Top 16 on the PWA, multiple times BWA Champion and the voice of the PWA Livestream, is Ben Proffitt actually Mr Windsurf. We caught up with him for a quick Skype date whilst he's on Maui for the Simmer International photoshoot to find out more about his winter in WA, no handed backloops and his verdict on the fast-coming PWA World Tour.
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Cover photo - Si Crowther
BS: Howdy Ben, good to catch up with you. We see from your facebook page that you are currently in Maui for the Simmer International photoshoot, how is it going out there?
Proffitt: Yeah that's right, actually it's been quite good wind here so far but not particularly wavy. It's not so bad, better than last year when we had a lot of onshore wind and rain, haha. I've been here since the 20th March and will be staying another week after the photoshoot to test some prototypes, test a few different fin set-ups, actually the sails are pretty much done, we are just fine tuning the boards now.
Photo - Si Crowther
BS: So can you reveal anything about the prototypes you are testing and the new gear?
Proffitt: Well it's all f***ing amazing, haha. Yeah it's good, we are really pleased with it, the sails are actually working really great so we've hardly touched them, just some minor changes. Things like the Icon got a bit more lower aspect, shorter mast, longer boom, nothing really revolutionary just because we really are happy with what we have.
Boards wise, we've got a freakin' sick freewave actually. We were testing against some of the test winners in that category, like Fanatic and it stacks up super good, I reckon it's a really good board. We've also been working on fin set-ups for that as it is obviously a tri-fin and single fin. We have also been paying quite a bit of attention to the new Quantum, we have two different designs for that and have just been deciding which one to go with as they are both freakin' good so we basically need to take them back to Europe and test them there in some real world wave conditions. There's only so much testing you can do on Maui and we want to make sure our boards work at everyone's beach, not just Hookipa.
Photo - Si Crowther
The team hanging out at Hookipa after a productive day of shooting the 2016 gear!
Posted by Simmer Style on Saturday, 4 April 2015
BS: So what is it like on an international photoshoot, can you tell us what you get up to each day and what goes on behind the scenes?
Proffit: Well I won't go breaking it down to we woke up, we had breakfast... haha. Pretty much what happens is that someone, anyone of us is at Hookipa at 10am each day and reports back to the group on the conditions, it's usually Kai Katchadorian as he has to drive past there anyway and we have a sort of morning 'briefing', most of the time on facebook as we have a group chat on there and everyone just checks that first thing in the morning to see what the call is; if Hookipa is going off then it's straight there, if the waves are on the flatter side then we head down to Kanaha to shoot freeride, or if we need to do some jumping then we head to Baby Beach. It all depends really how the first day goes and what shots you get in the bag, we pretty much have a shot list of what we need to get and we base that around the latest forecasts and the eyes on the beach each morning. Once the shooting is over for the day then we get together in the evening and the guys will go through the shots and see if we need to get anything else, if anything is missing then we get up the next morning and the cycle works again.
Obviously there are a few team meals out, a few BBQ's, one or two beers get drunk and we chat about the new gear, what needs developing, Thomas is over here to work on the sails with us so yeah it's all just mixed in with the shooting, who is on the water and who is not.
BS: Let's talk about your winter training in WA, when did you head there this year and how was the season?
Proffitt: Yeah it was really great, I spent four months there, as soon as PWA New Caledonia was over we travelled to WA and then once the season started we went straight on up to Gnarloo. Staying there for three weeks straight we were pretty much just living in the bush really but the conditions were awesome. I mean we never really had epic waves but they were always good and the wind was firing. The problem was my back started to give out a little towards the end of that trip so we travelled back and then spent most of our time at Coronation and Geraldton but my back was giving out quite a bit which meant I needed quite a bit of treatment and some time off, taking it a bit easier. My back is kind of sorted now because of that but it was to do with a disc in my back and the inflammation around it, there's some compression issues there and it pushes on a nerve and gives me pain in the Sciatica nerve that runs from the lower back and into the legs. I was lucky to get some good treatment from a guy called Serge, a windsurfer who happened to also be an Osteopath. Since then it's been all good, fingers crossed it remains like this.
After WA it was nice to take a short trip to Bali with Justyna and actually it was there I realised my back was quite a lot better, I haven't been surfing in quite a while because it's what hurt it the most and in Bali it was totally fine.
BS: So what about your personal level, do you feel more ready for the PWA this year now your back is much better?
Proffitt: Actually yeah I do. For the last two years this back issue has been hanging over me and I was just happy to hold my position in the top 16. It was hard at times and it would have been nice if my back would have been better before the start of the winter training instead of at the end, so in terms of fitness I feel a lot better but in terms of my training I haven't done a whole lot of jumping, so we will have to see where it goes. But if I could hold onto 16th with this back issue then fingers crossed for something better this year.
BS: So you are more motivated than ever?
Proffitt: Absolutely, haha, that's the problem my body is getting older but my mind is totally fired up from the motivation I have, haha.
BS: We noticed recently that you are working with FORD UK now, can you tell us a little more?
Proffitt: Yeah I've got a sort of sponsorship agreement with them, it's quite small time at the moment but I'm being sorted out a van for the time I spend in the UK and I will be giving it a test to see how it stacks up as a windsurf van against other better known windsurf vans like the VW T5 and so on.
BS: Moving on to the PWA World Tour and particularly the waves, do you think it is possible that Traversa can take the 2015 title as well or is there someone else who has been looking hot in training?
