Many of the PWA crew reside from the UK including that of Head Judge Duncan Coombs, we decided to take the opportunity of the down season to catch up with him about his thoughts on the PWA World Tour this year before it all kicks off in Austria next week. Having been Head Judge for about 8 years now, Duncan certainly knows the tour as well as any of them so tune in to find out his thoughts for 2013 and who will be the ones to watch.Boardseeker: Hi Dunc, first of all what does the PWA Head Judge get up to in the off season?
DC: The only trip I had this winter was to Morocco with my son Jack. We spent some time with Boujmaa and Hack had a good chance to practice his surfing. He had a good year this year as he was crowned British surfing champion in the under 12’s. Other than that I’ve just been staying around Cornwall, hitting the water almost 4 times a week, either windsurfing or surfing. It’s been a really cold winter, perhaps too cold for windsurfing, below 9 degrees air temp is pretty hard on hands, so it was sometimes a really hard call to go out. The rest of the time I’ve just been on standby for the Red Bull Storm Chase. We eventually found ourselves in Ireland, with some epic conditions and the temperature really wasn’t that bad, about 12 degrees.Boardseeker: Looking back at last year we had wind at every event, how do you think it all went and was there any real highlights for you?
DC: Yeah it was a really good season, Koester was obviously the standout once again but aside from him Thomas Traversa had an exceptional year and was the first person to win an event in three years after Koester’s dominant reign. In freestyle, again the standard and level shot up and Gollito really showed he had it in him to come back, proving he is not to be forgotten. You can sometimes think when someone is at the top they can drop off their game and then slip out of the limelight but he came back and came back strong. It’s also really great to see so many more coming into freestyle, numbers are really high right now, the events are running at full capacity and many wildcards are having to be turned away. It’s also promising for the sport as many will take the natural progression from freestyle to waves, this will only then up the level of freestyle mixing with the waves, then the aerial moves for waves can only increase fro here. Also worth a special mention is Alex Mussolini he had a good year and was on fire in Tenerife and we can’t forget Iballa who for won the PWA Womens Wave title, bit of an upset for Daida.
Boardseeker: What have been the most significant changes you’ve seen on the PWA Tour during your time as Head Judge?
Koester is even sailing some heats with almost perfect scores out of a maximum of 60. The level of sailors, especially Koester is about as good as you can get, he is near to perfection…
DC: The most significant change came from the media. When I started we didn’t have any live feed or live TV, so for me that’s the biggest change. It makes it very different, something extra to think about, rather than making a video and editing it. It goes out live, this has made the whole PWA become much more professional in terms of its media output.
In terms of the level of windsurfing, like I said before it is always improving but that is kind of expected, we see heats of perfect 10 scores now and Koester is even sailing some heats with almost perfect scores out of a maximum of 60. The level of sailors, especially Koester is about as good as you can get, he is near to perfection in a contest heat than anyone can be right now. Trying to beat him really requires the perfect heat, a double to start, a perfect push forward and then wave rides to match!
Another addition to this year was the Red Bull storm chase. Affiliated with the PWA we made sure that no event dates could clash and it puts our sport right in the limelight with guaranteed action and a chance for the public to see windsurfing at its most extreme.
Let’s not forget the slalom, it is still amazing seeing Bjorn Dunkerbeck still on the podium, still charging, still producing results despite being over 40 years old. It’s super impressive, he really has dedicated his whole life to windsurfing, well over a quarter of a century!Boardseeker: Would you say that Koester is perhaps the next Dunkerbeck then?
DC: I’d be surprised if anyone could beat Bjorn or even get close to his number of World Titles.Boardseeker: Indoor windsurfing took off for a while and even the use of the fans outside on swimming pools, do you see it coming back or is tow-in taking over?
DC: It can always come back, it is just a matter of funding. We know how to run them, they are good, potentially a financial business proposition for the right person. There is a lot to be made from sponsorship and it is great to get windsurfing across to people who haven’t seen it, the people that live in the middle of cities.
Tow-in is to just fill in no wind days in competitions, I really like it ,you could possibly have a tow-in tour, but we have to be careful because we are windsurfing and it’s more of a show and an attraction on light wind days at events. It’s great to see that the public love it and if you are freestyler its definitely worth training as there is some good prize money available. However, it is interesting that it still seems to be the best ranked freestylers who are taking the podium positions.Boardseeker: Looking ahead, this year we’ve got a few new events on the calendar, are they all confirmed?
DC: Yep they are all on, Holland is on, Pozo and the other Canary Island events are on. It looks like a good year ahead.Boardseeker: Anything new planned for this year and any ‘special’ events?
