“Windsurfing has always been a big part in my life. My dad already took me as a baby to the beach. For me it was normal to go windsurfing and to be always at the beach.”
From the day he could walk, he played with a windsurfing board. No wonder Yentel Caers is one of the best freestyle windsurfers nowadays. Windsurfing and sport in general has been a big part of his life since he was a little boy. His family used to travel to the South of France for windsurfing holidays and Yentel had ideal conditions to discover the sport.
In 2013 he participated in his first PWA Freestyle event and he travelled to Austria with minimum equipment. Only 3,5 years later he made his first PWA podium with a 2nd place in Fuerteventura. At least since this time Yentel plays a big role in the freestyle windsurfing scene.
Yentel is living in Ham, an around 10,000 inhabitants counting municipality 160km away from Brouwersdam, which is Yentel’s freestyle home spot, although he is Belgian and not Dutch. He is used to drive some hours for a windsurfing session and maybe this is one of the secrets of his success. “We have to drive far to make it on the water. And because we have to drive a long way, we go on the water no matter the conditions,” Yentel told us.
It was definitely about time to catch up with Yentel for a longer interview to get to know more about the 22 year-old freestyle world champion aspirant.
Interview with Yentel Caers
Continentseven: How did you start windsurfing?
Yentel Caers: My dad was windsurfing before I was born, so windsurfing has always been a part in my life. My dad already took me as a baby to the beach and then I saw my brother and sister windsurfing, who are older than me. So for me it was normal to go windsurfing and to be always at the beach. I started windsurfing around the age of 6, playing with the board and the sail.
Continentseven: Where was this, in the Netherlands?
Yentel Caers: No, I learnt windsurfing in the South of France, because we were always going to Leucate and there I started windsurfing at the lakes and during the summer, with warm and nice weather. I can not really remember, how I started, but what I do remember is that we were standing on the boom of my dad while he played around with the sail. The gear was always there and we were all the time on the water. It has always been fun!
Continentseven: Can you remember the time you got hooked to freestyle?
Yentel Caers: My brother and sister were into freestyle and as well some other family members. I started trying jumps and to try Air Jibes with the age of 12 or 13. With 14 I learnt Spocks and from this moment on it went up to all the crazy moves we are doing now.
Continentseven: When did you participate in your first competition?
Yentel Caers: We had many small competitions in Holland, like ProKids and other local competitions. I started when I was 12 together with Rick Jendrusch and Nick van Ingen and all the guys. My first big international event participation was in Sardinia, when I was 14. It was a Youth IFCA freestyle event.
Continentseven: When was your first participation in a PWA freestyle event?
Yentel Caers: My first PWA event was in Podersdorf, Austria in 2013. It wasn’t my most successful event participation (e.n. Yentel finished 33). Everything was new for me and the level was too high for me. 3 months later we had an event in Brouwersdam and everything was much better.
Continentseven: And 2016 you made your first podium at the PWA tour in Fuerteventura. Would you have ever imagined that you make your first podium that fast?
Yentel Caers: No. I was really hoping to make it but you know, everyone, who is competing, is hoping for that. I trained a lot and tried to push the level. I did my thing and it worked out well. I am really happy about that and I hope I can keep the level and do even more crazy and fun moves.
Continentseven: What’s your favorite spot for competitions?
Yentel Caers: Fuerteventura is the best.
Yentel Caers: I like the tricky conditions. It’s challenging. When I sail in challenging conditions and I do good moves it gives me a good feeling. I can do it for real, not like in the lagoon, where everything is easier and most guys can do all the sick moves. It gives me a kind of a kick to do all these moves in chop.
“It gives me a kind of a kick to do all these moves in chop.”
Continentseven: How do you train? Do you train differently compared to other riders?
Yentel Caers: No, nothing special. I train a lot in Cape Town with Balz Müller and Steven van Broeckhoven. Balz is very motivated and he pushes me really to go on the water and try out new and different stuff. Steven on the other side is really technical and can do all the good moves. You see him doing moves and you have to do it as well. It helps me a lot to windsurf together with these guys.
