We sent a reporter to meet up with EFPT Head Judge Tom Hartmann at his home in Vienna. It was early in the morning so Starbucks called, a coffee, some casual chat and it was already lunchtime. Here was the outcome of it all and for those who don't know Harti you are about to find out what truly being a passionate dedicated windsurfer is all about, how he has influenced the world of windsurfing and why it can change the course of a persons life.
Name: Tom 'Harti' Hartmann
Home: Vienna, Austria
Years Windsurfing: 16
Favourite Discipline: Waves
Greatest Windsurf Achievement: Building the windsurf jump ramp and pushing the development of that whilst travelling around PWA/EFPT events in Europe.
So Harti, a name many many people know in windsurfing, what are you up to at the moment?
Well I’m currently in Vienna, preparing for the European windsurfing season, planning new projects, working on the EFPT Tour and at the end of March I will be heading off to Aruba for their first event (Aruba Extreme Games).
We know you’ve been studying for a while, how is that going?
(Laughs) Yeah a short amount of time but I’m super happy to have finished my University studies a couple weeks ago and now I am awaiting my results... It’s good to have finished there is quite a lot of work at the moment in preparation for the season and so now I can really get on with it.
You mentioned to us earlier that you got back from a quick trip to Cape Town, we heard it was just a short trip, how was it out there?
Yeah it was ‘just’ 4 weeks, so not so short in the end. Actually it really was one of the best CT seasons I’ve ever experienced, we had good wind, a lot of good days with logo+ high swells and really I had one of the best days I’ve ever had in CT. We sailed at Whitsands for three days in a row, it was really clean and powerful, pumping over mast and half, 4.7 perfectly powered up.
There was a pretty funny moment where a guy dropped in on a wave I was on, I think he thought I wasn't going to take it but then he must have realised too late that I had and he tried to abort and get out the back with an interesting method. He simply went for the bottom turn where I could see the over mast high wave was going to break and then somehow tried to just windsurf directly through the wave. I never caught his name but he had one of the hardest wipeouts I've seen and yet his kit was absolutely fine! (Editors note: Check the photo below)
Does that one day make it worth it?
Yeah it was really good but in the end it is more the whole trip that was worth it. Cape Town is a hell of a place and really up there on my top locations to go to. I had quite a few days of mast high but then when I left I heard the swell wasn’t so big for six weeks! I guess I left at the right time.
Anybody that knows Harti knows that he can’t stay in the city for anything over a couple of weeks, where are you heading next and what’s the plan for that trip?
The city has its advantages, it's good to sit down and just got on with some work and catch up with friends but yeah I find myself travelling quite a lot. The next stop is Aruba for the Aruba Extreme festival as the Head Judge for the windsurfing side of the event. There are 4 main disciplines and each with a couple thousand euros prize money, so a pretty big event. They want to do something similar to the SOSH freestyle cup in Marseille so I’m really looking forwards to it. Marseille was a lot of fun and really well orgainsed.
You’ve been known for your exploration/lifestyle trips, do you have any more lined up?
Yeah it’s still in the early stages but the next new project will take place in Autumn, I can’t really say too much about it yet but… We are planning to head to New Zealand for another video project similar to the trip to Iceland we recently undertook. The trip to NZ should be a bit more focused on video rather than photos and we want to go beyond just windsurfing and water-sports but instead cover everything NZ has to offer. You know the real adrenaline junkie activities.
You went to Iceland recently, one hell of an adventure, how long were you there for?
We were there for 2 weeks and were on the water nearly every day. It was quite tricky to catch the best conditions for waves, to be in the right place at the right time and that wasn’t just our bad luck or poor judgment, the locals find it just as hard. The weather is changing very fast, similar to the UK but even more so because all the storms are starting up that way and they move a lot in just a few hours. We checked the forecast like 3-4 times a day and it would change massively each time.
I have to say that the nature was also super impressive, it offers a lot more than other countries of that size and it really wasn’t as cold as I expected, well at least most of the time it wasn’t.
Were the conditions good and any particularly memorable moments?
(laughs) Loads of memorable moments. One of the most beautiful was when we were stand up paddling on the ice lagoon where they also filmed the James Bond movie. Also a surf/SUP session in a Fjord further North with just snow covered mountains around, although it really was a lot colder up there, colder than Reykjavík. We went to sleep one night and woke up with almost 30 cm of fresh snow outside the door.
One classic moment had to be the time my clothes got accidentally taken whilst I was out windsurfing. We had two cars for the trip and we were windsurfing at this spot, then some of the guys had to leave to go to Reykjavík, I carried on windsurfing for 45 minutes and then got back in to find out that their car had literally ALL my clothes in, all I had was just a poncho. I had to drive back to Reykjavík, just in this ION poncho, stroll through the Hilton hotel with no shoes on and ask the hotel manager for the spare key to our room…
There was one other thing… A separate occasion we somehow managed to get a parking fine in Reykjavík and we thought ‘ahh, we can pay that when we get back’ from our mini-trip to Grindavik we had planned. Not long into the journey we stopped off for a session and realized that we had to pay this parking fine within two days! So I rushed back, still in my wetsuit, no shoes and straight to the parking office… the bank! So again, I was in my wetsuit in Reykjavík in a pretty important building, funny thing was no one really thought much of it…
We heard you got stung for several thousand euros by the car hire company, is that true and if so would it stop you going back? You ever had any other similar incidents in the past?
Hmm, yeah… It wouldn’t stop us going back, it was kind of a wear and tear thing, we ended up paying a couple thousand for one of the cars as the under body was damaged and some scratches on the roof. They really checked the under carriage! I’ve never experienced or heard about that before. It wasn’t the best end to the trip but with just 20 minutes left until my plane was about to take off I had to decide if I stay and argue or throw my credit card at them.
