Life as a professional windsurfer is a dream for many, however as well as endless beaches and hours on the water, pro windsurfers work hard, travel with incredible amounts of gear and struggle to stay injury free. But how does the life of a professional windsurfer compare to other extreme sports?
Boardseeker talks prize money, equipment and crashes with UK Freestyle Champion, Andy Bubble Chambers, and O'Neill Pleasure Jam winner, Aimee Fuller.
Name: Aimee Fuller
Date of Birth: 21/07/91
Best results: 2x 1st place O’Neill Pleasure Jam
Sponsors: Roxy Red bull Vans Level
Name: Andy “Bubble" Chambers
Date of Birth: 30/06/1983
Discipline: Freestyle and Waves
Sail/rider number: K540
Best results: 5th PWA Sylt, 9th PWA Aruba, 3rd BWA Waves 2011, 2nd Tiree Wave classic 2011, Multiple British Freestyle Champion
Sponsors: JP Australia Boards, NeilPryde sails, NP waterwear, Animal, Boardwise, Club Vass, K4 Fins.
BECOMING A PRO
When did you learn your sport?
Aimee: When I was 12 years old I hung up the skis and made the transition to snowboarding.
Bubble: When I was eight years old in Cyprus I used to stand on the beach with the sail and board, the fin dug into the sand and I would windsurf on the beach without going anywhere! I did that for two years before I was finally carried into the water still on my kit and just sailed off! Haven’t looked back since!
How quickly did you progress and when did you start competing?
Aimee: Things all happened very quickly, I was just riding for a laugh with friends and before I new it, I was sponsored by Roxy and competing; it was a dream so I am still shocked now to think I am doing something I love.
Bubble: It was windy everyday so I could go windsurfing straight after school, which meant I progressed really quickly. I started competing straight away because it was longboard racing back then. I didn't start competing in waves or freestyle until much later.
When did you become a 'pro'?
Aimee: I guess last season. 2011/12.
Bubble: I became a pro in 2004.
How do you make your living?
Aimee: Just snowboarding, that's what pro means.... in our sport. You are making a living from it!
Bubble: Teaching windsurfing at Club Vass, bit of prize money, selling my equipment and a bit of event money from my sponsors.
How much are the prize funds at events? And what can you expect to make in a year from prize money?
Aimee: It depends on the events. Prize money varies soo much from event to event and the star level of the contests. I'm not riding for the prize money, I am doing it for myself, if you ride thinking of the money it doesn't work. You gotta be in this game for the right reasons.
Bubble: At the PWA events the prize fund for the men is 35,000 Euros. Which is split amongst the top 20 with 1st place taking about 18% of the total which is about 6,300 Euros and it goes all the way down to 20th place taking about 1.65% which is about 577 Euros. It all depends on how many events are on, last year we had seven events so there was potential for the the guy who wins all of them to make about 45,000 Euros. Last year we had three events! So not a good year for money!
How many events do you compete in per year and where are they?
Aimee: This year is going to be mental. World cups, Xgames and TTR events , I'd say between 8-12 contests; there is pretty much one every week throughout the winter!
Bubble: There was seven last year on the PWA Tour, then you have four UK Wave events, six UK Freestyle events, European freestyle events. There is potential to compete in a lot of you can get to them all! Last year I competed at all three PWA Freestyle events which were in Austria, Fuerteventura and Germany. Also the UK wave tour, freestyle tour and European Tour event as well but only because it was in the UK! Usually the events spread across the globe from Vietnam to the Caribbean places like Bonaire and Aruba. Also lots around Europe and the Canaries.
TRAINING AND TRAVEL
Where do you go to train?
Aimee: All over, currently I am on a plane back to the US having just been in Canada. I've already been to the US three times this season. On the schedule coming up we have Germany, Russia, Switzerland, the US, France, Spain, Czech and back to the US; it's a whirlwind but a fun one!!!
Bubble: I train a lot at the event sites as I think it’s good to get in tune with the conditions where we will be competing, also it pushes you a bit more having all the other sailors and media around. I also train wherever I am if it’s windy! A lot of the summer is spent out at Club Vass in Greece and the last couple of years I have been finding some great sailing spots in the UK. During the winter months I tend to head out to Cape Town where I can train everything from waves to freestyle.
How many hours a week? Just on the water/snow? How much other training?
Aimee: As much as possible injury and weather permitting four hours a day, four to five days a week.
Bubble: All depends on the wind! If it’s windy everyday, all day then I will sail for as long as I can, which could be five to six hours a day. Most of the time it’s just on the water. Off the water it would be more on the fitness side. Surfing and SUPing really help with your fitness levels and wave knowledge.
Do you train mainly in the UK or do you head abroad?
Aimee: For the actual practical side of snowboarding I head abroad, the dry land I do in the UK; I trampoline, cycle and do strength and conditioning sessions with Red Bull performance. It's fun to mix it up! And it's nice to be home.
Bubble: In previous years it was mostly abroad but more recently I have been spending more time in the UK. I still travel a fair amount though!
What are and where can your favourite conditions be found?
Aimee: Canada. Retallack BC, waist deep powdaaa!
Bubble: My favourite conditions can be found in lots of places! It all depends what I want to do at the time. At Club Vass it offers warm wind and water with an amazing atmosphere on and off the water. Cape Town offers the waves, wind and some great freestyle spots. The UK also has some amazing spots for training on the flat water or in the waves as well.
How much equipment do you travel with?
Aimee: Two boards, and then just all the other gear that you need for the hill.
Bubble: When travelling to events it’s usually around two boards, six to seven sails, five to six masts, three to four booms and all the other bits. Going for a trip or training somewhere like Cape Town I would usually take a wave quiver of boards and sails and a freestyle quiver, so usually double the amount that I take to events! Oh and a surfboard as well!
How much does your equipment change depending on conditions/where you're competing?
Aimee: It always stays the same, other than an extra layer or two to keep warm!
Bubble: If I got to a freestyle event I will only take freestyle gear and the same for a wave event. Like I said above if I am going somewhere to train I take everything!
WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG
What has been your worst injury, how did it happen and what were the consequences?
Aimee: Bruised heels, broken coccyx, broken collar bone, torn rotator cuff. All knocks and bruises here and there but the bruised heels actually had me out for the longest, a solid five months.
Bubble: Usually my injuries occur when I am off the water! Whilst on the water most of the time it’s just been the odd knock, bump or sprain but nothing major. A lot of the time it’s getting cuts which don't heal because of being in the water everyday, after a week they just become massive craters which you then have for months. Most of the time you get them on your feet and they always end up right where your footstraps go, so in the end you can end up having to stay off the water until they heal properly.
What is the most painful way to crash?
Aimee: Every way...
Bubble: Usually it’s the most simple of crashes that end up hurting the most! A good hooked in catapult is a classic for giving you a hell of a smash!
What are the most common injuries?
Aimee: Bruised heels.
Bubble: Ankle sprains, broken feet, cuts, bruises, ligament damage in the knees. Mostly though it’s just the pride that gets hurt the most!
What has been your biggest close call?
Aimee: Backflip to face plant wasn't my best manoeuvre!
Bubble: When we were at an event in Vietnam the wind was taking it’s time to fill in so me and a few others went out for a wobble to see if we could get going. On the way back towards the beach, (still wobbling at this point) I suddenly see people coming out of the restaurant on to the beach all pointing and looking in our direction. Next thing I see is a fin come up out of the water by another. Turns out to be a very big tiger shark just cruising up the coast in between us and the beach! That was too close for me!