Danilo Lanteri is a piece of windsurfing history, in Italy. We are honored to host, on this website, a series of technical articles that will help us understand how windsurf boards and fins are made, and which elements determine their performance.
Windsurf: the board explained by Danilo Lanteri
In this first episode, Danilo goes back in time, and passionately tells us of his discovery of the windsurf board, and his experiences (also as a shaper and builder) with the first models of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and closes with a hint to some theoretical tips about the performance of our toys.
It is a story that raises our deep envy, because it tells of a pioneering phase, where you enjoyed yourself with little ... (or with less), but above all, in which you continued to test and discover improvements, which, for us, will be impossible to live again. Through this story, Danilo will lead us to the present day, and in subsequent articles will help us understand how are built the boards which we are riding with, today, the reason of their different shapes and performances, and will explain to us the importance of an element, often underestimated, like the fin, for the board behavior in the water.
Danilo Lanteri is still "on the wave peak", and in the village of Riva Ligure (Imperia, Italy), still today, builds windsurf boards and fins. If you need to contact him, check out his website. But now, let's stop our chatting, and let's listen to his interesting words.
What you will read below, better to say it immediately, is not the Truth, that, as someone know, does not exist in itself. But if you will be satisfied with my story of almost 40 years of passion that has become a job, and of windsurfing practice become knowledge, at the end, you will have some more tools to understand by yourself everything you need, and you will discover, then, and with a smile, the traps of the many, too many theorists, who crowd the beaches and surf shops.
As a boy, I used to go on sailing boats, and after being twenty, I abandoned the university, and I started working on a shipyard, where we built sailing boats. Destiny? No, I'm agnostic, I just wanted that obviously! In the meantime (we were in the mid-1970s), a friend had bought a Windsurfer Ten Cate in Holland, the first windsurf I had seen in my life. He also made me try it, but the initial difficulty easily deterred me, because the sailboat was at that time my passion (after skiing that I practiced agonistically). But times were maturing ...
A friend from Nice (France) that I often hang out with (to be true, more often with her sister....) had opened a windsurfing school in Juan les Pins and the result was ... I completely got addicted with this new sport! The following year, it was 1979, I was already building my first board, after getting the hull mold from a Sailboard Grand Prix that my friend had lent me. In France, they were at least two years in advance! I printed the hull but not the deck: I got the deck from a model I made of gypsum, and then printed by making the first changes to the original windsurf. That was my spirit: to do something of my own. And so it was. For two years, I had sold flat boards of 3.90 m, as they were in that time, and empty, because I could not really buy a foaming machine, and so they were built like boats, but it was also my job and therefore I had no difficulty thinking in that way.
1981 was the turning point. During the winter, my French friend let me see a special number of magazine "Wind", on whose cover there was a picture of Robby Naish who jumped 'attached' to a cut windsurfer, and he repeated: "Saut de Vagues, que saut de vagues !": Waves jump, nothing more than waves jump! That was the future! Impossible to resist, I needed a similar tool, too! Said=done! In the spring, I was sailing without daggerboard! No more flat boards, or volume boards, just funboard! The first films of Jurgen Honsheid while jibing (the mythical power jibe!) had totally involved with me: it was essential to learn to emulate the first champions of this sport, that, it was clear, was extraordinarily modern and fascinating!
In August, I was in Corse with a new board, and from that moment, the search for the wind began, stronger and stronger, longer and longer, with more and more waves ... Quickly the boards started to get shorter, and I was more and more involved with the passion, that, in the meanwhile, had also become my work. The dream.... I always wanted to learn new maneuvers, new ways to ride, to jump and surf, and the proximity of France, with its mythical spots and all the champions to imitate who attended them, helped me so much. I had to be at the forefront, to promote my boards!
Then came the Clark Foam boards, which were decorated like a wave surf, so beautiful, but a bit heavy. The asymmetric ones (I also presented one at Surf '83 in Rome), and then the 'Slalom', until you arrive at modern boards, built with sandwich technology, light and rigid.
In the meanwhile, I had not completely abandoned the sailboat, so I was able to participate, in addition to being a crew member on board, to the construction of some big racing boat (it was the time of IOR). So, the sandwich and the "vacuum" technique for me were not new (I used a 10mm PVC sandwich in the deck of my first empty boards). They were the times when the "Custom" boards overwhelmingly advanced, and in all respects, serially manufactured boards, which were less effective, heavier and absolutely unattractive. You could not compare a white plastic board with only some colored lines, to a custom decorated board, with unique designs and shiny colors, and more polished than a mirror! Of course, on our custom we put the "Da Kine" straps that added the final Hawaiian' look, while the standard boards came with straps, that, at most, remembered some Germanic sandals! On the other hand, it was the nation that represented the majority of windsurf brands (but also now)!
Soon, however, the industry had step forward to absorb many of the shapers available in the world, and thus had managed to be up-to-date and efficient in production. Sandwich construction, since the boards of the time were all white, contributed to the passage of knowledges: from now on, an industrial board would have almost no longer recognizable, or at least it looked similar to an hand made board. We are practically in our era. Today, the industry builds up most of the pieces consumed in the world (yes, it's no longer the romantic passion of the debut), and some old or new artisans occupy a niche of irresistible enthusiasts of handmade, unique and personal work. They are still there ...