Perhaps next time we will rent one of the locals trucks…
We can’t wait to see more footage from that trip, what’s the plan with it all, any release dates yet?
Yeah there is a web-clip coming out in the next two weeks and many of the photos have made it to the paper mags already. Really though the trip was more about the photos than the video and we had three professional photographers there, two of which swapped between filming and photos.
Back to Austria, can you tell us a bit more about your involvement with Goya and Quatro?
Two years ago we set up a trading business and started to sell the gear within Austria. It’s cool to work with the international guys in Maui and Europe as they are really passionate about the sport, it’s more about that then actual figures which seems really cool also. We’ve set up a kind of online/info shop for almost a year now but we didn’t promote it so much and are now re-launching it (www.quatrogoyashop.at).
Well known for its wave-orientated approach, do you get a lot of wave heads in Austria, or are they the more unusual customer that tends to spend much more time on trips?
We sell about 90% wave equipment, the classic customer is more someone who wants a wave board to use on the lake for strong winds but then take to the sea on holidays, maybe 4 weeks a year in somewhere like Mauritius, not super radical wave boards but useable for all kind of conditions. The most sold board is probably the Goya Quad which right now is working super well for me also.
Can you shed any light on new boards/sails to come from the two brands?
Quarto/Goya are not into the classic yearly product cycles so they only put new things on the market when they need to. I expect some new stuff this Autumn but can’t really say at the moment. The latest updates are the new Levi Siver lines (the Quad and Thruster) and the latest sail is the Banzaii wave sail. There is a new freestyle board coming out a 109l, should be out in spring and the new line of SUP boards which came out at the end of last year.
So your a man with many fingers in many pies (not literally, although we are happy to grab you one right now), you are also Head Judge for the EFPT, how did that come about and have there been any more developments to your EFPT title?
Yeah that has now expanded from Head Judge to Event Manager, it’s all about getting new events on the tour, finding new spots, pushing the tow-in more, adapting rules, etc…
It all really came about in 2009 when I had my shoulder injury just before the season started and I broke my shoulder in April just before the first event started and in the end I was off for the whole season. I wasn’t really competing on the EFPT so much anymore so it seemed like a natural progression , on top of that my previous experience from judging at some other events tied in nicely. So obviously when I was asked I took the opportunity and was pretty excited to be able to change things that I as a competitor had not really liked so much.
Are there any plans to adapt the judging on the EFPT, to move with the times a bit more?
Yeah we were talking about this, how to make it more transparent there were suggestions from some of the riders to provide an execution score out of 10 alongside each move, that way they and us can compare each others moves if it’s close. We will keep with overall impression as it makes it more friendly to the fresh faces we see at the events and the younger guys who want to step up and experience the international scene.
The EFPT has seen quite the come back in the last year or so, why do you think that is and is this year looking as promising or even more so?
It really did, we made some changes to keep the tour going, but the economic changes saw events drop out so we had to adapt, this allowed many to come back. It didn’t help that we were unlucky in 2011 with not much wind at the events. In previous years we had a lot of events in Greece but due to economic situation there we lost them all over the course of one year! Now some spots are starting to show again and we have focused harder on more reliable countries, not always the ones known for their classic seasonal summer wind but this really gives us a more rounded European tour where many riders get to compete on the EFPT in their own country.
We are expecting to finish 5-7 events this year, stepping up from 4 last year, two events are looking very likely for €10,000, Premantura is one of them and already confirmed and signed.
Lastly, the EFPT has a more chilled out friendly feel, everybody feels more like it is a connection between windsurfers rather than just a competition where there is a lot of tension and nerves. People are a lot more relaxed when competing on the EFPT for some reason. It’s also a really good entry to international competition and we even get some older guys who want to compete, like 35+.
Tow-in windsurfing is still in the limelight and people are getting better and better at it, with €5,000 up for grabs at some events it is no wonder why. We know the EFPT back it with their full force and have heard some rumors about the coming years but where is it really going to go from here?
This year there will be an official tow-in tour with a tow-in champion! Events will take place in Podersdorf and Premantura for sure. Probably the most exciting part is that there are options to run events in places windsurfing cannot go, it is a bit of a dream at the moment but it could happen right in the cities, much like the indoor, etc… Prize money will increase for each events with a set minimum over the next years.
Say we are keen to run an event somewhere within the realms of Europe, can we just stick up a flag and run the event or what would we need to kick it off?
Not exactly, first you need to contact the EFPT then we come to run the competition itself. It is then down to the organizer who has to provide the prize money, the costs for the crew and the license fee then the organizer needs all the setup by himself, however big they want it, places to store gear, house judges, etc… For the budget, we have set levels for prize money then you work out how big you want to go and add on the extras, but the best is to just contact us first.
The sport of windsurfing is cool, there is no doubting that, it sells lifestyle, freedom and adventure but what is it missing? In your eyes what does it need to really get back to the wider audiences, to the mass market? Could it happen?
I think the main thing that could bring more people in to windsurfing is to re-new the image that people have in their mind, the people that have really no idea, the ones who think about it how it was 25/35 years ago. Make it more accessible, copy the image of other action sports, fair prices on renting gear and courses. Unfortunately at has held on to the old school image. Also the beginner courses should be restructured and that is the point where the lifestyle should be sold then, not just one of longboard racing.
Last question, have you ever thought about trying out a PWA event in the coming years either as a competitor or a judge?
Yeah I think I could try out a wave event in a location I like, maybe CT or Chile this year… I’m a more into my down the line true wave riding then the side-on jumping.
As for the judging, I’ve already done a bit at Podersdorf, I’ve been asked a couple times to do some more but it’s more if it fits in with me and them. I’m always up for doing more of them but it’s purely a time thing.
Thanks for the interview Harti.