Although the original patent for the windsurfer was granted to Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer, a deeper look into the history of the sport reveals the several men played pivotal roles in the invention process. Here’s a look at five guys whose curiosity and pioneering work helped bring us the modern windsurf board and rigging.
1946-49 13-year old Australian Richard Easthaugh builds a variety of iron canoes with sails mounted on a split-boom. Although he rode these sitting down, the split-boom concept featured prominently in later designs of the windsurf board and rigging. Easthaugh’s design was credited in a patent dispute in 1984, effectively proving the invention much earlier than the accepted Drake/Schweitzer version
1948-49 S. Newman Darby builds a rudderless sailboat with a handheld sail mounted on a universal joint
1963 S. Newman Darby & Naomi Albrecht shift the concept to a surfboard. Their design features a universal mount with a square-rigged, kite-shaped sail controlled by the rider who stands with their back to the lee side
1964 Darby and Albrecht test the first version of their “Darby Sailboard” & found “Darby Industries” to manufacture the craft.
1965 Darby publishes a promo article in Popular Science magazine
Patent papers are started but not filed
Plans for a 12’ “longboard design” are drawn, but ultimately shelved
DIY plans are sold through the classified ads in Popular Science magazine
1966 Darby publishes an article in British magazine A.Y.R.S that leads to European orders for the sailboards.
Declining revenues lead the company to drop the sailboards and manufacture other products. Sailboard products were begun again in the 1980s.
1958 12-year old Chilvers invents and produces a sail-powered board while living on Hayling Island, England
He sails this craft for pleasure but does not produce any for commercial purposes
1970s Chilvers founds the Windsurfing Center in London’s East End to promote windsurfing and sailing to underserved kids
2007 He leads a major redevelopment effort for Hayling Island to become a windsurfing and sailing destination for watersport tourism
Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer
1964-1967 Drake & Schweitzer experiment with various ideas for an upright sailboard that combines the maneuverability of a boat (including rudder and centerboard) with the universal-joint concept necessary to control the sail while standing
1967 They produce an improved version of a sailboard with a modified racing sail and a wishbone boom
1968 Drake and Schweitzer file for a patent, which is granted in 1970
Schweitzer and his wife Diane found the company Windsurfing International to manufacture and market their products. The patent belongs to the company.
1973 Windsurfing Intl. registers the trademark “windsurfer” and launches its product as a “one-design” class
Drake sells his share of the patent to Windsurfing International
1970s The sport grows rapidly, especially in Europe. Windsurfing International produces boards that are based on a Malibu Surfboard design and feature computer-cut sails, an innovation in manufacturing for the time.
1980-87 Windsurfing International & Schweitzer aggressively try to protect their patents. The many court cases result in a gradual loss of patent legitimacy, and ultimately the company ceases operations.