Injuries, recovery and how to enter the crazy world of freestyle...

Youp Schmit (JP / NeilPryde) is still just eighteen years old, but he already has two Youth PWA Freestyle World titles to his name, as well as quickly becoming one of the most dangerous and talented competitors on the PWA World Tour who is heading right to the top of his discipline.

During the off season Schmit experienced three months off the water - his longest time off the water since starting windsurfing - due to developing a ganglion on the top of his foot. Thankfully, the freestyle maestro has now fully recovered and he is back shredding on the water. With first hand experience of one of the most common injuries in windsurfing - especially freestyle - we caught up with Schmit to find out why the injury develops, how to recover from such injuries and also find out the best way for aspiring freestylers to enter the freestyle world. Read the interview below:

PWA: Firstly, you finished in the top ten again in Austria, were you happy with how you performed? 

YS: “Yeah for sure i'm stoked again to be within the top 10.. But honestly I have to say I wanted much more. I started off good in the single elimination, it was nice and windy in the morning, I was even able to go out on my 3.8m for a while..! I made it up to the 5th place so I was quite stoked about my result.” 

“The wind started dropping a little in the afternoon, so honestly I didn't expect them to finish the double elimination. I was quite far in the double so I honestly I didn't expect to sail anymore for the day, but they did manage to get it all the way up to my heat. So at 18:30 I had to go on the water and I guess I was just not too pumped up for a heat.. I went out on my 4.8m and actually wanted to be on my 5.1m for some more power, I had sailed an okay heat but not enough to make it through.. So sadly then I lost my 5th place and dropped to the 9th. But as I said I am still super happy to finish in the top 10 again, not too bad of a start for the year.. But I can't wait for the next events and hopefully be able to show much more of what I'm capable of.”

PWA: You recently recovered from a foot injury, is your foot 100% now?

YS: “Yeah my foot's all good again! But honestly it still feels a little bit weird after the surgery.. They have damaged quite a few of my nerves on the top of my foot, so I don't feel to much in that area. So right now I am very careful with my feet, I have extra thick and extra soft foot-straps for extra protection.”

PWA: After your injury, have you made any changes to both your footstraps and how you set them?

YS: “Well actually it all started with me duck taping sponges or whatever soft material to the top of my right foot and wearing shoes over it.. So eventually I was thinking why just not make the straps a lot softer.

“I asked JP to send me some double neoprene straps and some other straps to play around with, eventually I ended up creating a strap which was perfect for my foot. I was so stoked to be on the water again without booties and all that stuff!”

PWA: You know from experience that freestyle puts a lot of pressure on your feet. Can you tell us what problems this can cause? 

YS: “Some people get more bothered by it then others, but I've seen it happening a lot now to many people. A lot of people - especially freestylers - get this weird bump on the feet called a ''ganglion''. It is an irritated muscle that is always getting rubbed by the strap that causes it.” 

PWA: How do you recover if you do develop one of these problems?

YS: “The only option when you have a big ''ganglion'' on your foot is to undergo surgery and have it cut it out .. For me this meant 3 months off the water.” 

PWA: Is there anything you can do to stop the above problem(s) from happening?

YS: “With me it all started at the beginning of 2012 in the crazy conditions of South Africa. I guess it was just because I was sailing too much, I had fine straps but I think they were just too stiff which makes it rough on your feet. So I guess what I could have done is gotten softer straps earlier..So watch out, mind your feet!” 

PWA: When setting up your footstraps for freestyle what are the most important things to consider? Size? Width? etc

YS: For me it's most important to not be able to slip out of the straps, so I like the strap to be tight along the sides of my feet.. But height wise I like my straps pretty big - I like my whole foot to fit in there, not just the toes. This gives me more control over my board and not having to worry about slipping out of the straps.”

PWA: When starting to learn freestyle, many people set their footstraps too small, can you explain why you need big footstraps for freestyle and why you are less likely to pick up an injury, such as sprained ankles and twisted knees, with big footstraps?

YS: “I think you should just put your straps how you are comfortable sailing with them. Further I think the risk of injuries is always big (especially when doing all these crazy freestyle moves. But I think you could prevent injuries like for example a ''ganglion'' on your foot or other irritations with your feet by taking care of your straps.”

PWA: For people looking to get into freestyle what are the first moves they should learn? Both aerial and non-aerial?

YS: “I guess you always start basic .. The vulcan is usually what every freestyler starts off with building up to the spock and much more. Once you've got the feeling going, I'd say go for it and GO BIG!”

PWA: Will practising light wind exercises like upwind 360s, backwind sailing, rig ducks etc really help with planing freestyle? Why?

YS: “Light wind freestyle helps a lot! I think you gain so much more sail control for stronger winds because of practicing it in the lighter airs.. It gives you a feeling for what the sail would do when you do movements fully planing.”

PWA: What is your current favourite move and what moves are you currently trying to learn?

YS: “I'm not sure what my favourite move would be at the moment... All the air moves just give such an adrenaline rush. Currently I'm working on basically all the power moves, especially trying to preform them higher and with style. I've also been sailing a little at the wavespot ''Lac'' on Bonaire too and jumping around a bit, as well as going to some super flat waters too where I've been trying to combine tricks and push what’s possible.”

PWA: The next PWA Freestyle event is in Fuerteventura, how will you be preparing for the event and where will you be training?

YS: “I've just been at home (Bonaire) since the PWA Surf World Cup, Austria. The wind has been awesome since I’ve been back, it just won't stop! So I'll stay here until July and then start heading to the Canary Islands. I am thinking of maybe also going to train on some of the other islands too before the competition in Fuerte. But no doub't I'll be there a little earlier like every year to train for the competition. See you guys there soon..!!” 

PWA: Thanks Youp, good luck with the training and see you in Fuerte.

If you want to stay up to date with what Youp is up to then be sure to check out his website here.