When lakes freeze around middle Europe, the sea is getting beyond 10 degrees, temperatures are dropping below zero and not even a drysuit with hood, gloves and boots guarantees fun on the water windsurfers don't start to hibernate but to pilgrimage to windy and warm places all around the globe. Several years ago Isla Margarita, Venezuela was the number one pick for freestylers, closely followed by other Caribbean islands like Bonaire and Aruba. Lately freestyle windsurfers choose South Africa and the freezing Atlantic ocean over sailing in boardshorts in the warm waters of the Caribbean. We wanted to know why and asked four JP/Neilpryde riders from different countries, why they displaced their winter training camp to Cape Town.
EFPT: Why did you choose South Africa for your winter training?
Steven Van Broeckhoven: For me it's the 3rd time and I love Cape Town. It's a good place for training, due to many different spots and different conditions. In the case of no wind days, there are still so many things that you can do.
Andy 'Bubble' Chambers: I have also been coming here for the last 3 years and it has everything that I need: cheapish living, sun, wind and water. Above this, it has the perfect combination of waves and freestyle. It's usually windy almost everyday, it's a beautiful place and a lot of my friends come here to train as well so there is a great social scene.
Youp Schmit: My teammate ''Bubble'' told me about it. He said that it is windy almost everyday and that South Africa has good freestyle spots and also sick waves. This information really got me interested to do my training there. The difference to other places is, that there are so many spots for freestyle and waves with all different conditions. This affected my sailing a lot and I feel that I have learned to sail more consistent because of it. Also, for me it's good to train there because it gets very very windy! I am used to sail on 5,3/4,9 in Bonaire but in Cape Town I was on 3,7 or 4,1 most of the time.
Maarten Van Ochten: What I like about South Africa is the variety of spots and conditions. You don't get stuck to one place for weeks and for freestyle there's wind pretty much everyday. If it's not windy in Cape Town, you can go to several other spots one hour drive away like Kraalbaai (the Bonaire of South-Africa), Langebaan great flat water and nice chops or Sharksbay for example. What we normally did is sailing in the morning at the lake Rietvlei and then in the late afternoon we went to Sunset, Big Bay or Melkbos. There you have nice free wave or wave conditions in order to practice jumping.
EFPT: Can you describe your average day in Cape Town?
Steven: This year it was different everyday because of the strange forecast, but on a normal windy day, I wake up early go for freestyle training on the lake or to sunset . After the first session I go back home to relax and then I go for another wave session in Big Bay or Melkbos around six in the evening.
Bubble: Get up have breakfast and go surfing if there’s no wind. If there is wind then I head to the lake for a bit of freestyle before hitting the waves. After lunch I usually go for another wave session!
Youp: Wake up, eat breakfast and head to the lake for a freestyle session. Then afterwards we would usually go to a wave spot where I would be using a freestyle board haha. Then I have lunch and go for another session! The perfect day in my opinion!
Maarten: I was staying together with Steven, usually we woke up and have a light breakfast, checked my email afterwards had another breakfast, then when the wind was already strong we went to Rietvlei for a freestyle session, then get back home have a big solid lunch. Change boards and go Free-waving or maybe wave sailing. But if the wind kicked in late, which happened quite often this year we first went to the gym at Virgin Active, for cardio, strength and flexibility training.
EFPT: How do you train to make sure you are in the best possible condition for the upcoming competitions?
Steven: I have been on the water as much as possible and if there was no wind, I went to the gym or for stand up paddling.
Bubble: For me it’s all about time on the water really. The more time you sail the fitter you get for windsurfing. I know a lot of guys that go and train hard in the gym and a lot of guys that don’t. For freestyle I just like to go and do it and let my body recover in between sessions! As I am getting older now I have tried some sports supplements that have helped me quite a lot. I have been using the Recovery supplements, which basically replace any lost electrolytes and minerals that your body has used during exercise.
Youp: With freestyle you got to be able to do the tricks and you are also under a bit of time pressure. So for me it's pretty much trying to be on the water as much as possible when it is windy. On the non-windy days I go to the gym, to maintain my fitness condition.
Maarten: During my rehab last year (Editor's note: Maarten had to have a years break of competition due to a knee injury) I learned a lot about nutrition and training. To stay fit I think it's important to go to the gym and also eat the right food to. What I feel now is that I have way more energy then before and it also gives me more confidence during my sailing. Besides the training in the gym, I really like SUPing as this is a good exercise for strength as well as balance and endurance. At the same time it's a fun activity to do in the waves. Furthermore you don't necessarily need waves for SUPing. In Holland for example, you have the opportunity to explore places on the water where you normally cannot go.
EFPT: Did you achieve all your windsurfing goals for SA?
Steven: I definitely learned more than expected, but don't want to give away too much of it yet (Editor's note: we heard of some ridiculous new combinations and amazing jumping in the waves).
Bubble: In freestyle I did, yes. I wanted to get a lot of the new school moves like culos, konos and burners more consistent. In the waves my wave-riding improved a lot, especially in the bigger waves but my jumping didn’t improve as much I wanted it to.
Youp: Yeah, my goals for SA were to learn some new tricks, also to sail more consistent and to try some wave sailing, which I also really enjoyed. The trip for me was a great success!
Maarten: Yeah, we definitely had good conditions to improve but I didn't achieve all my goals yet, so I'm also eager to improve more and I am really looking forward to my training in Dahab, Egypt to get fully ready for the competition season, in particular for the PWA in Podersdorf, Austria.
