Bjorn: The Last Word

Get’s the Last Word!

American Windsurfer:  You’re finally in a different place. Tell us what happened last year and what went through your head? Was losing the world title after 12 years a relief?

Björn Dunkerbeck:  Well, first of all, I think sooner or later I had to lose it. I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. I mean I never expected to be world champion twelve times in the first place. After a couple you think, well, that’s pretty good, let’s try to do a couple more but it actually did last a lot longer. The last year was a kind of a funny year. There weren’t a whole lot of competitions. The competitions that I usually have good results in, had no wind. For example, Gran Canaria had no wind or the waves, Silt had no wind for the waves, so it’s a lot of no show competition and we ended up with only three racing events and two wave results which allows you no discard. Everything that you do during these competitions is counting for titles. In Ireland I didn’t do very well in waves. The waves were soft and weren’t really my kind of conditions and I got only 17th. We came back to Maui and I think I ended up 4th, almost made it through the finals, but in the end it doesn’t really count because bad results like that show up in the ranking. If you have four, five or six on each of the disciplines at least it allows one bad result. But last year that was not the case.

AW:  Even so, I believe it came down to the wire?

BD:  Yeah, in the end, if I would have made it through one more heat in Ireland, that would have been it. So it was pretty close. But it’s normal. If you only have one contest, it depends on one contest. If you only have two then its always going to be really close between the persons involved. So I hope that this year, there are actually going to be at least five contests per discipline, because it makes it more fair for all the competitors, a lot more fun to compete as well.

AW: How did you feel emotionally about losing the title? You’re obviously a competitive person, let’s face it. It’s hard to lose and no matter how many times you won, you want to win the next one.

BD:  Yeah, of course you want to win and I still want to and I did want to win at the time. But I was actually planning on not doing the racing last year already. I was going to do more of these travel stories that I actually did and go visit different places, sail good breaks. But circumstances were that it never happened, so I ended up racing the Tour after all. But I think the preparation of my sails especially and my boards, were not as far as they should have been, because after being in Maui in the month of May, doing sail testing and board testing, I went and sailed in Fiji for three weeks and by the time the Canaries came along, not everything was one hundred percent as it was in previous years.


AW: Were you losing some focus and interest?

BD: The only reason why I decided to do some racing was because there were so few competitions anyway. So I kind of had to. I wanted to do more than what was on the schedule, so I ended up doing the racing after all. This year I’m not doing any racing, regardless if there is one wave contest or two or five or ten. I’m going to do my travels. I want to go and really sail the best conditions possible with a few good guys just because I’m still one of the best wave sailors in the world. I think if I focus on wavesailing only, I have a shot at the wave titles again. I’m still strong. I’m not hurt in any way and if I focus on what I really want to do, then I think my chances are pretty high. I don’t want to be spread out in all kinds of freestyle racing, wavesailing etc.

If there were ten contests of each discipline, it would be worthwhile. But I won racing more than I ever expected and I don’t need to prove that I could do it again. It has been done over and over so I just want to change my area of focus. I’m not going to go away at all. I won’t disappear for anything. I will be there in as strong a presence if not even stronger, just in different aspects and I’m definitely planning on two or three or maybe four trips to remote and perfect sailing conditions. I’m going to do the wave sails with Neil Pryde again this year. I’m going to actually work with them right now to make sure everything is intact for production and I think I will have a lot of fun doing this as well.

AW: What about your relationship with F2? You finished that contract? What went on there?

BD: Well, it wasn’t actually finished. As we all know, F2 got sold to the Jacobs Group which also owns Fanatic, Mistral, North, and [I] had a couple of conversations with people from that group and we came to an agreement. So I decided to go with my custom company that I have an agreement with in the Canaries, together with Carlo Sosa, which is called Proof. It was called Waterproof previously. It was a really small company for the past ten years and only in the past two has it grown up to be a bit more serious.

I would say, without being scared, that this company is probably the most modern custom board factory that I’ve seen in the world. I decided, Okay, F2 is not working out . . . F2 was a really good relationship for fifteen years so I wasn’t going just to leave F2 for the sake of leaving them but under the circumstances, it wasn’t really the F2 that I grew up with. So it came naturally and that’s why I also decided it was a good moment to do my own company and that’s what I’m going to do.

It’s going to be custom boards, pure. We’ve got walk-up quality boards available for those who wants to have a board like that. They’ll be produced up front. You don’t wait to get an order. So we have the capacity of workers that we can actually make between 500 to 800 boards a year. We want to make the best boards for the best sailors and their response. If you are a good sailor you want to have the best board. You have a tendency to want to get one like me and other performance sailors use. There’s no question if it is the same thing. It is. The company is small and exclusive and we just make the best boards we possibly can.

