Interview Steven van Broeckhoven
Simone Pierini from Iris Press sent us this interview with the current PWA Freestyle World Champion Steven van Broeckhoven (B-72), called SIMPLY A CHAMPION: “RIDE WITH A SMILE”. In June and July Steven spent time in Italy, where Simone did this interview you can read below. At the moment Steven is already on Fuerteventura, to preapare for the upcoming PWA freestyle event.
Interview by Simone Pierini
“Ride with a smile”. This is Steven Van Broeckhoven’s message. The 2011 PWA Freestyle World Champion, born in Belgium and is one of few Europeans, who was able to win a PWA title in his category. French Antoine Albeau won the freestyle title in 2001. A champion who is polite, smart, and almost quiet.
Passion for windsurfing, mental balance, clear ideas, a great attention to the study and development of materials, a mad attraction towards every technical aspect of freestyle moves: all this represents the strength of Steven. Like everybody else, as he likes to describe himself, he experiences his sport with happiness and respect. He received a gift winning the World title. He has not thrown it to the wind, nor did he let it blow away as so many have done. He has developed it, looking for every detail that could make him a better rider. With humility and patience.
At the age of 27 he is in his full physical, technical and especially mental maturity. The interview he gave us only confirms the sensations we experienced at first glance. What emerges is his openness to the world of windsurfing. In this case the Italian one that first welcomed him in Sardinia, Sa Barra (Sant’Antioco) the Olympus of freestyle discovered by his friend Luigi Madeddu, and then in Tuscany, Talamone (Grosseto), where he visited as special guest the XRay Talent Factory, the stage of Raimondo Gasperini. All this before moving on to the Lake Garda for the Young Gun Camp promoted by his new sponsors NeilPryde/JP Australia.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: Here in Italy you are seen as a “Martian”. Who is Steven Van Broeckhoven instead?
Steven: A guy as many. I like windsurfing because it’s freedom to me. It gives you the opportunity to meet a lot of people, to travel and discover beautiful places around the world. I don’t like to standardize myself, I am curious and rather simple.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: How does it change the life of an athlete crowned world champion?
Steven: Nothing changes in my head or in my way of thinking. But now windsurfing became a job, certainly a nice job but with less fun than before. I have to train more and improve myself constantly, and I need to have a detailed physical preparation. That’s why I see and I experience windsurfing in two different situations: those with friends, in which there is complete mental freedom, and that of training, where concentration is at its maximum.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: As a child did you imagine to be able to reach these levels?
Steven: As a child, like everyone else, I read magazines and I followed the world of competitions. I was good and almost immediately I realized that I had a great ease in learning, I used to learn everything very quickly. Anyway, I never thought of becoming world champion.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: Where and how did you start windsurfing?
Steven: I started when I was 9 years old in a small lake near to where I was born, Lommel, two hours from the Belgian coast. There was always a little wind there, so when I was 12 my friends took advantage of the weekend to take me to Holland on Lake Grevelingen where I started to plan and to gradually improve.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: Who is your idol?
Steven: I do not have an idol, someone who I could take as an example or who inspired me. I always watched and admired all those champions who have shaped the history of windsurfing, but I chose to follow my path, my own style. However, if I should name someone that would be Tonky Frans, as he represents what I see in windsurfing, that is: happiness, joy, and fun.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: How do you imagine your future?
Steven: Windsurfing. That´s what I love and what I live for. Even though i prefer not to look to far in time. I certainly have an idea, but this is and will remain my secret.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: Who is your toughest contender?
Steven: At the moment all top-4 of the PWA. There is no one in particular, the level is so high that you can win or loose with anyone. What I can say is that I have many friends in the circuit of competitions.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: The first event of the Season, Podersdorf, was not so lucky. With what kind of motivation will you arrive in Fuerteventura?
