Slalom VI • Wave
|Born||04.November 1984, Kent, UK|
|Sail No.||K 89|
|Marital Status||girlfriend Heidi|
|Education||British A levels, Business Studies|
|PWA Tour since||2001|
|JP since||King of the Lake 2000|
all watersports and snowboarding!
The day when I did my first double
Surfing at Jaws this winter and one massive, really clean day windsurfing at Hookipa
When I rolled my Jet ski in massive waves and it would not start again!
all types, but Rock and a bit of Rap are best!
Lasagne, home made by mum, I just had it !
“Roard trip” at the moment, but probably “Lock Stock”
“The Pillars of the Earth”. I have no idea who it was by, but I remember it being really good. (ed.: Ken FolletJC)
Hookipa, Jameos del Agua and Las Cucharas on Lanzarote, Mossies in Ireland, and Shoreham in the UK
Lollipop; Waves: Air Taka or Wave 360
Slalom VI 56, 65, 74
Wave 69, 75, 83
people who surf without brains.
World Champ, hopefully in all disciplines.
Pretty good, but not during comps, partly due to common sense, but mainly due to advise from a caring father!
JP-Australia, Neil Pryde, Oxbow, Kaenon; Team MPG member since 2001 WORDS TO LIVE BY: “Its better to regret things you did than to wish you had tried something that you didn’t.”
When I was born on the 11th April 1984, windsurfing was massive. Apparently, everyone wanted to windsurf back then. The top sailors in the sport were national heroes and windsurfing was in all kinds of commercials for everything from sports cars to Nutella! People who could hardly even windsurf used to drive their cars around in the middle of London with boards on their roof as a fashion statement!
My father spent the better part of his life in and around London, running up and down ladders with one hundred pound bundles of roof tiles on his head. Through years of waking up at 3am and his sheer determination, he managed to build a successful roofing business, raise seven children and then discover that there was much more to life than work, wrestling and the pub. He learned how to windsurf and his life changed from then on. When I was born, child number 6, he named me after his idol, Robby Naish and fortunately for me, by that time most of my parents’ holidays were spent somewhere near the sea!
The Dream :
Ever since I was a little boy I wanted to be a pro windsurfer. My Dad made a video of me saying that I wanted to be a windsurfing world champion when I was only 5 years old and sent it to all the different windsurfing companies in an attempt to get me some kind of sponsorship. A local shop called Whitstable Windsurfing gave me 25% off and you can only imagine the joy I felt when I got my first NeilPryde 3.3 kids rig, complete with battens, an ultra-light aluminum mast and even a clamp-on boom!
Mum and Dad would work hard all year to enable us to go on holiday to the Canary Islands for as long as possible in the summer, and by the time I was about 10 years old, we would spend the best part of 6 weeks out there every summer and often go back for another month at Easter.
I loved windsurfing and it was all I wanted to do. The other children used to like to play around the pool at the apartment complex we stayed in, but even when my dad was tired and didn’t want to go sailing, I would just sulk around and be miserable all day. To give you an example of how obsessed I was with the sport, I was never once grounded when I misbehaved: The only punishment they needed to threaten me with was a windsurfing ban, and you wouldn’t believe how good a 10 year old boy could be for two whole months in the summer when he knows that if he behaves himself, he will be allowed to go windsurfing every day!
School and windsurfing :
Although my dream has always been to become a professional windsurfer and we knew that I was pretty good at it; that was all it was back then: a dream. My Dad didn’t really have much of an education at all and he knew that his life would have been much easier if he had at least completed secondary school. My parents didn’t want to let me miss out on the opportunity of education, so they sent me to the best schools they could find in the area, New Beacon and then Sevenoaks.
Both these schools were highly academic and very challenging. We went to school 6 days a week from 8:30 till 5 or 5:30 and then had at least two hours worth of homework every night. Sunday was the only day I had off and Murphy’s Law dictates that, of course it would never be windy in the South East of England on Sundays!
