Graham Ezzy: “Windsurfing is exploration. Windsurfing is speed. Windsurfing is adventure. Where surfing is about riding waves, windsurfing is about riding the sea. Windsurfers are the boats of Magellan or Cook shrunk down into man-size.

Graham Ezzy spent his winter in South Africa to improve his port tack skills. And there is a reason for that, he will participate in the PWA Wave Tour in 2014, although he quit competing on the tour 2011. Read an interesting interview about a big character in our sport, who has something to say and who really is into the sport. It doesn’t matter, if he sails at CapeTown, Jaws, Madagascar, California, Baja, Ho’okipa, near New York or anywhere else. Graham, the son of David Ezzy , is 100% windsurfing or even more. In all his moves he puts this 100% of energy. You can see it, you can feel it when watching Graham on the water. Graham has so much more than windsurfing in his mind and that’s what makes him unique and outstanding.


Interview with Graham Ezzy

Drawing lines at Baja(Pic: Clark Merritt)

Drawing lines at Baja(Pic: Clark Merritt)


Continentseven: You took part in the the Aloha Classic 3 months ago. How was it going for you?

Graham Ezzy: It was okay. The Aloha was my first competition since the World Performance Event in Japan last December (which I won) and my first world cup since Pozo 2010. I didn’t have a wildcard into the Aloha, so I had to do the AWT trials. The last time I had to do trials was in 2004 when I was 14 for the Jeep Hawaii Pro. 

I’m a lot better now than I was in 2004. Before, I was happy to pass a few heats. Now, I want to win.  When the event ended I realized how exhausted I was—how utterly tired and consumed from the competition. This is not good, I think. I played a mental chess game every minute looking at every single detail and it sucked away my energy. My training now is focused on improving my mind-game such that all my energy goes to performance. 

So, to answer the question: I’m happy to be in the top 10, and I had some good moves. Did I sail as well as I do in free sailing? No. Does that bother me? Yeah. 

Oh and: In my last heat, Josh Angulo snaked a wave from me. I don’t blame him. The PWA rules are very difficult to use in reality, because the judges can’t watch past the breaking waves and each rider is too focused on himself to know exactly what the other guy is doing. Basically it comes down to the toughest guy gets the wave. And there’s no one tougher than Josh! No blame on Josh from me, but it did mess with my head and the heat. 


Continentseven: Were you prepared for the event?

Graham Ezzy: Not really. I made the decision to compete only a month before the event, so I didn’t have a good floaty board for light wind and big waves. Luckily though, the conditions allowed me to use my normal Ho’okipa board. 


Graham with a radical Taka during the 2013 Aloha Classic (Pic: Carter/PWAworldtour)

Graham with a radical Taka during the 2013 Aloha Classic (Pic: Carter/PWAworldtour)


Continentseven: 7th and 9th in AWT and PWA. It was kind of a comeback for you on the international stage. Will you continue like that in 2014 competing at events in Europe, too?

Graham Ezzy: Europe here I come! I will do the full PWA wave tour in 2014. I’m actually at Cape Town to do port tack training.  I love windsurfing in Europe and I’ve missed it during my absence from competition.


Continentseven: Has the level in wave sailing increased?

Graham Ezzy: Yes and no. Guys land the tricks way more consistently. Takas used to win heats in Pozo and now they’re standard. In the Aloha Classic I landed a Goiter or a 360 in every heat and that still wasn’t enough to carry me farther than 9th

But despite the new school improvement, Josh Angulo was the rider that impressed me most. His flow and wave knowledge were beautiful. So much style! There seems to be a problem that as the riders focus on tricks, they treat the waves like skateboard ramps for busting moves. This completely ignores the entire point of wave riding! 

Riding waves classically is about beauty and being one with the Sea, which is to battle against the chaos. It’s about playing with one of the most dangerous entities on earth as she rises and crashes like thunder. Which is only to point out that there is so much more to wave riding than busting tricks, and because of this, the old school vanguard – like Angulo, Polakow, and Pritchard – still are incredibly relevant to modern wave sailing. 


Continentseven: How can you explain the dominancy of Maui riders during the PWA contest? Did you expect that?

