All too often freestyle is regarded as a discipline for the younger generations. Granted, at the Surf World Cup, Podersdorf there were a number of highly skilled school kids throwing themselves round the latest mind blowing tricks. However, alongside them was tour veteran, Raimondo Gasperini (Starboard, Severne), who at forty-three years old, was flipping and sliding with the best of them.
We caught up with Gasperini to find out how he feels about competing against kids less than half his age, and what the secrets are to a long and successful career in windsurfing…
PWA: What does it feel like to compete against the new generation of freestylers?
RG: "Firstly, this younger generation will allow windsurfing to enjoy a bright future. The new heroes are an explosive combination of power and technique aimed at stretching performance to the limit and creating new extraordinary moves. Watching these guys perform is amazing. They push me to evolve and improve my own style as best I can. I have a great feeling with all of them and they always show plenty of respect and admiration for my long career. Some of them have even asked me to suggest ways to better manage their professional future in windsurfing."
PWA: Do you think age and wisdom give you an advantage?
RG: "For sure young riders learn faster, but experience and maturity can have huge advantages during competition! I hope my example will be emulated by other riders because I've now proved that through constant training you can keep up with the best sailors."
PWA: When did you first enter a PWA competition?
RG: "In 1995 I entered my first wave event in Portugal which was won by Josh Stone. Then I entered a race event in Sicily, it seems a thousand years ago. At that time I was in the BIC UP team and I sailed together with heroes of windsurfing like Fabien Pendle, Torkil Kristensen and then Manolo Barlet, Pietro Pacitto and Ralf Bachuschuster. The first freestyle event was the King of the lake at Garda in 1998. I went out in the first heat against a certain Mr Robby Naish! Robby Seeger won the event, followed by Stone, Naish, Jason Polakow (JP, NeilPryde) and Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard, Severne). I've competed with all the stars of our sport!"
PWA: What aspect of Podersdorf did you enjoy the most?
RG: "I had fun hanging out with guys like Tonky Frans (F2, Gaastra), Kiri Thode (Starboard, Gaastra), Gollito Estredo (Fanatic, North), Taty Frans (Starboard, MauiSails), and the Brazilian team. And, I greatly enjoyed the amazing organisation of the event - it was the best I've ever attended. I also admired the tenacity of head judge Duncan Coombs, who woke us up at 5am for three days in a row to complete the competition, and he got it in the end!"
PWA: Will we see you styling it up with the youngsters throughout the year?
RG: "At the moment I'm very busy with my school near Rome, the XRay Windsurf Academy, and with the organisation of some Italian events to promote our fantastic sport. Amongst these there is the XRay Talent Factory : http://www.raimondogasperini.com/xray-talent-factory/ and The Rookies camp in cooperation with Red Bull, focusing on young talents. I really hope to have time to join in with Sylt though."
PWA: Finally, what would say to the youngsters out there that want to enjoy a life long career like yours?
RG: "In order to be successful in professional windsurfing you have to train a lot and stay healthy. But, do not be selfish, otherwise you'll never grow up and the sport itself will not flourish. I invite every windsurfer to spread the word amongst friends of how wonderful this sport is, to promote it as much as possible - people will thank you for life!
Becoming a pro had always been my dream, and it's been difficult at times and full of hurdles, but thanks to willingness and tenacity I have succeeded. Keeping in touch, and working with young talents has been the key to my long career."