We played lots of Football, Rugby and Cricket at school and I also competed in the National Championships at Swimming. I was captain of swimming at school because of my love of the water and on top of all the studying we did, I used to train in the pool for an hour every night and another hour before school most mornings. My teachers thought that it was nice that I did a sport outside of school (windsurfing) and they let me have time off to go to competitions and practice, but the general consensus was that I was wasting my time and I should put my heart and soul into studying and trying to get a place in a good university.
Needless to say, there was not much time for windsurfing back then, at least during term-time, but I don’t really think that that affected my long-term goal of becoming a pro windsurfer. It actually gave me even more motivation to one day be free of all the rules and strict timetables of school and work and it also gave me a very important work-ethic which has helped me immensely to establish myself as a regular on the world tour.
Advantages of staying in school :
You have to realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who want to be the world’s best windsurfer. What differentiates the top sailors from the rest is consistency, and the only way that you get consistent is through practice and training. Although I would probably have been a better sailor at 18 years old had I left school at 16, I would not have had the same discipline or attitude that I had after finishing my A-Levels, and I think that that discipline and work ethic has made me a better all-round competitor than I would have been otherwise.
The education and physical training that I received at school have helped me to make the most of the skills that I have developed on the water. The studying skills that you learn at school are just as important when it comes to learning new tricks on the water or deciding how best to sail a heat.
Another advantage of having been to such demanding schools is that I do not mind taking the time to write articles for magazines or websites, or learn how to make a professional looking website or DVD for my sponsors or myself. These days making a living, as a professional windsurfer is not just about sailing well, but about how you promote yourself and behave off the water as well.
Racing and Wave sailing:
I had been competing in National and International-racing events long before I ever set foot on a wave board. In fact, the first real sponsorship I received from Ultra Sport, the importers of NeilPryde and JP in England, was solely for racing.
The British National Circuit was a very hotly contended series back then which saw hundreds of people travel all over the country to compete against each other for the title of British Champion. I loved going to the competitions. Everyone was really friendly and the people were very different from everyone I knew from school. They all understood me perfectly! They wanted to go sailing just as badly as I did.
It was friendly competition that got pretty serious at times. People would invest what seemed to be ridiculous amounts of money in different fins, adjustable outhaul systems, new battens etc. When I first started, that seemed crazy to me as I would just go out on my standard stuff and do reasonably well. That all changed when I went to Cabarete in the Dominican Republic at the age of 15 and discovered Tectonics fins and how to really tune a race sail! I came back and went straight from an occasional top 10 finisher in the British Pro fleet to being on the podium at just about every event and even winning a few.
That change blew my mind and from then on I did my utmost to make sure that all my gear was set up perfectly and that I had the best fin in my board that money could buy. I quickly started doing well in the International events as well. I won the Youth World Title for both for Slalom and Formula Racing in Paros when I was 17.
Moving away from racing:
By then I had taste of wave sailing, and freestyle was taking off on the PWA tour. After the Youth Worlds in Paros, there was a PWA Racing event. I was given my first PWA wild card after my results in the Youth Worlds and competed in the event. As my good fortune continued to roll on I didn’t do too badly, but in between all the races, I would go out freestyling and a lot of the pro guys were thoroughly impressed. I remember one of the sailors telling me that I would probably have come in the top 3 at the Fuerteventura event that had just finished if I had been there.
Luck would have it that that same year, I went to Gruissan in the south of France to compete in the under 18 European Slalom Championships called the Super 8. The first prize there was a one month stay, all expenses paid in Luke and Levi Siver’s parents’ school called the Maui Ocean Academy. I knew all about the school because I had been trying to persuade my parents to send me there for a couple of years, but I never thought I would actually get to go there! Nevertheless, I won the competition and before I knew it, I was on my way out to Maui to spend not just one, but three months in the school there!
My first long trip to Maui:
While I was in Maui, I continued my English school’s curriculum via correspondence and got to go sailing at Hookipa almost every day. I didn’t know the rules of the waves and I used to sail in and out snaking everyone! Quite a few of the pros were really annoyed with this English kid with no etiquette! I was just having so much fun that if I saw a good wave coming my way, I would take it. Besides, I would be back in England soon and they had the whole rest of the year to enjoy the waves!