Graham Ezzy: Nobody just shows up at Hookipa and rips. It’s a hard wave to figure out; the waves are choppy, the currents are strong, the rocks are sharp, and the locals are unforgiving. Plus, Ho’okipa is where wave sailing started and the traditions have been passed down from each local generation to the next. The locals have a huge advantage.

But everyone is good on Maui. The Aloha Classic is such a hard event, because every pro windsurfer trains at Ho’okipa. Even the European riders are almost local. Guys like Klaas have been coming to Maui for 15 or so years. Musso and Flo both went to high school here. This makes the event all the more important on the world stage. 


Continentseven: You are still very young. You had your PWA debut back in 2004, around 9 years ago. In the meanwhile a lot of things happened. You left the PWA tour in 2011, but you never lost the stoke about the sport, right?

Graham Ezzy: I love windsurfing. It’s my life. And probably always will be. Nothing else in my life offers the same amount of freedom of movement and expression. 

I left the PWA in 2011 to soul-search the right path for my life. It was right after I graduated from Princeton and for the first time in my life. I had no obvious “next step”. I tried the AWT tour, but didn’t like the lack of professionalism; I focused on films and traveling and finding my voice on the water.  2012 was a miserable year for me, but 2013 was a lot better, with cool film projects. Hopefully 2014 is even better! It’s time to go back to competing. And as far as professional windsurfing competitions, the PWA is unrivaled. 


Continentseven: You are focused on wave sailing! Is wave sailing the real windsurfing?

Graham Ezzy: No! Windsurfing is sailing before it is surfing. Actually, it bothers me that channel crossings aren’t mainstream anymore in windsurfing.  Windsurfing is exploration. Windsurfing is speed. Windsurfing is adventure. Where surfing is about riding waves, windsurfing is about riding the sea. Windsurfers are the boats of Magellan or Cook shrunk down into man-size. 

My focus is in the waves, but I try to incorporate all these other elements of windsurfing into my voice on the water. 

The trend in waves and freestyle is to treat windsurfing like skateboarding. I love skateboarding, but it is so different than windsurfing. A windsurf rig costs less than 5,000 euros and with it you can compete over 50 mph against boats that cost millions of dollars. You can sail from Europe to America on a windsurfer, or you can explore the coastline of your local sea or lake. Windsurfing is more than a sport, it is the lifestyle of adventure and exploration shrunk down into a package that almost everyone can buy and put on the car. 


Graham in the skate park back in in 2009

Graham in the skate park back in in 2009


Continentseven: Is a Ezzy Sails teamrider a 100% focused wavesailor?

Graham Ezzy: Our sails are born from Hookipa. My father, David Ezzy, was of the very first generation of Ho’okipa windsurfers. He has seen Ho’okipa grow and change over the last 30+ years of windsurfing. It is here that our sails come from. This ethos leaks into every part of the Ezzy lifestyle – especially the team. But does the Ezzy rider have to be just a wavesailor? No. The Ezzy rider is someone, who loves windsurfing. This is the core: love of windsurfing.


Continentseven: You once mentioned windsurfing is a therapy for your mind! Can you explain that a bit?

Graham Ezzy: I’m not sure if I can explain it, but here’s a try: When I don’t windsurf for a few weeks, I feel grumpy and irritable, and I’m probably terrible to be around. 

 “The ocean washes everything—even itself.” Riding waves is a kind of meditation; it clears the mind of small worries and opens the mind to the flow of life. It may sound silly but my most profound thinking happens on the water. Water holds a special place in the human world. We need to drink it to survive. We bathe in it. Our womb-life is one of water. Too much water and we die. 

But I hate it when people talk about surfing or climbing as if it is enlightenment or some shit. Or that it makes them better than other people. Sport in general is therapy for the mind. And it’s nice to feel a bit of mastery, a feeling that I don’t get a taste of anywhere else in life, yet. 


Continentseven: Do you sail on a free ride gear, too or try a few freestyle tricks in flat water?

Graham Ezzy: Training freestyle is important for being competitive in modern wave sailing. Our current world champion, Brawzhino, was a freestyle world champion before he was a wave sailor and you can see it in his style, especially the perfect Air Takas.

I used to do a lot of freestyle when I was a teenager. I even had a freestyle board! I got to the point where I could do double Spocks sometimes, and a Chacho on a good day. But freestyle training takes a lot of patience – that I don’t have – and such sore ankles! So now I do freestyle a few times a year, busting the “old school” moves like Spocks and Flakas. 