DC: Nothing specific planned as such, just new events in Chile and Cape Town. An exciting year for the wave tour because Sylt won’t be the final stop anymore. The one drawback is that there is still no starboard tack, which is pretty frustrating for people like Boujmaa. I think in these times it is much easier to keep events going then getting new ones. Hopefully, one day soon we will have one in Hawaii.Boardseeker: We saw that the PWA will try to introduce Live Scoring to freestyle, how would this work, are there any other major changes expected to the way judging/scoring will take place this year?
DC: Yes we are working on this with Kurosh Kiani to make sure we get the right software that is needed, he will design it with Rich Page, myself and Frankie rouge the French judge. Between us we will work out how it will be best laid out for the judges to use for freestyle. We’d like to do it move for move. Would be good for the media side of it, for the commentators and followers of the live Stream.Boardseeker: Where do you see the tour going in the coming years, would it perhaps become more comparable to the ASP Surfing Tour with individual wave/move scores?
DC: It’s already started to go the way we all thought it would go, it is now much more internet based, there is live stream, live scoring, etc…
Boardseeker: Should the highest and lowest scores be discarded for each heat or is this not currently a viable option?
With Kelly Slaters influence it could for sure happen… I guess it would kind of be similar to the X-Games, just on the water.
DC: Sometimes in waves we do that already, when we have 5 judges we already do it. Perhaps we can develop this into freestyle, we are already thinking about how it would work, so I don’t see why not. Generally it is better like that but you need 5 judges, we have just 3 for waves. In freestyle we do use 5 judges in the latter heats so there is the possibility there.Boardseeker: Do you think disciplines like Super-X came into the sport too early and that by re-introducing it now it would perhaps take off again?
DC: I like super-x, but the real problem is is that it requires loads more equipment. Right now I’m not sure the sponsors/brands can support the riders to make it happen. Especially as super-x boards weren’t really sold to the public. As a spectacle though it is amazing to watch but I don’t think it came too soon. It would be great to see it come back but it just needs a lot more money/equipment, it wont replace normal slalom racing.Boardseeker: What’s your thoughts on Olympic windsurfing and the equipment used?
DC: I used to race on triangle/sausage courses so I can understand it and like watching it, especially as we have gold level chances (UK). It is exciting to see and congrats to Nick for picking up bronze.Boardseeker: Would it be better for the Olympic windsurfing to be more dynamic?
It would be good but really it won’t happen because there is not enough wind to go on the plane at many of the Olympic destinations, so it just couldn’t happen. Potentially however, something I’ve thought about for a while now, is an event like a water-sports Olympics, like a winter Olympics with snow, I don’t see why it is not possible to have a water Olympics, like kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing etc.., where wave pools and wind machines to make it much more guaranteed. With Kelly Slaters influence it could for sure happen… I guess it would kind of be similar to the X-Games, just on the water.
In terms of the kit, maybe the only real change needed is the board type. Maybe have two boards, choosing one that is more exciting when it is windy. A bit like we used to do on the old days of the pro tour. We would course racing when it was not as windy then slalom when the wind picked up. But it can be very difficult to get the RYA to change, something I have no influence on.Boardseeker: If you had an unlimited budget what would be the dream wave/freestyle tour for you?
Hawaii (spring and fall) for two events, Indonesia or Fiji, but to be honest it is pretty good at the moment. Maybe Ireland could be a good addition it’s a strong port tack wave tour right now, if it just had those Hawaii events in it, it would be a really good well balanced tour, especially with Chile now in the mix.
I guess if I was to really list it then it would be something like this – Cabo Verde, Maui, the Canaries, then Klitmoeller, Sylt (both are really good showcases for windsurfing, really radical conditions which keeps the public involved and interested and gives them a chance to meet the pros) then finish with port tack down the line in Chile or SA, so really it’s not far off being a dream tour.
For freestyle: There are a lot more places you can do freestyle but in the end the canaries offer some of the best conditions. It would be great to see the Caribbean back and to add some more ‘exotic’ events perhaps freestyle in Cape Town so it is more wave orientated, it makes it much more exciting to watch. Or how about Margarita, the funding is not there but the dream tour right?Boardseeker: Thanks for the interview, any last comments?
DC: Yeah it is really about the young kids coming up who are most important for the sport, like Arthur Arutkin, he’s been training really hard in Chile, he looked good last year. Also Alessio Stillrich for sure has always been there in Pozo, if his down the line wave riding improved a bit more he should do well on the rankings this year. All in all it is good to see the new young faces coming through not just world tour but on the national levels as well.
Follow the progress of this years PWA World Tour on www.pwaworldtour.com or right here on Boards.co.uk