AW:  So with this company and the situation of the PWA, you’re totally focused on waves then.

BD: Only wavesailing. I still think I can do this on a high level. Robby is thirty-six right now and still is one of the top sailors in the world in wavesailing. I’ve been world champion six times in waves and I enjoy it as much as I did ten years ago and I’ve been here [on Maui] for the past couple of weeks. I was on the Canaries for two months and was either surfing or wavesailing pretty much five, six days out of the week and since I’ve been back here two and a half weeks now I’ve sailed Ho’okipa probably ten times and down the coast the other five days. I’ve been on the water every single day, and I’ve been improving my equipment, sails and boards, all the time. I believe that the longer I stay and the more work on it I do, the better my equipment will get and the more fun I’ll have out there in the waves.

AW: What about Formula racing? You alluded that if the Formula got into the Olympics, you would go for it. How do you feel about it now?

BD: Well, I’m sorry and sad that the Olympic Committee didn’t go for Formula windsurfing, because it is much more up-to-date with what windsurfing is about these days. You can get going as easy, as early, if not even earlier, than on an IMCO and I think it was a really bad call for windsurfing that it didn’t go into the Olympics because it could have really helped Formula windsurfing and windsurfing in general. And now it is just like, “Oh no, it’s IMCO again, so who cares”, except for a few riders who are for the IMCO but they would have gone into Formula windsurfing, I’m pretty sure about that, and done just as good.

AW: There’s a big build up of Formula now.

BD: Well, I think it is normal. I mean, people want to race. There haven’t been enough competitions there the last couple of years. I think not only World Cup-wise but also national-wise, if there are organized races, people will go. And the more races there are, the more people will be interested. The good thing about Formula racing, they can really get out there in anything. It can be seven, eight knots, and it can be twenty. You just need that one board and your three sails and you can compete from level one through level ten if you want to call it that, or from pre-amateur status to very high professional status and I think it is a natural solution.

AW: Sounds like you’re convinced it’s a good thing.

BD: Well, I’ve been seeing it come along for quite a few years actually. And, I think because of bad management or no management of the PWA [Professional Windsurfing Association] in the last couple of years and everything else that has been building up on the side, I think it is pretty normal that it is happening that way. It would be best to keep everything but it doesn’t seem that it was supposed to happen that way.

AW:  How will you sit on the sideline before your urge to go racing will come out again?

BD:  I don’t know. It is hard to say. I mean racing, going to competition, just racing, it seems like it is only that, but it is not. It doesn’t matter if it’s five contests a year, if it is one contest a year, or if it is ten. The equipment preparation for the tour or just one contest is the same. You’ve got to work on your equipment constantly, make your boards, your sails, your fin, yourself, work in these conditions. Light wind was never really my favorite thing anyway. I was always more like, “Okay, let’s go out there” and the rougher it was, the more fun I had, and the better I did. The lighter it was, the slower everything was, the less interest I had and also usually my sails went that way as well. So I’m not a light wind kind of person. As I feel right now, I’m definitely going to do wavesailing for quite a few years to come. I’m going to do a lot of traveling to good places as I already said and, who knows? If I get bored with that maybe I’ll go back into it. But I don’t see it happening for quite a while.


AW: So Formula designed more for light wind, clearly will not get you back racing.

BD: I haven’t even given it a thought. I said that if it were to be Olympic I would go into it and since it is not Olympic I wouldn’t really say for sure. It doesn’t really make a difference for me. I just want to go and have fun and not to loose my fun in windsurfing. I want to keep the fun, up to date, go out there and have a good time and not to be worried if the race committee is not putting the buoys in the right place, or if there are lots of protests—all that bullshit that’s been going through for racing for the past ten years. I’m tired of all that. I need to just go out there and have fun with windsurfing and do my thing. I mean I still have a race board in my garage and I go sail up and down the coast even now when I was home I sailed in front of my fathers school quite a few times. I went up the coast twenty k’s on my course board and came back down and was gone for a couple of hours. I’ve been slalom sailing when the weather was right for it and I’ll still do that. But freesailing and competing are two different things.

AW:  Do your sponsors put any pressure on you to do get back to the race course?

BD:   No. They actually understand it and they are supporting it . . . I will not be disappointed.

by John Chao

Publisher / Editor, is a former photojournalist for GEO, National Geographic and Time-Life Magazines

photos by Darrell Wong