A Breath of Swiss Air
‘I’ve been a professional windsurfer for 12 years now. Whenever the long racing season stops – all I wanna do is going windsurfing! It’s still my favourite pastime. I know a lot of other professional athletes, and except for the windsurfers, nobody else feels that way. It’s been said before, but it’s true that windsurfing is much more than just a sport – it’s a lifestyle.
To me there are two things that make this sport so special: first the close experience of nature, and second that it’s a never-ending learning process. I have 20 World titles and every day I still learn something completely new on the water!
Most of the time I only train one discipline at a time. When I go to Australia in winter I sail only in waves and in freestyle. Then we return in spring when Europe is still very cold and I switch back to my slalom gear. During speed record attempts I exclusively use my speed boards, and then when the main season starts, I simply try to make it early to the contests, and train a few days before the event to get back into the disciplines I’ll have to compete in. That means quite often that I don’t sail for months in one discipline, and then spend 4-5 days training it again before going straight into a contest.
Sometimes it’s definitely a disadvantage sailing against competitors that train in nothing but one discipline during the whole year, but then again I believe that’s my strength. Every discipline trains you for the other as well. For example when I start the freestyle and wave season I already competed in 5 other slalom events. This means I’m in “contest mode” already; my body knows how to handle the stress, and my mind’s trained to give its best in the 5 minutes I have for my heat. It’s the same thing the other way round; whenever we have a really rough speed round on Fuerteventura, with breaking waves in the middle of the course and hardly nobody can sail anymore, that’s no problem for me - I’m a wave rider! Then by going upwind on my 38cm wide speed board with just 22cm fin is the best upwind racing training again. Of course the Formula board works differently, but the feeling is the same: the wind gusts and shifts, the pressure on the fin changes. If you can react well sailing tiny equipment, you’ll fly on the big stuff!
I honestly have no favourite discipline. I love them all! It just depends on the day. For sure I’d love to be able to sail everyday in waves with side shore wind and warm water, but when do you ever get that? For any given day on any spot there is the perfect discipline – that’s why I am still doing all of them – I wanna always have the most fun regardless of the conditions.
My biggest motivation in windsurfing is that the sport is so limitless. In speed I still can go a lot faster, in freestyle I feel sometimes like a complete beginner, the equipment gets so much better every year… there is no end: I’ve been involved with this sport forever on a very high level and still can learn so much! That’s the endless and ultimate challenge.
I also love the aspect of equipment development I’m privileged to be involved with. Support as an athlete is priceless, and all my sponsors have been with me from the beginning. I like the personal contact they’ve always given me, and would never ever change my deal just for money. In fact last year I only switched from Arrows to North Sails because Arrows stopped manufacturing. Also my family is a priceless backup. They don’t follow my life too closely right now, but I know that I always will have a place to go back to. And then there are my best fiends – Dave, Patrik, Ann-Charlotte…
This season I especially wanted to win Slalom. The discipline only just returned last year and I love it again. I also planned to do as well as possible in freestyle and speed. Unfortunately the freestyle event in Sotavento was overlapping with the PWA/IFCA world championships in Turkey, and I really hated to make the decision to miss out on the freestyle in Fuerteventura, especially after Gran Canaria where I was able to get a well deserved second place - not bad considering the new talented girls like Sarah-Quita and Laure on the scene! So, although it’s unusual, I hope this type of clash never makes me miss out again!
Even as an all-rounder I’m not sure whether there should be an overall world title re-introduced. It would be good for the media – and would undoubtedly create long-lasting “legends” again. There are a million kids that can get freestyle world champion next year. That’s hard to communicate to the public – but there won’t be a handful of sailors that have a true chance to get Overall World Champion. Also whoever gets it probably will stay in the top 5 overall ranking for a long time, a bit like Bjorn and Robby did. On the other hand an overall title will take interest away from the single titles. And that is sad again for that one of those kids that become Freestyle world champion.
I’ve been on the tour for a while now, and last year I finished my university degree in economics. But, I believe I’ll stay a bit longer on tour – and hopefully a lot longer within windsurfing. This sport has given me so much, so if I can give anything back and help other young kids to help them have a life like mine I will. But I have no concrete plans yet. I believe that the right chances always come by themselves – you only have to be open enough to see them and not frightened to take them. My moment will come…
I’d been in the PWA management board in earlier years and decided I would never do it again. One of the biggest problems was that decisions would be postponed and the board was never able to find an agreement. So basically whatever you tried you never reached a decision. Then last year I talked a lot with Jimmy Diaz, our current chairman. I thought he would be the perfect figurehead and promised to be part of the board if he would get elected. For me this year has changed everything. The PWA looks a lot better to the outside and feels a lot better within. I have personally never been that proud to put that PWA sticker in my sails. Apart from that I guess I’m representing the women on the board. But to be honest with the board we have right now that wasn’t much of a problem this season.
I truly believe that the women are very essential part in our sport. The girl’s camp idea is just one way to encourage more girls to try windsurfing and also to dare to start competing. It seems to work really well. In many ways windsurfing is still a “Mans world” – especially at the top level. For me the future of the sport depends on how many women find their way into this sport at all levels.
Karin is sponsored by F2 and North and is 12 x PWA world champion, 7 x IFCA/IWA world champion, 1 x ISA world champion and holds the Outright speed sailing world record for women!
© PWA / Brian McDowell