The story of Naomi Albrecht, the world's first female windsurfer

Naomi Albrecht: she tested the original sailboard in a Wyoming Mountain lake in 1964

In 1964, a young woman named Naomi Albrecht became the first-ever woman to stand up on a sailboard.

It was a summer day like many others. But what was about to take place in a Wyoming Mountain lake in Pennsylvania would change the course of water sports forever.

Naomi Albrecht and her boyfriend, Sidney Newman Darby Jr., were testing an innovative board controlled by a simple sail. She was a canoe racer and photography student. He was a talented 36-year-old amateur inventor.

In one of the first photos taken, we can see Naomi turning the sailboard by tilting the sail. She doesn't use a rudder or a universal joint, a piece of gear Darby had already developed in 1948.

Why? Because he thought it was too dangerous.

According to the couple, Naomi never fell off the sailboard. But at a certain point, a nylon rope universal joint was installed to prevent the sail from flying off in moderate winds.

The Darby Sailboard: a drawing from 1964

Windsurfing's First Lady

Naomi and Sidney married a few months later, and Mrs. Darby continued testing his husband's sailboard improvements.

She would sew the sails and ride the sailboard, and he would photograph and document the evolution.

Later, Naomi helped with the marketing of Darby's inventions when Darby Industries Incorporated was founded, but the company soon ceased operations due to successive legal challenges and patent disputes.

Nevertheless, Naomi Darby had already written a memorable page in the history of windsurfing. She undoubtedly became the sport's First Lady.

The S. Newman Darby Windsurfing Collection documents the couple's inventions from 1944 to 1998. It was donated to the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History by Sidney and Naomi.

The collection includes biographical materials, inventions and designs, sketches, plans and mechanical drawings, photographs, patent specifications, correspondence, legal documents, and an 8mm film.

An original sailboard, rig, mast, and daggerboard from the pioneering period are also housed in the Pennsylvania State Museum at Harrisburg.

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