Steven: I came from the title won in 2011, I trained a lot for the Austrian competition. But when my heat started there was no wind. But that was it. Fuerteventura is another story, I am here to win. (Steven spent several weeks on Fuerteventura already and trained a lot in highwind conditions)
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: You chose Sardinia for your holiday, but especially for your training. What took you to Sa Barra (Sant’Antioco)?
Steven: I was in Corsica, I knew I had some time before getting to Lake Garda for the Young Gun Camp & Bump and Jump 2012. At that point I decided to take a trip to Sardinia. Advised by my Italian friends Francesco Tedeschi and Luigi Madeddu I decided to go to Sa Barra, and I discovered one of the best places ever for freestyle.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: What kind of spot is Sa Barra?
Steven: A true freestyle spot, where you may find both flat water and a chop for the most extreme moves. The northwesterly wind is super constant. The water is warm. There is a great atmosphere, the locals have welcomed me very well making me feel immediately at ease. Then Gigi is a really good rider. It has been nice to surf with him. I’ll go back there for sure.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: How did you meet Gigi Madeddu who hosted you in Sa Barra?
Steven: I met Gigi in 2009 at the EFPT tourstop in Sardinia. Then I spent much time with him on holiday in Bonaire and it was nice to find him here. We are good friends now.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: Your presence in Talamone has thrilled the boys from the XRay Talent Factory. What do you think about these events?
Steven: In 2009 I was on holiday in Sardinia and Raimondo invited me to greet the kids of the XRay Talent Factory. This year my return to Italy coincided again with his event so I am happy to be back and to have made a contribution. These events are very important, they benefit the future of our sport, the development of the young and the visibility of the sponsors, that as all sectors they are not experiencing a great economic time.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: Do you follow any young talent in Belgium that may follow your footsteps in the future?
Steven: There are several very good young riders, definitively a growing movement. Unfortunately, I am almost never at home so I can´t follow them personally, but they will have a great future.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: What advice would you give to young people who approach freestyle?
Steven: They must go on their own way, with fun and passion. Without any conditioning, no obligation, since windsurfing is freedom and it must remain so. With this spirit one may improve. My advice is to do windsurfing with a smile.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: The economic crisis is palpable, companies are experiencing difficulties and the PWA races have been reduced. What´s your opinion about it?
Steven: I think it is a moment. Last year we competed at seven PWA events, while this year the organizers are having difficulties in finding sponsors and we are likely to compete three or four tourstops at most. I am sure that from next year on there will be a big step forward. New realities and new locations are being proposed. One of these is Brouwersdam, in Holland, which offers perfect conditions for freestyle.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: Much has been said about your transition from Gaastra/F2 to NeilPryde/Jp, how did it develop?
Steven: With Gaastra/F2 I reached the top, I won the Pwa and concluded a great adventure. Frankly, it was hard to do better. NeilPryde/Jp have created a new project, they focused on me to try to bring back the freestyle title after the last of the three won by Ricardo Campello in 2005. Certainly, this has changed my life too, there are more promotion, more videos, more photos: it became a 360° job which give me great incentives. A fantastic work on new materials began with Robet Stroj designer for the sails and Werner Gringler as board shaper. They pay much attention to details of the technical aspect, the love to listen to their athletes in order to create a top-product. I hope I can bring them and the whole team great satisfaction.
Simone Pierini/Iris Press: To conclude, the simplest question. Is your life beautiful?
Steven: For sure! (he answers without hesitation). No doubt I am realizing the dream of many riders, going around the world and finding always a warm welcome, children asking for autographs and photos. They look at you as you are different from them. But actually for me life is beautiful in its simplicity. Going around the world is beautiful, but if I have to say what is happiness for me I answer that is windsurfing with my friends at home, joking with them. Windsurfing in Maui or in any other spot on the planet is not comparable to the joy of having at your side who loves you”.
© Interview by: Simone Pierini/Iris Press Photos: Daniele Stanisci/Iris Press, Francesca Salaris/Windsurfing Club Sa Barra, Michele Tagliafico/Windsurfing Club Sa Barra.