Sean O´Brien could be called “Sean O´Brain”. The smart Australian established himself very quickly in the international windsurfing scene. Through his participation in the PWA Slalom tour in 2010 and many eventstarts in Formula windsurfing competitions he earned a good reputation. Besides he worked a lot for diverse companies in windsurfing assisting them in terms of web design and online marketing. Sean travels extremely much – right now he is on a trip to Las Vegas – and is very active in social media networking. We hooked up with the Aussie to get more infos about him and his success. Read the full interview and learn, how you can be successful in windsurfing without winning worldtitles!


Sean "Sly" O´Brien knows, what he wants in the near future (Pic: Javob).

“On the PWA tour I’m not completely focused on my overall result for the year, I am more focused on making finals. To me, small goals are important, and I want to start with proving to myself I can muscle it with the big guys. Once I get that confidence under my belt then I will be putting together my plan for World PWA domination!” (SEAN O´BRIEN, 2011)


C7: The season 2011 just started and you have news for us I heard?
Sean O´Brien: Yes, I’ve just signed a deal to join the Starboard DreamTeam for 2011. So you’ll see me rocking some iSonics and a HWR this season on the water and really looking forward to being part of the Starboard brand!


C7: How did it come that you will sail on Starboard in 2011?
Sean O´Brien: It’s actually an interesting story, because I tested some 2011 iSonics in Brasil last December, when I was there for a Formula Grand-Prix and I was super impressed with their performance. I thought to myself, in 2011, I need to be on these boards whether I buy, beg or steal them! But alas, deals are done in the windsurfing world in September/October, so I’d left my run a bit late. In late December, back in Australia I did some work helping organise and shoot media for a Raceboard Oceanic Championships and ended up shooting a really cool video of the Starboard Phantom raceboard; Starboard got a hold of the link and got in contact with me about using the video…. I thought it’d be a good chance to get my name out there so we got to talking and they liked what I was doing in and out of the water and suddenly I was on the team… the wheels of Starboard move very quickly! But I guess you could say, the ball got rolling simply because of this video I shot one afternoon just for a bit of fun.

C7: Which boards will you use for Formula and Slalom?
Sean O´Brien: I’ll be using the HWR for Formula and then iSonic 127, 107, 90. I went with the Wood/Carbon construction in all boards which will be interesting because I see a lot of guys are choosing between the 87 and 90 and Wood vs Wood/Carbon. The difference being that the Wood/Carbon is much stiffer and some guys say they don’t like that stiffness in nasty chop in strong winds; to me – “radical” is fast, so I’m going to go with stiff and let’s see what 2011 brings!

C7: But you will continue with Point-7?
Sean O´Brien: Definitely continuing on all things Point-7! For those who don’t know, I’m actually the Media Director at Point-7 so everything digital (all the websites, graphics, advertising and product videos) are done by myself. It’s a really great brand to be part of as the rest of the team is super positive about all things windsurfing and I’m really proud of the way the brand is heading with the quality of their products. Without sounding like too much marketing hype, I really feel enthusiastic to get out of bed and head to the P7 office in the mornings… even if I’m not ready for the brutal cold of European spring and autumn! And it’s really fun to actually be in charge of all the digital aspects, as apart from the sails on the water, that is basically the only thing the public sees of a brand.


Sean while a Formula event in Australia.

C7: You are a relatively new face in the top competition scene, but you have a lot of different knowledge besides windsurfing! Does this fact help you to find sponsors?
Sean O´Brien: If I think back, I believe the last 4 big sponsors I’ve had have come about with little or ZERO help from actually being a windsurfer. I guess being actively involved in the ‘digital media’ scene (as I like to call all things web/marketing/graphic/video related) is a really big pull card for brands wanting to get behind athletes like myself; 2 years ago I was literally working in a bar and doing odd jobs around the place just to get some cash to make it to 2-3 windsurfing events a year – now I’ve been approached by a few windsurfing brands and quite a few companies in Australia around the world, interested in utilising my skills off the water. It’s taken many years for me to really get a grasp on ‘what it is’ that I’m trying to achieve when I pitch to sponsors, but I think I’ve finally got where I’m heading under control and I’m starting to reap the benefits. I guess what it’s taught me is that everything isn’t just about your windsurfing skills, and being able to find sponsors who treat you more like an asset, rather than you just being as good as your last result, takes the pressure off and actually allows you to ACHIEVE better and better results! (wow that sounds cheesy! Haha, but it’s actually true).

