Planning The Dream Sabbatical - Boards Windsurfing

Windsurfing Magazine



Planning The Dream Sabbatical

When Boards heard that top UK wavesailors Sarah Bibby and Stef Hilder were off on an exciting 14 month dream windsurfing trip we had to find out more. From Chile to Australia, Ireland to Wales, they’re going everywhere they possibly can and making the most of a very exciting sabbatical. 

Sarah in Topocalma

Introduce yourselves and your current jobs:

Sarah: I am Sarah Bibby, currently working at Babcock International in Plymouth as a Mechanical Engineer. I have been windsurfing for about 10 years, wavesailing for 6.

Stef: My name is Stefan Hilder, I am a web developer and I try to utilise every chance I get to windsurf. I have windsurfed for 7 years, wavesailing for 6.

So, we hear you are taking a 14 month sabbatical Sarah? What is your plan for the year, where will you be visiting?

Sarah: Yes! I have managed to get time off work, while Stef will hopefully still be working. Our plan is, roughly, to go to all the PWA and BWA destinations, so that is Chile, the Canaries, Germany, Ireland, England and Wales, then also visit Australia and Maui, and maybe some destinations in-between!

Stef getting aerial in the UK

What spurred you to make this decision?

Sarah: We have discussed this for a while, but never thought it would actually happen; I was so nervous when I asked at work! We wanted to travel and visit these places while we were still young, I guess at our ‘peak’ and before we had many commitments. It is hard to do that with 5 weeks leave a year. I did PWA Gran Canaria a few years ago and would like to go back, do better and have the chance to compete in all the World events to get a World ranking. I am also pretty competitive and I get so jealous watching the other girls on the live stream competing!

Sarah pushloop in Pozo

Which competitions do you intend to enter?

Sarah: Fingers crossed I am hoping to enter the PWA Wave tour, currently in Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Germany, and I really hope the girls event in Chile goes ahead. I am also going to do the Welsh, English and Irish events of the British Wave Tour, and perhaps see if there are any Australian windsurf competitions or surf competitions I will enter on the way!

Stef: Rumour has it I will be a pro caddy by the end, but I will also compete in the UK events and hopefully qualify for a wildcard entry into a PWA event or two (ideally Chile 2014).

And where would you like to come?

Sarah: Well anything but last I would be happy with! I haven’t had as much time on the water as the other girls, especially in the last two years that I have been working full time. However, I hope I can train hard and be injury free, then I will but my all in and do my best and be happy with whatever result comes out of that. If I make top ten I will be thrilled.

Stef surfing

Which place are you most looking forward to and why?

Sarah: That’s a difficult question as all places we are going to have different conditions. Chile I know what to expect and it was amazing last time, though we went in March which I think might have had bigger waves than when we are going in November. I haven’t been to Australia yet so I am really looking forward to seeing what everybody talks about!

Stef: All of them are incredible places to windsurf and travel to, however, I have to admit Chile, Topocalma is my favourite spot in the world at the minute! We will have to see if WA can live up to expectations!

How do you train normally and how does this help windsurfing?

Sarah: In December 2012 we started going to Crossfit Plymouth as an alternative to a gym over the winter. It was only meant to last 3 months until it was light after work again but we both found it addictive and hugely beneficial to our overall fitness and strength. We have continued going as it’s a great thing to do if there is no wind or swell, and we are the fittest we have ever been, even doing some competitions in it too. It targets the 10 points of fitness in (normally) relatively short but very intense workouts: endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, co-ordination, agility, balance and accuracy.

Stef: We also go surfing whenever there are good waves and no wind (seems to happen a lot in Cornwall!) so this helps windsurfing by learning to get speed from the waves and generally getting more wave experience. We also spearfish regularly, which helps with breath holds, giving you more confidence when it is firing!

How will you afford it?

Stef: We have been saving for a good few months, (pretty much since Sarah found out she was allowed to go on a sabbatical). It was all a little quick really and we would have preferred to have saved for longer, as the last thing you want is to be given time off work, to have to work again in the time off to afford it, however I think that is going to happen! I will work remotely as a web developer, and Sarah from her savings and a small grant she received from work for the competition entries. She is keen to work in a bar in the Canaries to improve her Spanish too. We have tried to budget a lot over the past year, given up drinking much (that saves a lot!) and we generally do weekends away in the van at the beach which is relatively cheap too. Other than that, a careful eye on booking flights and accommodation helps, no luxuries!

Sarah in Maui

Do you follow a special diet?

Sarah: Not especially, though I know the advantages of one and we try to eat fairly paleo when it suits us, (which is basically meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and avoiding all processed foods, sugar and most carbohydrates). We eat fairly healthily though and in some countries we visit we are limited by what is there anyway. Chile is especially good, a diet of steak or fish, tomatoes and avocados! The advantage of a good few hour session in the UK, especially in the cold, is that you feel like you can eat anything and everything afterwards, which we often do – what’s the point in training hard if you can’t enjoy a little luxury?!

What do you find holds back your progression?

Sarah: I always found being cold, strength and fear were the three factors which slowed me down the most. Being cold is helped by better wetsuits but I still suffer from this and have shortened sessions in the UK winter, hence travelling to warmer climates! Strength and endurance I have tried to target through going to Crossfit, which has helped enormously, including hopefully making me less prone to injury too. Then it’s just the fear factor I need to tackle, which can be minimised with more time on the water, but ultimately it’s just a hurdle I have to conquer with experience for some moves and hitting a big lip!

Stef: Lack of time on the water!!

Finally, when do you leave?

We leave 4th November, when the clocks change…first stop Chile!


Stef: Simmer, O’Shea Surf, K4 Fins, Puravidaboardriders, NoLimitz Masts, Crossfit Plymouth

Sarah: Simmer, K4 fins, Puravidaboardriders, NoLimitz Masts, Crossfit Plymouth


We can’t wait to hear more from Stef and Sarah during their travels, watch this space…



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