S. Newman Darby: the inventor of the sailboard, the father of windsurfing | Photo: Naomi Albrecht

For many, Newman Darby is the original father of windsurfing - the man who opened the way to an entirely new form of sailing.

Sidney Newman Darby Jr. was born on January 31, 1928, in Wilkes-Barre, a small city located in Pennsylvania, just 120 miles west of New York.

Darby loved boats, and at 12, he was already building them.

Sidney also worked for his father, who owned a sign shop. His most genius invention would only see the light of day when he hit 20.

Living in a region surrounded by forests, he had little to do. The lakes didn't have waves, so he couldn't surf. It was boring.

That's when, in 1964, he decided to connect a simple sail to a wood plank using a universal joint made of nylon rope.

After experimenting with it, he told his wife: "This is so much fun, it could be an Olympic sport."

Darby was right. Twenty years later, windsurfing debuted at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.

But there was still a lot of work to do.

Sidney had to conquer a totally new market, and so he shared his new sailing craft project with the world via Popular Science (August 1965), an American magazine.

"Sailboarding is sailing with a difference. You get all the fun of handling a fast, responsive boat," wrote S. Newman Darby.

"You can have the fun of spills without the work of righting and bailing out."

"And you can learn to master a type of maneuvering that's been dead since the age of the picturesque square riggers."

The article published in Popular Science also features the basic sailing positions, steering techniques, and a fully detailed sketch of his sailboard.

Popular Science, August 1965: Sidney Newman Darby Jr. shared his innovative sailboard with the world

The First, The Pioneer

S. Newman Darby was the first.

The pioneer, the inventor, and the mastermind behind what was later called windsurfing. And he tried to make it a successful business.

However, the setup costs and the process of pursuing a patent were too expensive, and so he had to watch the Californians Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer obtain a patent for their similar sailboard model - the Original Windsurfer.

Newman Darby and his wife Naomi Albrecht didn't like it and contacted the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The institution advised them to get in touch with Windsurfing International Inc. to try to persuade Drake and Schweitzer to drop the patent.

The Darby family never went ahead with legal action, and Sidney never got the financial credit he deserved for his innovative sailboard design.

The good news is that, in 1996, he was able to share his story with American Windsurfer magazine, and two years later, the National Museum of American History bought his original sailboard drawings, notebooks, photos, and films.

Sidney Newman Darby Jr. is the father of windsurfing.

That's an undeniable fact, and all windsurfers of the world will forever be grateful to him for his passion, dedication, and vision.

Newman Darby passed away on December 3, 2016, in St. Johns, Florida. He is survived by his wife, Naomi Albrecht, his brother Ronald, and his daughters, Cindy Tucker and Ms. Brown.

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