Proffitt: Ahhh it is fully possible that Traversa could do it again, he's a really great sailor but to be honest I think with any World title bid you need a certain amount of luck in things, obviously he, and others, are really skilful but now and again you need these little bits of luck to go your way.
To be honest I'm convinced it will be another close year again, the level of the top guys is really close and getting ever closer. Victor (Fernandez) here in Maui is looking really on form, Brawzinho is super super consistent landing perfect doubles on both tacks and he looks really really fired up to win a title. Then there is Campello who showed signs of brillance last year and he is clearly very keen to win a title, there's probably too many guys to choose from, Jaeger Stone is also looking really good. In the end I think it really comes down to the events we have and what conditions we have. If Pozo happens then Köster could really be in the fight as well, he's looking good here (Maui) and you see that video he recently released from Japan and you can clearly see he can pretty much jump on starboard as well now, you know he's got the moves as well so I wouldn't count him out just because he hasn't put it together in the Aloha Classic yet.
Photo of Thomas Traversa at the final event of 2014 - by JC / PWA World Tour
BS: Do you think Köster is ready for a comeback now?
Proffitt: Totally, he, like all the top guys, wants it and he is clearly keen to get it back with all this starboard tack training he has been putting in. I guess it depends on the events really and what comes up on the calendar.
BS: Have you heard of any possible additions to the PWA Calendar this year?
Proffitt: Well there's always rumours and speculation but it appears that the PWA are being a lot more reserved about what events they place on the calendar, not publishing too many events that are TBC but rather adding them in later, so we could be in for a couple more surprises. One such surprise is another event in France, it sounds like it will take place further up the coast from La Torche, more towards Brest which is in a different district of France and therefore different funding from the regional councils there. It sounds veryyy likely that this event will happen which should make for an exciting addition.
BS: So what's new on the wave scene, have you heard of any new moves or jumps happening this winter?
Proffitt: Well to be honest I've been in WA so long that I've not really seen or heard of much new happening. Obviously I've personally been trying the no handed backies quite a bit and actually it's not that hard a move but yeah in terms of new new moves, I've not heard of much really happening. It seems like everyone is pushing their diversity up, so a lot of guys are landing new stuff for them on their bad side and pushing up their move repertoires overall. Maybe people are just keeping it on the low, it wouldn't surprise me if Köster just bust out something in a heat this year.
Actually there was a small amount of talk just the other day of the pushloop into backloop. It is a move I have got really really close too but pretty much by accident. I was trying it in Cape Town a couple years back and got as close as it gets without actually landing it. I came down and buried the nose but just with the rig a little too forward so I couldn't sail away from it but that made me realise it is fully doable. So maybe we will see more of the double back rotations but with this one you have to be careful not to go into a double pushloop, that's not the safest of moves, haha! I don't know maybe it is too hard a move to land consistent but then again maybe I will be eating my words this year, sometimes you just need to get on the mic and say the right thing to the right people to see progression happen.
BS: How about Justyna, we saw her pushing the girls with a no handed backie of her own?
Proffitt: Yeah Justyna is sailing great, she is ripping her forwards and getting better. Actually she is really keen to doubles although she probably doesn't want me to say that, haha. It's funny I'm there trying to calm her down a bit she is really keen to go for a double, I'm like "can we have an injury free year please before we go for the doubles". With the no handed backloop, it's funny, she pretty much stuck her first one, so yeah she is ripping and super motivated.
BS: So how about the wave riding side, any developments there?
Proffitt: Well as I mentioned earlier I have been in WA all winter and as a result I've not seen a lot of the riders except for their video parts. Yeah Moritz was ripping and he was also ripping here in Maui on starboard tack. Landing a lot of good stuff back into the wave. Brawzinho is also on fire as usual but Jaeger Stone is really impressing me right now, he's throwing the tail out all over the place, fins out on all his turns and just killing it, I'm sure he's going to have something to say this year.
Photo - JC / PWA World Tour
BS: You are obviously travelling with the PWA tour a lot, heading to many of the slalom events so what's your thoughts on who is hot and who is not for 2015?
Proffitt: It's funny, with the slalom guys you never really know who is hot and who is not until the first event, there you get a real feel of who has been putting in the hours and the training over the winter. One thing that will mix things up a lot is the sponsorship changes, there were quite a few this winter, one such person was Tosseli, he was on form last year and looked like one of the guys to beat, he made a change from Starboard to 99 NoveNove and is looking just as quick having recently won the French event ahead of Pierre Mortefon who is also one of the quickest guys so you can definitely expect him to be a contender for 2015. On top of that Gonzalo Costa Hoevel just won the formula worlds in the Azores with an epic result, he could certainly be a contender for the PWA title this year. Then it would be impossible to count out Antoine Albeau, currently the most coveted slalom sailor he will no doubt be the man to watch out for. I think Quentel, Moussilmani, Arnon, you know all the maiden names will all be there or there abouts. I think we will find out a lot more when the first race gets under way in Korea.
BS: Lastly, we know you don't take part in the freestyle livestream so much but what about your thoughts on these guys?
Proffitt: Well Van Broeckhoven is absolutely on fire out here in Maui, I think he's got a pretty good shot this year but I thought that last year already, haha. I'll put my money on him for this year again though. To be honest there are a lot of young guys now who could charge through and upset that top 4/5 people who have been at the top for so long. Vrieswijk is no doubt ready to cause a much bigger upset than he did last year and I'm sure there are one or two others, I heard Yentel Caers had been pushing forwards and Balz Müller has been showing some pretty wild progression. I'll say it now, I'm pretty sure there will be some upsets this year.