Klaas Voget had a pretty busy year 2016 and he didn’t come to rest. His second son was born in autumn and besides doing the PWA wave tour he is involved in the product development for Fanatic and NorthSails and marketing for Fanatic and involved in the organization of the Red Bull Storm Chase 2017. It's never getting boring for the 37 year-old windsurfer, who currently lives with his family in Hamburg in Germany.
We hooked up with Klaas to speak about his life between being an active pro and fully involved in the industry at the same time.
Continentseven: Klaas, you are not only chasing after low pressure systems and swells in Denmark, competing on tour or ripping waves in Maui or South Africa. There are many more obligations now for you.
Klaas Voget: Yes, I’ve been working for Fanatic for a long time in the product development, especially the wave boards. Since the beginning of 2015 I’m also Marketing Manager for the brand, which is a lot more than just being out there on the water testing gear and having a good time. I’m going to the Boards & More headquarters in Munich frequently. The rest of the time I’m working from Hamburg or from my laptop when I’m on trips. It’s a good step, as I was always looking for other challenges than „just“ being a Pro Windsurfer, but of course it can be difficult during busy times juggling with competition & training, family and work.
Continentseven: So your change from Simmer to NorthSails was a logical step?
Klaas Voget: My change to NorthSails was a logical step for me and also for Boards & More. The Fanatic office is on the same floor as the North guys, so we met several times before my change. I was already handling the shoot a few times before and since we’re doing a combined Fanatic/NorthSails shoot, it felt a bit strange being the only rider on a different sail brand. We tried to work things out a few times in the past, but it never played out. End of last season was finally the right moment. From day one it worked perfectly. I got together with Victor Fernandez and sail designer Kai Hopf straight away to develop the new 2017 Hero and the steps we made were super good. I can safely say I’m using the best rigs I’ve ever had in my hands.
Continentseven: But your main job is still for Fanatic? You seem to be the right hand for Craig Gertenbach?
Klaas Voget: Yes, marketing for Fanatic, product development for both brands. Craig has more than one right hand, Dani Aeberli for Slalom/Freeride and general Product Manager, myself for Wave and Marketing and of course his wife Karin for Marketing and PR. Generally we decide a lot of things together as a team, like board graphics for example…
Continentseven: What are your main working fields?
Klaas Voget: Mainly I’m in charge of the photo shootings, texts, picture selections, videos, the website including things like the new 3D visuals, and the development of the wave range including most of the team custom boards. I’m having frequent Skype calls with Fanatic's board shaper Sebastian Wenzel on all the Wave boards we build for the team, which has been very efficient lately and is the best way to keep our Wave R&D going through the entire year. We do a lot of cross testing with the different team boards we build to make small steps and improvements with every single board.
Continentseven: You worked really hard on 3D visuals for the website, which is a new feature on the website.
Klaas Voget: The idea behind the 3Ds is to bring something to our customer, which is basically what we’re doing for more than 10 years when we developed the boards on the computer before they get cut by a CNC machine. We can flip it around as if we’re holding it in our hands and can check every single detail of its shape. Nowadays you can’t expect every Windsurf Shop to stock all the different boards of our range. To give a client something that comes as close as possible to the experience of holding the real board in your hands, I’ve been working with a french 3D specialist on every single detail, from placement and colors of the graphics, all the way to the foot straps, glossy rails, fin boxes or the air valve. All that on the exact shape of course. Some boards feature the construction as well, that you can check by a click on a trigger on the board. The best is you just go and check it out on the Fanatic site or the embed here of the Quad, one of my favorite boards. You can watch a tour of all the boards features, or switch all annotation markers off and zoom close to the plain board. I can recommend to click on fullscreen mode to get the best experience.
Continentseven: What was the hardest part to realize these visuals and for how long did you work on that?
Klaas Voget: It sounds simple to just take the original 3D file and place the graphics, but once you start, you realize how many little features and details all the boards have. From inserts and boxes and their exact shapes and placements, footpads, the placement of the different parts of the graphics, the surface… When you then add the different constructions and materials, it gets pretty technical and more and more complicated. Taking in account that we did that for all the different windsurf and SUP composite boards, you can imagine that it took months and you don’t want to see my mail account with the guy from the 3D company. Looking at the final results I think the guy did an amazing job and it was worth the effort from my side as well.
Continentseven: You are 37 years-old, you have a family and a lot of work. For how many more years will you compete?
Klaas Voget: I think you’re always as old as you feel. I started competing on the PWA Tour relatively late with the age of 21, but did university during my first couple of years competing. Only after my final degree I went for being a full time professional. I think my general fitness is still pretty good and I still enjoy competing and traveling to great wave spots a lot! I have a family now, so of course I spend a bit more time at home than before, but I still get my good share of waves out there. Last winter we went to Chile for two months with the family, what was amazing! I haven’t set a strict deadline, maybe I’ll reduce the number of events slowly with the time.
Continentseven: Was it planned to go for a smooth transition from a pro rider to worker?
Klaas Voget: I haven’t made a long time plan for this, things just came that way. I’m on Fanatic as long as I windsurf, got into the development of the gear, have a university background with even some sports marketing, and when Fanatic was in need for someone to join the internal team, it was obvious that it would be a good match. Being a Pro Windsurfer just focusing on the tour is pretty fun for some time, but I couldn’t just windsurf and then only get to compete in the second half of the year. I always did other things next to the tour.
Continentseven: Is it fulfilling to test the best possible boards, come up with new trends and support your team riders in the best possible way, who are opponents in the competition in the end of the day?
Klaas Voget: Yes, I must say I’m pretty stoked when my team mates tell me how much they love a board I’ve ordered for them or if they and Victor tell me how much they like the new sails. It’s the best feedback I can get, as these are the most critical sailors you will find on the planet. I can see how much better Victor is sailing after our intense work on the boards and sails and it feels like you’re part of his victory in some way – even if he kicks me out of the contest at some stage. Reading good test results is nice, too, but the most fulfilling is the face to face feedback on the beach from the guys who ride the stuff and tell me how much they enjoy it!
The testing part itself can be intense work and is sometimes frustrating when the gear doesn’t do what you expect it to do. But once you’ve found a magic combination of board shape, fins and rig and then you get to test that gear in really good conditions it must be one of the best jobs on this planet!
Continentseven: You live with your family in Hamburg. Is Hamburg a good place for a windsurfer and board tester/developer?
Klaas Voget: It could be a little closer to the sea, but actually it’s pretty good, as you can get to a lot of different places relatively easy from Hamburg. There are different spots in Denmark, the Baltic Sea or the Canaries, everything is in reach. Our custom boards can be shipped to Hamburg by truck and there are multiple flights a day to Munich if I have to see the Boards & More office. You’re forced to travel when you live in a place like Hamburg, which is the best that can happen for the R&D, as that means you’re forced to test the gear in a lot of different places and conditions – which is essential for the development of a good board or sail.
Continentseven: What are your favorite spots to ride waves, when you are at home?
Klaas Voget: I’d call the spots all the way up to Hanstholm in Denmark my home breaks, as Hamburg itself doesn’t really provide. It depends on the wind direction, but my favorite places up here are Klitmøller, Hanstholm and Agger for wave sailing.
Continentseven: Thanks for the interview and good luck for the upcoming season.