Windjammer: the world's first soft sailboard by Morey Boogie

Kransco's California Windjammer soft sailboard was designed by Mickey Fremont and produced by the people who brought you the original Morey Boogie.

In the early 1970s, Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake put a sail on a surfboard and called it a Windsurfer.

By 1973, the new sport held its first world championship; by 1984, it was an Olympic sport.

Like Tom Morey's name of "boogie" for a new type of soft foam surf vehicle, the name Windsurfer was such a perfect name that it started to become a generic name for a surfboard with a sail.

They soon came up with a new name for the sport it spawned and called them "sailboards."

The sport was variously called sailboarding or boardsailing, neither of which quite captured the essence of the sport as well as "Windsurfer," but trademarks need to be protected or lost.

The owners of Kransco, who by then owned the Morey Boogie name, were quick to recognize the growing popularity of the emerging new sport and decided to market a soft sailboard.

They worked with sailboard designer Mickey Fremont using some of the technology they had developed for the Morey Doyle line of soft surfboards.

They were looking to design a safe, easy-to-sail introductory board to get in on what was becoming a hot market.

The boards were also about 20 pounds lighter than the competing molded plastic sailboards and substantially less expensive than custom-shaped fiberglass and foam boards.

Buyers had a choice of two different size sails.

Sailboard Design

Windjammer sailboards were made from the same polyethylene core foam and heat-welded skins as the Doyle surfboards.

However, inside the board, instead of fiberglass stringers, they used a double mahogany stringer with blocks of solid mahogany on the centerline to house the daggerboard housing, fin box, nose, and tail blocks, and the three-hole mast base.

At that time, my father, Frank Libuse, shared an industrial space with my graphics business.

The retired Air Force pilot was involved in patternmaking and industrial models.

Most wooden patterns for making molds to make cast iron parts were made from Honduras mahogany.

It was plentiful then but is getting quite rare and expensive now as the rainforests shrink.

Mahogany was used in patterns because of its smooth, warp-free, and even grain, but the feature that makes it popular for use in the water is that, like teak, it resists rotting when wet.

Because he had experience with the material and a complete patternmaking workshop, Frank got the first contract to make a run of stringers and blocks for inside the boards.

I think they did runs of 50 boards at a time.

I remember stacks of woodblocks taking up all the bench space in his pattern shop for a while.

Assembling the boards was probably fairly labor-intensive and was done at Kransco's plant in Tijuana, Mexico.

The boards were soft and flexible and worked OK, but they were not very quick or easy to maneuver.

Marketing the Windjammer

In retrospect, I think Kransco misread the direction the sport would take, thinking that a safe, non-threatening board with plenty of flotation would get a lot of new people into the sport.

In reality, what people wanted was the look of a higher performance board, whether they were up to handling it or not.

The Kransco product poster shows people sailing in a bay and small waves.

I believe the poster photos feature Bobby Szabad riding in the surf between Tamarack and Warm Water Jetty in Carlsbad.

The photos do not stress high performance.

The Magazine Ad

Here's how Windjammer hit the market and how it was promoted in a one-page ad:

As fun as it looks.

Boardsailing is every bit as fun as it looks, and it's a lot easier to learn than you probably think.

You get the challenges and thrills of both surfing and sailing in a unique combination which is different from either.

And ideal conditions for boardsailing are what used to mean it was time to paddle in - a good, stiff breeze and small surf.

It seems like it's always like that, right?

Soft Means Soft!

Dig your toes into the soft, textured deck for no-slip traction, and leave the messy wax or deck shoes at home.

Beginners love the confidence they get from the soft hull, and experts appreciate it, too.

No more bumps and bruises from the inevitable spills while leaning advanced freestyle moves. It's not hard.

Fast and Light

The eleven-foot hull weighs just 28 pounds - a full 10 to 20 pounds lighter than a conventional hard board.

That not only means it's easier to carry around, it means faster turns, quicker acceleration, and higher wave jumps for experts, yet it's easier and more stable for beginners.

Expert Design, Proven Construction

Morey Boogie is the most experienced manufacturer of soft surfing products in the world.

In fact, we invented them! Our experience with the Morey Boogie and the Morey Doyle soft surfboard was a natural application to a sailboard.

But we didn't just stick a sail on a surfboard.

The Windjammer hull was designed by Mickey Fremont, a world-renowned sailboard designer.

The rigging is an equipment freak's dream - sophisticated European fittings, adjustable daggerboard and fin, aluminum booms, gorgeous multicolored sail, and three-position mast base, to mention a few.

All this and an unbelievably low price too... How can you lose?

Why Wait?

If you find yourself saying, "I'd like to try that someday, why wait?

The soft Windjammer is the perfect way to get into boardsailing.

Then when the wind comes up, you're not finished for the day - the fun is just beginning!

Enjoy, enjoy.