EFPT: How does the water temperature affect you in your sailing? Do you think it is an important factor of how good/bad you sail when it comes to contests in colder countries/seasons?
Steven: Water temperature is no problem for me in SA. For a Belgium it's warm water! We don't have really cold water on the PWA tour-stops, so I never used a warmer wetsuit then a 4/3. People from warmer countries (e.g. Carribean, Brasil) are not really used to have a wetsuit on, so I think that this is the bigger problem. It's very important to have a good wetsuit that flexes and gives you the ideal range of motion.
Bubble: Yes for sure the water temperature affects you, but it has to be pretty cold! Even the water in Cape Town isn’t actually that cold. On the PWA stop in Podersdorf, Austria last year I really struggled but that was more my bad preparation then anything else. It felt like your hands double in size and you can’t really change sides of the boom to well!
Youp: For sure in the beginning it was a bit weird for me to sail in cold water, but after a while you get kind of used to it. For me it doesn't really have any effect on my sailing. Only if I stay on the water for a long time my hands and feet start feeling really weird, that's when it starts to affect my sailing. The good thing of cold water is, that it makes me not want to fall in!
Maarten: Well where I live it can be quite cold too, so I don't mind the cold water in SA too much. Still I know your reaction and physical movement can be majorly influenced. I think it's important to have a good wetsuit, which naturally keeps you warm and also has a lot flexibility too! Of course sailing in shorts feels always better then using a 5/3 mm wetsuit, in terms of a better movement. There is also a positive side of sailing in wetsuits though: it gives you lots of protection when crashing for instance.
EFPT: Did you have any chance to test the new sails that Steven mentioned in an EFPT interview earlier this year? What can you tell us about it?
Bubble: Yes I did. Steven has done a lot of work on them also with Bryan Metcalf-Perez in Maui. Obviously Steven knows exactly what he likes and that’s what was designed! I think though a few changes were made after sailing them here in Cape Town where the wind is super strong and the other team riders were able to give their feedback on them. They are 4 batten sails and super light and powerful. There is now some Dacron material next to the luff pocket which helps the sail to breathe a bit more making the duck super easy.
Youp: Yeah, they are sailing sick! Everything you want from a freestyle sail!
Maarten Van Ochten: The new sail is amazing! Steven and the Neilpryde DC team did lots of testing, and tried out lots of new protos from every size. In South Africa I had the chance to try out several sizes in different conditions and in Dahab the first production sails. The new sail is so light, offers lots of control, easy ducking, planes super fast too and gives you a lot of lift during the moves.
EFPT: What can we expect from the JP/ Neilpryde freestyle team for 2012? What can we expect from you specifically? PWA/ EFPT/ Camps/ Coaching/ Videoproductions etc.
Steven: I will have a very busy year. I am going to compete in all the PWA events, I will have a few Young Guns camps, other events and photo shoots, as well as participating in some video productions. My year is fully booked!
Bubble: I think you can expect a lot from the JP/Neilpryde riders! The team is growing big time which is great. Lots of different styles and characters which all bring different and fresh ideas to the table. I know for sure that a lot of the new national younger team members will be doing EFPT and national events, while the older more experienced guys will mainly be doing the PWA stops. On the girls side we have Xenia Kessler (Denmark) and Maxime Van Gent (Bonaire) who both have great style and skills and for sure will be forces to be reckoned with on the tour.
Youp: I think this year is going to be a great one for our team! Everybody is very motivated and everybody is sailing really powerful!
Maarten: I think we have strong team now together with a world champion. Everybody made a lot of progress and as the level increased also in freestyle windsurfing in general now, on the the PWA and the EFPT tour. We will have several JP/NP Young Gun Camps this year, so this will be exciting for the new generation, as they will have professional coaching from several JP/Neilpryde riders, with video analyses and most important lots of fun!
We also have many good female riders in the team. Last year Xenia Kessler did really well and ended up 4th overall in freestyle. She has definitely the potential to hit stage. Then there's young talented Maxime Van Gent, she is only 15 and I think she improved a lot during here winter training in Bonaire. There is also Olya Raskina (Russia), even though I'm not sure if she will be competing in freestyle this year. She would be a though competitor in freestyle and she also made lots of progress in the waves, so this will be an advantage for her in the strong wind conditions of Fuerteventura.
EFPT: To round up...
Steven what can you say about Maarten?
Maarten is a really good friend of mine. He is very professional with the sport, we talk a lot about the equipment and having the same ideas when it comes to development of new gear. For me he is the perfect team mate. We are both helping each other. The sad thing is, that he was unlucky last year due to his injury, but I’m sure he will do really well in the future.
Bubble what can we expect from Youp?
Bonairerian style combined with the European drive and motivation. Expect the big moves and big hair! Haha!
Youp what new moves will we see from Steven?
Steven is always sailing really impressive and with a sick style! When I saw him in SA he impressed me even more than before. He is always doing some of the craziest combinations, he tries it a couple of times and lands it perfectly.
Maarten what makes Bubble the perfect guardian for a young rider like Youp?
Bubble has been on the PWA for quite a while now, so he does have lots of experience how to train and prepare for a competition season. So for Youp it might help to get things done and organized faster and get 110% prepared for the 2012 season. Then also they where training together, so naturally they could push each others level on the water.