Jim Drake: the co-inventor of the Windsurfer and father of modern windsurfing

Jim Drake, the co-inventor of the "Windsurfer" and father of modern windsurfing, has passed away at the age of 83. The North American aeronautics engineer improved the early design by Peter Chilvers and Newman Darby.

In the 1970s, Jim Drake and his partner Hoyle Schweitzer submitted the patent for their "Windsurfer" design, based on the Newman Darby's techniques. They credited him for their version of the sailboard.

Jim Drake learned from Darby's developments and upgraded the board and rig layout, as well as the universal joint which stands modern and used all over the world.

Drake was born in California in 1929. Thirty five years later, he was trying to develop a kite powered surfboard that would allow him to sail down the Potomac River.

Later, he meets Hoyle Schweitzer - a keen surfer - and they decide to build and test their first models in Marina del Rey. After falling several times, he knew he had to introduce the uphaul. Watch an historical video documenting these water tests, here.

By 1967, they had already named it "Baja Board" but, interestingly, it was a Public Relations professional who found the perfect word for their sailing concept. "I have the perfect name for it! The Windsurfer!", the PR yelled. Name accepted.

In 1973, Jim Drake sells his half of the patent to Windsurfing International, owned by Hoyle Schweitzer, for $36,000. The windsurfing business grows and is very popular in Europe during the 1980s.

The US courts decide that the "Windsurfer" is strongly inspired in Peter Chilvers and Newman Darby's prototypes and Schweitzer closes his Windsurfing International. Jim Drake's contribution to the sport of windsurfing is decisive.

"I have an optimistic view about the sport (...) The one that's brought on by the media is the picture of the sport as being this athletic circus trick of jumping waves and whirling around this great wide ocean", Drake once told.

"Well, that's simply not what the sport is. Just not at all. It has much more broad application and pleasures to it. Because people who are athletically inclined but not as superbly coordinated as Robby [Naish] can enjoy the sport in many regards without having to ever get airborne".