I learned a lot about jumping, waveriding and freestyle and was not a happy boy when it was time to go back to school in England! More determined than ever, I set about my studies and tried to go windsurfing at every opportunity. I did well in my first year of A-Levels despite the three month absence my parents and teachers decided to let me do the same thing the next year.
In my final year of school I achieved A, A, B in Spanish, French and Business. I came 2nd in the PWA Freestyle event in Fuerteventura and 4th in the Overall for the year. The year after I left school, I won the PWA Freestyle event in Fuerteventura, came 5th in the Waves and Freestyle in Gran Canaria and achieved my first ever podium place in the overall Freestyle rankings for the year. Since then, I have been on the podium at the end of the year for both Super X and Waves, but I am still yet to stand on the top of it for any or them.
Training with Team MPG
During my first full year on the world tour, I spent a lot of time with my JP/NeilPryde teammates Jason Polakow and Greg Allaway. They were part of an elite windsurfing team called Team MPG. At the time, Jason, Greg, Francisco Goya, Jimmy Diaz, Micah Buzianis, Levi Siver and Daida Ruano Moreno were all on the team and I am sure that there isn’t one name on that list that anyone reading this article doesn’t recognize.
Obviously, I wanted to be a part of the team so I went to the gym with the guys during the Sylt event that year and got speaking to Scott Sanchez, the team director, about my chances of joining them. He sent me lots of questions by email about my goals etc. and my life so far. Then my parents and I all had a meeting with him to discuss it. We decided to embark upon a three-month trial period where we would see if I had what it takes to be part of the team and if it was the right thing for me.
By the end of the three months, it was fairly obvious that being part of Team MPG was going to be good for me. Scott and I sat down and made a six-year plan covering everything we could think of. As well as the obvious result oriented goals and what it was going to take for me to achieve them; I also needed to build a productive and profitable relationship with my sponsors. It seemed like my writing and computer skills, along with my knowledge of foreign languages were destined to be capitalized on as Scott had more planned for me in my windsurfing career than just cut backs on the waves. We did have to adapt training routines as my body type is such that I get very big very quickly, so I cannot do lots of heavy lifting. When in the gym now, I mainly work on my core strength, flexibility, and cardio vascular capacity.
Shortly after I joined Team MPG, Nik Baker also stepped his program up, making us a solid team of both youth and experience. We would all go sailing together, watch video of our sessions, analyze the good things and the weak things together, and really work as a team. Jason would watch himself do turns that I could only wish that I would be able to do one day and say he was embarrassed to get out of the water after sailing so badly. Grubby (Greg Allaway) used to try all sorts of crazy tricks. He invented the Grubby and the Super Man during that time and even tried securing a screwdriver into the back footstrap so he would have something to hold on to. Nik learned how to Flaka before any of us which really annoyed everyone seeing as he was supposed to be the old man of the group! He finished third that year in the Freestyle, one place in front of me and then gave up so that he wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of saying he had been beaten by me the next year!!
Being a part of such a specialized team does make the dream life seem a little bit more like work! We go to the gym in the morning 5 days a week and let me tell you, it is never an easy work out! Every time I come back from a trip abroad, it takes me about two weeks to stop feeling stiff and achy from our morning sessions but once I am back into it, it becomes just another part of my daily routine. Everyone on the team also tries to stick to very healthy, balanced diets, and I personally try not to eat wheat or dairy at all. Sometimes this is impossible when I am on tour, as it is hard to find alternatives in some countries, but I do my best. I also try to cut out as much sugar from my diet as possible (and yes, that does include alcohol!) I think that a good diet helps the training make even more of a difference and can really make a difference to your energy levels come the end of a 10 day long event in Gran Canaria when you have been sailing on a 3.3 for 5 hours every day!
The fun stuff!
