A bit of history

The idea of a professional slalom training in the winter is not new.

Ever since I started training seriously there was always guys doing starts and jibes around marks in many different places in the world. But it was never really consistant, nor professional with a person fully designated to do it all winter.

It was more like random, like “hey my friend can get out on the boat today and give us some starts, you wanna join?” kind of thing. But in 2013 a group of sailors led by Andrea Cucchi, got in touch with, then PWA judge, Mark Hosegood, who was residing in Tenerife to put something professional together.

Tenerife was the perfect place with consistant tradewinds allowing to put down anchors pretty much for the whole winter and running the training 3 times every week.

First year was sort of a test year, but we already got like 7 young upcoming PWA guys like Pascal Toselli Alberto Menegatti, Matteo Iachino, Jordy Vonk, Vincent Langer, Malte Reuscher and myself. All under 26, all super hungry to improve. And we did, specially Alberto who won the first event of the year and shot up the rankings to 2nd, which combined with Cucchi’s marketing skills drew a lot of attention to the training.

The next year it was already probably double the amount of people, the training itself improved and we again made huge strides up the rankings which only certified it’s value in the public eye. Then came the winter of 2015 and a bit of a whirlwind.

Mark, who was singlehandedly responsible for the whole thing, and the competitors couldn’t agree on a few points, one of them being the money and the training came to a stall.

Matteo and Alberto proposed to Harco-Jan Folkets that maybe the TWS center he just bought a few months earlier would run the training.

Harco is a successful businessman and a passionate windsurfer so he didn’t hesitate a minute. The boat and marks were bought within a week and the training was running within two.

How it works

These days there is over 30 people participating in the training at any given moment. All from amateurs and juniors throug girls and national riders, to top20 PWA guys and even World Champion. All these people are separated into 3 groups.

The first is a “championship” group with all the PWA guys, the 2nd is the majority of the national riders and 3rd is mostly girls and juniors.

There is 3 sessions of 5 heats for each group and after those 5 heats the best 2 guys from groups 2 and 3 move up a group and 2 worst guys from group 1 and 2 drop down a group.

So as much as it’s training theres also a sense of competition.

If you’ve finished PWA events top10, you definitely don’t wont to race in group2 for 5 heats, even if you win them all. Its also competitive because you wont find people any more competitive than professional athletes. After all they’re professional athletes for a reason.

There’s all sorts of personal matches and rivalries which make the training a lot more like a World Cup event where you really want to beat all those fuckers. But this being training people tend to take more risk than they would in a PWA contest.

That leads to a lot of close calls (and sometimes crashes) at the jibes and some crazy fights for the win of any given heat.

It’s fun to be a part of, but sometimes when I see the videos I think it might be as much fun to watch. This is the time to try crazy things, to crash, to overpush and to just try to move your limits a tiny tiny bit.

And the collective mindset of everybody involved makes it only easier to do just that.

Regular day

Every training day I wake up at 7am. I do my meditation/mental preparation and prepare breakfast.  Usually it would be a meal high in protein and fats to try to keep you going thru the long day or at least the first session.

So my choice would usually be 6 eggs and 2 avocados.  Have some fresh squeezed orange juice with it and it definitely feels like breakfast of champions.

Than its time to prepare lunch. I’ll eat it between sessions and after the last race, so it need to be something balanced. Carbs, protein and a bit of fats. I burn well over 4000 kcal in a training day so its super important to eat to try to sustain the weight I worked to get before getting here. For example 400g of rice/millet, 500g of chicken, 60ml olive oil and a red pepper would be my classic menu.

Once that is the lunch box I go to the beach. I try to telegraph what the conditions will do and have a couple sizes of boards and sails ready or semi-ready.

Even in a paradise like Tenerife conditions are constantly changing. At around 10.45 I’m rigged and ready and its time to hit the water for the 11am start.

Group1 goes first and if you miss the start of the first heat your out from the whole session.

Wanna be a pro gotta act like a pro I guess! I always have goals for a given day so I try to focus on that. Wether it would be a tactic or some part of the gear I’m testing, theres always some sort of a theme, besides just starting good, pushing hard and getting good jibes.

And so we race heat after heat, take a 30min brake, go back out, race another 5, take a 60min brake, race the last 5, and around 17:00 we would usually finish.

My Suunto Ambit3 watch usually says I did about 100km and burned around the mentioned 4k calories.

It also gives recovery time, which I’m not sure how is calculated but we’re definitely not able to go by it.

Regular days recovery time? 150 hours! Well I guess these training aren’t the easiest thing in the world for your body…

The result

The core group of the training pretty much didn’t change since 2013. Back then nobody was top10 in the PWA rankings and only 3 guys were top20.

This year, the winter of 2018, we had pretty much the same guys, but there is 7 top20 guys and 5 podium finishers.

I remember when we were starting we were saying the training heat is like a first round heat. Very soon it was a quarterfinal, but this year it was more like a semi and every single guy of the first group has done PWA finals, so probably it could be a final as well. Maybe its just a coincidence. Maybe we were just all young and hungry and bound to succeed. Maybe we could do even better. But maybe the way we train really has something to do with it…

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