Class of 2020: Hoyle and Diane Schweitzer

Published on September 7th, 2020

The U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame selected nine people in 2020 to join the 81 previously-recognized individuals who have been enshrined since the first class in 2011.

Among the Class of 2020 to be inducted on September 12 is Hoyle and Diane Schweitzer, whose efforts made windsurfing a worldwide pastime, and are profiled in this tribute by 2011 inductee Gary Jobson:

The concept of board sailing was first conceived after World War II. There had been several of attempts placing a sail on a board that allowed a sailor stand up and sail, and it was in 1966 when Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake patented a design for a sailboard they trademarked as the “Windsurfer.” Previous attempts by others did not work very well, but their design worked thanks to a universal joint that attached the sail to a surf board.

Drake was a long time sailor and Schweitzer was a surfer, and the pair came up with a unique design and it worked. Schweitzer bought Drake out early in the game, and along with his wife Diane, went out into the world to market their new creation. With the Schweitzer’s marketing prowess the Windsurfing craze took off in Europe and the United States.

Sailing one of their Windsurfers was easy and attracted new people to the water. The couple traveled to many boat shows and featured a nifty film of the Windsurfers flying over the waves. To steer you tilted the sail forward to bear away from the wind, and you tilted the sail aft to luff toward the wind. It was that simple. Windsurfing International, Inc. was opened for business in 1970.

The first World Championship was held in 1973 in San Diego and attracted 45 competitors. The second Worlds in 1974 featured 89 sailors at Association Island on Lake Ontario. I was running an Advanced Racing Clinic there that summer and was mystified by these strange, speedy craft. The class continued to grow and the third Worlds in 1975 brought 135 entrants.

By 1975, 80,000 Windsurfers had been sold throughout the world and there were about 2,000 in the USA. In 1980 the Windsurfer became an International Class, and the impressive growth gained the attention of the International Yacht Racing Union. In 1981 the genre was selected as a new event for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and by 1982 there were over 100 companies building similar boards.

At the Olympic Games there were two types of racing: a race course for the Windglider and a slalom, freestyle, and distance racing course for the Windsurfer. The new concept was accepted as a legitimate form of sailboat racing. The growth continued and by 1985 there were 10 million sailboards of many different brands worldwide. Today there are an estimated 60 million plus sailboards and they are still a staple in the Olympic Games. This is the largest sailing class in the world.

Hoyle and Diane Schweitzer engineered a brilliant concept and marketed their idea to the world. Windsurfing took hold and is still vibrant. The Kite Board has taken the concept to a new level. Both Windsurfers and Kite Boards are scheduled to race in the Olympic Games in Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028. The Schweitzer’s can take great satisfaction in their vision.

Due to COVID-19, the 10th anniversary of the U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame’s induction process will recognize the Class of 2020 in a virtual celebration on September 12 at 6:00pm EDT. To register for the online event, click here.

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