At this point, having built several hundreds of boards, you could think that I could tell you what are the parameters, shapes, measures to recognize a board well-functioning from a mediocre one (even if everything floats....). But the truth is that.... I do not know either. At least, not at a glance, ie without taking measures and measures, and carefully analyzing the object. But since here I want to give you an easy tool to understand, without having years of experience ... I avoid delivering the usual manual .. .in 10 points! Often, the eleventh would serve! Let's forget it. Material is quite complex and deserves more honesty.
Nowadays, there are no more definitely and completely wrong boards, but only interpretations of use that are maybe not much proper for the purpose. In practice, today's boards on average work well enough, but may not always fully satisfy the programs they were designed for. But this is a typical, almost obvious aspect of industrial production: it is really difficult (almost impossible) to satisfy a large number of different users, for capacity, spot, needs and tastes, with a single product. For this reason, the brands are striving to expand their offer with an infinite range of products to 'cover' all market demands. However, some things have not changed, but have been reconsidered. For example, hydrodynamics are always the same, but applied to new needs. For example, the planning, which is the hydrodynamic field we are referring to when we talk about windsurfing, always comes from the same formula.... I expose it in a very simplified, but reasonably truthful, way, for a practical and easy explanation as our (the most technical readers will forgive).
The planing is the result of the Lift, that we will point to with L, which is a Force that under certain conditions (flat surfaces eg) can be described, I repeat in a somewhat coarse, but fairly close to the true, way, as the result of Surface x Velocity². So let's write: L = SV². Let's to store it in our mind it well, very well, and let's also try to apply it to the elements that are part of our windsurfing world: board, sail, and fin. The principle does not change. The parameters will certainly change, and therefore the result, but the concept will always be the same as described by this equation: Lift will be the product of the amount of Surface on which the flow acts (of a fluid in which the subject is immersed) for the velocity of the Flow on the measured surface. The same goes if it is the object is to slide in a stationary fluid, a typical case of our board or fin ...
We should try to possess this concept so well in our head, to be able to "visualize" the effects of this easy equation, which then so easy it is not, since there is an exponent ... a second degree equation then ... mmm, mumble mumble, the more experienced will have recognized the function that describes a typical curve ... interesting for our understanding! However, we will make things easier, keep it calm.
I think that the Lift concept is an indispensable passage, essential to the understanding of most of the features, peculiarities and problems that we face whenever we have to choose, evaluate, judge a tool, whether it is a board, a fin, a sail or even a way to ride, a maneuver, in short, most of the topics this sport offers us.
From a first analysis of the formula, do you begin to realize that, for example, Velocity, having to be considered with an esponent equal to 2, becomes more important, and at some point tremendously cumbersome, for the result, the Lift, that we need? Those who understand a bit of mathematics will have noticed that our equation describes a progressive increase, greater and greater, in the value of the product, that is our precious Lift. In a Cartesian plane, the curve drawn by the equation would have a pretty slow start from the origin, and then begin rising faster and faster to higher values. But let's not go any further. Instead, let's think to an effect that this equation causes to each of us when we ride: can you imagine when the wind is strong, but very strong, that we are struggling to find the small sail that allows us to withstand the violence of the wind without stopping us from planing? If choosing 3.7 to plan continuosly, we have to open it to spill in the gusts, because it is not manageable, this comes from that V²; ie, at that level of (wind) flow velocity, also a small variation of the base, having to be raised at square, brings tremendously different results, to the point where we can no longer keep the sail, while we sailed very well few seconds earlies! A simple calculation to understand: the square of 2 is 4. The square of 3 is 9. The difference between the bases is 1 and between their squares is 5. But if we deal with 30, its square is 900, and the square of 31 is 961: the difference between the bases is always 1, but this time, between the squares is 61 units! That is, two bases with a difference of a unit correspond to very different squares depending on the base value. If we try (with a semantic but effective jump) to replace the numbers considered, with wind speed knots, and we imagine that the values of the resulting squares match the strengths we will get in the sail ... we immediately understand that it is not the same thing a wind increase from 2 to 3 kts or from 30 to 31 kts! If they were kilograms to hold with the arms, in the first case, almost we would not perceive 5 kgs, but we could not even manage 61! Think of what would happen to 40 knots by increasing the wind of just one knot! Do the calculation, so you begin to get acquainted with ... reality, better than useless chatting on the beaches!
Next time we will go to the practical: shapes, curves, angles, resistances and ... strange phenomena. Just think that what you feel so well with your arms when you have the boom in your hand, also happens under your feet, but the water is 800 times (eight hundred!) denser than the air! Do you start to "feel" ... the formula? We will see some surprises!
See you soon, Danilo.
Are you a passionate windsurfer? Do you want to collaborate with us? Read here, then!
Are you a passionate windsurfer? Do you want to collaborate with us? Read here, then!