The windsurfing right of way rules

Windsurfing
Windsurfers: they have priority over kiteboarders | Photo: Red Bull

Windsurfing is a safe sport and is guided by several sailing rules. The fundamental windsurfing guidelines set a group of directives that will prevent accidents in the water.

Motorboats - jet skis, fishing boats, speed boats, and runabouts - have to make way for windsurfers, surfers, and wave riders.

In other words, the weakest ones have the right of way, as they can't move or change direction rapidly.

Commuter transportation - ferries, liner ships, pleasure watercraft, maritime police boats - has the right of way over windsurfers, surfers, and wave riders.

Rules say that windsurfers should also keep a distance of three masts from swimmers, surfers, and bodyboarders, which means that windsurfers don't have the right of way over their fellow water sports.

Windsurfing is always forbidden in bathing beaches and coastal swimming areas.

Windsurfing: the right of way rules

Three Golden Rules

Between windsurfers, there are three basic right of way rules: leeward over windward, starboard tack over port tack, and responsibility to maintain direction.

A leeward windsurfer has right of way over the windward windsurfer. This means that the upwind sailor can keep his track.

But, if two windsurfers sail toward each other from different directions, the right of way is given to the one whose sail, from his point of view, is on the left side of the board (starboard tack).

This means that when your right hand is closer to the mast, you have the right of way.

Windsurfing rules also say that the windsurfer with right of way has to maintain his direction and speed, while the sailor who has no right of way has to change direction to avoid collisions.

In wave windsurfing, rules are simple. The first windsurfer in the wave has the right of way, and the closest windsurfer to the peak also has priority.

Finally, windsurfers have priority over kiteboarders.

But remember that a kiteboarder may not know the rules, so play it safe and communicate your decisions when possible.