Continentseven: What do you learn from Balz?
Yentel Caers: Yes, I learnt a lot from him. He always pushes me to try new stuff, to try moves differently. Every morning when we stay together he comes to me with new ideas of moves. Most of the time it’s not possible, but sometimes – just remember about the Shifty – it works. We do this not for the competition, but for the videos. I think this is also something we need in the windsurfing sport. More videos like in Skateboarding. You have guys, who get sponsored without doing competitions, just for producing videos or crazy tricks. I think this is also a possibility for us. With the support of companies like Red Bull for instance we could try what’s possible and push.
Continentseven: And Steven is someone you look up to?
Yentel Caers: Yeah, sure. He was always better than me. I like his style. He is just really good.
Continentseven: In freestyle a lot of young guys are pushing. Will we only see you, the young guys on top in the near future or is there still chance for the older guys to keep up with the top level?
Yentel Caers: Honestly I have to say that the older guys were pushing the level a lot. But maybe we are less scared to try new things, but they are just so good in competition. And they train really smart and I am sure they will stay on top for a long time.
Continentseven: What’s possible in freestyle windsurfing. What’s next?
Yentel Caers: I think we should do more air moves, less double pop. We should do the single moves we are doing now in the air in double versions, like the double Air Culo. We also can do it with double Air Funnels and double Burners or Shifty Forwards as the next step. We just need to find a good technique for it, but it’s for sure possible.
Continentseven: Shifty Forward?
Yentel Caers: I tried it already and it’s definitely possible. It was in Fuerteventura and there aren’t the best conditions for this move combo. If you can do it on a wave it’s not so crazy. It’s comparable with a Push loop Forward.
Continentseven: Let’s talk about the training again. Are you doing some additional training like weight lifting, balance, coordination, etc.?
Yentel Caers: I am not really into fitness. Most of the time I just windsurf, but I also like to do different kinds of sports like skate boarding or other extreme sports. I think the feeling I get from other boards helps my windsurfing or can even help to create new tricks.
Continentseven: You can do many sports, skate boarding, surfing, bmx, snowboarding, etc. How would you describe Freestyle windsurfing?
Yentel Caers: That’s a hard question. Freestyle Windsurfing is just so different compared to any other sport I know. It’s not only the board, it’s the sail, the fin, the wind…. So many different things influence this sport and this makes the sport so perfect. It’s super cool.
Continentseven: We often saw you doing back or front flips. Do you a background in gymnastics?
Yentel Caers: No. But when I was younger I always was on the beach and even when there was no wind we had to do something else. We were playing in the dunes and were jumping over it and were trying back- and front flips. It’s normal for me, I think.
Continentseven: Two Belgian windsurfers got freestyle World Champions, first Steven van Broeckhoven, then Dieter van der Eyken. Will you be the next?
Yentel Caers: Yeah, let’s hope. I am training for it. We will see what will happen.
Continentseven: Why are the Belgians so good freestylers? Belgium is a small country and you don’t have many amazing spots.
Yentel Caers: It’s simple to explain. Just because we are motivated (Yentel smiles…). We have to drive far to make it on the water. And because we have to drive a long way, we go on the water even in light wind. We didn’t have the chance to windsurf always, when we were younger. I still have this motivation, if it’s light wind or strong wind. We always go out.
Continentseven: And after the session a Belgian beer?
Yentel Caers: No beers, no! I don’t like it too much.
Continentseven: Which food do you like?
Yentel Caers: Hm, actually I like the unhealthy food sometimes, but I don’t eat it too much.
Yentel Caers: Belgian fries, I like them, especially when I come back home.
Continentseven: And do you like Belgian Chocolate?
Yentel Caers: Chocolate I like as well.
Continentseven: Thanks for the interview!
Interview: Continentseven 2017 | Photos: Kerstin Reiger