C7: 2010 you had your first year on the PWA tour. Was it like you expected and were you satisfied with your result?
Sean O´Brien: Definitely not satisfied with my result – got my @ss kicked last season! But I guess it was to be expected – I rocked up to the first event in Korea with 1 board and 2 sails … all the wrong size, as that’s all I owned. Then I got a new board sponsor but as a result of all the travelling I do, picked up my boards the day before the next competition… I think I went slalom sailing twice in between Fuerteventura and Sylt! That being said, I had a really good time and I really learnt a lot and the boards I was on at the time were very easy to get used to. I had it in my mind that 2010 would be a ‘feeler’ year to test the waters and see what kind of work needs to be done and in what areas. I mapped out a lot of gear changes I needed to make; one being that the fins I was using originally aren’t that quick. So I’m now in the process of buying a CNC router with my father to start building my own slalom fins and I think in 2011 I’ll have some magic up my sleeves that nobody else will have access to.

Sean on top (Pic: Jacob).

C7: Was it hard to get into it (most of the sailors are on tour for decades)?
Sean O´Brien:
It’s brutal. I won’t lie. There’s a reason Bjorn and Antoine and everyone else are still kicking it on the tour – experience goes a LONG, LONG way in windsurfing. I had a great opportunity at the beginning of 2010 to coach our Australian Olympic Team for RS:X and coached (some of you may remember from the PBA days) Australia’s top RS:X woman Jessica Crisp to her first ISAF World Cup win and one thing I realised about our sport from spending time with Jessica is that it’s really hard to compete with a sailor, who’s sailed at that particular beach every year for +20 years or more! On the flip side of the steep learning curve, it’s actually really easy to get ‘accepted’ in to the tour. There’s a really good bunch of guys on the PWA (and also on the Formula tour!) whether they are as old as Phil McGain or as young as Philip Köster and once you’ve taken Björn out at a gybe mark and nearly had your head kicked in, you are accepted in to the family and it’s a great family to be part of.

C7: You are a Formula racing specialist. Do you still invest more time in Formula training or is it 50:50 with Slalom?
Sean O´Brien:
I think in 2011 I will be doing more Slalom sailing than Formula. I’ve spent many years testing Formula equipment and developing fins and sails and other products, so I feel confident with my gear and my abilities. In Slalom I still think I have a little bit more to learn as I discovered in 2010 that the board selection for the year is so incredibly crucial for your results and so I will spend a bit more time dialling in my boards in the next 2 months before I kick my PWA year off in Korea and make sure that my 3 board choice is really accurate.


Formula is one of Sean´s favourite windsurfing disciplines.

C7: You are not only competing, you also have a lot of other jobs to do inside the windsurfing industry. Could you tell a bit? (Point-7, events…)
Sean O´Brien:
Earlier I mentioned what I’m doing at Point-7. Basically that is my full-time job at the moment, but for 3 months a year in the Australian summer (Dec-Feb) I head back home to Australia and am involved with organising a variety of National windsurfing events and local ones all down the East Coast of Australia where I live. I’m actually the Vice-President of the Australian Windsurfing Association and so I spend a lot of time in Australia trying to get windsurfing to where we all want it to be and the last 3 years I’ve run the Formula Oceanics solely with my father, which meant insanely late nights finalising Sailing Instructions and checking flags and designing sick new courses and trying to upload things to the website on top of all the racing! Last year I also coached the Australian RS:X team as well as the two Australian Youth representatives for the RS:X Youth World Championships so I spent a lot of time in a boat which I actually think really helped me learn a lot more about racing. On top of all the windsurfing jobs I do a LOT of freelance web design and marketing work with brands in Australia; usually building websites, helping design Facebook marketing campaigns and I’ve also done a little bit of guess speaking at a few Web Design Seminars and Fairs (arguably, haven’t had a decent nights’ sleep in a long time as a result!)

