To be Frank…

In a series profiling PWA People we talk to Senior Judge, Frenchman, Franck Roguet. Franky ‘Froguet’ has been working on the PWA World Tour as a crewmember since 1994, when he was a timing official and boat driver, before making his judging debut in 1995 at the Guincho event. Since then Franky has worked every season and has missed only 5 events in 13 years. I took the time to catch up with him after a long weeks work at the action packed Fuerteventura PWA Grand Slam, and to ask him about tour life and what it’s taken for him to become a senior judge.

Franky started out in windsurfing as an assistant to famous Tiga shaper Hugues de Turkheim, helping to make boards for Anders Bringdal and Mathias Holmberg in Marseille, France. ‘I followed the tour with Mathias and Anders, and just asked the guys running the then ‘PBA’ tour for a job, any old job, and I got it!’ Franky continues reflecting about the ‘Good ‘Ol days’. ‘It was a dream to be a tour judge for me in those times, especially with all those famous old names and rivalries such as Naish and Bringdal, and especially the fight for the overall world championship title – something I’d love to see reinstated’

‘Being a tour judge in those days meant the year was longer with the events more spread out. That meant you got the winter break to sail, and also to keep up with all the moves and technological advancements during the off-season. I could hardly speak any English back then, and so working on the PWA has allowed me to become fluent in English and pretty good at Spanish. I also love travelling, especially to new locations, and to try all the local food for local people around the world’

But what does it take to be a judge at the highest level? ‘For sure you need windsurfing skill, but it’s not just about having a personal style. As a PWA crewmember you need to know about racing too, not just about wavesailing and freestyle. You must be familiar with courses and course setting, boat handling, wind shifts, protests, refereeing and rules etc. etc. My weakness is being seasick! Over the years we’ve also had some scary times in the boats as we often hold races in extreme conditions. There used to be a saying. ‘Windsurfing takes over when yachting backs out!’ and it’s true to say we’ve risked our lives before in the boats, especially returning to the harbours after races in big storms.’

And those judging skills? ‘Well, you have to be able to concentrate, focus and shut out the world really. Obviously you must be fair and un-biased, remain objective - but still stand by your opinions. The PWA has kept the highest standards over the years, and so naturally the judging skills have needed to develop as the skills on the water have advanced. The more senior judges have an obligation to pass their skills and experience on to the newer, junior judges, to ensure the standards and attention to detail are maintained. Perhaps in the future we may see formal training at this elite level. All the judges have to stay interested and stay up to date with all the latest moves, and what tricks are difficult relative to others’ But that’s a whole topic in itself that we might explore at a later date at

I ask Franky about how someone would go about becoming a judge? ‘It’s definitely a difficult world to break into’ explains Roguet. ‘Apart from the skills you need, you must have enough time to go on tour regularly, be a good sailor, and to have other work as the pay is not full-time enough to make a living as a judge.  It is also important to be tolerant of not being able to sail in superb conditions, and as a windsurfer stay cool about that! Some places though, like Pozo, put you off sailing as you work long hours, and just want to get away from the relentless wind at the end of a long day. I know that must sound crazy coming from a windsurfer - especially one who has spent a day sitting and watching awesome action - but sometimes the level of concentration you’ve used scoring and watching so many heats, means you just have to get away from it!’

Franky certainly has seen the tour change over the years, and I ask him what his thoughts are about the sport now. ‘Well, after 13 years I’m still amazed at the standard of professional windsurfers! You just never get used to it and are always impressed. I still love the sport so much and as I said before I’d love to see an overall title put back up for grabs. All the phases of competition have had their merits, even those that don’t feature on the tour any longer. Formula windsurfing for example was great in my opinion, with exciting lead changes and brilliant tactics required. My personal passion, like it is for many, still lies in the waves, and I find it hard not to get excited about seeing the performances from the best pro’s in excellent conditions, even how they perform in rubbish conditions actually! I’m sure in the future that wavesailing will be more of a ‘Freewave’ format with a mixture of freestyle and waves contributing to the best overall performance. Personally, I look forward to changing and developing formats for freestyle and wavesailing’.

And freestyle itself? ‘Well it’s just mind-blowing and I wish more people could come and see what these guys pull off, and exactly how many tricks they make in a heat! Its crazy. I mean 20 or more tricks each in 5 minutes is unbelievable! I know some people say it is beyond the comprehension of the average windsurfer what they are actually doing, but they would be just amazed to watch it’

It seems Franky is still as excited and enthusiastic about windsurfing than ever. Thanks Franky for such a colourful insight into the judging scene!

PWA / Brian McDowell