In November Steven van Broeckhoven had to undergo a surgery to clean out loose cartilage from his right ankle. The surgery went well and Steven is working hard to be back on the water soon. Last week the 2011 PWA Freestyle World Champion announced his breakup with with his sail partner NeilPryde after 6 years of collaboration.
We caught up with Steven to speak about his decision to split up with NeilPryde and his rehab process.
Continentseven: How are you doing? Are you able to move without crutches?
Steven van Broeckhoven: I’m doing better and better. Since the 1st of January I’m without crutches and this week I started with physiotherapy and I have made a big improvement within the last 5 days, working on mobility, stability and strength. I struggeld with mobility the whole season and the mobility is already better than before surgery. I’m also back on the bike for my endurance training. It feels amazing to do outdoor sports again and it also helps me mentally and I have more energy again.
Continentseven: Is it hard to spend the winter at home in Belgium instead of flying to Cape Town, like you used to do?
Steven: It was really hard as I was on crutches and with the combination of bad weather, dark and as well sponsor-wise I needed to figure out which direction I need to go. But on the other hand my family keeps me on track. Milan is growing a lot and it’s amazing to watch him growing. He gives me the biggest motivation. I’m looking forward to start our trip towards Tarifa. I’m missing the sun and of course windsurfing. I chose this trip because it’s kind of similar to my trainings in Cape Town but with less people and it’s much cheaper. It’s going be fun as Yentel is already there and a few other guys are going, too which are fun to sail with. But still I will miss Cape Town!
Continentseven: When will you return on the windsurfing board?
Steven: In beginning of February I want to start with foiling and from the middle of February I should be ready for impacts. But first I wait for green light from my physio and specialist, but it’s looking good.
Continentseven: You split up with NeilPryde. Why?
Steven: Yes my contract with NeilPryde came to an end. It wasn’t interesting enough to continue and I chose to start 2018 with another amazing brand were I see a lot of potential in the future.
Continentseven: When did you decide to leave NeilPryde and what was the reason for your decision?
Steven: Last week it was official. The way I could continue wasn’t motivating me. Still it’s not easy for me after 6 years.
“If the brand needs to save on riders then we are the first. It’s bad but that’s how it is with most brands.” (Steven van Broeckhoven)
Continentseven: Now NeilPryde has only two international freestylers left with Sarah-Quita Offringa and Sam Esteve. Only two freestylers for one of the leading sail brands on the market? Is freestyle shrinking or is NeilPryde not interested in that young market? What’s your opinion after many years working with the brand from Hong Kong.
Steven: Freestyle is the smallest market and if the brand needs to save on riders then we are the first. It’s bad but that’s how it is with most brands. But I believe that freestyle gives a great and young image to a brand! I had an amazing time with NeilPryde especially in the beginning when there was more interest in the freestyle. I have learned a lot in those years and without them I wouldn’t be where I’m now. So I’m very thankful for the past years.
Continentseven: The Wizard was your sail, right? How much were you involved in the development and testing process over the last years?
Steven: I have been involved since the beginning, especially the beginning when they started from zero.
When Neilpryde wanted me in the team, it was one of the conditions that I wanted and I need to have a 100% freestyle sail.
Continentseven: But now it was time for a change?
Steven: Yes I thinks so, I have a good feeling in my decision and I knew it will happen sooner or later.
Continentseven: Is it hard to find a new sail sponsor in 2018? Or is it hard to find a sponsor as a freestyle windsurfer in general due to the dominance of sponsorships in racing (slalom & foil) and wave?
Steven: It’s not hard to find a sponsor but it’s hard to find a sponsor which gives you the support you deserve and to have a great feeling. Since last year I’m also into foiling and this helps for sure. I have as well a lot of experience and know-how and interest in the R&D of freestyle equipment. But of course as freestyler it’s more difficult as brands see it as a small market and it’s easy and cheaper to get younger riders.
Continentseven: 2018 will be your 10th year on the PWA tour. How do you see your future in competitive windsurfing?
Steven: I take it year by year, first of all the goal is to be back 100%. 10 years is not long enough I would like to add another 10 if possible and hopefully in those years I can reach one of my dreams! I have the feeling I can improve a lot and this is imported to keep the drive. People always think you are old when you are 30 years-old but it’s not true. When you take care it’s no problem, injuries are part of it, but if you handle it good you can come back stronger!
Continentseven: Good luck with your rehab and we hope you come back stronger with your new sail partner!
Update 18.1.2018: Steven joins Gun Sails.