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Newman Darby, Sailboard Inventor
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Darby on his first sailboard, gliding across a lake

Darby on the first sailboard

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Darby paddling an early board without a sail
Darby on an early board without a sail

Darby's First Sailboard

Darby's original sailboard was like a scow--a fast, flat-bottomed boat with broad, square ends--that enabled the sailor to skim over flat water at high speeds. The kite-shaped sail, sewn by Darby’s wife, was one of many shapes and sizes Darby experimented with over the years.

Today most sailboards, better known as windsurfers, are based on surfboards, giving them their distinctive sleek look and the ability to surf on ocean waves. But some manufacturers are starting to make their boards more like Darby's original. John Chao, editor and publisher of American Windsurfer magazine, says, "They're finding that the short and wide boards actually go faster. There's also an interest in going back to Newman’s original kite sail. It’s coming full-circle.”

Darby also developed a joint that connects the sail to the board, allowing for greater control of speed and steering. Before the addition of this joint-a type of universal joint-the sailor's weight held the sail in a simple, shallow hole. But high winds could lift the sail right off.

Next: Universal Joint ›

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