Jim Drake

Father of Windsurfing. On May 15 1967 in Marina Del Rey, California, Jim took the first step on the first windsurfer that he designed and built in his Santa Monica garage. Born 38 years earlier in Hollywood, California, he graduated from Stanford University in 1951 to become an aeronautical engineer for what was then called North American Aviation. His career took him to the Pentagon, the Rand Corporation and lastly R and D Associates, a technical studies firm he helped found. He, with help of course, developed the first designs of what became the X-15, the B-70 and the cruise missile. Now retired, he still consults with the Pentagon but more importantly with Starboard where the concept of the ultra-wide short board, known as the Formula, was born. With his late wife, Wendy, they had six children. He and his second wife, Sam, have between them eight children and six-teen grandchildren. They now live in North Carolina but travel frequently to Bangkok, Paris, Rome, Hawaii and elsewhere in pursuit of his technical infatuation with water borne wind powered sports.

“There are only four parts to a sailboard that make it work -- the sailor, the board, the sail and the fin. It is the quality of each of only those four parts upon which the performance of the board depends. Sure, there are also things like harnesses, universal joints, footstraps, etc, but they are only attachments.

Until recently, the emphasis had been to improve the training and skill of the rider, the hydrodynamic design of the board and the structural and aerodynamic configuration of the sail. Formula racing changed all that, not by diminishing the importance of the first three but by putting the spotlight on the fourth -- the fin. Recognizing that, we have created a brand to develop fins as revolutionary to today’s offerings as the ultra-wide short board was revolutionary to windsurfing. It’s likely that this revolution will benefit all forms of windsurfing, slalom, freeride, wave, and most important, entry.

Being successful at creating a revolution is never easy, though in hindsight it always seems so. Understanding what’s going on, in the case of the fin between the fin and the water passing by, begins with theory but requires design and testing -- asking Mother Nature questions.

There are two modes in which a fin operates. One is as fluid dynamic surface the other is as a flexible surface. Both modes interact and the best fin designs are those where the balance struck is tuned to the purpose at hand -- from course racing to wave sailing. There are many physical features of a fin which have powerful effects on both modes. Its area creates drag but also determines the maximum amount of lateral force that can be generated at any given speed. Aspect ratio and taper ratio strongly affect both hydrodynamic efficiency and structural flexibility, the later of which can sometimes be turned to good advantage.

And then there is the foil section itself, probably the most important and most neglected physical feature. The best foil designs gently turn the flow of water to a new direction with a minimum of resistance. This means avoiding sharp corners and abrupt surfaces. A new series of foil shapes are under investigation at Starboard, ones that continuously and gently adjust the surface curvature from the leading edge to the trailing edge. In that respect the goal is very much like that in a relation with a woman. If you treat her gently she will offer little resistance and both of you will benefit.