Freestyle World Champion

Yentel Caers Talks About Fighting Back Through The Double To Become The 2019 Men’s Freestyle PWA World Champion

Yentel Caers (I-99 / Point-7) headed into the final Freestyle event of the year at the 2019 Mercedes-Benz Windsurf World Cup Sylt as the co-world tour leader - together with Youp Schmit (I-99 / Avanti). However, with both men falling early in the single elimination that opened the door for Amado Vrieswijk (JP / Severne) and Steven Van Broeckhoven (Starboard / GUNSAILS) to potentially snatch the title away from their hands. In the double elimination though, Caers brilliantly held his nerve to win 4 consecutive heats to earn his first world title meaning he finishes the 2019 season as the European & World Champion. After sealing his first world crown we caught up with the 24-year-old for an interview:

Congratulations on becoming the 2019 Men’s Freestyle PWA World Champion. How does it feel to become European and World Champion in the same year?

I mean I cannot really believe it you know. It's been a long and hard competition here, I had a lot of fun on the water competing against everyone and everyone is so good. Coming into the last event leading together with Youp [Schmit] and with Steven {Van Broeckhoven] and Amado [Vrieswijk] really close meant the pressure was on. Then when I lost early in the single the hope was gone a bit, but I still knew there was a possibility that I could come back through the double. When I was able to make that work it was just amazing. I cannot describe how happy I am about it! It's a dream come true. It is something that we all dream about since we were little kids.

I can remember when I was a kid, I was already saying to my friends that one day I want to compete against the best in the world and of course you think about becoming World Champion, but that felt a million miles away at that stage, so to make it happen is amazing. 

How much do you think competing on the European Freestyle Tour (EFPT) helped you with competing on the World Tour? 

I think it definitely helps because when you compete a lot it takes away the nerves because you are so used to sailing heats. It also gave me confidence because I won all the EFPT events and that really motivated to do the PWA as well. On the EFPT the level is also incredibly high, so it’s a good foundation to competing on the world tour.

Did you feel under pressure coming into an event co-leading the world tour?

I felt really motivated, not too much pressure, but then the single still didn't really go my way. I also thought the conditions were really, really tricky and I got knocked out by Balz in the single, who for me could potentially win In those kind of conditions as I think he's one of the best guys when it’s extreme. I know that Balz is a really good friend of me and you know that's how it is - competition doesn’t always go your way.

I thought Balz might do you a favour because you're both good friends but he went full power against you… no favours there…?

Yeah, no, I mean yeah Balz is a bit crazy in these situations, but I also want him to do well because he’s an amazing sailor.

After finishing 9th in the single that then put you under a bit of pressure to perform in the double, but it didn't look like you were nervous at any stage. You looked pretty calm and calculated on the outside, but were you nervous inside?

Hmmm I think I was more nervous for the single than in the double. In the double I was more like come on you can do it, you sailed so much competition and I know which moves I can do in these situations. I was definitely stressed, but more a good kind of stress, you know like more concentrated and motivated and also a bit of anger to come back and I was really focused.

How do you compare the conditions from the single elimination to the double?

Actually they were slightly similar. The single was just more windy, but I like the wind really strong, it’s  just aI was a bit unlucky in the single against Balz because the wind picked up right before the start of the heat and I had no chance to change the sail anymore, so I was way too overpowered. 

The double was 4.8 weather, but also moments for 4.4 and 5.2. nts was five two. The amazing Sylt shorebreak was actually the hardest part because it made timing to get out for your heats really difficult. I struggled some times… some times I would get washed and it would take several minutes to get out - other times you could get lucky, step on your board and plane straight out.

So, how old were you when you actually started freestyle? 

When I started freestyle, I started young, but I wasn't so good. I was like 12.

Do you think you're naturally good at freestyle? 

No… because when I started freestyle, I have a brother and sister who freestyle, and they all could do spocks already. And I was sailing a lot with Rick [Jendrusch] and Nick [van Ingen], who are my good friends and we are about the same age and we’ve always been sailing together in Holland, but they improved so much faster than me. And I just got stuck on the spock here. This move didn't work out for me. 

So despite getting stuck on the spock that didn't put you off from getting into freestyle? 

I don't know, I was young. You know, I didn't mind to crash thousands of times in the water and just have fun. 

I was talking to JC a bit after he interviewed you and he said that after you landed the spock that seemed to just unlock your freestyle there onwards?

Yeah, it's true because I started freestyle at about 12? I don't remember exactly. Maybe even younger. Anyway from a really young age I could do already land forward loops, but at that stage the freestyle moves just didn't work. 

And then In the summer when I was probably about 14, I learned to spock at the beginning of the summer and by the end of the summer - like one or two months later - I could do suddenly all the sliding moves - everything just unlocked after that. I had the feeling of how to do the rotations and that's the really important basics.

You're now the third Belgium Freestyle World Champion after Steven and Dieter… Why do you think you guys have had so much success because Belgium It's not the first place you'd necessarily think of for freestyle or windsurfing in general…?

No, definitely, definitely not. You know, we have a coastline of 60 kilometres so there's not that many lakes. But I think motivation has to do a lot with it as we always we all live far from the sea. Steven and me live really close to each other and we drive like one and a half to two hours to the sea. So every time we went, we went out on the water even if it's actually like five two pumping weather because we’d driven all the way there. We still went out and we had fun on the water even if it was rubbish. Whereas I think if you live near the sea its a lot easier to be fussy. So, I think that helped us a bit and then in Brouwersdam we had a really good group of pro windsurfers we were all constantly pushing each other to improve and when it’s like that the level goes up quickly!

For people that are just starting out freestyle. What would you recommend they learn first, because I think a lot of people are starting to just go with rig ducks and trying to go straight for the power moves…

I actually say no ducking. Like learn the basics to start with. They maybe don't look so cool, but the feeling of them is amazing. Like, when I'm just free sailing, I sometimes if the wind is bit light I’ll just go through all the sliding moves because they're so technical. They're really hard to do actually. But you need them to get further in the power moves. So train the basics first and then build from there.

How will you be celebrating? And then what are you going to be doing for winter?

We celebrated already a bit in Sylt - I had my girlfriend here, my parents and my brother were also here so just celebrating with the family. It has been a lot of fun with all the guys around here and then afterwards I go straight to Brouwersdam for the last EFPT event, which is my home spot, so that's gonna be fun as well to meet all my friends and celebrate a bit more with them. 

Afterwards, I will try to go to Brazil with Balz to Gostoso as Balz has a clinic there, so I will try and join him.

Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

Just that I'm really happy and let's have fun on the water.

Thanks, Yentel. Congratulations again.