Stephan van den Berg: the first Olympic windsurfing gold medalist | Photo: ANP

In 1984, windsurfing became the youngest sport ever to be included in the Olympic Games. Since then, sailboarding has always been part of the Olympic sailing competition.

The young sailing class made its debut at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics with a men's only regatta.

The first-ever Olympic sailboard was the Windglider, the one-design windsurf board manufactured in Europe by Fred Ostermann.

The Windglider used a 6.5 m2 sail, and the class rules didn't allow harnesses.

The daggerboard weighed around four kilograms and was carried over the shoulder during the downwind legs.

Windglider: the Olympic windsurfing class for Los Angeles 1984

The First Olympic Test

Windsurfing's first Olympic regatta was a highly tactical, nine-nautical mile course challenge won by Stephan van den Berg from the Netherlands.

It was a race for the fittest.

The 1984 Olympics also featured a Windsurfer One Design exhibition event with slalom, freestyle, and long-distance demonstrations.

Four years later, in the Seoul 1988 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose the Lechner Division II, a windsurfing class with 6.7 m2 sails, round-bottomed 13-foot boards, and excellent upwind performances in light wind conditions.

Lechner Division II: the Olympic windsurfing class for Seoul 1988

Making Changes

The IOC had two options: the Lechner Division II, made in Austria, and the Davidson, made in Sweden.

The reason for the choice was a mystery to most, but it was hinted that North Sails influenced the final decision.

The organization chose Pusan as the sailing venue.

But the spot was so windy that there was a lot of equipment damage and rescues for many classes, resulting in many DNFs and protests.

Bruce Kendall, who had previously won bronze in Los Angeles, managed to win the gold medal in South Korea.

For the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, the organizers kept the Lechner class.

Nevertheless, they modified it by bringing the centerboard and mast track further back and adding a larger, camber-induced 7.3 m2 sail produced by NeilPryde.

Lechner: the Olympic windsurfing class for Barcelona 1992

The Mistral Era

Despite the polluted waters and equipment failures, windsurfing presented its first female Olympic medalists.

Barbara Kendall, Bruce's sister, won gold. The men's competition was taken out by French sailor Franck David.

Between 1996 and 2004, the IOC opted for the Mistral One Design (MOD) class, and the decision gave Olympic windsurfing a huge boost as a universal sport.

Mistral One Design: the Olympic windsurfing class for Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, and Athens 2004

NeilPryde and Foiling

However, in 1997, Mistral decided to modify the Olympic equipment to make it more durable and shifted the production back to Europe.

However, the supply and quality of the Olympic gear didn't meet demand, and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) requested a drastic change and a new era for Olympic sailboarding.

The new RS:X Class, developed by NeilPryde, features a 9.5 m2 sail (8.5 m2 sail for female sailors) and delivers a balanced compromise between traditional raceboards and Formula Windsurfing boards.

The RS:X sailboard equipment was featured in Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016. It made its last appearance in Tokyo 2020.

In Paris 2024, the official Olympic windsurfing equipment will be the iQFoil.

RS:X: the Olympic windsurfing class for Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016

Windsurfing in the Olympic Games | List of Medalists

Los Angeles 1984 (Windglider)

Gold: Stephan van den Berg (NED)
Silver: Scott Steele (USA)
Bronze: Bruce Kendall (NZL)

Seoul 1988 (Lechner Division II)

Gold: Bruce Kendall (NZL)
Silver: Jan Boersma (AHO)
Bronze: Mike Gebhardt (USA)

Barcelona 1992 (Lechner)

Gold: Franck David (FRA)
Silver: Mike Gebhardt (USA)
Bronze: Lars Kleppich (AUS)

Gold: Barbara Kendall (NZL)
Silver: Zhang Xiaodong (CHN)
Bronze: Dorien de Vries (NED)

Atlanta 1996 (Mistral One Design)

Gold: Nikolaos Kaklamanakis (GRE)
Silver: Carlos Espinola (ARG)
Bronze: Gal Fridman (ISR)

Gold: Lee Lai Shan (HKG)
Silver: Barbara Kendall (NZL)
Bronze: Alessandra Sensini (ITA)

Sydney 2000 (Mistral One Design)

Gold: Christoph Sieber (AUT)
Silver: Carlos Espinola (ARG)
Bronze: Aaron McIntosh (NZL)

Gold: Alessandra Sensini (ITA)
Silver: Amelie Lux (GER)
Bronze: Barbara Kendall (NZL)

Athens 2004 (Mistral One Design)

Gold: Gal Fridman (ISR)
Silver: Nikolaos Kaklamanakis (GRE)
Bronze: Nick Dempsey (GBR)

Gold: Faustine Merret (FRA)
Silver: Yin Jian (CHN)
Bronze: Alessandra Sensini (ITA)

Beijing 2008 (RS:X)

Gold: Tom Ashley (NZL)
Silver: Julien Bontemps (FRA)
Bronze: Shahar Tzuberi (ISR)

Gold: Yin Jian (CHN)
Silver: Alessandra Sensini (ITA)
Bronze: Bryony Shaw (GBR)

London 2012 (RS:X)

Gold: Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED)
Silver: Nick Dempsey (GBR)
Bronze: Przemyslaw Miarczynski (POL)

Gold: Marina Alabau (ESP)
Silver: Tuuli Petäjä (FIN)
Bronze: Zofia Klepacka (POL)

Rio 2016 (RS:X)

Gold: Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED)
Silver: Nick Dempsey (GBR)
Bronze: Pierre Le Coq (FRA)

Gold: Charline Picon (FRA)
Silver: Chen Peina (CHN)
Bronze: Stefania Elfutina (RUS)

Tokyo 2020 (RS:X)

1. Kiran Badloe (NED)
2. Thomas Goyard (FRA)
3. Kun Bi (CHN)

1. Yunxiu Lu (CHN)
2. Charline Picon (FRA)
3. Emma Wilson (GBR)

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