The input of energy by wind to water waves is compared with the observed growth of the waves using a suite of microphysical measurement techniques in the laboratory. These include measured tangential stresses in the water and air immediately adjacent to the interface with corresponding form drag measurements above wind-forced freely propagating waves. The drag data sets are consistent but the comparison has highlighted important issues in relation to the measurement of fluctuating pressures above freely propagating waves. Derived normalized wind input values show good collapse as a function of mean wave steepness and are significantly in excess of the assembly of net wave growth measurements by Peirson & Garcia (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 608, 2008, pp. 243–274) at low steepness. Sheltering coefficients in the form of Jeffreys (Proc. R. Soc. Lond. Ser. A, vol. 107, 1925, pp. 189–206) are derived that are consistent with values previously obtained by Donelan & Pierson (J. Geophys. Res., vol. 92, 1987, pp. 4971–5029), Donelan (Wind-over-Wave Couplings: Perspectives and Prospects, Clarendon, 1999, pp. 183–194) and Donelan et al. (J. Phys. Oceanogr., vol. 36, 2006, pp. 1672–1689). The sheltering coefficients exhibit substantial scatter. By carefully measuring the associated growth of the surface wave fields, systematic energy budgets for the interaction between wind and waves are obtained. For non-breaking waves, there is a significant and systematic misclose in the radiative transfer equation if wave–turbulence interactions are not included. Significantly higher levels of turbulent wave attenuation are found in comparison with the theoretical estimates by Teixeira & Belcher (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 458, 2002, pp. 229–267) and Ardhuin & Jenkins (J. Phys. Oceanogr., vol. 36, 2006, pp. 551–557). Suitable normalizations of attenuation for wind-forced wave fields exhibit consistent behaviour in the presence and absence of wave breaking. Closure of the surface energy flux budget is obtained by comparing the normalized energy loss rates due to breaking with the values previously determined by Banner & Peirson (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 585, 2007, pp. 93–115) and Drazen et al.(J. Fluid Mech., vol. 611, 2008, pp. 307–332) when expressed as a function of mean wave steepness. Their normalized energy loss rates obtained for non-wind forced breaking wave groups are remarkably consistent with the levels found during this present study when breaking waves are subject to wind forcing.