No-hands at Madagascar  (Pic: Ruben Lemmens)

No-hands at Madagascar (Pic: Ruben Lemmens)


Continentseven: Can you imagine to live somewhere at a lake or at a flat water lagoon without any breaking waves and reefs?

Graham Ezzy: Right now I can not imagine living a life without waves. 


Continentseven: Do you honestly like to compete or do you need to compete or would you prefer to work on videos, travel stories?

Graham Ezzy: I love film – windsurfing or otherwise – but I need competition right now. It is a need that springs from inside the very core of myyself. This probably sounds strange as competition is considered to be the opposite of “soul surfing”. However, in the last couple years of soul searching, I’ve realized that Windsurfer is a very important part of my identity. 

It feels weird and false to call myself a professional Windsurfer without competing on the world tour.  Competing comes from a desire within myself to be able to perform my best in any given 12 minute heat. There is a freedom found in these constraints. 


Continentseven: So what about video production?

Graham Ezzy: I’ve been lucky enough to work with the best in windsurfing cinematography. I hung around with the Poor Boyz crew when they were making Windsurfing Movie II. Levi is a close friend and we were traveling together and training together, so I kind of naturally fell into the production. I didn’t have a place in the script, but I sailed with them while they were filming. So I ended up with a part in the film—the footage was too good not to use. For me, that was a critical experience because I saw, for the first time, the process of making windsurfing films. 

Then I began to be involved with umi. From 2009 to 2011, umi consistently put out the best webclips in windsurfing. Brendan, the eye behind umi, became one of my closest friends and possibly my most important mentor-figure. He taught me about cameras and light and photography theory. Slowly I became involved on the production side, too. I planned trips, wrote narrations, designed storyboards, and gave inputs on edits. Brendan took me under his wing; we don’t talk much any more, but he helped shape many of the ways I view windsurfing and art – and life too I guess. 

My time with umi coincided with a growth in my love for film. I started watching a ton of movies. A ton. Like 4 in a row on some days. I tried to absorb as much cinema as I could, studying different story telling techniques as well as the different technical aspects of the craft. 

I also worked with Manu Grafenauer a little bit when he was filming Flo Jung’s “Don’t Let Go”. Manu stayed at my house and we were able to talk about film and windsurfing. 

KP joined the Ezzy team in 2011, but it wasn’t until this year that we started doing film work together. And boy has it been good! We started the year with “Take 1”, which was a huge hit. We followed it up with the more cerebral “Writing & the Sea”. Over the summer, we did two trips to California and one to Baja as part of the “Tourists of the Sea” series. 

In September I did a trip to Madagascar with Andi Jansen. Planning the trip was a complete nightmare and KP was supposed to come but the tickets were booked for the wrong dates (never ever fly Air Madagascar, not only do they suck as an airline but they destroy boards; one board arrived in 3 pieces!). Andi came on the trip and I’d never met him before. 

But the trip was amazing; I loved working with Andi. It was hard; something went wrong every single day, but Andi shot some of the best windsurfing footage I have ever seen. And he has a really dynamic eye. We met out of luck, but we will definitely work together again. 


Graham and Andi somewhere at Madagascar

Graham and Andi somewhere at Madagascar



Continentseven: Kevin Pritchard is a teammate of you and he collaborates with Johannes Neumann. How much helps that in terms of video productions?

Graham Ezzy: It is a huge help to work with Johannes! I think the biggest advantage is that he has a very different aesthetic to me. Neumann’s style is a bit flashier with FX than my naked style and I think this helps make the clips flashier and more stylish. I like having this contrast. Exploring a snappier style helps me as a filmmaker. 


Continentseven: Do you have any new plans for new projects in the near future? Did you write any scripts?

Graham Ezzy: Too many plans! I have an outline for a feature length windsurfing film, and I have many scripts written for short films that have nothing to do with windsurfing. I’m looking to produce some of these in South Africa.  Also, there are 3 more travel films yet to be released: California, Baja, and Madagascar. 


Continentseven: How is it to have the own father as the sail designer behind you? Is that a great support and do you exactly get what you want?

