and the skinny mast simply means that the whole set-up will be lighter and easier to work with. You can also go with a fat mast if you want to accomodate an even larger sail. Fat masts are best suited for ultra-large sails and very low wind conditions on flat water. You sacrifice maneuverability, but if you like cruising down a river or a lake for a meditative experience – this is the seup for you.
Once you progress and become more adventurous about your choice of surfing weather and more active waters, you’ll need a smaller, shallower sail. Beyond about 25mph, the large sail with a fat mast becomes unmanageable, generating more lift that you can reasonably control without being blown out of the water. Small skinny sails allow you to windsurf in winds of up to 45mph. The draft is very shallow and the surface area will usually be twice smaller. This will allow you to maneuver in violent waters more easily while maintaining control. But this kind of sail will require advanced skill, so if you are a beginner, don’t think you can save money by skipping the larger sail and going straight to the small one. You will make your life unnecessarily harder. Most advanced windsurfers have two or more sails, depending on the waters where they will be sailing, the weather on the day, and the kind of windsurfing experience they are looking for. The more you surf, the more you will discover what your preferred style is.