German racer Sebastian “Basti” Kördel (GER-220) is 23 years-old and definitely one of the upcoming young Slalom stars. Although he lives far from the sea, the young talent from Lake Constance has already won several Formula and Slalom events, became German Champion in 2012 and won the “Best of Three” event on Lake Silvaplana. In 2013 he finished the PWA Slalom Event on Sylt in 20th position and made it three times in a losers final at Sylt and Alacati. For 2014 he decided to leave his board sponsor Lorch, after a very long collaboration. He will finish his study very soon and will now put his focus on his racing career.
We wanted to know more about Basti and caught up with him, right before the start of the first PWA event at Costa Brava. Read more about him and his thoughts in the following interview.
“Basti is one of the most focused and best prepared racers I know. Nothing should be left to chance on the race course. He is someone, who has a strong mind and who is really competitive and I am sure he will get better and better in the near future, especially in Formula, as he has the perfect body size. And what I like, Basti is a honest guy, that’s one of the reasons I like to hangout with him.” Gunnar Asmussen, G-88 about Basti Kördel
Continentseven: Hi Sebastian, you left your board sponsor Lorch for 2014. Tell us a bit about your end with Lorch?
Sebastian Kördel: Well, I’ve been surfing with Lorch Boards since forever. It must be close to 10 years, I guess. I have a very good relationship with the shaper Günter Lorch and spend a lot of time on and off the water with him. That’s why it was a really hard decision to leave the brand. However, after a big meeting with the Lorch management, it was clear to me that we would have to part. Mainly, it was about different opinions on development and also some terms of my contract. To be honest the most important thing for me was to keep the good relationship with Günter, and I am really glad that we could do that.
Continentseven: Will you keep on going with Gaastra and why are you not on Tabou?
Sebastian Kördel: Of course! Gaastra signed me for their International Team last year and I am very grateful for that. I got a really warm welcome and have already learned a lot. Aside from that, I really love the sails! They are definitely one of the fastest and that’s what matters most to me. I’m eager to push my own limits with Gaastra Sails and contribute to the success of the team and the brand.
I am not with Tabou or any other board brand because of two reasons. First, the decision to leave Lorch was made too late. All the team budgets are closed and I would have a hard time negotiating now. Secondly, I want to take my time in 2014 to test different boards so I can make a solid, long-term decision, and choose which boards I’ll race for the next few years. I will finish my university degree in May and after that I will dedicate myself completely to windsurfing, so I want to make a good choice. Also, since I have been with Lorch for all of my windsurfing career I have hardly tried other boards until now and I think it is important to find boards which match your windsurfing style so that you can be successful.
Continentseven: You climbed up the rankings in 2013. 45th in Costa Brava, 32nd in Alacati and 20th in Sylt! Did you get too expensive or was Lorch not interested anymore to continue their support for the PWA?
Sebastian Kördel: Personally, I would say that 2013 was my debut in the PWA Tour, as in 2011 and 2012 I only did one event each. I just wanted to see some of the spots and get on the water with the big guys. It wasn’t an attempt at getting a good ranking, I just wanted to check it out and get a feel for it. 2013 was the first year in which I concentrated on the tour and I entered all the events except Korea.
As for financial matters, loyalty is very important to me and so while surfing with Lorch I actually turned down a few contracts that would have meant more money for me because I was very close to the brand and wanted to support Günter and Lorch. However, as I will be fully dedicated to windsurfing after May, I need partners that show the same commitment to the sport.
Continentseven: Is there no room for small brands inside the international circuit?
Sebastian Kördel: From what I have seen, it is hard for a small brand. There are many difficulties that others don’t have when it comes to development and production with a narrow budget. However, other examples in the industry show that it’s still possible for small brands to succeed. I think it is very important to capitalize on the team, to have good representatives and good resources for development. I also know that the industry has suffered from a downturn in recent years, which makes it even harder. But for me windsurfing is the best sport in the world and there will always be guys battling it out on the course or going for some waves. And who knows, maybe we will see a revival in the coming years? The PWA circuit delivers good action, and with the new technical developments in media and broadcasting solutions I can certainly see great potential.
Continentseven: You were the only rider going on that brand on the PWA tour! Did you see any disadvantage for yourself working with a smaller brand and a tiny development and R&D team?
Sebastian Kördel: I think the advantage of being part of a small brand is that you are easily connected to the whole development process. I personally learned a huge amount about boards and shapes while I was with Lorch, and I now have some valuable knowledge and experience that I can bring into my next team. One the other hand, being the only one riding for a brand can also be very hard. Not so much during the race but when it comes to development, testing and training it is much better to have a partner riding on the same stuff. That is also the reason why I don’t think I had any big advantages surfing boards “tailored” to me, we didn`t have the possibility to do proper development testing, which actually had a number of disadvantages. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with how it all went. I had good results in formula and slalom and the boards are definitely fast enough to win.
