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Newman Darby, Sailboard Inventor
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A recent photo of Darby on a sailboard

“My hobby is building and inventing things. I’m still building and I will keep on building.”

More Photography:

Newman Darby in front of the National Museum of Natural History
“I don't draw a line between play and work.”

Naomi Albrecht tests Darby’s first sailboard, 1964
Albrecht on Darby’s first sailboard, 1964

Sailboard Inventor

Commercial artist Newman Darby's personal, lifelong passion for boatbuilding led to his invention of the first sailboard, better known as a windsurfer.

“In 1942 or 1943 I bought a small boat with a keel and rudder. I wanted to go to a local island where there were Indian relics. But the water was shallow, so I took off the keel. I found that I could steer by tipping the sail left or right, so I got rid of the rudder, too.”

By 1964 Darby's experiments with sailing techniques led to a breakthrough: his girlfriend (later wife) Naomi Albrecht sailed his latest design while standing on a board. Unlike the sails on conventional sailboats, the sail on this one could be tilted on a pivoting mast to change direction and control the boat without using a rudder. It had never been done before.

Darby kept refining the design. His most important innovation was a special kind of universal joint for connecting the sail to the board, which allowed for greater control of speed and steering.

“You can feel the power of the wind and by feeling it, you can control it. It's the simplest form of sailing in the world. And now millions of people can do it.”

Next: Darby's First Sailboard ›

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