We all make decisions in life to stand out, to make a difference, to BE different. There are an unlimited number of paths to follow and for one such person, Matthias Erlacher, his approach was to send himself into the realms of the unknown.
This has to be one of the craziest stunts we've ever seen in windsurfing. What makes it so exceptional is that it is done with no half measures, there is no mini test kicker, no warm-up run to check the landing area, it's all out guns blazing, balls to the wall kinda stuff. We got the full lowdown from Matthias, who just earned himself a world first, on what exactly went down.
The Winter in Austria is not exactly designed for enthusiastic windsurfers... With vast lakes totally frozen over and temperatures often well below freezing for weeks on end, we as windsurfers become a little stranded in our desire to feed our addiciton. So to get out of boredom, often you have to do something special. Why not windsurfing in the snow?
Since I founded my small company Slingspeed-Winches a year or so ago, I've used the winches I built for a lot of wake-skating and tow in-windsurfing. It didn't take long before the snow fell and the idea came into my head to try this during the winter with the winch and the windsurf kit. I just had to make it snowproof.
I took my best model, which was used already at the Surf World Cup in Sylt, and equipped it with two skis, which enabled me to transport it easily in deep snow. The idea was brilliant and it worked out super good. Now with almost endless possibilities in the snow i just had to convince some friends to realize my brainchild. That, fortunately, did not take too long (20 minutes I think). So i went with my two friends, Lukas Schöffman and Bill Kreutz, equipped with the winch and windsurfing equipment into the Alps near Innsbruck.
We drove to a place close to the ski-resort Kühtai, in the west of Austria/Tirol. Surrounded by mountains, more than 3000m high and hip-deep powder-snow, we started to prepare the winch and the windsurfing equipment. The conditions were perfect, 1 meter deep and fresh powder snow, sunny weather, Tirol at its best.
Passing by ski tourists watched on with a lot of bewilderment, skeptical of what was about to happen. It was kind of understandable, this had never been done before in the history of windsurfing, and snowsports. It wasn't any one of them that was new in the snow but the combination of all, especially the windsurfing kit and nothing but snow to land on. Still, with the windsurfing equipment, we had a lot of questions and jokes with these people passing by.
It was below zero degrees, no liquid water and not the slightest sign of wind, we were ready...
We finalized the position of the snow-modified winch and dug out a 2 meter high kicker. In order to keep the resistance of the surfboard in the snow as low as possible, I had previously assembled a very short fin. The acceleration worked great, within 100 meters I was up to 70 km/h. However, directing the surfboard turned out to be very difficult, the fin had almost no guidance in the snow.
The first attempts were as expected, completely out of control. I landed pretty uncomfortably, quite often I was upside-down in the snow. It was a risky and challenging acceleration from the winch, especially without the fin giving any direction. I often approached the kicker with the board 'spun out', that's already a pretty scary feeling on water. Now imagine this as I approached the 'winch chief' Lukas, who had to sitting right next to the kicker. I think he shit his pants a more than once.
After a lot of training I was finally able to control the approach a bit better and after several further runs, I was already able to land some nice Burners and Air-Funnels.
All in all this was a very funny and unusual winch session, without any injuries and with a high adrenalin potential. I quite sure nobody has done this before, so I’m proud that it is a world first.
Until next time.