My passion for windsurfing began in Germany around 1976. At the time, Munich could claim only one windsurfing shop and it was there that I first learned of a young windsurfer named Robby Naish.
The store started carrying a new windsurfing magazine produced by Peter Brockhouse, who was a major influence on the windsurfing scene in Europe. On one particular visit, I was distracted by the cover photo of the magazine. A picture of a young Robby Naish held my attention. The accompanying article revealed that this thirteen-year-old had recently won his first windsurfing championship in the Bahamas. A kind of jealousness crept under my skin. I thought to myself, “Oh wow, this guy is only thirteen years old, and a World Champion.” I asked myself, “Why can’t I do that?”
So I started to subscribe to this magazine…
Finally, I did what I never did before and never did afterwards. I wrote him a letter. I later found out that my letter was to be Robby’s first fan mail. My letter also marked the beginning of a friendship that still exists today.
Three months later, I received an autographed picture of Robby and a letter telling me of his upcoming trip to Munich. Robby Naish wanted to meet me.
The year was 1977. I was seventeen and Robby was fifteen and this was his initial visit to Germany. We met at Bodensee, an enormous border lake in the Southwest region of Germany, adjacent to Austria and Switzerland. I participated in the lessons Robby gave at Bodensee and then again at Sylt, an island in northern Germany.
A year later, Robby and his family came to Munich again to visit us. Our families went water skiing together and Robby gave lessons at Lake Walchsee, which is not far from Munich. When it was about time for the Naish family to depart, they asked me to join them on their tour through Switzerland and Italy. I was thrilled!
The Naish family is big: two parents, four kids. Luckily, they had a huge car. Not only did they take me, but they took my board too. A meager addition to the other five boards that were already strapped to the roof of their car.
We stayed in Switzerland for three days, before traveling to Lake Garda, Italy. Both Robby and I competed in the Mistral European Championships. I, however, didn’t do so well.
The Naish family was incredibly nice to me. I don’t know if they treated everyone like me, but often I felt as if they treated me just like one of their own sons.
The following year, Robby and I met again in Europe. Almost every time Robby came to Munich we met each other, at least for dinner or lunch, and a couple of times he came to my parents’ house.
I have no idea how Robby and I came to be such good friends so fast. Perhaps it’s because we’re both born under the same sign. Tauruses are typically characterized as slow and conscientious. Every step they take is thought out once or twice before it is taken. Funny, I don’t believe in stars or astrology, but maybe that’s why we get along so well.
As a friend, Robby Naish is a fantastic guy. I like his consistency, his genuineness, and his ability to maintain an even keel throughout his increasing popularity. In many ways, Robby is more mature than I am, although, I am exactly two years older than he. Maybe it’s the experience of being a father or having gone through two marriages that distinguishes us.
In 1980, I spent close to three weeks at the Naish residence in Hawaii. Getting to know Robby, and having the opportunity to fly over Hawaii, was a dream of mine that literally came true. Robby took me windsurfing in the ocean. His mom, Carol, gave me a tour of the island. We went to Maui, where Robby was competing in speed trials. I also spent time with Robby’s girlfriend and her family, the Kellys.
When I was eighteen, Robby took me to his high school with him. I had wanted to go to Punahou High School ever since I read about it in James Michener’s Hawaii . Punahou was like a university to me. We don’t have anything comparable in Germany. I loved this school and the people I met through it. Though, I must admit, it was rather humorous attending class with Robby.
Through my friendship with Robby and his classmates, my English has improved tremendously. I’m very doubtful that I would have learned English as well as I have, had I not been fortunate enough to meet Robby.
I visited Robby and his wife Bitsy again in 1985, for a couple of weeks, when he became a father. Caught up in the preparations for my high school diploma, I had missed their wedding. However, I enjoyed seeing him as a dad, taking care of Nanni. My last visit to Hawaii was in 1991, at which time Robby was married to Katie.
Initially, I disliked being called a Robby Naish fan because the name “fan” doesn’t have a favorable connotation. Yet, I realize now there are many positive aspects to having an idol. It’s what gives you the motivation to reach an aspiration that you otherwise wouldn’t dream of reaching.
The influence idols have on kids is very important. As you grow up, you try to loosen your ties to your parents, then you look for something else to attach yourself to. Everybody had to have certain goals. A good idol enables the quality of your life to increase, positively.
Robby has fans everywhere. I think his age is part of it. He’s young and he was successful at a very young age. I think people like it. In the heart of every fan is a positive jealousness, an envy of the success of his idol. As an idol, Robby Naish is very decent, very moderate, and not at all big-headed. He’s unbelievably popular and has to walk through crowds of fans if he’s leaving a windsurfing event, but nevertheless stays humble.
I saw his fans in Italy, France, Germany and in Hawaii, too. I saw Asian girls who couldn’t stand still when Robby was near. They danced around him in their excitement. I hardly think there’s a difference between a German fan or an American fan, an Asian fan, or a French fan- or even me, his first fan.