Continentseven: You had just two registered board sizes, right? Why didn’t you have a high wind board from Lorch?
Sebastian Kördel: The budget was simply too small to try and develop a board for high winds. The market volume for this type of board is too small for a brand like Lorch. And economically it would have made no sense to try to push into that market segment.
Continentseven: You are one of the top racers in Germany and you have made it into several losers final on the Worldtour and you were best placed German rider at the final on Sylt ranked 20th. Is it hard to establish yourself within the top sailors nowadays?
Sebastian Kördel: If you live in the north of Germany, that’s true. All the events are close by and you can get there without much of an effort. But I come from the very south of Germany. Lake Constance is my home spot. For me it is pretty much the same distance to travel to Costa Brava or Sylt, over a thousand kilometers. Aside from that, I am quite competitive and so I want to race the top races. I want to race against the best windsurfers in the world, so there is no other way for me than entering the highest ranking tour.
At the same time, I went through the normal procedure of first concentrating on national races before going international. I already have two German titles, the 2012 Overall and the 2013 in Racing, so for me it is only natural to take the step up and reach for something higher. I don’t know if it used to be harder to establish yourself but right now I see many guys putting a lot of effort into the sport in order to be on top and that is indeed hard to beat.
I am also extremely lucky to have a main sponsor like Nordmann Tool Monitoring. Sponsors from outside the windsurfing industry can substantially help in financing your campaign. In my case it is Klaus Nordmann’s support that is allowing me to windsurf at the highest level and really make a go of it. Finding a sponsor like this is one of the hardest parts in establishing yourself nowadays but I have the feeling that more external sponsors are coming back into the sport which is a really great thing!
Continentseven: How is it being off the water during a World Cup?
Sebastian Kördel: I really enjoy the time during a Worldcup. I meet similar-minded people from all over the world and can enjoy my sport with them. For sure it is very competitive on the water, but all the screaming and shouting normally doesn’t make it to the beach. It stays on the water where it belongs and at the end of the day we can all go have a beer together. That’s also a bit of a trade-off. You want to be competitive on the water but you also want to have a good time with some of the other riders at the parties which are always well organized and awesome fun. Especially when it comes to Sylt, that can be a problem, because you can’t windsurf as well after a proper night out!
Continentseven: Do you like the no rules and 63 format?
Sebastian Kördel: Yes I do! I think it is good to have a “no rules” format because the very competitive atmosphere could result in a ton of protest which would prolong the eliminations unnecessarily. And it is not like we are trying to hurt each other on the water. We have a lot of respect for each other and are all focused on getting through the course as fast as possible. I personally also like the tactical possibilities of the pre-start phase which you don’t have at IFCA slalom events. In the PWA the race actually begins one minute before the start and that gives you more options. However, I think it is very important that dangerous sailing is still punished so that we can have fair and safe races.
Continentseven: You live in south western Germany at Lake Constance, far away from the sea. The only chance is to sail on lakes. How do you handle that?
Sebastian Kördel: My year is pretty packed. In Summer I travel to the races a lot and in winter, from September to May, I study at the Zeppelin University in Friedrichshafen. In winter it is hard for me to get training time on the water. This year has been especially hard as I am finishing my bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration and am now busy writing my thesis. Usually I try to get out of the German winter for some training abroad and in the last years I have spent two to three weeks on Tenerife after Christmas and usually some time on Sal in Capo Verde at the end of February. But the latter has often turned out to be more of a chill out trip than hard training. Real training on the water starts again with my third winter trip which normally heads towards the South of France around Easter. After that, I go back to university for exams and by then the racing season has already begun. This year I couldn’t do one of the usual trips and I missed out on a lot of training. Instead I spent time in Cape Town from October to December and really enjoyed it, but as you can imagine my slalom gear stayed in the garage most of the time….
Continentseven: At how many PWA events will you compete in 2014?
Sebastian Kördel: Costa Brava will be my first event and from then on I plan to participate in all the remaining PWA tour stops.
Continentseven: What are your long term goals. Top 30 with 24, top 20 with 25, top 10 with 26 ……
Sebastian Kördel: To be honest, I just want to windsurf to the best of my abilities, push myself as far as I can go and try to make it to the top. So many things can happen during a season that final results often don’t mean that much. Starting in May I am going to give it everything I have in order to reach the top in the next couple of years.
Thanks for the interview and good luck for the upcoming season!!