Windjammer: the ad used to promote Kransco's California Windjammer soft sailboard

The Instruction Manual

I was tasked with putting together a small 5-1/2 x 8-1/2" booklet that covered the basics of rigging and sailing your board.

Having just learned to sailboard myself, I was in an ideal position to understand how to teach someone the skills needed.

At the time, there were few books on the subject, and no other manufacturers took the trouble to offer instructions that went beyond initial assembly.

In truth, learning to sailboard takes some instruction.

It is not like either sailing or surfing, although the balance skills of surfing and the sailing knowledge of using the wind for power come together in a unique way.

The board is steered not with a rudder but by leaning the mast and sail fore or aft to turn and pulling (or "sheeting in") the sail toward you to accelerate.

It is not at all intuitive like riding a bodyboard.

I could usually teach someone to navigate upwind so that they could return to their starting point when coming back downwind in two sessions.

It sounds easy, but most new sailboarders would have to be rescued from downwind in their first few attempts.

You also fall down a lot when first learning to haul the sail up out of the water, and once you have fallen and climbed back up on the board so many times, you start to lose your sense of balance.

At that point, you are just going to keep falling and not make any further progress, and you need to get a night's rest and come back to it the next day.

Then, suddenly, it all makes sense, and you start to get the hang of it.

What Killed the Sport

As the sport progressed, there was a natural tendency to seek out more and more challenging places to sail.

Living by the ocean offered the additional challenge of sailing in waves, meaning you could actually surf the board coming in and use the waves as jump ramps going back out if the wind was sideshore.

Doing this at a popular surfing spot did not endear you to the locals, however, because you could really dominate the break, picking off the best waves way outside of the pack.

However, the consequences of falling in the surf could also be expensive, as the waves had the power to break aluminum or carbon fiber masts, bases, booms, and battens if you fell in the surf line.

The sport soon grew to where the serious sailor would own two or three specialized, custom-made boards, a quiver of masts, bases, booms, and sails for all conditions, whereas when you started out on your first board, you always had the right rig.

You spent your day sailing.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "A man with one watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure."

For sailing, that means if you have a choice of two or more sails, you are going to be constantly spending time on the beach trying to get just the right combination of sail and board for the ever-changing wind conditions.

Re-rigging a sail takes time.

Fortunately for me, working for Morey Boogie gave me access to others in the surf industry, and I could get deals to try prototypes or evaluate new gear.

Even so, as the equipment got better and better, it also got more expensive.

It would not be unusual for three of us to load up our gear for a day of surf sailing at Seal Beach and have easily several thousand dollars worth of gear on the roof racks.

It was a good day if you didn't break something expensive - the quest for more speed was never-ending.

I remember a friend once saying, "I knew this sport was going downhill when they started putting battens in the sails."

Windjammer: it used a double mahogany stringer with blocks of solid mahogany on the centerline to house the daggerboard housing, fin box, nose and tail blocks, and the three-hole mast base | Photo: Libuse

Speed Sailing "The Ponds"

I was fortunate to live near one of the world's premier speed sailing spots. At the same time, my skills and my gear were at their peak to take advantage of it.

Just west of Palm Springs, California, was a series of mile-long, 200-yard wide water replenishment ponds that were constructed to raise the water table under the desert city that daily wasted thousands of gallons of precious water to evaporation to water the many golf courses.

It happened to be at a location where, every afternoon, the hot desert caused air to rise and draw in the cooler air from the coast through a narrow pass between two mountain ranges.

Almost every afternoon, you could count on winds up to 60 miles per hour or more blowing directly across these ponds.

They were narrow, so the wind didn't have much time to generate chop.

Rows of giant windmills covered the dikes and surrounding foothills to turn wind energy into electricity.

Each pond was like a drag strip where you could sail all out on a full reach, carve a huge gybe at the end, and sail back full speed.

Your heart would start beating fast as you approached the pass.

It was exhilarating!

It was also illegal, and you had to sneak in past several fences and park your car on the dunes and embankments between the ponds.

You didn't want to drive a nice car there, as the wind blew the sand like a sandblasting tool taking off the car's paint as well as the skin on your legs.

Sometimes, it blew so hard that no one had a small enough sail, so you would have to lie in the water under your sail to keep the blowing drops of water from stinging your face.

After sailing in a place like that, it was hard to get up the energy to go back to sailing in 12 knots of wind on Mission Bay.

When they locked the gate on the Ponds, I pretty much quit sailing.

As fun as that sport was, it still surprises me that you never see anyone with a sailboard on their racks anymore.

However, up until last summer, my family still had two Windjammers at our lake property in Wisconsin, and my kids and grandkids loved to paddle them, sunbathe, or jump on them just for fun.

After all these years, the mahogany stringers had become infested with carpenter ants who devoured the rare mahogany from the inside out, taking all the rigidity out of the boards, but up until the end, they were still fun to sail.

Words by Craig Libuse | Former Morey Boogie Art Director

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