Graham Ezzy: I am incredibly proud of my father and his achievements in windsurfing. Though at first, I felt shadowed by his name. People would introduce me as “Graham Ezzy” and get no response until they added “son of David Ezzy.” My own identity was so tied up in my father’s that I felt small. But what a sillly way to feel! His name is my name. Now, I completely embrace being part of his legacy and being his link to the future.  Though, it can be hard for me because people assume that I’ve been given a lot in windsurfing, rather than earned it. Yeah, I was incredibly lucky to grow up on Maui and with a garage of gear. But if you know my father, you know that he is not one to spoil his kid. In fact, he never bought me a piece of windsurfing gear, ever. 

Before I was sponsored, all my boards were what I could find thrown under the house. These were thrown-out polyester boards from the early 90s. And anyone who remembers those pre-epoxy boards knows how easily they break. So, from 10 years old to 13 years old, I would ride these old polyester boards, and every few months I’d snap it in half on a jump. This meant that I had to swim in. I have a lot of experience swimming in with broken gear. Hahahah. And when I broke all the small boards under the house I went to other older windsurfers houses and picked through their old boards. Never has my dad ever spoken to a sponsor on my behalf—not even when I was under 18. But given all that, I’ve been really lucky to have not just material support but also moral support in the windsurfing career path. 

In the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to work on sail development with my father. Not only is it cool to explore a passion with my father, but it also feels amazing to have an idea about something on a sail and then see that idea become a physical sail that people can buy anywhere in the world. The Elite is the best example of this. Especially the calibrated rigging system. So cool to see the creation of a product from an idea.


Continentseven: Do you actually use the 4 batten Ezzy Elite most?

Graham Ezzy: The Ezzy Elite is my go-to wavesail. I also sail the prototypes. My father always has something new to test. Sometimes the new sails feel better than the production sail and the new changes go into production, and some prototypes feel worse, ending up in the shed. My dad likes to say that you learn a lot more from a bad sail than a good sail. 

I also use the Ezzy Legacy sails sometimes, especially when I’m teaching people to windsurf. Last summer, Ezzy, Chinook, and Fanatic sponsored a project I designed in Montauk, NY to get more people into windsurfing. Napegue Harbour is one of the best locations to learn windsurfing that I have ever seen and it is only a couple hours from New York City. On weekends and for free, I gave lessons to about 20 people who had never tried windsurfing. By the end of the summer, a few of the pupils were able to jibe and tack.  Watch a clip from the Elite


Continentseven: Is it the best sail you ever had in your hands?

Graham Ezzy: Yes! I love my Elites. However, there is a super-not-so-secret Ezzy prototype that I am also madly in love with right now.


Continentseven:  What sizes are you on most?

Graham Ezzy: 5.0 and 4.7 seem to be my go-to sizes. I almost never ride bigger than 5.0. 


Continentseven: Do you test sails from other brands, too to get new ideas?

Graham Ezzy: I try to test most of the new gear from other brands, but there aren’t very many new ideas out there. Most brands shape their sails according to the same principles. Within those principles, there are variations like more or less luff curve etc, but the basic philosophy is all the same. However, our sails come from a pretty different design philosophy than all other brands. 


Continentseven: You are one of 5 Quatro team riders. Is that something it needs to be competitive in waves with the world’s best riders?

Graham Ezzy: Keith makes amazing boards. And for down-the-line wave riding they have one of the best teams in the world. But because everyone is so good, I don’t get the attention that I would get at a brand with fewer top wave riders. But the boards make it worth it. 


Continentseven: Are you using Quads, Trusters, Twins or Single most and what’s the most used volume you go for?

Graham Ezzy: Definitely thrusters. All of my boards are thrusters and my whole set-up is streamlined this way. I use my signature Ezzy Asymmetric fin from K4 (10cm) on the sides to help get extra speed and drive in my turns and a 16cm or 17cm back fin (K4 Flex) depending on wave size – bigger waves equals bigger fins. Most of my boards are around 83 Liters. This covers me for all free sailing. For competitions I have a couple 95L boards for when the wind gets light.


Continentseven: Any wishes for 2014?

Graham Ezzy: Wind for everyone!


And don’t forget to check out Graham’s twitter account and his instagram updates

Now click through a selection of great shots of Graham Ezzy: