Antoines move to JP was probably the biggest move of this year busy transfer period. The big Frenchman has been dominating the racing and speed scene for the last few years and is definitely hot property for any brand. Although not officially on JP until the end of February, here he has a few words to say about the upcoming change.
What made you sign with JP Australia ?
There are several reason for that. First of all I have been watching the team spirit between the JP riders like Micah Buzianis, Robby Swift, Kauli Seadi, Ricardo Campello and Jason and I was always impressed how they helped each other on the beach and how they train together. Micah, Robby and Jason also workout together in the gym, ride their bikes and hang out together. It is great to be part of a team like that especially when you are on the tour. So I really look forward to that.
I have also been impressed by how the JP has been watching the market and has positively influenced the development of the PWA tour and the windsurfing market. The JP brand manager is a member of the PWA management board and got a few really good things going within the PWA. It is actually interesting that very few windsurfers know that JP has initiated Freestyle – where I won the title in 2001 later they initiated Super-X where I won the title in 2006. And finally they also initiated the re-birth of Slalom within the PWA Tour in 2005. Since then we race on production boards – which is great as everybody can buy exactly what we are using on tour and I have been lucky enough to win 3 titles (2006, 2007, 2008) in a row. So in a sense my career has been heavily influenced by JP Australia and I have always been in close contract with them. It actually has been very close before to sign with them.
For me it has also been interesting to see how JP has developed from a niche brand which only offered Wave and Freestyle boards to a brand which offers a full program of windsurf boards from beginner to high performance slalom boards and has become market leader in the high performance, high price segment.
As an athlete I also have to think medium to long term. I know the management team behind JP quite well and I am convinced that we will have a great long term future together.
What about your involvement in the development of boards?
That was one of the other important reasons why I finally decided to switch. I know Werner Gnigler since a while. He is one of the most successful shapers and I really look forward to closely work with him and Micah and Robby on the future Slalom and Super Sport boards. In fact I will go to South Africa very soon to work with Werner and Micah on the 2010 Slalom boards. Werner is working on the first round of boards now.
Is that different to what you did in the past?
With my last board sponsor I was not as deeply involved in the board development as I will with JP. So this will be very interesting and a good challenge.
Did you test the Generation V JP Slalom boards already which just came out and which you will be racing on in 2009?
I obviously tried the new generation 5 boards carefully and was very impressed with them. With those new JP boards I am all set for 2009 and I can\'t wait for the season to begin!
You are now on the same team with Micah and will even work with him on the new boards. At the same time he is one of your main competitors on the Slalom tour. Isn’t that difficult? How does that work?
Micah and myself have been competitors and friends for a long time. Whenever I am on Maui I even stay at his house so there will be no problem. I really look forward to develop boards together with him and Werner. We are about the same weight and height so we are perfect test partners. Our plan is to dominate the Slalom discipline.
We already have been working together on the development of the NeilPryde Slalom sails and I think the success of them show how well this has worked.
On the water we are competitors and will certainly both give it our best and try to win.
Bjorn has now moved to Starboard and Severne how do you see that?
It was pretty clear that the boards Bjorn used before did not work to well. Now with his new boards he is certainly a tough competitor for all of us again. We don’t know much about Severne racing sails but I am sure Bjorn will push them hard. So overall it will be an interesting battle between us. But don’t forget that there are a lot of other talented guys around who are very fast as well like Kevin Pritchard, Ross Williams, Finian Maynard and the Moussilmani brothers, and obviously Micah and Robby Swift to name just a few. So it will not just be a battle between Bjorn and myself.
What about Speed – will you still continue to go for that?
First of all JP will bring a full collection of speed boards which I developed for them. So I will obviously go for the production speed record but I also would like to be the first windsurfer over 50knots and I think that it should be possible to break the 100km/h barrier on a windsurf board.
Any other plans?
Yes, together with JP I want to give something back to this wonderful sport which gave me so much. We want to promote Slalom and long distance racing on a fun level. I will do quite a few promotions and will attend several long distance races. This is already happening quite successfully in France but we want to get it going in the rest of the world as well.
And I want to do something with kids – to get more Youngsters into the sport. We don’t have any detailed plans for that yet. But JP is already very active with a Young Gun Team and various Young Gun camps – so maybe I will attend one of those or we will do a special Young Gun Slalom Camp somewhere.