I have written a lot in this article about the discipline and training it takes to make a living as a pro windsurfer, but please don’t let that fool you into thinking that it is all hard work! (As if you could!) I get to spend most of the year in Maui where I live about a 2 minute walk from the beach and can sail, surf, tow surf or play golf every day depending on the weather conditions! Luckily, I have found a beautiful girlfriend out here too and my parents and siblings are able to come out to visit quite often, so I don’t miss home too much.
Tow surfing has become almost as big a part of my life as windsurfing when I am on Maui. It is an amazing feeling being able to drop into huge waves that you would never be able to paddle into. Even when the waves are not that big, you are able to get literally hundreds of waves every day and to try all sorts of different things to make yourself a better surfer and thus a better waverider on a windsurfer! It also has a social aspect that you can’t get windsurfing as you can sit and talk with your partner while waiting for waves and you get to watch everything he does when it is his turn to surf! Ross Williams and I have been through a lot of hairy experiences together out on the Jet Ski, and it makes you really good friends. The last time we went towing, we took John Skye with us too and we were having a whale of a time until I broke my foot! Then they had to drag me back to the beach on the sled and help the lifeguard pull me out through the shore break. It wasn’t much fun at the time but it was certainly a bonding experience that we wont forget, and all that stuff makes for really good friendships.
Getting used to the change:
Suddenly I have found myself right where I always wanted to be. I am getting paid to do what I loved best and competing with some of the guys who had been my idols my whole life. The transition from school-kid to full time pro-windsurfer has happened so smoothly that I almost take it for granted some times. While I was at school, if someone were to tell me that in just three years I would be spending most of my time training in Hawaii, traveling all over the world competing in windsurfing events and getting paid pretty good money for it, I am not sure I would have believed them. Now I can hardly remember what it is like to spend more than a week away from the beach!
It is difficult trying to be professional at the events when you first start. (Actually it is still pretty hard when you have been doing it for a couple of years!) Some of the sailors and all of the spectators seem to be going out partying all the time and having a great time, and there are a lot of windless days when we just seem to sit around doing nothing, so it is easy to let yourself slip into that lifestyle. I remember a couple of occasions during my first years on tour when I went out partying at night only to find that it was windy the next day and it is a real heartbreaker when you cannot give 100% in your heat due to a hangover!
I have fallen out with my dad countless times over my nighttime antics at events and have also had stern rebukes on the subject from Scott Sanchez and the JP brand manager Martin Brandner. At the time, it seemed perfectly harmless to me, going out for a while at night, but when I look back on those occasions, I know that my friends, family and sponsors were just looking out for me and I often wish that I would have listened to them sooner! Luckily for me, I started when I was very young so I should still have the best part of my career ahead of me, and everything I have done in the past will help me to become a world champion one day.
Sometimes, now that I spend a lot of time in Maui, I get spoiled by the conditions and occasionally don’t bother going sailing if it doesn’t look that good: Something I wouldn?ft have believed that I would ever do just four years ago. Right now, I have an injured foot and feel a lot like I did when I was in school, just wishing that I could go sailing but being stuck inside. I can’t believe that I didn’t go out on every chance I had over the last year! Being injured and thinking about how to write this article has made me remember just how lucky I am to be able to live like I do and that I am still a long way off reaching my goal in life of being a PWA world champion.
Hopefully this injury will turn out to be a blessing to me, rather than a curse, in that it has made me remember just how much work it took for me to become a pro windsurfer. Being forced to sit on the beach and watch everyone sailing has really re-kindled the fire that I used to feel when I was younger and made to sit in a classroom. I am back in training full time at the gym now. I spend about 8 hours at Team MPG each week, 4 to 6 hours on my bike and 5 hours having physiotherapy with my Mum. I have been windsurfing a few times but am taking it easy at the moment. as I do not want to re-injure myself. With only about 6 weeks to go until Guincho, I have something to focus on and I feel that I should be ready to start the season as strong as I left off last year, and now that I have spent so much time off the water, I am even more determined to take advantage of all my opportunities and go after that world title that I talked about when I was 5 years old.