Windsurfing Pioneer— An American Original
Catamaran Sailor 1937-2017
By Steve Morrell
By Chad M. Lyons
Newman Darby on his sailboard in 1963. Photo by Naomi Darby.
e revolutionized the sport of sailing with his invention, but many have not yet heard about him. S. Newman Darby designed, built and sailed his first sailboard in Pennsylvania back in 1964, yet he was not widely recognized as the father of windsurfing until two decades ago. Newman Darby passed away on Dec. 3 at the age of 88 at his home near Jacksonville, FL. The sailing world had heard that two Californians had patented the “Windsurfer” just a few years after Darby published his design in Popular Science. The existence of the U.S. patent gave credibility to the Californian assignees as the inventors. I was introduced to the “Windsurfer” brand, Sailboard, back in 1974. At the time there were fewer than 3000 Sailboards made. Soon I was a windsurfing fanatic, competitor and certified instructor and author. Through the years, the sport and industry was littered with cease-and-desist letters and court battles. Many of those legal battles awarded the patent holder with large awards of back royalties. Some of the manufacturers folded as a result. The frequent legal conflict gave windsurfing a bad reputation. In spite of this, the sport flourished globally in the 70s and 80s, especially in Europe, and became an Olympic Sailing Class in 1984. In the early 1990s the US Windsurfing Association had planned to open a museum for the sport in Corpus Christi, TX. When I heard about this project, I wrote a list of items that I thought should be in the museum. When the leaders at the USWA saw my list, they asked me to find the items, and where possible, get them donated or loaned. Though I had heard of Newman Darby by then, I had not seen much evidence. When I contacted Newman he sent me plenty of
News & Views for Southern Sailors
ick White, a legendary beach catamaran sailor who lived much of the year in the Florida Keys, passed away on Jan. 11 after a short battle with lung cancer in Tavernier, Florida Keys. Rick and his wife, Mary Wells, were well-known in the last three decades for hosting catamaran regattas in Key Largo, many of which he wrote about that were published in SOUTHWINDS, along with his photos of the events. This last December, they hosted the 33rd Key Largo Steeplechase, a 110-mile trek around Key Largo for catamarans. Also hosted every December in recent years was the Hobie Wave Nationals. And in January, the Tradewinds Midwinter Open Cat Nationals/NAMSA North Americans were held Jan. 14-16—shortly after Rick’s death. Rick and Mary also ran CatSailor.com, a popular website among beachcat sailors. In the 90s they had a newsletter called Catamaran Sailor which went digital in the early 2000s and can be subscribed to via the website. The website is a treasure trove of information for beachcat sailors and includes articles, a forum, classifieds for beachcats, photos, calendar of beachcat events, gear—and much more. There is a forum for almost every beachcat out there. Rick was also known for books he authored on catamaran sailing, and seminars he held, which are recorded on DVDs. The books and videos are available on Amazon.com.
records, including the August 1965 issue of Popular Science. I was overwhelmed. All of the evidence left no doubt that Newman was the true “father” of our sport. The museum never opened due to a shortfall in fundraising. In the late 90s American Windsurfer magazine published two features on the Californian patent-holders, Drake and Schweitzer. After I read the two articles, I called the publisher, John Chao, and told him that the stories were misleading. I suggested that he send the two stories to Newman. He mailed those issues. As I expected, Newman refuted claims in those stories. What ensued were two major reports in American Windsurfer featuring Newman and Naomi Darby and their contributions to sailboarding. Soon, Newman’s early prototype, photos and film were deeded to the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Lemelson Center for Invention. As I reflect on Newman’s life, I feel a flood of emotions. I take great pride in playing a key role in bringing him due recognition. I am now basking in comfort that he knew his legacy would live long after he was gone. Newman will be dearly missed by many. SOUTHWINDS
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