Windsurfing can be said[by whom?] to straddle both the laid-back culture of surf sports and the more rules-based environment of sailing. Although it might be considered[by whom?] a minimalistic version of a sailboat, windsurfing offers experiences that are outside the scope of other sailing craft designs. Windsurfers can perform jumps, inverted loops, spinning maneuvers, and other "freestyle" moves that cannot be matched by any sailboat. Windsurfers were the first to ride the world's largest waves, such as Jaws on the island of Maui, and, with very few exceptions, it was not until the advent of tow-in surfing that waves of that size became accessible to surfers on more traditional surfboards. Extreme waves aside, many expert windsurfers will ride the same waves as surfers do (wind permitting).
At one time referred to as "surfing's ginger haired cousin" by the sport's legendary champion, Robby Naish, windsurfing has long struggled to present a coherent image of the sport to outsiders. As a result of attempts to claim the word"windsurfer" as a trademark, participants have been encouraged to use different names to describe the sport, including "sailboarding" and "boardsailing". The term"windsurfing" has persisted as the accepted name for the sport, and the word"windsurfer" persists for both participants and equipment.
Windsurfing is predominately undertaken on a non-competitive basis. Organised competition does take place at all levels across the world, including in the olympics. Typical formats for competitive windsurfing include Formula Windsurfing, speed sailing, slalom, course racing, wave sailing, superX, and freestyle.
The boom of the 1980s led windsurfing to be recognized as an Olympic sport in 1984. However, windsurfing's popularity saw a sharp decline in the mid-1990s, thanks to licensing battles, and equipment becoming more specialized and requiring more expertise to sail. The sport experienced a modest revival, as new beginner-friendly designs became available. Further pressure came as a proportion of avid windsurfers took up the similar sport of kitesurfing.