C7: We would call you an expert an internet expert. You are very much into programming and using social networks plus all available tools. Do you like these technical developments or  do you see some danger behind them as well (out of your view as a psychologist)?
Sean O´Brien:
There is no danger at all as long as you use a bit of common sense. I had a conversation with a guy a few weeks ago, who tried to tell me that Facebook is dying and that it will cease to exist next year. I almost died from laughter. I tried to tell him about all the kids I coach, who think “e-mail” is for old people and who never give anyone their phone number anymore, just their last name so that they can find them on Facebook. I actually only use SMS, when I am in Europe as not all Europeans have really embraced Facebook like we have down in Australia in my opinion. We just Facebook chat, SMS is old-school technology! I guess I’m pretty in to all this digital stuff, but it’s a great and fascinating industry to be part of and when I finished my Psychology and Biomedical Science degree in 2004 I wouldn’t have ever dreamed that I’d be getting paid money one day to update things on Facebook and Twitter! The great thing about this media is you really can’t get it wrong; when somebody posts something on their wall a little bit over the top, your friends usually make you aware of what an idiot you are pretty quickly, then you can redeem yourself with one good comment and a few people click “Like” and you’re back on track!

C7: Living in Australia, Brisbane means living next to the sea. Are your favourite windsurfing spots located on the 5th continent or would you name spots on other continents, which can compete with out of your view?
Sean O´Brien:
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put anywhere over Australia… I’ve travelled so much of this country yet I still find the most amazing things and animals. Yesterday myself and Wilhelm Schurmann got chased by a bunch of bull sharks out formula sailing in Hawks Nest, north of Sydney; was really cool! Then a bunch of dolphins came and rescued us – nice one! That being said, I love travelling in Europe and windsurfing there. I’ve found my new second home on Lake Garda working with Point-7 in Italy, and I’ve spent many years living in the Netherlands and trekking all through Europe. Whether windsurfing or holidaying I really just enjoy new places. I guess you could say I treat the World as my home but Australia as my bedroom. I do dislike windsurfing in cold water though, so that’s another “like” for Australian beaches.

I also really like living in MEGA cities. I live in Brisbane, which is 2 million people, and spend a lot of time in Sydney and Melbourne which are +4 million populations. We can be at a festival with 200,000 people one afternoon then in 10 minutes drive to the beach and windsurf all afternoon and watch the festival from the water – not many places in the world that that can happen! I do find when I watch a lot of windsurfing movies about Maui or those tropical islands everyone wavesails at that nobody has heard of, that I get a little bored because there is nothing to do on these islands but windsurf – I mean, where is the 24 hour supermarket, nightclub, coffee shop that’s open at 6am totally full, movie cinema, super fast internet, traffic police, car-crash on the way to work … I think I get cabin-fever if I spend too long away from the city! Haha!

Sean the Mega city boy (Pic: Jacob).

C7: What are your 2011 goals?
Sean O´Brien:
In 2011 I would like to cement my ranking back in the Top 10 on the Formula World Rankings. In 2010 I was the main instigator (I am on the International FW Class Committee) in changing the way the ranking system worked, therefore making it impossible to rank well if you didn’t attend the World Championships; then followed that up by NOT attending the 2010 World Championships and dropping back to about 700th in the rankings… rookie error! So I think with all the new formula events taking place and my new HWR weapon I will be getting back up to where I belong in 2011. On the PWA tour I’m not completely focused on my overall result for the year, I am more focused on making finals. To me, small goals are important, and I want to start with proving to myself I can muscle it with the big guys. Once I get that confidence under my belt then I will be putting together my plan for World PWA domination!

Cheers, and make sure you guys check out my all new website for 2011 –

© 2011